Lost Direction – My Fear of Death (Chronophobia)

timeI have lost direction. I have lost direction in my life and in my blog.  I haven’t penned a blog since before Christmas.  My excuse was because I have been busy – buying presents, entertaining, spending family time, running a home, etc. etc. I am a busy housewife afterall!  But in the past week I had a moment of clarity and realised it was an excuse…….the reality being I had lost direction.

I fight a daily battle with mild depression and anxiety, and currently take a daily dose of ‘happy pills’.  I have been on these tablets almost consistently since being diagnosed in my early 30’s, and I am very grateful as they generally keep me on an even keel.  Over the past 10 to 12 years, I have come to realise that I usually have an annual dip around August/September time.  I’ve tried to analyse why this is the case (a side effect of my obsessive and precise personality!) and wondered if it’s because we are on the brink of darker months and I am susceptible to SAD, or because it is the countdown to the start of the next school year and the routine of school runs, after school clubs, the competitive stresses of raising a child in this day and age which I find very testing on a daily basis.  But I have never come up with a definitive answer.

This year, for the first time in many years, August and September passed without a hitch.  Great! I thought.  I’m managing to self-manage this particularly difficult time of year! Maybe the cognitive behavioural treatment training I’ve received in the past is finally sinking in!

Then I hit November and, WHAM!, it strikes me with full force.  One of my cats went missing at the end of November, and we were having long standing problems with our old cat who was continually peeing in the house, but these were the only factors I could think of that may have triggered this particular bout of depression.  Incidentally, my cat is still missing nearly 2 months later, our older cat was put to sleep, and my hamster died in the new year.

Unfortunately I have found it very hard to lift myself out of this particular episode.  I have had small reprieves such as my lovely break to New York with my husband in early December, and the general relaxation and joviality of the Christmas period.  The trouble with such reprieves however is that when they have passed, it all comes crashing down again.  This was particularly apparent following my New York break where I tested my husband’s patience considerably with my dark periods, irrationality, tearfulness, anger, frustration, argumentativeness and general air of melancholy.  It was during Christmas that I admitted to my husband that I had considered visiting the doctor and having my dosage of happy pills upped.  Anyone who suffers from depression will know that it is very hard to lift yourself out of it when you’re down there……. and the trouble is, you find yourself down there before you realise it has happened and then you’re screwed cos no amount of self help or talking to yourself can get you out of that dark place!  I knew I wasn’t as bad as I had been on previous occasions.  I know this because when I’m really bad I don’t eat (a miracle for me!).  But I knew I was close.  For the past couple of months, my insomnia has returned and I have entered the viscious cycle of sleeping during the day to make up for the lack of sleep at night, only to find I can’t sleep again at night…….and so it goes around, and around, and around, and around………… And I become reclusive.  I find it hard to socialise, I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to make conversation, I don’t want to paint a happy smile on my face while all the time wondering what I am doing there, wondering what it’s all for and why we live life……. I HATE feeling like this, I HATE it with a passion and I would do anything to not be this person, to have not been born to feel like this.  I HATE wallowing in self pity whilst knowing that in the great scheme of things, I am very lucky – I am healthy, I have a gorgeous husband and a smart and beautiful son, I am solvent and live in a lovely house with a cute car, ok – I had a scare when I became paralysed from the waist down a few years back and have suffered permanent nerve damage but I am mobile and can get around most of the time, etc. etc. – all this when there are so many less fortunate than myself.

Now, you may be wondering what this all has to do with the title of my blog.  Well, I had a light bulb moment.  It occurred earlier in the week.  Whilst pondering when I was going to write my next blog and what to write about, something went ‘ping’ in my head and I realised I had ‘lost direction’.  And the reason I had lost direction was because of something I battle with day in day out……my age old phobia of dying!!

I first recollect having this phobia when I was approximately 10 years of age and was filled with abject terror at the prospect of life coming to an end and never ‘existing’ again.  I was lying in my bed in our childhood home in Hockliffe and it totally knocked the air out of me………assuming I lived to old age, I had another 60 to 70 years left to live before I died and would not experience life ever again for infinity.  How do you deal with such thoughts at such a young age??  I can’t deal with it now, so what chance did I stand then??

I did some research a year or so back to see if there were like minded people out there who had a similar phobia.  It was during this research that I found out my phobia was called Chronophobia : an abnormal and persistent fear of time, and the threat of death can be a major contributing factor.  By all accounts (please note, I am not an expert, this is purely based on Google searches), prison inmates and old people are particularly susceptible to this phobia due to the passing of time.

So why me??? Why have I had this phobia since pre-teens??? I have got absolutely no idea.  I can’t recollect any major or unpleasant experiences from my childhood that may have contributed, and we were a fairly down to earth family that accepted death as a fact of life.  The only conclusions I have come to is that it may be partly hereditary – I have recently learnt my mum has a similar phobia – and partly due to my predilection to depression/anxiety.

