Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It Is Called Thanatophobia....

Trying to pinpoint when it really started to spin out of control, the best I can come up with is maybe sometime last November.

I've never been too keen on the subject of death.  I don't go to funerals.  And I mean that.  I don't.  I can't.  I did not attend my grandparents' funerals.  They passed away almost a year to the day of one another back in 05-06.  I made up an excuse when my grandfather died.  I didn't bother a year later, when Gramma H passed away.

No.  I don't go.  I can't.  Selfish, yes.  I know.

But it wasn't until recently, the past 7 months or so, that this problem has ramped up a few degrees of intensity.  To the point where I believe the definition of "phobia" is probably pertinent.

I've never had one.  A real phobia.  I have never known what it feels like for a pathological fear to affect my ability to live normally.  I have jumped out of airplanes.  Wandered down dark alleys in foreign countries.  Often get way too close to potentially dangerous animals with a level of nonchalance that can only be described as utter stupidity.  Like what?  Held black widow spiders in my hand.  Rescued rats from certain death.  Apparently, a couple weekends ago, I was close enough to a water moccasin to send my husband into full-on "oh my fucking god" mode.  In my defense, I do not recall actually being THAT close.  


Fears have never really been my thing.  

Until now.  

And as I sit here attempting to give it a voice, the best way to explain it would be.....


Absolute. Paralyzing. Terror.  

I hesitate to say that it is caused by a medication I take because I have been on this med since 2005, with the dose only having been increased once, a couple years ago.  But what I find strange is that this panic only happens at night, after I have taken it.  

It begins with a feeling of being very, very small in a very, very big now.  And I say now instead of "world" on purpose.  

The "world" means nothing inside of this fear.  It is not a big "world" I am thinking about.  It is the vastly more unimaginable enormity of EVERYTHING.  This little planet hanging gingerly in a thing called "space," but not the definition of "space" that simply describes any place, but space on a scale whose understanding is unreachable by the human mind.  

This now is a reality in which life is considered to have originated on Earth early in the planet's formation- and early is considered a few hundred million years.  Hundreds of millions of years is "early" in this space that is now.  Digesting that is to be lost in ones own swamp of incomprehension.  Assuming one would even try.  I try.  Perhaps that is where my fault lies.

This now is a thing and a time in which a measurement of things in billions is the norm.  A measurement of billions of miles, billions of planets, stars, nebulae, time, light-years, all of those things- and we have not even left our own galaxy yet.  

That is the now I find myself in each night.  Right around midnight.  About 20 minutes after I take this medication.  It has never done this to me in the whole 7 or 8 years I have been taking it, until 6 months ago.  

And as I ruminate on the smallness of the things I care about, and the vastness of a now that lies in a place and time measured in billions and hundred-billions in every direction outside of my own understanding-

...... that is when I lose my breath.  And my heart quickens.  And the periphery of my vision turns black.  My head swims.  My eyelids begin the flutter thing they do when you are desperately trying to hold back tears.  I try to grab hold of myself, yet I begin racing around my house in the dead of night so that I can put my hands on tangible things and sleeping bodies.  Looking for tethers, surities, to keep my feet grounded as my head begins to pull itself off of my neck.  

I gather myself and crawl into bed.  I hide under the covers.  And reach my hand out to touch my husband's back.  Close my eyes.  

The neverending fall from the sky behind my eyelids is a sleep tease.  You know, right at the moment you begin to drift.... BAM.  There is a gutteral noise then, a scream sometimes, I've even heard the sound of my own voice screaming "WHERE ARE YOU?!" and my husband says, "I am here...." 

The sleep tease.  It happens a few times before it lets me be.  

I've begun thinking about it during the day now.  Dreading the evening that most folks relish.  Hoping for dreamless sleep as a best case scenario. 

This now- all of these things I once thought beautiful.  Thermonuclear fusion of life, glowing unimaginables, rivers of plasma, and leaps and loops and spots.  The brilliance of gravity and statistical dreams standing in for numbers and amounts and distances and probabilities humans will never be able to quantify.  The silliness of the Drake equation and all of its hilarious faults, yet the closeness with which we keep it held- hope on a string with a wad of gum on the end of it.  

That, all of that, was a now I once thought was beautiful.  

But now, this now is just a monster in my closet.....

The thought that I am nothing.  It will all go on without me.  One day, I will not be here.  Me and my and will be nothing.  Nothing at all.  Now will still be now.  But I will not be.  Anything.  What will I think of in those last few seconds?  Will I think?  Will I lose my dignity and beg not to die?  Why am I thinking about this?  Who will miss me?  

And then, one day- this now that will swallow all of us- One day, it will be gone, too.  All of this.  All of us.  All of time and space and energy and mass.... all of it.  Gone.  Just gone.  Now will be nothing.  Nothing has no mass.  Nothing has no amount or distance or time.  Nothing... the fact that it is even a word, makes it an oxymoron.  

It is not just the word 'nothing' that is an oxymoron.  It is the existence of the word 'nothing' that is the oxymoron.  Can you understand that?

Because nothing is not a thing.  It is nothing... and saying it is nothing.... makes it a thing.  Because you have named it.  


And believe it or not, this is Rational Me.  This me who is typing right now, this is the Not-Panicked Me.  This is Daytime Me.  I'm fine right now.  The fear hasn't woken up yet.  As evidenced by the fact that I am able to talk about it at all.  Tonight.  Right around midnight.  That's when Oh Shit Me comes out.

