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New CBD shop tackles anxiety, the ‘monster that feeds on doubt’

The name of a new retail outlet, at the top of Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD, is The Anxiety Shop. It does grab you, and so it’s common for passers-by to pop in out of sheer curiosity.

Recently, a man entered with a little girl, and he wasn’t there just to browse the quirky mugs, tea towels and artwork with slogans and drawings on mental health themes.

There for art and a chat: The Anxiety Shop proprietor and artist Arie Rain Glorie with his cartoons. Credit:Justin McManus

The customer chatted frankly to proprietor Arie Rain Glorie about his struggles with anxiety.

“He said he’d been feeling chronically anxious for the last three months,” Mr Glorie said.

The customer bought a book by American counsellor Faith G. Harper, Unf*ck Your Anxiety, about retraining your brain to deal with “anxiety, depression, anger, freak-outs, and triggers”.

Starting conversations about mental health is a key aim of this unusual shop, which will be a pop-up in this previously vacant space, across the road from Grossi Florentino restaurant, for the next three months.

The Anxiety Shop is a new addition to Bourke Street.Credit:Carolyn Webb

It will also support artists by selling their works, and host talks and exhibitions.

The shop gets free rent under the City of Melbourne and state government’s $2.6 million Shopfront Activation Program.

Under the program, artists, makers and entrepreneurs are filling vacant or closed shops across Melbourne City Council areas to “reignite the city and support small businesses”, says the council.

Mr Glorie says his concept is partly inspired by a London pop-up project called This Grief Thing — a roving stall and online shop that sells products and hosts talks on the topic of grief.

A book on sale at The Anxiety Shop.Credit:Justin McManus

In The Anxiety Shop, cartoons by Mr Glorie on the wall and on playing cards show how people with anxiety can ruminate and argue with themselves.

A man wearing Speedos and a hat and holding pink pom-poms tells himself to “try to be normal”, and that as a reward, he can have a packet of chips.

A grasshopper describes anxiety as like “living with a monster that feeds on doubt and robs you of your time”.

Sketches for sale depict social anxiety by showing a man holding a wine glass at a party, his tongue hits the floor because he can’t speak, and a llama with an over-long head that flops on the floor.

Humorous festive season cards on sale at The Anxiety Shop. Credit:Justin McManus

Mugs say “Whoosh”, signifying how feelings can rush in and make you feel panicked.

Mr Glorie, who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder, said what helped his recovery was expressing his feelings in his art, and talking to other people in the same boat.

He said someone could buy a card in the shop and use it to share with friends how they were feeling, when they couldn’t express it in words.

The shop’s products could also comfort them “that there are other people having similar experiences to you”.

“Because it’s when you feel like you’re completely alone in your experiences, you can start to worry that you’re going crazy,” he said.

Mr Glorie does not claim to be a counsellor and says he will refer people who are in distress to an anxiety resource centre.

He says running a shop in Melbourne CBD with the public critiquing your art in front of you can also generate anxiety.

“But it’s worth it,” he said. “Learning to live with anxiety is saying, ‘I’m not going to let this false alarm signal that my brain is setting off from stopping me doing what I want to in life’.”

The Anxiety Shop, at 89 Bourke Street, will be open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm, from January. Mr Glorie hopes the concept can continue after this pop-up ends, either in real life or online.

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