I have anxiety. Sure, lots of other people do too, especially these days, in this economy. But when I say I have anxiety, I mean, I really have anxiety. Unlike most people, anxiety is not just one color in the palette of emotions coloring my daily life, but rather the constant monochromatic filter through which the rest of my emotions pass and are thusly dulled, muted, or cancelled out altogether. For me, anxiety is more than just â€œworry.â€ It’s a constant fear, of everything and of nothing. It’s a sometimes humorous, sometimes debilitating, always present fear which directly influences the majority of my daily decisions. John F. Kennedy once said â€œWe have nothing to fear, but itself,â€ and though I’m he probably didn’t mean to, those words are nevertheless a perfect encapsulation of how it feels to suffer from chronic anxiety. Your foremost fear is of fear. You’re afraid of being afraid. But you’re also afraid of other stuff too. With the exception of nihilists, mujahideen fighters and other profoundly spiritual or deeply disturbed individuals, pretty much everyone who’s alive is at least a little bit afraid of dying. After all, it’s part of being alive, the whole wanting to keep it that way thing. But for the Average Joe, the fear of death is like a low-level background noise, only to be heard when nothing else is going on or if focused on directly. However, for the anxiety sufferer, death is an ever present din, the leafblower outside the window that must be drowned out by louder, more pleasant thoughts. But no matter how loud you turn up the other thoughts, the sound of death is always audible. It’s as if your brain is an e-mail inbox, and thoughts of death are penis pill spam. Whereas most people can simply turn on the spam filter and be done with it, the anxiety sufferer has no spam filter, in fact, he not only receives the spam, but he reads it, and replies to it, ensuring an unending stream of more spam will follow directly.
Making matters worse: although the fear of the death is (at least for me) the sole basis of my neurosis, it is not a monolithic ideal, a pillar of black fear, but rather a large umbrella, representing an endless array of permutations. After all, how many different ways can you die? A Snoop Dog song once put it at six million, which I’d say is a pretty fair estimate. And out of those six million I’ve probably thought about, and have been afraid of a good two or three million. More beguiling still, is the nature of these specific fears, in which not only is a direct method of death the object of fear, but the opposite of it as well. I drink water because I’m afraid of dying of dehydration, only to then become certain that I will die from water intoxication, a fate made famous some years back right here in Chico. I’m afraid that if I fall asleep, I will never wake up (due to CO2 poisoning, nocturnal spider bite, sudden infant death syndrome, et al) but then become deathly afraid of driving myself to suicidal madness from insomnia. This double-edged fear sword cuts through every aspect of life. If I drive, I will surely be involved in a fatal auto accident. If I take the bus, I will surely be stabbed by a transient. If I walk, I leave myself vulnerable to certain death at the hands of not only transients, but the cars and buses on the road as well, all of which are existing for one reason, and one reason alone, to cause my death. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live, because living means being afraid of having to die. I’m afraid of fear, but I’m also afraid of not fear, because as soon as you lose the fear, as soon as you let your guard down that’s when it happens. That’s when you get bird flu. That’s when you get in an airline accident. That’s when you get dead. And I’m not ready to die yet. There’s so much more shit to be afraid of out there. There’s a whole world of fear just waiting to be feared.
Tags: average joe, background noise, Brain, chronic anxiety, constant fear, decisions, e mail, economy, emotions, encapsulation, fear of death, john f. kennedy, little bit, mail inbox, palette, spam filter, sufferer, unending stream