It’s back. I feel the edge of sanity slipping beneath my fingertips. I’m desperately tightening my grip, even as my palms become slick with perspiration. I’m afraid I’ll lose the battle and I’m afraid of the fact that my soul is growing tired. The lure of letting go, plummeting into the unknown, is growing in intensity with every day that passes and things do not improve.
Suddenly, this isn’t better. Life is not better and I can’t remember where I read, “first it gets better then it gets worse then it’s just different” but I’m clinging to the promise of those definitive stages. I’m praying this is just the ‘then it gets worse’ stage because something in me knows I cannot go on this way. Life cannot stall in the ‘then it gets worse.’ I simply won’t survive it. Just different needs to present itself, if not immediately then at least on the horizon…at the end of the tunnel…tracing the outline of a cloud. Please, God.
Anxiety is a lame diagnosis. The word itself is so commonly tossed about in lackadaisical conversation it’s all but lost any meaning. I do not have anxiety. I have Anxiety. With a capital A. The kind of Anxiety that sucks life out of waking hours, crushes the spirit, and only rests when drowned under the weight of chemicals or sleep or both. My Anxiety presents itself physiologically, sometimes in the form of debilitating attacks: heart palpitations, numbness in my hands and arms, losing consciousness, high blood pressure. Sometimes (almost always lately) a pressure exists in my chest; my insides feel exposed. The heightened anxiousness that settles into your body while waiting in line for an intense roller coaster? It’s like that. Every waking minute of every single day until you want nothing more than to crawl out of your own skin and get whatever doom you seem to be anticipating over with already. Because your body is bracing itself for something horrible to happen, you just don’t know what.
My particular Anxiety hell centers on health, or more accurately, failing health. Or even more accurately, my failing health. I think about cancer, cardiac arrest, pulmonary embolisms, tumors…essentially anything and everything that could possibly go wrong in the human body, far more often than is psychologically normal. In fact, I thought about all of those things this morning before I’d even finished my first cup of coffee. My health Anxiety is compulsive, all-consuming, sometimes comical to my friends and family, and killing me slowly.
I’m afraid of dying. I don’t know where we go when we die. Call it religious confusion, a lack of faith, a lack of spiritual direction, whatever. I’m terrified of what comes next. What if nothing comes next? What if we cease to exist in any capacity when our bodies die? What if dying hurts? What if I get a horrible disease? What if someone I love gets a horrible disease? Is that a pain I feel at the base of my shoulder blade? Oh god, oh god. I knew it. I smoked cigarettes for years and now I have lung cancer. *Googles symptoms of lung cancer for two hours.*
You get the drift.
Medication helped. Six months ago when I quit drinking and smoking cold turkey, I knew I needed to return to a properly-medicated state (I’ve been on and off, mostly off, anxiety medication for years). So I did. And it worked until recently. You can imagine what happens when something actually is wrong, which happened a few weeks ago and has only worsened my mental state.
The irony, of course, is that I’m so preoccupied with illness and death that I have very little quality of life. The answer to every single one of my compulsive questions is the same, which is: make the most of this life. I know the answer is to be a steward of my time: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. What if nothing comes next? Better make the most of each day. What if I get a horrible disease? Well you don’t have one today…make the most of this time. What if someone I love gets sick? That would suck. Better love them hard and well while you can.
So I GET it. Intellectually, I really do. But my body is fighting me on this. Spiritually, I’m seeking, though I know I could focus more energy on that effort. It’d be nice to ultimately become one of those people so ensconced and rooted in their faith they have no fear of hardship or death. Born and raised as a non-denominational Christian, I find comfort in a lot of Christianity-based teaching, but very little comfort in Christians or the institution of organized religion. I’ve visited the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, which was peaceful and enlightening and lovely, though I’ve only touched the surface of the Baha’i faith. I’ve incorporated meditation and yoga into my life with the hope that I’ll someday become practiced enough to experience the spiritual breakthroughs I’ve heard so much about.
Maybe it’s something I’ll outgrow. Maybe I’ll continue my spiritual journey and return to my non-denominational Christian point of origin. It’s too soon to tell.
Maybe an important step of working through fear is to expressly state what it is I’m afraid of. It’s not a short list.
I’m afraid of dying before I’m able to experience the love I want: a man who sees all of me, knows all of me: my soul, my faults, my quirks, and loves me entirely. A man who loves me for all the things I’ve always wanted to be loved for. A man whose soul captures me and draws me into a sacred space, a place we come together and teach one another the things we need to learn. I’m afraid I’ll never know that love. I’m afraid I’ll never believe myself worthy of such a thing.
I’m afraid of the pain associated with the separation of death; of losing someone I love and being forced to go on without them.
I’m afraid of dying before I accomplish the things I want to accomplish: hike the Appalachian Trail, write a book, build a career I’m passionate about, become friends with my body, spiritually evolve, serve humanity in a way that is impactful, dig my toes in to African dirt, etc.
I’m afraid my Anxiety and fear will never allow me to find peace in my body. I’m afraid I’ll feel like this forever…I’m afraid the ‘then it gets worse’ is not merely a stage.
I’m afraid ‘just different’ will never come.