Mandatory Credit: Photo by Universal History Archive/REX Shutterstock (2549187a) The Flower of the Flock Artisan country family at the tea table showing loving, hopeless concern for a child who has not long to live. Chromolithograph after painting by Joseph Clark c1890 History

The Panic Station , 30 November 2015

The Panic Station / Why All The What If-fing?

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I’m writing this post from bed, where I’ve been holed up for the better part of the weekend with a bout of tonsillitis. I should be asleep, or at least not writing a missile like this, but panic prohibits the rest I so need and my husband may well divorce me if I phone him again at work to ask if in his estimation I may be dying (‘no, darling, I don’t think anyone’s ever died of tonsillitis. Have some water and get some rest.’).

Here I am then: very sore throat, very red eyes, very racing mind. The empty page is teasing me to type the fears that are bubbling up in my throat but instead of littering the internet with them I’m going to try to take the high – and hopefully more interesting – road and focus on why what if-ing is such a problem for we panickers.

In a nutshell, it’s thought that walking the ‘what if… ?’ track is a distortion of a very normal process of safeguarding against catastrophe. We vigilant panickers are merely doing what humans are meant to do but on a heightened scale – ‘normies’ (as my sister and I have come to dub those untouched by the hand of anxiety) worry about the mortgage or deadlines, I worry about an itchy throat turning into a cough turning into a heave turning into an endless vomiting session. It’s a little string that, once pulled, unravels a host of irrational fears.

Repeatedly vomiting, as an emetophobe, is usually at the end of my piece of string, but the haberdashery of terror offers many versions of this and you’ll find each phobic has their own worst case scenario mapped out in their heads; we abnormies have planned for the catastrophes others may not even have considered.

The reason for this cataloguing of vile things that may happen at any moment is rather sweet really: the mind of the panicker, aware that certain things are considered abhorrent, plays them out repeatedly in an effort to try to put together an action plan should the misfortune befall us. It is for this reason that I carry a sick bag everywhere I go – having been privy to many jokes about sudden vomit, I feel this prepares me for that eventuality, even if it doesn’t ready me for how very scared I might be on the occasion.

I really am quite thoroughly shattered now and am going to try to put my fears – and myself – to bed. Fingers crossed…

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