Hazel Hayes gives viewers an insight into the effects of anxiety with the release of her latest short film.
Mental health issues can affect everyone – they don’t discriminate based on age, race or gender – yet the stigma around them prevents many from opening up to others and seeking help. Hazel Hayes is a creator looking to break down the walls that prevent such discussions from happening, with her latest short film, ANXIOUS, covering her own experience with anxiety.
ANXIOUS covers the many facets of anxiety, which are depicted through the use of imagery and animation. The disorder is shown as a monster that encompasses those who suffer from it, surrounding them and leaving them to feel as if they’re drowning. It’s this use of animation that helps add dimension to the film, lending itself to the impactful message Hazel narrates throughout.
Viewers are taken on a journey, with those who deal with anxiety seeing their thoughts and feelings presented to them in a poetic manner, while those unaware of its affects are given a glimpse into the grip anxiety has on those who deal with it on a regular basis.
Hazel begins by describing the effects people can see – the noticeable symptoms – such as sweating hands and clenched fists. From there, she moves into the mental anguish. Through lines like, “She tries to focus, but the room reels, causing her to wretch. The people all around her turn into blurry silhouettes. There is no one here to save her from the voice inside her head,” she is able to put into words just how overwhelming it can be when anxiety strikes. While she admits distraction can help alleviate the feeling, it’s only temporary and the voice always returns.
The film then moves to the brave face those who deal with anxiety put on when around others, either out of not wanting to share their feelings or because they’re unsure how to seek help. It then takes a turn, giving hope to those who watch. An epiphany is had, where it becomes understood that, in its own misguided way, Hazel’s anxiety was just trying to prevent her from getting hurt. It meant well, but somewhere along the line its signals got twisted and now it’s left her feeling anxious about things that won’t cause her harm, just because it fears her getting hurt. It’s here she urges viewers to find this understanding within themselves, in an open letter to her anxiety:
“I don’t need you now. I know that things will hurt me, but a little pain’s allowed. It’s how we live and love and grow, and I know that to feel the highs I have to risk the chance of feeling low. So while you may not ever fully disappear, I’ll carry on regardless and hope that you grow smaller with each passing year because I’m a prisoner as long as you are here and life is to be lived, not to be feared.”
The overall message viewers can take from ANXIOUS is that, while anxiety has the ability to tell us lies and prevent us from partaking in activities we would otherwise enjoy, we need to rise above it, grow to understand it and share our feelings with those we love and trust. While it might be difficult at first, it’s only by talking about and confronting it that we’ll be able to lessen its grip on our lives. Through discussion and understanding, we’ll become stronger.