I don’t generally have a lot of anxiety. My default setting is depression. Most things in the world make me sad. Most things do not scare me.
Then I was crossing the street and got hit by a car. After a traumatic event like this, it would make sense for someone to be scared to cross streets, or even to be on the road in general. And I am certainly scared of those things. But with enough deep breathing, I can cross streets though, even the street where I got hit. Unfortunately, the arrival of an 18,000 hospital bill made it now terrifying for me to open my mailbox. The terror has spread to every time I think about leaving my apartment. I feel very much like a scared possum who is playing dead with all her heart, trying to hold still enough that the world will pass over and go away. Even things that I like to do are terrifying because they involve moving and that might give away to the universe that I’m not altogether dead. yet.
I have a potluck to make food for. I have a vacation to make reservations for. I have a future to plan. But like all possums I have no sense of scale of these terrifying things. All hope seems fatal.
Oddly, most of my usual coping mechanisms for mental illness – see friends even when you don’t want to, go swimming a lot, make sure you’re eating enough veg, keep doing laundry and dishes, pet cats, read something interesting – are precluded by the terror. I spend a lot of time sleeping and staring blankly into space. The usual reassurances that this is temporary and if you just don’t die in the next few minutes it might get easier – do not apply. It doesn’t get easier, it actually gets harder. More things start to seem terrifying. Going to work even though my job is not at all hard takes an enormous amount of effort. The laundry room is down two flights of stairs and who knows what could happen on your way down there. Seeing my partner is hard because he wants me to be engaged in our relationship and I am scared he will see through my death ruse and leave me.
The fact that none of this is based in reality, that I’m not about to be murdered or (even worse) made to feel hopeful, has no baring on my emotional response. I didn’t think I would get hit by a car crossing the street. Now all I do feels like I’m about to be hit by a car, every second, indoors.