Anxiety, Indecision and the Looming Spectre of Death

[CW: suicide, depression]

I’ve taken a break from all the work I haven’t been doing to write this, in the hope it’ll help get some of it out of my system. This post has a little to do with kink, tangentially, but if you’re looking for something hot and sexy, it’s not going to be here.

How It Started

Three weeks ago, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour—it’s highly treatable and most likely he’ll be fine. If you have to get a brain tumour, I recommend one on your pituitary gland.

Cognitively, I know this will probably be a blip in his health history. That hasn’t stopped The Anxiety from creeping in and settling in my stomach like an unwelcome thing that’s had too much coffee. It’s got the jitters and it won’t stop yammering.

My husband is my best friend and the first person I’ve known whose presence doesn’t drain me. We can spend days together and I don’t feel the need to recharge. I can’t imagine my life without him. He is kind and sweet and funny and gentle and nerdy and goofy. He’s the first person I fell in love with—prior to him I didn’t know I had the capacity to love anyone.

What I Worry About, How Likely it Is, and What the Outcome Would Be

I worry…

he’ll have another seizure (or some other medical emergency) when we’re not together. The seizure he had that prompted the trip to the emergency department didn’t look like anything from the outside. He just got very confused and couldn’t think of the words he wanted to use. Now that he’s taking medication to shrink the tumour (the seizure was caused by the tumour pressing on his brain) it shouldn’t be a problem, but that doesn’t stop me worrying about it.

he’ll die in his sleep. That’s not a listed side effect of the tumour or treatment, just an irrational side effect of being confronted with his mortality. Cue picturing what that would be like to wake up to and cope with step-by-step. Thank you, brain.

if something does happen to him, I won’t be able to support myself. We have life insurance but who knows if it would pay out and, at this point, no, I wouldn’t be able to support myself. More on this in a later section.

if something happens, I’d have to return to the States. I would, as I have no claim to remain in the U.K. This would be particularly terrible, as I love it here. This is the first time I’ve been happy in a geographic location in my life. Not only would I have to return to the States, I’d probably have to live with my mother, which is a circle even deeper in Hell for reasons covered in a later section.

The idea of having to deal with an international move after losing the best person I know… it’s doing my head in, as they say here. Usually when I should be sleeping.

How These Worries Manifest Themselves

I can’t sleep. I can’t read (which is part of my job so it’s important). I can’t write (see previous parenthetical). I can’t get back into a routine, which is important for my mental stability.

Trying to form a plan in order to feel a bit more in control, let alone implement the steps in said plan, is shall-we-say ‘difficult’ under the circumstances.

The phrase ‘paralysed by indecision’ keeps coming into my head. What should I do? Should I give up trying to make this business work and try something more stable, if I can even make that happen? How long will it be before I feel safe and can stop worrying about him every second he’s not in my sight or asleep?

‘How Is It Possible a 39 Year Old Can’t Support Herself?’

Mental illness is a hell of a thing, what can I say. It prevented me from finishing high school and college/uni. The jobs I’ve been able to hold in the past never paid enough to support a whole human being. My mother helped pay my rent for a long time (and I didn’t live extravagantly, my two jobs and still no insurance simply didn’t cover rent and food and bills) and I had some delightful credit card debit. Because food had to be purchased so I didn’t die.

My mother can’t afford to help with rent now, but she’d be thrilled for me to move back in with her. She lives in a town of 8,000 in the Deep South in the U.S. When I lived there I bit my nails until they bled and pulled my eyelashes out compulsively. It’s called trichotillomania and it’s not a good time. I don’t like there and there don’t like me.

In the last two years I’ve actually figured out what I can do with my life and I’ve begun taking steps to make it into a career. It’s writing and podcasting about kink. Also eventually doing voice-overs and audio books and teaching and other things in this field. Other people do this and don’t starve so I know it’s possible; it’s about building an audience and marketing and doing the boring business stuff that’s required while your incredible partner does most of the financial heavy-lifting in the household.

I recognise how incredibly privileged I am to be able to attempt to do this full-time from the start. Simultaneously, if I wasn’t doing this, I don’t know what I would be doing, as mental illness is a hell of a thing, as I’ve said, and doing jobs out in the world were both mentally and physically draining to the point where I was only just surviving—going to work then going home. I wasn’t contributing anything to the world, I wasn’t improving myself and I wasn’t making enough money to even pay all of my own bills.

The thought of having to return to that non-existence, in my hometown, with my mother (who is nice in her own way but drives me completely insane) is enough to put me back in that headspace of ‘I could always kill myself.’

I know that sounds glib, but that was a serious option in my mind from the time I was 12. And remained so until shortly after I married my husband. Finally, for the first time in 25 years, suicide and self harm didn’t seem like a good idea or even an option. I wanted to be alive even if I didn’t feel like I had a purpose. Then, I found a purpose in life! Something I never thought would happen—figuring my life would be spent passing time, just trying not to be a raging jerk to other people.

Discovering a reason for living was a revelation. Partially because I didn’t think I’d ever have one and partially because looking forward to getting up in the morning was an entirely new experience. Rather than having zero ideas or motivation for living, I suddenly had a plethora of ideas and plans for what I wanted to do and it could benefit other people. I felt useful and energised for the first time.

I’m not having suicidal ideation now, but remembering what it was like living like I was before immediately puts me back in the ‘what’s the point of this again?’ state of mind. I could easily be right back there again, mentally.

How I’m Trying to Combat This

I may need to return to seeing a therapist, but who knows how long it will take to get in and whether or not that person is kink-friendly, since part of my anxiety is being able to make my kink-based business self-reliant while staving off the terror my favourite person in the world is going to die horribly and far too young. I’ll never meet anyone else like him and living without him scares me to death.

I’m trying to be rational, though. This tumour (that he has named Lurker, since it’s been there for months) will most likely take his leave with little fanfare, in the grand scheme of things, and it would be best for me to focus my efforts on building the business. Knowing I was working towards being able to support myself (as well as being productive in general) would help allay much of my anxiety about life, the universe and everything.

Knowing what would help and actually implementing the plan are two different things, however. I try to work and … just can’t. My brain would rather play mindless games on my phone or check social media for the hundredth time. I can’t seem to get it together to do the things I know I need to. My brain goes to white noise when I try to concentrate. I’m probably supposed to be being kind to myself right now, but that would be much easier if myself would do the things that would help mitigate my anxiety most.

Me: ’Hey, brain, if you do these things, it’ll help you feel better.’
Brain: ’Yeah, I know but have you considered [hanging cadence].’
Me: ’Focus! Just do this one thing! You’ll make money and it’s been on your list for two months!’
Brain: ’Okay, let’s check Twitter for five hours first.’
Me: ‘Fine. I’ll lower the bar. How about we accomplish this one thing today. One thing? Please?’
Brain: ‘Okay. Have you seen this game, though?’

I carry the (quite good!) book I was supposed to have finished reading days ago from bed, where I intend to read a bit before sleep but don’t, to the sofa in the morning, where I intend to read, but don’t. I make notes on the various pieces I want to write for my site and to pitch to other sites but can’t wrangle the attention span to send the pitches or write the actual pieces. I can’t sleep until I’m utterly exhausted and the sun is high in the sky. Then I sleep a bit and get up and have that conversation with my brain again.

It’s exhausting not accomplishing anything and I don’t know how to deal with it because I’ve never been in this situation before. I’ve never had things I wanted to do and not been able to make myself do them because everything just seemed to require a bit too much brain power.

So here we are. I’m trying. I’m struggling, but I’m trying.