I don’t think I need to list out all of my anxiety issues again. If I did, it would take a while. I have pretty much stopped counting all of the phobias and conditions I’ve acquired over the years. I often talk about how my emetophobia is by far the worst of my anxiety disorders. And, for the most part, it is because it affects me every day. But if I am being honest, it’s actually not the very worst.
Fear of death is the worst anxiety I have ever felt, in my entire life. Now, to contrast this, my emetophobia related panic attacks seriously SUCK. Feeling like you are on the verge of vomiting for hours on end (no one likes that feeling) paired with the most intense panic attack you can imagine…also for hours on end.
My emetophobia panic attacks are never minor. If they begin and I cannot stop them in time, they become full-force panic attacks filled with shaking (like, shaking so hard I can’t type on my keyboard or hold my cell phone), sweating, crying, gagging, etc. It’s awful. I’ve had emetophobia panic attacks that have lasted up to TWELVE HOURS. That’s like, too long, man.
But last year I experienced something worse than my emetophobia. I experienced true existential dread and developed a fear of death. This was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was so much more intense than my emetophobia, and here’s why.
(I haven’t illustrated any posts in a long time, so I figured I’d give it a shot again!)
See, even though my logic and voice of reason usually fly out the window when I’m anxious, there is still a tiny voice poking and prodding my senses.
And even if I don’t believe the voice (which I usually don’t), there is still the chance that it’s right. Maybe it is all just a panic attack. Maybe I won’t throw up tonight. Maybe my husband did not die horrifically even though he hasn’t texted me back in five minutes.
Even when I panic about having a deadly illness, the voice of reason is still there, reassuring me.
Because, in the moment, I’m afraid of dying from that specific illness at that specific time. Even if I don’t listen to that voice of reason right away, I eventually realize, “Hmm, probably right. I’m probably fine. I might not die right now.”
But existential dread is different. Because, I will die. It might not be right now, but I will die eventually. Last summer was the first time I experienced this. My voice of reason couldn’t help because for the first time in my life, my fear would 100% come true. I couldn’t avoid it this time. It is going to happen.
I might not vomit ever again in my life. My husband might never get into another car accident. If we choose to have kids, I might have an amazing pregnancy and child birth experience. I might never get cancer or diabetes or develop a brain tumour or pancreatic problems or kidney failure.
But I will die. And that is really scary.
But, there is good news. For once, I feel like I’ve actually conquered a new anxiety that sprung into my life. The phobia of death only grabbed hold of me for about a year. Instead of ignoring it, I dealt with it. I talked to my counsellor about it, I talked to my parents about it, I talked to my husband about it, and now it does not have a hold on me like it used to. The fear of death is the most hopeless fears I have ever felt.
Am I still scared? Yeah. But I don’t go bursting into tears in the middle of sweeping the floor because I remember that one day I’m going to die. I don’t have panic attacks in the middle of a kid’s movie because the main character mentioned their father dying.
If you struggle with the fear of death, I know how painful and hopeless it feels. Don’t hesitate to get help today – you don’t have to feel like that forever.