I am lucky, mainly because after a whole life of mental illness, I’ve become rather good at identifying my moods. For a while now, I’ve been pretty alright. That is, since Aprilish–Mayish when things weren’t looking so swell.
Since the beginning of time, I’ve always had a nauseating level of internal anxiety, which mainly takes the form of feeling vastly inadequate about everything. Compliments are awkward. Accomplishments and achievements mean nothing. Every choice is a bad one. Social outings are a nightmare because of the need to impress. Life, in general, is always somewhat stressful if you’re in my head.
But for a few days now, I’ve been experiencing higher-than-usual levels of anxiety.
This morning, I woke up to what I can only explain as something that felt pretty damned close to a panic attack. Sweating. Heart racing. Throat tight. I know it wasn’t though; I’ve had one before and this was nowhere close to it. This was paranoia. Something, somewhere was going to go wrong.
Well, I can point it to my Thursday drive to work: the death of a motorcyclist on Pennant Hills Road in Carlingford. Sitting at the traffic lights at the fork between Pennant Hills and Marsden Road, my eyes were drawn to the sirens of a fire engine coming down Marsden Road. A dreary, wet morning, my mind crept to what it could have been. A house fire was likely for winter – electrical cables and overheated fuses. But it was more likely a road accident as I see the side of the fire engine, ‘HEAVY RESCUE’. Australians are notoriously bad at driving in the wet. I thought nothing more of it, and proceeded with cautious across the intersection.
But more sirens. This time, of Highway Patrol. One car, then two. Both making their way in the same direction, sirens howling, contraflow. I could feel my heart pounding then as I pull around the corner to where cars are now piled in a line, blinkers readying to merge left.
Then I see it. A B-double. A motorcycle on its side. A white sheet. A death.
My relationship with death oscillates. Death has been a constant friend and comfort to me. At my worst, death has not judged me, and if anything, has welcomed me with open arms from life’s horrid atrocities when all seems pointless and all seems lost.
And yet as I’ve recovered, death has remained a single source of perpetual anxiety. What happens in death – what happens to consciousness and life – what happens to my mind, body and soul – all these questions force me to awaken to a dire panic in the middle of the night, crying with fear and terror.
Some other days, my relationship with death is this: death is natural, and that is that.
Arriving at work, my mind was already in another place: the meditative state that I sometimes retreat to when my relationship with death is neutral. My contemplation is not on death itself, but on the nature of life. Perhaps best explained in my very brief message to my mother.
My mother, bless her, is one of the strongest women I know. Buddhist by brain, belief and body, she has taught me everything I know about life and living. But to provide comfort is something which she does in her own strange ways. She is short and prophetic, and epitomises life of deep, but transitory meditation: it is important to contemplate deeply, but for the layperson, give it a break, will you!
I am constantly anxious and/or paranoid about a lot of things in life:
- Being happy
- My body image
- Whether my solitary nature will result in a lonely existence
- Changing trains at Strathfield if I catch the train
- Whether my goading about the convenience of being infertile will manifest into a reality
- People getting too close to me, both emotionally and also physically (the ‘personal space’ kind)
- Whether I have left my power point on and it will result in burning down the whole house
- Relationships, both platonic and romantic
- Whether as a very likely single parents, I will be able to adopt a child in Australia despite prejudice against single parent status
- Whether Coco loves me more than Mum and Dad, or whether my work hours has changed my relationship with her
The list continues. For quite a while.
But you get the point. I’m the anxiety of an unsocialised handbag Chihuahua in the body of a Bull Arab.
I went for a run today – 4km in total from home to a park and back again. I wore a running sweater, but took it off just before getting to the dog park but had to put it back on again because I felt people were looking at me. It’s a strange dichotomy: in most aspects of life, I see myself as being entirely insignificant or never important enough to be even so much as noticed, and yet my belief is also that everyone notices everythingthat I do or am.
So to say, my happiest days are the ones where I never have to leave home. Though I will never be able to be a Hikikomori, days where I am forgotten by the world are my favourite ones.
Tell you what though. When I die, I’ll probably be having a panic attack about the fact that I’m dying. Get your popcorn – how’s that for a bit of absurdist black comedy?