What I do know is that it has consumed my life for many, many years……… I spend countless minutes and hours calculating my age, how long I am likely to live, how many years I have left, what fraction of my life I have lived and have left to live.  And it doesn’t stop there.  I then start calculating my nana’s age, my mum’s age, my husband’s age, my son’s age, (the person walking down the street’s age!), how many years are between us all, what age my son is likely to be when I die, what age I am likely to be when either my mum or husband die, how many years more my mum is likely to live…….I try to get (totally irrational) perspective on real time – I try to calculate how long ‘time’ feels to me between particular time spans such as between the age of 15 and 30 years.  I am 45 years old now; I have lived a time span of ’15 years’ x 3; if I live to be 75 years of age, I have another 2 time spans of ’15 years’ left.  I have lived over half my life and my ’15 year’ time spans have passed quite quickly.  I HAVE NOT GOT MUCH TIME LEFT!

This phobia is also particularly bad when I think of the people I love.  My husband is 3 years older than me; we will hopefully live into our late 70’s/early 80’s but that means we only have approximately 30 years left together.  We’ve already had 13 years together and that has passed quickly…….we haven’t got long left, what will I do without him?!?!?  My mum is 65 years of age……I can’t comprehend or accept her not being alive in 20 to 30 years time.  And then that leads me to my son who’s only 9…….another 30 years of my life is not long enough to be with him…….I need longer! I need to have my son in my life longer!

I have only just touched on how this phobia affects me in my head.  I could actually give Carol Vordermann a run for her money with the extent of age related mathematical calculations that run through my head! I haven’t even begun to explain the all consuming fear and despair it causes me late at night when everybody else is asleep, that feeling whereby you want to cry hysterically and vomit at the same time whilst trying to breathe………..a high anxiety state.  2 years ago I would have gone downstairs and had a cigarette to calm myself – ironic when you consider my phobia, and the fact that I was most probably shortening my life by smoking!  But I don’t smoke anymore (the one and only positive of my phobia).  My happy pills have helped to a large degree in dampening the anxiety and fear but since I have hit and gone past the monumental landmark of 40 years of age, the effect of my tablets is getting less and less as my phobia gets worse and worse.  The phobia is starting to take over to the point where I have lost purpose, where I don’t even know what my purpose in life is other than to carry on evolution, where I am strongly losing the ability to be happy and lead a happy life because all the time I can hear that clock of ‘life’ ticking away loudly in the background.  I am screaming at myself in my head……. I should be enjoying life while I can and before it’s too late! I should be enjoying all the people I love in my life because they are here now!  Death is inevitable! Accept it!  But I’ve lost my way; I’ve lost direction.

I was a staunch church goer in my childhood, however I quickly realised that my phobia had nothing to do with God or my christian beliefs.  It was pure science – our bodies can withstand so may years but then expire.  And for all my religious beliefs, I could not get my head around heaven or the ‘afterlife’.  There is only one place where my feelings on death have been so aptly explained, and that is in Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (my all time favourite book and film) in which Yury Zhivago states –

Resurrection.  In the crude form in which it is preached for the consolation of the weak, the idea doesn’t appeal to me.  I have always understood Christ’s words about the living and the dead in a different sense.  Where could you find room for all these hordes of people collected over thousands of years?  The universe isn’t big enough, God and good and meaning would be crowded out.  They’d be crushed by all that greedy animal jostling.”

And humans are selfish if they think that any afterlife would only exist for themselves; it would exist for every living creature including the ants building hills in your garden, the snails and slugs feeding on your plants, the birds sitting in the trees, the aquatic life in the oceans.  But where can such a place exist that can fit in all those creatures that have lived and died since evolution began??  I don’t believe there is, or can be, such a place.  The only way we exist in the afterlife is through genetics, through our offspring and their offspring.  That’s it.

So in a nutshell, I don’t know how to fight this phobia, a phobia which gets worse as each day passes, as I get older.  I also have phobias of spiders and heights but I manage these – they are physical, they can generally be avoided, they are common phobias experienced by many people and accepted.  But Chronophobia is a mental phobia.  How do you fight something you can’t see and that is all in your head?? How do you fight something that you cannot reason with religion and cannot escape?

To all my friends and family who know me, I thought this might give you an insight into who I am and WHY I am……. an insight into an aspect of my depression and anxiety which is only known by a handful of those close to me, and a way of me saying sorry for my self absorption over the past few months.  It’s still here, it’s trying to take over, it’s made me lose direction, and I am trying my hardest to find a way out.

Anthea xx

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3 thoughts on “Lost Direction – My Fear of Death (Chronophobia)

      • I usually only obsess on it when I’m having an anxiety and depression crisis. I take medication for both and they help not to obsess on it. The thought may hit but I can quickly shrug it off. But right now I’m struggling because I drank some alcohol… And I hadn’t drank in like a year and I was knocking the jack and cokes back yeah well that was two weekends ago and I’m still pulling myself up.

        Liked by 1 person

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