Let’s not eat a cocktail of Valium and LSD and go on a bender down Sunset Boulevard…
Photograph by Sean Davis
From The Baffler:
We lost the ability to deal with the outside world somewhere outside the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Gathering our jangled wits, we made a tactical retreat to the corner of the store, sipped some chamomile tea, took some deep breaths and tried not to think about politics.
“What would Hunter Thompson do in this situation?” I wondered aloud when we finally made it back to the room. “Probably eat a cocktail of Valium and LSD and go on a bender down Sunset Boulevard to see how many cops he could antagonize before he got arrested.”
“That sounds awful,” said my friend, from her strategically recumbent position underneath a fuzzy blanket. “Let’s not do that.”
“Okay,” I said. “Do you want to watch the video where the little pig goes down the stairs?”
So we got back into our pajamas and spent the afternoon hiding in bed, eating Triscuits, napping, and watching videos of baby animals behaving badly on the internet until we felt a bit calmer.
Only then did we dare to turn on the news. It was also at this moment that I decided that trying to ape the cocaine-and-testosterone-fueled gonzo journalist model of the 1970s had been a silly idea. Hunter Thompson and his pals, after all, were dealing with a society whose dominant political affect was boredom, and we’re dealing with anxiety as the relational mode of the age. I popped my head out from under my own morale-restoring blanket. “I think anxiety is the relational mode of the age,” I announced to my friend.
“That makes me feel better,” she said. “I thought we were just being wimps.”
“Wimp is the new black,” I said, setting up my phone with shaking fingers to play twenty minutes of calming rain sounds.
When the caffeine jitters had subsided, we sent some messages to the activists we’d invited over for interviews, asking if they wouldn’t mind, rather than the planned wild chemical rager, if we all sat around drinking tea, wearing cuddly jumpers, and generally having a nice, relaxing time instead. The response was instant, universal relief. Someone offered to bring a bag of animal onesies and some ice cream. It was going to be the best night ever.
All the cool kids have anxiety disorders these days. I’m not claiming that this makes me one of them. Correlation, as we all know, does not imply causation, and I am reliably informed that the cool kids also understand Snapchat, wear floral jumpsuits, and know how to talk to people they fancy without pulling a face like a spaniel on acid. Nevertheless, if depression was the definitive diagnosis of the 1990s, anxiety is the mental health epidemic that makes the modern world what it is: overwhelmed, unstable, and in serious need of a decade-long lie down.