I participated in an exercise that revolved around physically writing down fears, then looking at each and searching for their story. When did that fear start? Why did it start? who, what where was involved?
Although I have been doing this (asking why) for quite some time I have not broken it down this way. What I have been doing is asking why I am like this now. What happened? What caused this? In looking at my fears list I have come to realize that it’s been a little more complicated than that. There is not one, but many fears acting together, and against each other to put me in the turmoil I now find myself in. About all these things have in common is they all developed about the same time with the exception of one or two.
I think the most pronounced on my list is the fear of death. When you are a chronic panic disorder sufferer the intense anxiety produces a constant feeling of impending doom. What could bring you closer to the thought of death than your intuition telling you your death is imminent dozens times a day?
So what’s my death fear story? I think this one has been with me since I was a kid. My first panic attack that I remember was around the age of nine. I cannot recall what brought it on, but I remember laying on the couch as my hands went into tetany deforming uncontrollably as the muscles consorted my fingers in directions that nature had not intended and the tingling of my face around my nose and mouth as well as my arms and hands. At the same time I began to experience tunnel vision, the tunnel closing in to a pinpoint before I passed out totally for a few minutes. I remember feeling terrified. I did not understand what was happening to me as my parents sat beside me trying to reassure me…as their voices faded off to me. My next memory is laying in the back seat of the car (in the days before seat belts were even part of a car’s interior) as my mother drove me to the doctor over 20 miles away. By the time we got there I was feeling better. Old Doc Smith checked me over, gave me a small envelope of “pills” other wise known as M&M’s and sent us on our way.
Since then I have gone through phases where I challenged death to take me and other times when I have been running from it. Challenges included walking on a four inch wide rail of a bridge near my childhood home as a early teen, crossing a gully 150 plus deep, an act alone looking back on it was nothing short of a suicide attempt masquerading as a challenge. Everytime I walk over that bridge today I remember that and it seems like a totally different person did that, and how truly stupid it was.
The agoraphobia I know today is the act of running from it. As a nurse and a highly sensitive person over the years I have signed many death certificates as the witness to such events. The reality that none of us are getting out of this alive was beaten into my consciousness as part of the occupation. I have to say too that in all the years I never witnessed a person passing in any other form than peaceful. But for some reason that was never comforting. What penetrated my inner soul was the finiteness of it all. There was no going back, no changing one’s mind, perminateness. I began to ask what the point was from the start? You’re born to work your ass off, still be poor, suffer the situations of life only to die anyway despite any steps you take to live a good healthy life. The concept that this person would never return; their family would never know or see them again. Especially difficult were the deaths of the young. Young mothers leaving their babies behind, babies leaving their mothers behind, teenagers leaving behind a family and the possibilities of a long life. As a society I believe we have accepted the fact that the elderly will die, and in a weird way we expect it, but to that end these are people that have been there for us all our lives. We become accustomed to them always being there, and then….they are not.
The next step in this process is to spend a few days looking to change the focus. I need to find evidence of the opposite. I need to look for evidence that I am not dieing. Evidence of life. I guess the mear fact that after many years of all this I am still alive. I see no decline in the number of bills I am getting to support living..you know, like the electric bill, gas bill, grocery bill…..And despite the hundreds of medical tests I have endured over the years they have never found any organic issues (other than the stroke after the pulmonary embolism).
I have however had some pretty serious medical conditions that by all rights should have been the end for me such as the pulmonary embolism, the stroke, the bout with Mirizzi syndrome, and pneumonia. I feel like a cat running out of lives. I think the agoraphobia is the only way I can crawl in a hole to protect my back, see something coming from only one direction, and have half a chance of fighting it off. It has become a coping mechanism.
And so it is.