Today’s fear is the fear that I am going to get health problems from being overweight and eating junk food and not exercising and getting drunk sometimes when a doctor says more than 5 drinks a week makes you a “heavy” drinker.
I’m not actually afraid of health problems, isn’t that funny? Like, I’m not afraid of getting cancer or having surgery or even dying! Dying seems like a spiritual adventure. I am excited to die one day.
But I am very, very afraid of the day when I have health problems and I tell people about them and understand that they are thinking about the ways in which I have brought this on myself. I’m afraid in the sense that I think about this constantly. I wake up at 6 in the morning to think about this. I take melatonin before I go to sleep so I won’t lay in bed and think about this.
Another funny thing is the way in which the bad behaviors — overeating, drinking, laying on the couch and watching an entire season of The Fall instead of going to the gym — are the ways I comfort myself when I am exhausted from all this worrying!
I can’t stop thinking about the ways in which (potentially) future people will (potentially) have thoughts inside their own head which are not empathetic toward me. I could have a heart attack and immediately die and be dead so it’s not like I would even have to talk to anyone about it, ever, but I am still worried about how people would perceive my death. I think it wouldn’t be as sad of a death as like, getting hit by a car because there were moral failings on my part that lead up to it and I can’t stand the idea of everyone thinking about my moral failings.
In high school I inherited my mom’s car and it was one of the most important things that happened in my life up to that point. It was the first time I had a space outside of my parent’s house that was just mine. It got me to school and work and hockey practice and was a place to sit with my friends in the catholic church parking lot in the middle of the night to talk.
The car broke, the car needed thousands of dollars of repairs, I didn’t have any money.
This was the first time I experienced uncontrolled anxiety. For a week I worried about that money constantly! I thought my life was going to end because I wouldn’t be able to drive to school anymore. I took multiple showers a day because it was the only place I could relax for a few minutes. I thought nothing would be bigger or more awful in my life than being 16 and having a broken car and no money.
Spoiler: my parents paid for my car to get fixed. They didn’t want to chauffeur me any more than I wanted to be chauffeured while driving was still such a novelty.
This was a good ending. I didn’t have to do anything, they didn’t even ask me to pay for part of it. I thought everything was going to go back to normal — but that uneasy feeling in my stomach never left. My brain had been rewired to understand that bad things are going to happen to me.
I found new things to worry about. That’s the way it goes. You’re afraid of something and convinced it is the worst thing that could ever happen. It happens or it doesn’t happen — but there’s no relief afterward. You just move on to the next worry. I used to be really worried about money and now that I’m not worried about money I am worried about my health. Maybe I will see a doctor or a therapist who will convince me not to worry about my health (seems impossible) and then I will worry about something else.
I didn’t go to the dentist for five years because I was worried about how long it had been since I had been to the dentist. I went to the dentist. She smiled and thanked me for coming. My teeth weren’t falling out. They were fine. She told me my mouth was healthy.
On the drive home instead of feeling relieved about five years of anxiety being wrong I listed reasons in my head why I think I have skin cancer.
There will never be an exhale here. I am a creative person and my imagination will always find new things to worry about with a truly impressive regularity. I am going to play whack-a-mole until the day I die or I am going to learn how to just let those little things be. I don’t have to hit them if I don’t want to, I could just watch them pop up, or I could walk away.