The Good Place: Bringing Light to the Nature of Anxiety
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Three seasons of The Good Place later, and I am still as invested as when the series first began. The concepts the show puts in place of heaven and hell, morality and ethical codes, are depicted as traditional concepts and systems that must be reformed. The concept is clever enough, but the characters are what give The Good Place its effectiveness, both as entertainment and as social commentary.
One character in particular, Chidi, has developed to become one of the most logical, yet irrational characters in any television series I’ve ever watched. I empathize with his inability to make decisions due to the magnitude of possibilities that may occur. I understand the feeling of having a constant stomachache that results from obsessing over these possibilities for too long.
Chidi is not defined by his anxiety. In fact, he emerges as one of the strongest members of the four humans, seeming to have an impressive accumulation of social, intellectual, and emotional knowledge. It isn’t until the third season that Chidi actually reveals his lifelong struggles with anxious thoughts, and for that I applaud the writers. In doing this, the writers are taking part in ending the stigma surrounding conventionally ‘anxious’ characters, and giving substance to those struggling with anxiety.
Some quotes of Chidi’s have stood out to me as reflective of my own struggles with anxiety:
“I do have a stomachache. Why do I always have a stomachache?” – Chidi Anagonye (03×04)
Even before being diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, I remember having stomachaches so badly they sent me to the emergency room. Living in a constant state of anxiety, I am often debilitated by stomachaches that result, and must combat these feelings before they inhibit my daily functioning.
“I am absolutely paralyzed by decision making and it is destroying my life.” – Chidi Anagonye (03×01)
Anxious thoughts often send my mind in circles attempting to make even the simplest decision. Over time, this aspect of anxiety has lessened as I have learned to cope with the thoughts, but every action I make, from which way to cross the street to what I wear each morning has an unnatural amount of internal debate behind them.
“I got a solid eight minutes [of sleep]. Not consecutively, but still. It’s fine. You’re not even that blurry.” – Chidi Anagonye (03×02)
I have long since accepted that sleep is both my friend and enemy. While a good night’s sleep can allow my mind to quiet down for even a few hours, this isn’t always possible. On bad nights, I lay awake for hours unable to quiet the anxious thoughts riddling my mind. Unfortunately, this sends me into a dangerous cycle of trying to get the self care I need and needing to tend to my anxiety.
“I need to step outside… for some air… and I will not be back for many days.” – Chidi Anagonye (01×10)
Of all of Chidi’s quotes, I probably understand this one the most. There have been moments in my life in which my anxiety has been overwhelming to a point of suffocation. Sometimes the best thing I can do for myself when the anxiety becomes too overbearing is to wander the streets in solitude and remind myself that the world is so much bigger than whatever my concern is at the time.
Originally Published on Active Minds Blog July 5, 2019