The Basis of Fear: Anxiety + Depression

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You wanna hear a dirty word? Here it is: ANXIETY. That’s right. I said it. Anx-EYE-eh-TEE. A lot of people have already stopped reading, so if you’re still here, thank you. I think it’s time I get real dirty and honest about anxiety and its relationship with my grief.
I’ve been brooding over this book (All the Light We Cannot See) and this quote for months now:
The Basis of Fear
You have to read the book to understand the entire context [and I highly recommend that you do read it], but either way this quote is extremely poignant to those of us who’ve experienced loss:
“‘But he died.’
 
‘And I did not.’
 
This, she realizes, is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.”
The Basis of Fear

This quote made me ugly cry for about an hour after I initially read it. I had to put the book down and come back to it once my eyes weren’t swollen. It was definitely a good, therapeutic cry because it really bulls-eyed my feelings about loss and anxiety.

When you lose someone [I don’t care if it’s your dad, a neighbor, or your pet fish – it’s YOUR loss, so don’t let anyone make you feel differently], you realize you’ve lost control. In fact, you realize you never had control to begin with. The normal you knew before is long gone, my friend. You’re now in the “real world” – the “Big Boy Land” – whatever you want to call it. But no longer do you believe in fairy tales and perfectly happy endings.

The Basis of Fear

Along with this loss of control comes anxiety and/or depression. It’s becoming less and less taboo to talk about these things openly, but nevertheless, these things are usually kept quiet. I guess people feel ashamed or embarrassed about mental health issues, but let me assure you… these things are no different than cancer or the flu or a broken pinky toe. They’re diseases that need to be treated.

The Basis of Fear

I experienced both anxiety and depression after my dad died. It’s interesting because it never really manifested until after Jon and I were married. I honestly didn’t really know what was going on with me. I used to be the kind of person who’d jump at the chance to go out on the town, be the life of the party, and feel comfortable in any situation. Slowly, I started to freak out about the smallest things: not having my own car, feeling trapped in a restaurant, needing to go home to check to see if the dryer was on, not sleeping until I checked the garage at least 4 times. Those kinds of things. Weird. Things.

 

The Basis of Fear

To people who haven’t experienced these feelings: CONGRATS to you, buddy. I’m glad you don’t know what it’s like. But let me please urge you – don’t judge me. Not until you understand what it’s like to have your life utterly rocked and shaken until you don’t recognize where you are anymore. Be patient with me. Be kind to me. Don’t laugh at it or hope that it will magically disappear. Unless you can bring back my losses, it’s not going anywhere.

The Basis of Fear

I recognize that my anxiety was brought on by my losses, but that anxiety manifests itself in and from many different things. I know some people who will literally become physically violent if forced to speak in public. I’ve known people who wouldn’t sleep or eat days before a big exam. I had a friend in college who had a panic attack so severe that the campus medical staff had to come escort her out of her bed. You fill in the blanks, but everyone probably has or will experience something similar in this lifetime.

What I’m beginning to see and feel is that as our society becomes more and more “advanced” (lots of argument about what that really means, I know), we seem to all be experiencing more mental illness. Our wars are different than they used to be. Our jobs are much more mentally demanding than they used to be. Our social lives are very different than they used to be. You see? It’s no wonder that things can get a little hairy when you add in even more factors.

The Basis of Fear

My purposes for writing this post are:

#1: THANK everyone who has supported me, been patient with me, and even dealt with my quirks when I’m “in my moment” dealing with anxiety.

#2: ENCOURAGE you to seek help from a friend, family member, or medical professional if you feel that you’re spiraling out of control because of your anxiety/depression. You’re not broken, amigo, and you’re not crazy either.

#3: BE HONEST about your feelings – whether you’re the anxious one or the one who’s being supportive. Mental illness shouldn’t be something we sweep under the rug anymore. It’s real. It’s here to stay. The only way to make it bearable is to honestly and openly talk about it.

grief

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