Stacked crooked all along, but now I'm on my way

swimmerguy's picture

I'm terrified of death.
I mean, most people are. But I am too, I mean I really am.
Every day.

I don't know how or when or why this started, I just remember it's been going on for over a year now, I think.
The human body is such a creepy fucking organism, it's so complex and we understand nothing about it, and sometimes stuff goes wrong and we have no idea why. I've spent hours before, poring over pages of the scariest diseases known to man. Pancreatic cancer, a cancer so bad almost no one lives from it. It's aggressive and fast-spreading, and by the time symptoms show, it's almost always too late. That was one that really freaked me out.

The first time I remember this is from last year at this time, though it's definitely been going on at least a little longer than that.
This was the time I was determined to apply for the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange(CBYX), a program that sends 250 kids from the US every year to Germany for a year on a full ride scholarship.
Part of the main reason I applied to it was because I was agonizing over the fact that I go to school every day, and there's so many things I could so easily die from, how do I know it wouldn't happen tomorrow?
I remember just about now, in late October, thinking about what I was going to send for my application in December. Then I thought but there's no way you're going to live that long. You'll die of something first.
And honestly, I really believed it. When I looked into my future every second of every day all I saw was a series of events a week, a day away, and thinking I really hope I live that long, but I probably won't.

I don't even remember what the big fucking deal was at that time. It's been different things. Later in my junior year, last year, I was terrified it was cardiac trouble, that my heart was just bound to explode.
And it seemed so logical, my chest hurt all the time, I was having heart palpitations.

But then, one day, there was that moment of relief, when I thought, and not just thought, but actually felt, deep down in my core, that this was ridiculous, I'm 17, I pay close attention to my diet and make sure I get at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day, and all my grandparents are still alive, from their mid-70's to mid-80's, even some with bad eating and exercise habits who smoke, so it's hardly like I don't have the genes for a long life.
And that instant of relief was so profound because it was for a tension I didn't even know I was carrying.

But then, of course, it was just something else later.
Oh, wait! Now I remember when it must've started, it must've been when I got fucked by that boy without a condom, the summer before last, that would line up perfectly.
I didn't hardly even think about the implications of that for weeks, until all of a sudden that wave of nerves hit me, and it's never really gone away: I might have a disease that could kill me.
Even after I got tested negative, I remember, I'd seize on a cough, or a headache. or a swollen lymph node you have it, I knew you did.

Right now, I don't even know what it is.
I wake up every morning with pain, in my sides, in my back, in my bowels. Is it my bowels, or my muscles? I know I don't have the greatest back in the world, and it's never been quite the same since that skiing accident, but would that muscular pain really spread to my sides and stomach?
It goes away a few minutes after I get up, most of the time, so that's encouraging, but what if it really is something to worry about?
I get gas all the time, so what if it's my bowels? What if it's colorectal cancer, another particularly bad cancer, though that one mainly because it doesn't get caught till late often?
Of course, that's ridiculous, they don't even check for it until you get to 50, and the main risk factors are lack of exercise, something I get no shortage of, and excess red meat, something I rarely ever eat.

But what if, what if I'm that one case? This is the only life I got.
Or some other type of cancer? Could be...

So I'm always left checking. In my head I know it's ridiculous, I've had problems with gas for months, phasing in and out, and that certainly hasn't gotten worse (although the morning pain is new, that actually does worry me). I'm real young, with good genes, and I exercise and eat better than pretty much anyone I know. Why would anything happen to me?
But I feel it, I plan things, I plan for next summer, but all the while, my feeling in the back of my head goes you won't even live that long, most likely, so why bother?

And so, just to reassure myself, I check. X problem hasn't gotten worse? Is Y problem going away? How about exhaustion? That's a common sign of any illness. Ride your bike up that hill and see if you're any more tired than you were last time. And I never am.
I know that certainly all these problems are in my head, the chest pain was and everything else is, and any real basis it has is probably just the stress caused by constantly worrying my shit about these imaginary problems.
But I've never actually felt that long enough to relax.

There are some advantages to all this. It makes me far less apathetic about doing stuff and living, because all the time, I believe, literally believe, I'm going to die in less than a year, so what's the point in holding back?
It doesn't make me enjoy fun things any less, it actually makes me want to enjoy them even more, and I do.
But I have to go to school. And the whole time I'm both pissed that I have to waste my life in this godforsaken place, and anguished that I can't go out and live, and I'm going to die soon and my life will be a waste because I spent it in soul-crushing, useless places like this.

