Climate Change Anxiety is Real

A recent article posted on CNN dives into how climate change anxiety is a real threat and covers some ways to address it. “Paralysis caused by fear is a real problem,” the article says. I whole-heartedly agree with this. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t matter what outside pressure is causing the fear—climate change, racism, recent events in the US surrounding women’s reproductive rights—this fear is leading first to outrage and then to hopelessness.

Hopelessness is the common thread through various levels of depression. It begins with a sense of overwhelm and an inability to place exactly where the pressure is coming from. Many afflicted with high functioning depression seem to be healthy, or at least equipped with healthy coping mechanisms. What happens when the ability to cope is overwhelmed by the storm of hardships hitting survivors from all angles?

Lucas Wolfe, in his article When Your Depression Stops Being High Functioning on The Mighty wrote, “I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hold a thought in my head. I lost weight, and the light of life drained from my eyes. I was a shell of my former self, and for the first time since the depression began, I couldn’t successfully hide my battles from those around me. Everyone could see something wasn’t quite right, but no one knew what was wrong.” He was paralyzed.

Contrary to the text I am plugging into my lap top right now, I am in the same place right now. Like Lucas, no one in my life knows what’s wrong—neither do I. Like Lucas, “I had made the transition from high-functioning depression to major depression, and it was shocking how little I could do.” I’ve spent the better part of six weeks in bed and avoiding texts, phone calls, and social interactions. I’m afraid that people will see me, like really see me—my fear, my trauma, my gross mess.

I’m constantly worried about finances, the environment, whether or not the world is even going to still be here before I pay off my student loans. I’m often wondering outloud to anyone who will listen what the point of it all is. What’s the point in making career goals when the world leaders are ignoring the facts and refusing to act to save our planet? What’s the point in working my ass off at a minimum wage job when it costs more to get to and from work that the sum of my weekly wages? What’s the point of getting out of bed when nothing about today is different than any other day? I am not alone in these questions.

Many of my peers have the same thoughts and voice the same fears. The two main themes emerging from our Creative Writing cohort were mental illness and environmental crisis. The two go hand in hand.

Andrea Marks Rolling Stone says, “The mental health impact of climate change is a one-two punch: There will be increasing anxiety about the future, as well as an increasing number of people undergoing the trauma of climate catastrophes like flooding and hurricanes” in her article How the Mental Health Community Is Bracing for the Impact of Climate Change. Marks went on to report, “A Yale survey in December found nearly 70 percent of Americans are “worried” about climate change, 29 percent are “very worried” — up eight percentage points from just six months earlier — and 51 percent said they felt “helpless.” Fifty-one percent felt helpless.

Just over half the population surveyed felt helpless at the current climate situation. We’re watching the world quite literally die before our eyes and our leaders seem more preoccupied with women’s wombs than whether or not there will be life on Earth in the near future. Liv Grant of the Guardian wrote, “Wild places dwindle, the animals and plants that live in them disappear. Climate change is now a certainty, and it will without a doubt lead to the loss of land, species, and ways of life. In the abstract this is disconcerting. Up close it is devastating. I worked on the BBC’s Climate Change: The Facts, presented by David Attenborough, and have felt this pain first-hand.”

So what do we do about it?

So far, all I’ve been able to find in my research is coping skills. Nothing solves the problem of climate related anxiety—nothing that is except for changing the trajectory of humanity. Western society is so dependent on capitalism and consumerism. These are the ideologies (where the dollar bill is more important than people, animals, and the environment) that are fueling climate change. When activists try to advocate for change the immediate outcry is “how will we make a living?”. My question is, how will your inflated bank account matter when we’re all dead?

Sooner than anyone wants to admit there will be global water and food shortages like human history has never seen before. Since my childhood, several animals have gone extinct. Bees are dying (they pollinate flowers to grow our food among other things). Unstable weather and forest fires are increasing. The science is there. Let’s stop ignoring it and actually do something.

Those with the power either need to use it or lose it. Vote like the environment actually matters.

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Doubt: Watch Me

Doubt is a nasty germ. It creeps in subtly when things are going well and begins to breed in the background. First, it will show up disguised as rational thinking. Should I really be doing this? I know ________ is more qualified at __________ than I am. We begin to compromise. Before long, we avoid the things we once loved—things we know we’ve been good at before—for fear of failure.

I struggled for two weeks to write a short story in October. I am in fourth year of creative writing and have published several stories, poems, and non-fiction pieces. I was long-listed for a prestigious literary competition and have won prizes for my promise in writing. I’ve been paid for not only my own content but to create pieces for others’ websites as well. I’ve been solicited for publication from links I’ve shared on Twitter and been hired out for events due to my creative prowess. All this is true and I still struggle to create.

I’m not trying to humble-brag. If anything, I’m trying to remind myself that I am extremely talented at making something great out of thin air and sheer will power. I have three novels in progress but am terrified to complete them. What if they aren’t good? What if I publish them and only sell ten copies? Worse, what if I publish them and someone expects MORE? Doubt is a jerk.

