Here are some examples of my anxiety:
My family and I used to live in a house on a fairly busy street. The boys’ bedrooms were at the front of the house, and every winter I had visions of someone losing control on the icy streets and slamming into the front of the house while my boys slept.
My friend and I had the opportunity to go to the AWP conference a few years ago when it was in Seattle. We were sharing a hotel room, and it was on the 27th floor. When we entered, my friend went to look out the window, and I told her to get away from it. I had visions of the glass falling out and her being sucked to her death. (For some reason, in my anxiety-induced fantasy, there was a pressure difference between the hotel room and outside.)
I never go into any building without knowing where the exits and bathrooms are—you just never know when you’re going to need one or the other.
I also have anxiety dreams.
One time, I had a dream that my youngest son had been bitten by a zombie. Before he turned, we decided to give him the best day ever—whatever he wanted to do, he could do. When his time was up, I had to take him out into the yard to deal with him. I’m sure you can imagine the anguish I was going through.
When the boys were still babies, I had a dream that I had taken them to Walmart. I set the carrier on the ground next to my car while I loaded the groceries in the back, and my oldest decided he was going to take that moment to run around the parking lot. I chased after him, and while I was trying to catch him, a monster truck pulled into the parking space next to my car and ran over my other son.
These few examples just scratch the surface of what my brain comes up with. Sure, I can tell myself that everything is going to be all right and that it’s only in my brain, but when my body releases the adrenaline and other chemicals, all I can do is ride the wave until they subside.
Anxiety isn’t logical, and I spend a lot of my day having a horror movie play inside my head. It’s stressful to think that I have little control over what my own brain does. So, with all of this happening, why in the world would I want to be a horror author or watch horror movies? You’d think I got enough scary stuff on my own.
The answer to that is actually quite simple: control.
While I can’t control my brain going to the worst-case scenario in most situations, I can control what I watch. I know that a horror movie is supposed to be scary. I know that there are going to be jumps and scary creatures. I know that what I see on the screen is fake.
When it comes to horror, I get to pick what I watch. I’m a huge fan of creature features, slasher films, and zombie flicks, so they’re top on my list. There’s a comfort in knowing that these movies are predictable. Even though they still might cause me to jump, I know it’s coming. I can’t say the same about my anxiety. I have no idea when it’s going to strike.
Horror movies help me deal with my emotions. They don’t stop the anxiety from happening, but if I’m going to be anxious, I at least want to have some control over it. That’s also why I write horror. It gives me a chance to project my unnatural and illogical fears onto the page and have someone overcome the ordeal.
Anxiety is hard to live with. It can be debilitating. It can make me feel out of control—especially of my own mind. But when I get the chance, I like to take that control back and be anxious, panicky, and afraid on my own terms.