I spend a lot of energy being afraid. I have always been a “worrier”, indeed, as an adult anxiety is probably the emotion with which I am most familiar. My worries can range from the very unimportant (what should I prepare for our meal?) to fear over catastrophic events (what if my husband has a heart attack and dies suddenly?). The amount of energy dedicated to worries of varying degree are not consistent. For example, I might spend two hours doing research on ways to use lamb and eggplant in a recipe. This is the type of worry I think of as “acute”. It is loud inside my head, but once I solve the problem, it goes away. The other kind of worry is chronic, and always present in the background. It might not seem that I am spending time thinking about it, but in fact, it never goes away. I also find that I don’t share my chronic worries with anyone else. I don’t talk about my (constant) fear that my husband might die. It is much more comfortable to discuss trivial issues. I can even make jokes about them. But there is nothing funny about my husband’s sudden death.
Logic is rarely effective in staving off my fears. I know that it is not likely that my husband will die today, or on any one day. But the knowledge that he *will* one day pass away, either before me or after me, scares me so much that I can’t keep myself from thinking about it. It’s like, maybe if I think about it, and acknowledge that this terrible thing could in fact happen, it won’t. At least not today. And there is also the idea that if I don’t worry about him, I must not love him enough. I know. It’s silly and childlike. Not at all logical.
I think there is an inverse relationship between the amount of control I have over an event, and the intensity of the fear. For example, I am able to control my decision about what to make for dinner. And once I exert that control, the fear dissipates. The larger fears, the ones that would change my life forever, the *important* ones, are completely out of my control. What happens to my husband, my children, my home are events over which I have no power. I can discuss healthy habits, teach safe practices and purchase insurance, but events can still occur.
I don’t know how to stop this habit. I have told myself that I shouldn’t waste time worrying about things I cannot control. But it doesn’t work. I have talked to myself about wasting the time I *do* have with my family with worry, and the effect it can have on the quality of shared experiences. But it, too, doesn’t stop the fear. I have tried exercise, meditation, deep breathing, even – a long time ago – medication. But I couldn’t shake it. And as I get older, and the feared events are increasingly likely to actually happen, the fear worsens.
I think I will try giving myself some cognitive therapy. When I feel fearful, I will try to recognize it immediately. Once I name it, I will try to replace the thoughts of fear with thoughts of reassurance and calm. I will also talk about it more openly with my husband, and accept his offers of comfort. Worrying is a habit that I have perfected all my life, and getting rid of it completely may not be possible. But perhaps with practice I can at least reduce the time I spend on it, and the intensity of the emotion. Hm. . . I think I will worry about *that* for awhile. Just kidding.