I’ve never really been able to plan for the future. A lot of the time, I genuinely believe I won’t have one to look forward to. Making a 5 year plan becomes incredibly distressing if you don’t feel like you’re going to have 5 years left to enjoy. The concepts of time and death have always been a real sticking point for me being able to progress my life in the way I would hope for. I have avoided making long term plans for myself based on the fear that I only have a very limited time left and need to spend it doing something that won’t leave me exiting this world full of regrets and self loathing or disappointment. This isn’t an easy cycle for me to break out of, each missed opportunity then feels like a failure when it turns out the time has elapsed and I’m still here, leading me to an even greater sense of urgency that I need to achieve something ‘meaningful’ as soon as possible. Once this thought has entered my head, my brain involuntarily begins a full body scan to try and identify any possible ailments. BAM, found you strange sensation under my left rib. I know I am in an increased state of anxiety and every nerve in my body is on high alert but sweet baby Jesus, this must be the end. Someone help me. Someone prove me wrong. Dr. Google, my old friend, tell me it’s nothing to worry about. Tell me, I’ll have a long happy life and die peacefully in my sleep when I’m good and ready.
Dr. Google you snake, how could you.
I now have no doubt in my mind that I have a terminal illness that will wipe me off the face of this Earth within a year. The best thing about this being a long term repeated cycle is that no one will believe me or take me seriously about it. Even if they did, it would be of no use to me. Perhaps a CT scan would find out what’s wrong, maybe it would put my mind at ease. I just need to know for sure and this will all go away. Except it won’t. The unnecessary radiation I’d receive from that scan would then provide me with more evidence that I’m definitely dying this time, the next time. So all that’s really left for me is to wait and see. Trying to get on with mundane things when you feel like you’ve got a time bomb ticking away inside you is a pain in the ass. Of course, the only person this is remotely real to is myself. I often find it really difficult to hear the “I’m sure it’s nothing”, the “It’s really unlikely Amy” and the “Do you think it could just be anxiety?” I inevitably get from people that care about me. I know they’re probably right. I also know there’s not anything else they could say that would be what I wanted to hear. They’re not magic beings capable of granting me eternal life and happiness. Still, at my height of anxiety, it can feel super alienating to have my fears dismissed and in the past this has led to conflict with people I love. For me, logic and reason can be so easily overwritten by ‘a feeling’. I can quickly get to a stage where all my mental notes that were meant to be helpful and reassuring have been crossed out and rewritten so many times that I can no longer tell if anything I’m feeling is of genuine concern or not. Alas, it’s too late. The claws are in, and that plan a few months away, that I not just allowed to make, but actually got excited about is turning to dust in front of my eyes. A sense of chaos, despair and desperation ensues.
I spent a lot of time with an excellent therapist working through this and I have been out of therapy, getting by okay for sometime over a year now. Today is the first time since then, that the teeth of fear have sunk so deep. The most important thing I learnt with my therapist is that I actually have some control over how I react to my fears, and that I can and should own the responsibility for this. Giving myself the power to be responsible for myself is a great tool to combat my fears. Knowing that this is something I really need to work through on my own, without relying on others for reassurance or expecting them to bear the burden of my distress has been really empowering for me. The answers I desperately feel like I want and need in the moment weren’t actually helping me feel like a capable person. What I really want to know is not whether or not I am dying right now, but whether or not I am capable of coping when Mr Nasty himself, Sir Grim comes to summon me to his army of the dead. Allowing myself take responsibility for my feelings helps me believe that I can cope with whatever the future has in store for me, even if does turn out to be a premature death. So today, I chose to put my phone down, leave my flat, sit down at a table at my favourite book shop cafe and write this, to remind myself that no matter what is around the corner, I’m here for myself. Sir Grim, I’ll see you when I see you.