On Wilder, Death and the Anxiety Whore

posted in: Thoughts | 2
The struggle is real.
The struggle is real.

Warning: A Small Rant Will Ensue Below

I recently received some comments from a friend of mine in regards to my emotional response to the sudden death of Gene Wilder and they made me cranky. It went something like this:

Friend: We all die.

Me: Great. Thanks for the buzzkill.

Friend: Well it is true

Me: Yeah but I don’t want to be sitting around all day thinking about it.

Friend: Don’t.

anxiety-memeNow it may seem like a stupid exchange but it is not that simple. You see I have severe anxiety disorder and when someone tells me just to “not think about it” or “get over it” or “you can make the choice to not worry” I tend to want to punch them in the face. Once my hands stop shaking with the adrenaline of whatever it is that set me off to begin with, that is. You see, I CAN’T get over it. That is the nature of this disease. It’s uncontrollable, intense fear. It’s not just in my head but physiologically in my body. It changes the actual chemical nature and makeup of my body, turning me from a fairly well-spoken, learned, woman of the world to a cowering, sweaty, shaking mess of nerve endings. And it can happen on a dime.

Now of course my friend doesn’t really know this about me and his words were well meaning, but the subject of death is one of my top, if not my number one trigger. Fear of death, of my own, of loved ones, that shit will get me freaky-deaky quicker than anything. And let me tell you, 2016 has been a real struggle as some of my favorite creative souls that I have admired since I was a kid have abruptly shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving a huge vacancy in my brain that just keeps getting bigger and more filled up with sadness and anxiety. There is no replacing your idols when they pass. Alan Rickman and David Bowie, those two were particularly hard. Gene Wilder is as well. And I will admit that I have been finding today a little bit too overwhelming. It doesn’t help that it’s a Tuesday. And I am struggling to get my doctors to refill my klonapin, or as my friend Hanna calls her similar pills for anxiety, “the emergency safety blanket.” It REALLY doesn’t help that even healthcare professionals treat mental illness as something to be ashamed of and so every time I have the fucking conversation about refills I feel like I have to prove something. I get all twisted up in knots just trying not to seem like I am some batshit, drug-seeking lunatic, which of course only makes me more anxious, which makes me look more insane. The circle, she’s a vicious one.enhanced-buzz-18540-1380915501-24

Now I was diagnosed with this monkey on my back around the age of 21/22, when I was still a student at AMDA New York City. I’ve enjoyed more than a decade of this dis-ease. And everyone and their brother thinks they know what to do to “fix” me but nothing really ever works. Except my own actions. I have come to realize that if I deliberately put myself in scary, uncomfortable situations I can battle the jabberwocky of mental illness with at least a shred of dignity intact. This is why I travel. Why I make myself go to wacked out places like Nairobi and Beijing, why I get on the back of that really fast scooter in Bali, ride a bike in murderous traffic in Hangzhou, climb the terrifying cliffs of the Hanging Monastery in Datong. This sense of danger and adventure is why I am not locked up in the looney bin right now, because I can show myself, PROVE to myself, that no matter how high up or enclosed or violent a place is, I did not shrink away in fear. The Anxiety Whore did not win.

w61MWr6But the grief, the death problem, that is a bit trickier. I realize I watch a lot of films and tv shows about ghosts and zombies and have a morbid fascination with serial killers and the holocaust. Perhaps this is how I deal with death. Yet, just like every trigger, you can get hit with something that you are not prepared for. And strangely it is arbitrary at times. I still remember when Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose. I don’t know why but that really hit me hard. I would randomly cry, really CRY. For months. And yet when my beloved Peter O’Toole passed I sort of just felt grateful I had the chance to meet him and embarrass myself in front of him. Of course there was the year that I lost so many of my close friends. I wrote about it for my magazine here http://cometogethermagazine.blogspot.jp/2016/02/the-ones-left-behind-by-natasha-ragsdale.html and the most recent familial death of my maternal grandmother was pretty intense as well. I addressed that in regards to food culture though which was a strange way of dealing with that.  https://gratuitousgrub.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/waking-grammie/ Each of these experiences were different. The one constant is the fear. The overwhelming terror that is currently causing me such extreme anger with myself today that I feel like I can’t breathe. Which of course makes my basket case head think I am, in fact, dying, which makes me hop back on that circular thought process and there goes the day! 6cf1acc734252b3d7e53525d8110f4a1c7ad6910bb8194a42cb7f8bb89a8faa6_1

I don’t even know why I started writing this, but I suppose it was to formulate a thought or express my current discomfort and helplessness. Maybe I just wanted to put it out there to everyone, “Hey look at me! I am mentally ill! And that is ok.” Perhaps I didn’t want to suffer in the shadows today. Or possibly I just wanted to say that I am bummed out that Gene Wilder died and it’s making me think about mortality and I am sad. In the end at least it helped me calm down a bit, and that, in and of itself, is something I guess.

 

2 Responses

  1. Ema
    | Reply

    you write so we all know we are not alone. thank you for sharing. love you lady!

  2. evan
    | Reply

    Interesting . . . you do “put it all out there,” but that is you!

    Love, Dad

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