Can we just talk about how wonderful it is that the character of Chris Traeger exists?
Seriously. Let’s just stop and think about this for a second. Chris Traeger has ambitions and a strong sense of self. He is loving, loyal, and considerate beyond measure. And his journey through therapy and dealing with his anxiety are presented not only as not stigmatized, but as positive, proactive steps. He isn’t told that he needs to suck it up or get over it or that a nice cup of tea will help. He is applauded and supported by his friends for his choice to seek help, and I love, love, love that this was on TV.
There are some people in my life whom I have deliberately not told about my anxiety, for fear that they will then wrongly assume that: I’m incompetent, I’m unreliable, I’m too wrapped up in my own shit to do my job/be a friend/whatever, and because I honestly do think that they would treat me differently. At my core, I’m not a different person; what’s happening is that I’m learning more about myself and becoming a truer, more genuine version of who I am. And I definitely see that as a good thing.
I love Chris Traeger because he goes through the same journey with open arms. Chris knows what it means to be anxious and to not know why. He knows what it’s like to be completely drained by your anxiety.
He also knows how hard it is to do this work, and he perseveres even when he spends his best friend’s engagement party hiding in a room crying (been there). It’s difficult to stay positive when you feel so awful. It’s difficult to get back into life after an attack, especially a prolonged one. And perhaps the most difficult feeling of all is how you don’t feel like yourself; Chris is normally so positive and upbeat that it’s really hard for him to reconcile the sadness, disappointment, and fear that comes up for him as he goes through this process. This work takes courage, resilience, and a willingness to lean into discomfort. No, not just lean into it, to run to it. You have to want to be sad and angry and frustrated and to feel like you’re all over the place, because that’s the only way you’re going to cultivate the coping mechanisms you need to help yourself heal.
More importantly, it makes me so happy that all of this happened on a show that was widely watched. I identify with Chris so much because he’s so human and real and multifaceted; his anxiety is part of him, but it does not define him. I feel represented, not mocked. I love watching his journey over and over because it reminds me that the hard work is worth it. And it reminds me that I am still me – that person with goals and compassion and all of the wonderful things that make me who I am – even when this is happening to me. And that I am still loved. Seeing his friends support him influenced my choice to speak up about what’s going on with me, not only because I see myself in Chris, but because I see that same love and compassion in my friends, and I know they will be there for me if I let them.