So many of us have fears. Phobias even. Fear of heights. Fear of tight spaces. Fear of flying. Fear of spiders. And the list goes on. Fortunately, in many of these cases an avoidance of the fears can help. Staying out of elevators. Not jumping off the high dive. Taking the train. Asking a friend to kill the eight legged creature crawling across the counter. The fears are still inconvenient and can be life altering, but they are specific enough to be avoided.
I have a fear too. But mine I can’t seem to get away from. It follows me everywhere. It creeps into my thoughts throughout the day and even wakes me from my sleep. I don’t know how to get out of its way.
I am petrified. Of Dying.
Not just afraid of one day dying. But worried that I am dying. I know it sounds extreme. It may even sound ridiculous, but it is not an exaggeration. I guess I have some form of hypochondria in that I do fear that every symptom I have is an illness, but unlike most hypochondriacs, I don’t complain to anyone about my maladies. I don’t take myself to the doctor weekly. I don’t moan and groan that I feel sick. No one even knows to the extent that I have this fear. But it eats at me. Not Every day but Too Many days.
I have not always been this way. I suppose it’s since I had kids that it’s grown to a new extreme. Which on the surface makes sense with all I now have to live for. But even in the past year it’s worsened. Every headache, every cramp, every bone pain, every memory lapse, every bout of nausea, I become anxious about. Paralyzed really. The longer the symptom lasts, the more I dwell. I am a Google maniac when it comes to checking symptoms. And I diagnose myself regularly. Just like every day you can make your horoscope fit your day, I make terminal illnesses fit my symptoms. And then I go about my day with thoughts of death in the back of my mind. Until the night, when I lay in the silence and cry. Imagining the worst.
I wonder if you are smirking or rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness of this admission. You may be. But this is real for me. Very real. Something I’m confessing in this forum because I need to get it out of my head. It’s not something I can talk about. With anyone. And yes, Tim may read this and then I will talk about it, but it’s a conversation I won’t look forward to. Because I’m smart enough to know, this makes me a little nuts. And I’m quite sure he’ll blatantly tell me just that. And so I deal alone.
Why, you may be thinking, don’t I take myself to the doctor to have all of my symptoms checked out? Because I’m too scared. I don’t want to admit to the doctor I’ve been having these headaches (for example) because I don’t want to have the slew of tests to determine the worst case scenario (that I’ve convinced myself I have). I guess I’d rather keep hoping it’s nothing. I did actually go to the doctor a year ago for the headaches and she looked with a light in my eyes briefly and prescribed Xanax. Anxiety. And I skipped out of the office with unbelievable relief. But a year later, my headaches still come and go, and I won’t go back to the doctor. I’m too scared. Don’t get me wrong, I go for a yearly physical (which is coming up next week) and to the OB once a year but I don’t discuss some of my symptoms because I figure, they’re the doctor, they should be able to figure out something is wrong, without my list of complaints.
Why this fear ? I can’t think of an exact time it arose but a few factors have played a part.
I had a friend die of cancer. She was in her early 30’s. She had a one year old daughter. A wonderful husband. From the day she was diagnosed, until the day she died was only 9 months. I saw her a few times early in the radiation process and once when she thought she was in remission. And then she was gone. And even today, 6 years later, I still find myself wondering how awful it must have been for her. How scary. How sad. How unfair. I cry at night thinking about it. About the last conversations she had with her husband. About the last time she saw her daughter. I’m crying now as I write…
I’m not religious. And don’t have a set of beliefs as to where we go when we die. I like to think I will be welcomed in heaven and will reunite with my beloved that have passed, but I’m not totally sold on it. I read many blogs written by extremely spiritual and religious women who believe so strongly in an Almighty God or a Savior or Lord and they believe they have a Plan. I’m certain they find solace and comfort in these beliefs that I don’t have. And this unknown, this grasping for something that makes sense, scares me.
I read too much. I’m that person who can’t turn away from an horrific car accident. I read stories, blogs, articles about people dying of awful diseases. I learn how they were diagnosed, and what their symptoms were and then I follow their stories and pray for their recovery. I cry for the sick young children and their parents. And as lucky as I feel that these situations are not my own, I imagine that they are. And I make myself crazy over it.
These worries overtake my mind. Often Tim thinks I’m tired or cranky from a long day with the kids but really, I’m dwelling on a sickness I’ve convinced myself I have. I become withdrawn. Angry. Bitter. Impatient. Snippy. But I can’t talk about it because I don’t want to hear I worry too much. Or even worse, I don’t want to hear that I should go to the doctor. I just want to be told I’m FINE. I want to be held and told with 100% certainty without all the tests that I have nothing to worry about. But no one can do that for me. Except me. And on the days that I go for a run, play two hours of tennis, spend the day on the ski slopes, or manage to run nonstop after my kids all day, I am able to convince myself that a very sick person wouldn’t be able to do those things. And I pull myself together and move forward. Until the next set of “symptoms” roll around.
It’s amazing to me how dramatically my mood improves on the days that I feel GREAT. These ache-free days I feel I can conquer anything. And I look up at the sky (at who knows Who) and promise that I’ll be a better person if I’m kept healthy. I grab my kids and swing them around and cherish this time of feeling Like Me.
I’m so embarrassed to be admitting all this. I apologize for being so morbid. I’m ashamed that I’m not able to appreciate my health that I (most likely) have. I feel selfish that I am so concerned with ME. But I am so concerned because I fear not being Here. Being here for my kids. For my husband. For my parents. The problem is that since I’m so worried about not being here in the future, I am missing being here Today. Too many of my days are wasted worrying about tomorrow. But I don’t know how to get passed it. To get passed this fear. To Live instead of Fear Dying.
And when I ask Google, it doesn’t give me any good answers.