I'm keeping a sense of humor about it, though.  Mainly because that is just what I do.  It's who I am.  I can laugh at myself a hell of a lot quicker than I cry for myself.  I naturally float toward smiles and simplicity.  I laugh a lot.  Anger is so rare I forget what it feels like in between times.  I can count heartaches on one hand.  Fear is an alien standup comedy act opening with a "yo momma" joke.  It just doesn't happen.  With me.  It doesn't.

And so I find myself in alien territory.  Oddly so. 

When this picture evokes absolute terror and uncontrollable fetal position snot-crying, it's time for a different med....

.... methinks.

Which seems to be causing quite a problem.

All this pesky thinking business!


Whew.... now I feel better....



  1. I hope things get better for you Aimee .. I sure have never heard of a medication causing that kind of side effect though, but I wish you the best and hope you can find an inner peace at night and can relax without having to worry about anything.


  2. Thanks, Adam. That means a lot. I'm sure it is some sort of weird phase that will run its course. I don't know why or how a medication would cause this, unless the fear is already there and the medication just breaks down the walls I build around it. That sounds about right ;-)

  3. I think if i had that fear with my ongoing mental health issue, i would lose my s**t and have to commit myself (panic disorder with argoraphobia), thankfully my medication (seroquel aka quetiapine fumarate) knocks me pretty hard on my ass, so i dont have a chance to get too wound up .. lmao
    And i hope its only a weird phase, and that there was more i could do to help you out, but i live a good 2200 miles away from you.

    God Bless

  4. I guess it would be TOTALLY fucked up of me to tell you that is the very same med I take. Yeah. I was up to 600 mg at one point but went back down to 400 on my own. I hated knowing I was taking the same dosage they'd give a 500 pound schizophrenic ;-) Yikes. Now that makes me wonder if decreasing my dosage is what is causing this.....

    1. I'm on a very small dose right now (25mg's at bedtime) .. and it's definitely possible a decrease in dosage could cause what your experiencing, i'm gonna do a bit of research on this and see if i can find something interesting, if i do ill send you any links or anything useful i find.


  5. Hello, there...

    Stopping in from the S3P Weekend Spotlight and just wanted to say that in the past year I have experienced this kind of gripping fear you so eloquently describe here. It is the worst. Though mine comes from being in public places surrounded by many people (doesn't help that I ride public transportation to NYC every day) our symptoms are very similar.

    I wish I could tell you something reassuring but I'm just navigating my way through a trial period of some anxiety meds with the hope that they'll take away a bit of the fear. I wish you all the best with your dosage and hope that you can get some peace and quiet in the nighttime hours. XOXO and thank you for an honest and raw read.

    1. That used to be me, as well. There was a time when going to places like a Wal-Mart Supercenter or Costco was out of the question. I wouldn't make it 20 feet through the door before turning around and RUNNING. Yeah. It was bad. I don't know why, but these things just seem to come and go at random. That anxiety would stop altogether, and something else would take its place. Or I start to hate myself for being weak, and I'd force myself to do the thing over and over again. I'm a mess, I know. Thanks for hangin' out with me ;-)

  6. I would guess it's your medication. The older I get, the more I realize how tiny the 'now' I'm sitting in this moment really is, considering all of time before and after, all the zillions of other people who have come and gone and are yet to come and go. But it doesn't strike me with fear. I hope changing your meds helps!! I can't imagine that sense of panic, especially when you're not use to fear at all!

  7. I can totally feel you. I've developed some of the same overbearing anxieties you describe in the last few years. They're paralyzing, and then in anticipation of the paralyzing, my brain makes them even bigger. I've got nothing to blame for them but my own neuropathways, and I keep pushing against them so they don't affect my life (subways, elevators, crowds, no exit situations like meetings). Thanks for writing so clearly how I feel. I don't think I could have verbalized it like that.

  8. Wow. Really? You have all these fears? Not to say I'm fearless, but I live in absolute denial / naïveté and ignorance. It's bliss. I don't know how I'd handle such fears. Unless of course you consider my fear of pills and meds that fuck with your head. I avoid them. Like the plague. I take advil and birth control. Some supplements here and there. But true meds? They scare me. Have you discussed this issue with your Rx Notepad (was that how you called him?)

    Hope you see puppies and rainbows tonight...

    1. I could talk in circles all day long about my neurotics, the inherent hyperbole therein, and the vein of hypocrisy that runs straight through the middle of them. I haven't mentioned it to my fat, bald prescription pad because I'm afraid he'll change my med. I hate popping pills as much as you, believe it or not. But the reason I take this medication is life and death. And that is no exaggeration. That is the only reason I take it. It is also why I am blindly terrified to change it or stop it. I figure I'll get over whatever this fear thing is soon enough. It seems to have helped a bit when I force myself to lay down right after I take it, instead of wandering around the house letting my brain boil. Fear sucks. Irrational fear sucks even worse.

  9. I found you while looking up the definition for AC in latin. So I came to your website to tell you "It will get better". I must go back to studing for a test. I hope to find you again but I'm a jumper who seldom stay in one site for very long. Was an agoraphobic for nearly 20 years but now thank God am studing to be a nurse...free at last from panic fears.
    Best of wishes,

    1. I'm glad you found me. You're always welcome to stick around, or come and go as you please. Sometimes I tend to ramble, but every once in a while I might say something interesting ;-)

      Thank you.