October is National Awareness Awareness Month. If you are not familiar with that term, it simply represents the fact that October is currently the official month for sixteen causes. So where December is nearly forgotten with only three awareness campaigns and July and January sit there with just one apiece, October is so crammed with awareness that you need to be aware of a new awareness every other day.
To further add to the insanity of October’s awareness-mania, a case can be made that over half of the awareness we are supposed to focus on in October is depressingly sad. Breast cancer, infant loss, bullying, cyber-security, spina bifida, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and domestic violence are all concepts we are asked to embrace during October. I am sure those people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder who are already going to be struggling with depression brought about by the changing weather will be quite capable of handling some additional stress through a bombardment of, “Remember that 1 in 4 women has lost a child,” and “Breast cancer will kill someone today.”
In fact, I could not find an awareness month for Seasonal Affective Disorder anywhere on the calendar I had originally found. Seemed like October would be a perfect month to shove another awareness, especially one dealing with autumn and winter. Then I did some extra research (because I am awesome like that) and discovered December is offically SAD Awareness Month. Yet my original calendar listed only Pear, Egg Nog, and Fruit Cake in December. Perhaps the SAD committee should work on its awareness campaign?
Back to my original point, October sucks as far as awareness is concerned. This over-saturation of causes crammed into the harvest month has actually created a new disorder which I am currently in the process of documenting and researching. I am calling it Awareness Stoicism Syndrome, or A.S.S. for short. According to the preliminary data, sufferers of A.S.S. lose their ability to feel any compassion for or interest in whatever cause others march forward to champion. It seems to be related to the levels of dopamine dropping sharply after overexposure to awareness. Similar to drug use, the saturation of awareness causes the brain to produce fewer dopamine receptors, thus limiting the effectiveness of the awareness campaign.
For example, a sufferer of A.S.S. might have these responses when an awareness is brought to their attention:
“I get it. You lost a child. I went to the cemetery with you on Brian’s birthday in August. Does my entire month of October also have to revolve around your tragedy?”
“I am so sick and tired of seeing the NFL parading around in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Most of your employees are male and have a higher risk of testicular or prostate cancer, but please continue pandering to the female population.”
“Look, first you tell me I shouldn’t care what someone’s sexual orientation is and now you want me to celebrate people because of their sexual orientation? Can’t I just listen to my David Bowie tribute without the sociopolitical commentary?”
“Pizza, pizza, pizza… I’m sick about people telling me how much they love pizza. And tacos! Yes they are delicious, but how about we not keep talking about the same foods over and over again. Is that too much to ask, Ms. Clerk at this particular Taco Bell?”
Those comments may seem harsh or insensitive, and they are. But they are only expressed because the speaker is suffering from this newly discovered disorder. A.S.S. is not a choice, it is a complex neurological reaction to our society’s growing need for attention. When one person says, “My child has Down Syndrome,” those nearby can offer comfort, support, and meaningful questions. When 100,000 people march down a street in October with hundreds of signs saying, “Respect those with Down Syndrome,” the desperate grab for attention causes some of us (about 5%) to turn off our dopamine and not give a shit.
Assault social media, television, and radio with sixteen such campaigns in a single month and that small number of discontents turns into a much larger issue: 25% won’t give a shit, 25% won’t give a flying fuck, and another 25% will start lashing out and actively fighting against those causes because they see an imbalance in society’s priorities. It diminishes the probability of an awareness campaign achieving its intended goal.
So this October, be aware of Awareness Stoicism Syndrome. A person may not be an asshole, she may just be stuck in the debilitating hole of A.S.S.