Eeep! Part 2

There’s a scene in an episode of Scrubs, when Carla is telling Elliot that everyone is a bit crazy, and that the only reason people think she’s normal is because she only lets out the crazy a bit at a time.  Then they cut to one of their fantasy sequences where one of the characters imagines what it would be like if Carla let it all go at once.  It shows Carla opening her forehead to reveal a bright light, and the other characters watching have the flesh melted off their bodies.  Although, I’m having second thoughts now – is that when she’s angry not crazy?

Anyway, that’s what this post is going to be like, I think – me peeling back my forehead to reveal some of the stuff that’s going on in my head.  From this point on, I’m not really going to be thinking about how I structure the post, or how it’s going to look, or what I should say to reassure people.  So, if you think that exposure to my craziness might trigger or worsen your own (I know it works that way for me sometimes), then please don’t read the rest of this post.

Well, I have what I think could reasonably be described as the worst-timed case of mild hayfever in the history of my life.  I know it’s hayfever and not bacon flu because I have an itchy nose, and I get an itchy nose when I have hayfever, but not when I have a cold.  Still, it’s really not a great time to be sitting here with a roughened throat and a slight stuffed up feeling and occasionally sneezing.  I worry especially about the sneezing, on the grounds that my neighbours will probably be able to hear me when I sneeze, and it’s probably causing them a major panic, if they’re like me, or, if they’re not, a slight and transitory feeling of unease.

I am severely limiting my exposure to the news at present.  I had thought about cutting myself off entirely, but I don’t have the strength of mind to do that.  I am limiting myself to watching the brief two minute summary of headlines on the red button twice a day, and one visit to the BBC news website.  I’ve cut out all other news sources apart from the BBC.  I know ITN will be just as responsible in their reporting as the BBC, but they have a greater flare for the dramatic in the way they present stories, and at the moment that would trigger me off in quite a bad way.  Yes, I know, I am very pathetic.  Rest assured, I hate myself for it.

I am feeling very curiously detached from other people at the moment.  I see people going about doing ordinary things, and I want to scream at them, ‘Why are you doing this?  It doesn’t matter!  We’re all going to die’.  I feel the same thing when I hear that there have been new developments in the fight against the Taliban in Pakistan – it doesn’t matter who’s in charge in Islamabad, everyone in Islamabad is going to die.

This is really the heart of the problem, and it’s a problem I seem to have written about again and again and again on this blog.  I can do my rational thinking, my challenging of my own thoughts.  I know why thinking things like ‘we’re all going to die’ is mistaken.  I can sit myself down and talk myself through all the reasons why it isn’t going to work out like that, even if there is an outbreak on the scale of 1918, when up to 50% of the global population got ill, but only 2.5% died.  Although that was still an estimated 50 million dead people, most people didn’t die.

But it doesn’t work.  Because at some more fundamental level I absolutely KNOW that we are all doomed, and that we’re all going to die.  It is quite separate from my rational mind.  There’s no rationality in it, so there is no way rational thought can stop it from developing.  It’s almost as though I’ve travelled back from the future, and have already seen the bodies lying in the street, and the smoke rising above the ruined cities.  When I look down from my window I can see two versions of the street, the version that’s there now, with the kids playing football, and people waiting for taxis, and coming back carrying shopping bags, and the version of the future with bodies lying on the pavements.  It’s as though I can see them already lying there, dead.  I feel like an old testament prophet, warning of doom, and doomed to be ignored until it’s too late.  I have such a clear sense that there are two worlds – this world, and the world that will be – and that I am standing uniquely in a place where I can see into this world and the other one.

This is quite a big deal, or at least it feels like it to me.  I am scared because of the gnawing anxiety about the flu itself, but I’m also scared because of the way my mind is working.  I was thinking about this earlier today, and if for some reason I was told to do something that I have decided is on my ‘not to be done’ list – use public transport/ visit a GP’s surgery or a hospital/ leave the flat in any but the most tightly controlled circumstances – I would resist up to and including the point of physical violence. In my head, I’m convinced that going to those places or doing those things would mean instant exposure, and exposure would mean death, and so it feels logical to me to fight against it, to the point of dying.  I know it isn’t logical, for now, and that there is a difference between what feels logical, and what actually is logical.  But the feeling is stronger than the knowing, and I’m scared: what if I lose that part of my mind that tells me the difference, and which to trust to?  What happens to me then?

If I were, and clearly I won’t, but if I were to become peculiar enough to need to go to hospital, I would have to be restrained and dragged their screaming and kicking like the most floridly psychotic person out there. Which is kind of scary, because it suggests that, for all I like to think my mind is still functioning in an odd but fundamentally rational way, it very possibly is not. And the fact that the possibility only occurred to me in the context of thinking about it in a fairly oblique way suggests that I might be within vague shouting distance of losing the ability to judge and evaluate my own thoughts, and that’s the sign of properly disturbed people.  Though the fact I can talk about the possibility proves that I’m almost certainly not in any real danger. But, yeah, like I said, scary.

