The Fear Of Dying, Or Losing Loved Ones, Haunts Me Every Day

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The Fear Of Dying, Or Losing Loved Ones, Haunts Me Every Day

It’s 4:30 p.m., and my husband is not home. He has not called. He has not texted. He has not mentioned working late. He teaches public school, and his usual walk-in-the-door time is around 3:45 p.m.

I start to spiral.

Logically, a student or parent kept him late. But my brain is not logical, not now, not when he is likely wrecked in a fiery inferno in front of the state capitol building. And I don’t think I’m named as an emergency contact because I’m not listed under “wife” but instead a college nickname. Why did he do that?

I tell myself my mother-in-law would call me. But what if his phone’s too destroyed? What hospital would they take him to? How could I do this without him? We have three kids. We have life insurance. But how much? Is it enough? Could I get the house clean enough for a funeral?

I look around myself, and despair in the midst of my rising panic. I would have to go to work. I can’t even cook a fucking chicken. My heart hammers and my hands shake and I put on some dumb TV show for the kids and start calling, and calling, and calling. He does not pick up. The panic rises higher. I am on the verge of calling hospitals when my phone rings.

“I had a parent,” he says, without preliminaries. He knows what I’m going through. “I’m so sorry.”

“Just text me,” I tell him through clenched teeth, as fear drops into anger. “Just. Fucking. Text me. I thought you were dead on the highway.”

This is the face of anxiety that no one talks about. Sure, we might joke about paranoid moms. We might joke about the moms who think everyone’s going to die all the time, who always think they’re sick, or their kids are sick, or that their husbands teeter on the brink of fiery doom. You know the ones — the moms who yank their sons away from any child with a cough, the moms who steer their daughters clear from any kid with a runny nose. You might roll your eyes at us. You might think we’re overreacting. And we are. But we can’t help it. We live with an anxiety disorder.

And living with an anxiety disorder means our brains are on constant fight-or-flight alert. We’re always scanning the horizon for danger: danger for us, danger for those we love. In its simplest form, you always think you’re getting sick. I ate too much cheesecake the other night and justifiably got a sick tummy from the vast quantity of rich food (I refuse to divulge how much cheesecake was eaten, and you can’t make me).

I didn’t logically think, “Hey, I ate too much freaking cheesecake” because the anxious brain does not work in logic.

It loops in probabilities. I was getting a stomach bug. I had to drink some water, eat some antacids, then go lie down because the bug was brewing. I prayed I didn’t give it to the kids. I prayed I didn’t give it to my husband and the kids at the same time. I wondered if we had enough receptacles to serve as barf buckets. My mind ran on and on, to every contingency, until I passed out. All this over cheesecake.

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