Jesus again has risen from the dead, giving Catholics worldwide the freedom to end whatever pain they inflicted upon themselves during Lent. When I was growing up I usually gave up candy or sweets so I could lose weight while I was suffering, although I cheated my way through those 40 long days. My dad usually gave up beer, which meant I had to suffer anyway.
U.S. Congressman, Speaker of the House, and Catholic extraordinaire Paul Ryan gave up anxiety. How smart is that? I admit: I Smacked My Damn Head when I realized all I had to do about my anxiety was give it up. Why didn’t I think of that? And the poor Pterodactyl…..I bought him a damn Wonder Dog for his anxiety! And I made him give up gluten, and visit a thousand different mental health professionals. I should have just asked him to hand his anxiety to me, like he does with used wads of chewing gum, and I would have felt its warm sticky nature and thrown it into the trash with relief.
Had Ryan done this in jest, I might have just rolled my eyes and reminded myself how normalized mere Republicans seem next to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. But he was serious. And it made me mad. Because, people, if you think giving up anxiety is akin to giving up chocolate, you’re wrong. You can stop buying chocolate. You can steer yourself away from it. I know from personal experience that you can replace it with ice cream and be just fine. But anxiety, like any other form of mental illness, is like an allergy-related rash on your arm, and the allergen is life. Sometimes the rash is just there and you know it’s there but it’s tolerable, and sometimes it itches as though the mother of all mosquitos keeps biting you again and again in the same spot and you can’t kill it. Other times it’s just red and blotchy enough that people keep saying, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” until you want to crawl into bed and read Cheryl Strayed quotes for a decade.
Today is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who historians believe had bipolar disorder, and in his honor it’s World Bipolar Day. In an extremely unhappy coincidence, it’s also the day after the death of actress Patty Duke, who suffered from bipolar disorder. I’m sure she would have thrown away that bad boy years ago had it been possible. But it wasn’t. So she fought it, spoke about it, and eventually learned to live with it, which is exactly what I do with my depression.
I’m sincerely happy for Paul Ryan if he rid himself of anxiety through sheer willpower. He’s a very important man, and I can’t imagine the stress he feels. In fact, I’m betting that stress is exactly what he was trying to give up – in which case we should all send him our condolences. I suspect he’ll be feeling it for a very long time to come.