I’m writing this bit of this post later than the rest.  I’ve just been out for a bit of a walk, and to buy food.  Again, I was really struck by the unreality of people going out to restaurants for meals, and waiting for busses, and all the rest.  Don’t these people know there’s a plague on?  It’s not for the media’s want of trying.  I saw an abandoned copy of a tabloid paper lying on the ground, folded over so only the bottom half showed.  The paper had a black background, and in red the words FLU IS HERE.  Well, yeah, way to calm people’s nerves there.

Ok, time for me to stop thinking about this now.  Sorry for a rather disorganised post.

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6 Responses to Eeep! Part 2

  1. la says:

    Mate, you’re not alone. I’m not even phobia-inclined (*searches for better phrase*) but reading the tabs today brought on heart-sinking, stomach-churning despair. Have decided to stick to BBC, too.

  2. cellar_door says:

    Sounds like you’re living in one of my night terrors….knowing it’s not real whilst also knowing it is…at least I get to wake up :o( Must be horrendous.

    Me telling you it’s irrational wont help because I know you know that…but wish I could say something to help. Promise I’ll be nice to you if you end up on my ward! :o)


  3. Danni says:

    But we are all going to die. It’s probably just not going to be now, nor of swine flu.

    I do understand the rational part of the brain not being able to override the irrational part. It’s a really hard one to explain, but you do a good job of it there.

  4. Mandy says:

    Hi A

    Confess to having a neurotic episode having watched to the news last night. I usually, actively, avoid the news but hadn’t got the energy to go through tothe front room and switch channels so was watching the same channel all night ….sort of.

    Is difficult to get the balance of knowing what is going on (particularly if knowing that actually helps you or not) with being hammered by hype.

    My view is that, in regards to a flu epidemic, what will be will be. I don’t trust the powers that are making decisions above but do think that they have attempted to plan for a pandemic..although whether Tamiflu and face masks are going to be effective is debatable. I think they are better options than doing nothing.

    Too early to tell but whatever is going to happen is out of my hands. All I can do is damage limit in the here and now in regards to incoming news. I think you deciding to limit how much news you watch is a good idea, if watching news only serves to terrrify you more.

  5. The sheer relentlessness of these thoughts is so draining. It is is a crap situation to be in because there the element of seeing it as unrational, but the fear is so absorbing and ‘real’ . A couple of years ago I experienced intense fear that I had been contaminated by a virus at work, even though I hadn’t, I was able to ‘experience’ it mentally !! I kept looking for visible signs too. I was convinced I was going to die and that my family would too.
    I know a lot of it is to do with my upbringing – that sounds like a cliche but it is so true. For me meds have helped with it, CBT will hopefully too. Though it is up to you how you deal with things.

    As it happens my current anxiety is about money – yeah who isn’t worried ? (but I get very fearful, almost like a feeling that I have comitted some crime) and that is all to do with feelings of responsibility and guilt . Have you ever read up about catastrophising ? (In the therapy sense of things.) It is something I clearly do. I am a true believer in finding out what makes us tick and the theories behind things. Not sure if this helps you.
    Geez I have waffled on , but I just want you to know that I DO understand.

  6. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments. They are greatly appreciated, as always. :o)

    la – hope the BBC-exclusive policy works well for you. I think a lot of the other coverage is enough to make the most phlegmatic and stable of people panic. I hope the stomach churning despair (good way of describing it, btw) has passed, or at least eased. :o)

    cellar_door – thanks, it is rather unpleasant, although it’s not absolutely relentless. And, don’t take this the wrong way, but i really, really hope i don’t end up on your ward. :o)

    Danni – well, indeed. Although at the moment i’m trying to ignore the whole dying thing altogether – i’m sure with stem cells and that, we’ll all be living forever… ;o)

    Mandy – well, the UK has been praised by the world health organisation as (jointly with France) the best prepared country in the world for a flu outbreak. I have a strong suspicion that this is because the politicians limited their involvement to writing cheques and let the actual professionals do the real planning.

    Face masks will be of some use if people who are infected wear them (it will stop their sneezes spreading far and wide); they probably won’t help much for us non-infected folk, because individual virus particles are so tiny. Tamiflu and Relenza are effective against the new strain, but of course they only do what they are known to do – limit the severity and duration of symptoms. But that should be enough to stop most people dying.

    Your advice about trying to worry only about things that i can actually do something about is very good advice, and thank you for it. :o)

    seratonin sister – your experience at work sounds horrendous, and very familliar, particularly the moving straight to thinking that the worst that can possibly happen is what is guranteed to happen. I haven’t done any particular reading about catastrophising, but i do recognise that’s what i’m doing.

    Thanks for understanding, and i hope the money worrise don’t get too severe. :o)

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