I say to look doubt right in the face and say watch me.

When I finally buckled down and quit the debilitating habit of self-censoring, I produced a short story in under five hours that is already receiving positive feedback. It’s even spawning the idea for a chapbook of short stories unlike anything that is currently being done. It just might be that accidental best idea I’ve ever had. It was full of typos and a little rushed—I was outrunning doubt after all, and we all know doubt is a marathon runner.

That thing you love, that you miss, but you doubt you’re good enough/brave enough/_________enough to take it on again—it misses you. Tell doubt watch me. You’ll be glad you did.

Esteem

Lately, I’ve been thinking about esteem. Not self-esteem, though that’s part of it, but esteem as in value. I’ve placed a great value on writing by pursuing an education in the field. Yet, when faced with the opportunity to apply for a writing position, I am quick to discredit myself.

I took a good hard look at other areas of my life this past two weeks. My skills, likes, hobbies, and things that bring me joy all point to things I value—things I hold in esteem. I started to pay attention to others’ observations (not to be confused with opinions) and realized that as my own worst critic I often fail to realize and own my accomplishments.

Cataloguing things that I’ve worked hard for and things that others noticed in me gave me courage to apply for a position, and I received a second interview. To stand out on paper, without having met an employer, isn’t easy. During our discussion, the interviewer let me know what set my application apart. It was my ability to describe myself, they said. They could tell my wit, humour, and love of writing from the “tell me about yourself” portion of the job application.

Don’t be afraid to hold a high esteem for the things you love, your skills, or yourself. One day it might land you your dream job.

Voice in the Snowdrifts

Storms are intense.

This week, in my area of the world, we’ve been stuck in a perpetual winter storm for five days. In an Island community, where there’s rarely ever snow, we now have over a foot and it’s steadily coming down. What’s more, the sun pops out now and then to melt just enough snow into ice–only to have more snow fall on it.

This means holing up in our houses. If we do venture out, walking can be dangerous business. Just today, I had a good friend fall and injure themselves pretty bad–I mean, it’s nothing life threatening, but it will certainly be a literal pain for months to come.

The crap storm that is Trump is no different. Normally, I am very active in keeping informed in world politics. As a Canadian, I especially pay attention to my neighbours to the south. Since the election, I have no idea what sources to trust. On a daily, sometimes hourly, basis–my newsfeeds and inboxes are filling up with rumours, lies and direct quotes that make my heart hurt deeply.

Like my winter storm, I’ve retreated. I’ve hidden my voice in the white noise. I’ve shared articles, talked to friends and colleagues, but avoided adding my own opinions to the mix. I feel like we’re overwhelmed. At least, I am overwhelmed. I’m not done fighting though; I just need a break.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve no energy for fun, friends or any more feelings. I keep being invited to things, but it’s all I can do to go to class and get my homework done. Part of that is second semester blues, but a large part of that is the frivolity of it all. I get annoyed at small talk  and silliness. I don’t judge people who are able to do that, to cut loose and have fun–I am not one of them.

First, I’ve never really been able to goof off or play around. I crave deep intimate intellectual connection. Which is ironic, because I love Ron Burgundy and Zoolander.

So here I sit, trying to change the world from my laptop.

~Cheryl Folland

2017: Will It Be a Good Year?

I suppose any year where I make it to the next year unscathed can be counted a success.

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I see happening this year that only a year like 2016 could’ve initiated.

On January 21st, people around the world are taking to the streets marching in solidarity and protest of Trump’s inauguration. His presidency is likely to set back freedoms and human rights of marginalized people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, women and immigrants to worse than 25 years ago.

What can I do about it as a Canadian? I can create space for one. If you need a platform to be heard from, take mine.

I can listen, empathize and fight for the freedoms I’ve long taken for granted. Reach out to our neighbours south of us. I’d be naive to think that this new leadership will not effect my life. Already, racial and gender based hate crimes in Canada have increased.

Reactively, minority groups have begun to band together in support of one another. People have become more generous where others have pulled back. It seems that collectively we are bracing for something volatile but what?

Reading Twitter battles between Trump and, well, anyone–I am fearful for what will occur at the hands of someone so hot-headed. At the same time, I am hopeful for those watching from behind relatively safe borders to open their hearts and homes to the wave of disillusioned voters and political refugees that we are certain to see.

For anyone who is doubting this, take a minute right now and review the immigration numbers of Americans to Canada after Bush was elected, and then remind yourself of all the internet memes depicted Trump as worse. There’s a reason the Canada Immigration Site crashed for over 24 hours after the election closed.

Now is not the time for the world to be silent, but we have to be careful that our voices don’t turn into another bully chant. Let’s be preservers of human dignity. Let’s feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and love the broken-hearted. Only then will it be a good year.