And I can't make plans to do real stuff for after I'm done with school, because I'll be dead then.

It's interesting, I've never told anyone about this before. For more than the past year I've literally been terrified all the time, which of course makes no sense because I'm still fine now after a year of thinking I was facing imminent death, but I still feel it and I can't stop.
At least this kind of perspective makes my other problems, like that fucking auto wreck, or keeping straight A's, seem so small as to be completely irrelevant, but this way it makes it incredibly difficult to work or go to school or do any of those useless things that are sometimes necessary, because I believe, literally believe that I'm going to die before any of it even matters.
If I keep stressing this hard my whole life, it's true, the thing will probably be pretty short.


jeff's picture


If you keep thinking something is going to kill you, someday you will right.

But it does seem a bit much to link one unprotected sex act to your early demise. I know enough HIV+ people who are thriving and healthy to make it odd to link it directly to the death sentence you're imagining. I mean, by all means stay HIV- if you can, but if that were to change, you'd be healthy, alive, and have some nonsense in your bloodstream and something to monitor and control....

On Sunday, I was at a cabaret show watching Steve Schachlin, who wrote the musical The Last Session during his own HIV diagnosis, and how he could barely get out of bed with AIDS, and his partner giving him assignments to try and do each day. One day, he said to write about your funeral, so Steve wrote that song:

So, there seems to be some lesson in there for you... how he looked lovingly at life and its wonders, not expecting to live. And this was written from his death bed... in the mid 1990s. He's still going...

During Sunday's show, he said he wouldn't be on that stage had someone not invented Crixivan, which saved his life and kept him in the "bonus round" he feels he lives in now.

Then, he introduced the guy who led the Crixivan team in the small audience. He got a standing ovation from the crowd. His family cried at the beauty of the moment. He started tearing up. Then the crowd got similar overwhelmed. And we took that joy and wonder, and all sang together to celebrate the interesting ways life can work.

I don't necessarily think an obsession with death is a problem, more the hypochondria. But if that gives you a springboard to live in the moment in a genuine way, then there is no problem.

Also, homework and grades and jobs and everything else don't add up to some big reveal. They are things you do that you may like less than other things you do, so I'm not sure they ever "matter" to anyone in any significant way.

But you need to figure out how this isn't a cause of stress but a pathway to joy and celebration of life. If it is going to happen at some point whether you stress about it or not, move on. If you're going to die tomorrow, why waste any part of today on it? What else could you have used your time on?

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

Bosemaster42's picture


You just can't agonize over every little ache & pain you experience. I mean, if it's chronic pain, that's worth some concern, but that's also when you see a doctor. When you wake up in the morning, it's not unusual to have aches and pains. It's usually our bodies way of saying 'Fuck you!' for the things we did yesterday. When I was playing Ice Hockey(twice a week), the next day I always felt like I was in a car wreck. My groin muscles would be sore, a stiff neck or a stitch in my back(from hitting/getting hit/ or crashing into the boards) soreness in the feet and even your hands.
I can understand the worries you had from the unprotected sex. Chances are he wasn't infected, but you weren't privy to his medical history either.
Of course, I think you learned your lesson from that. It's definitely not advisable, but it happened and that's okay, but it certainly had an adverse effect on your mind.
There may be something to Hypochondria though. My mother always lamented two of my aunts for their hypochondriac ways, saying "watch, they'll probably outlive me". The fact is they are still alive and complaining to this day, where my father wasn't so lucky.

Perhaps We Should Leave's picture


Is mankind's worst enemy.

I fully intend to live forever.

Feel free to join me.

* * *

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

lonewolf678's picture

Not sure if someone's already said this.

Relax, enjoy life, obsessing about death only takes the fun out of life. Make the most of everyday you wake up in. And DO NOT take that to the extreme, e.g. bullshit like jumping from space. Just focus on living and enjoying whatever it is that makes it worthwhile.

Hell, one day I might just get hit by a car on my way to the college or some asshole might waste me for whatever's in my wallet. But I don't let that stop me, nor do I live in fear. I think that the trick is, is to find balance between being cautious and being free-spirited. Find that balance and you'll be good.

And I really don't mean to get you stressed swimmerguy, but stress is pretty bad for you. And some say that stress itself may shorten one's lifespan:

Food for thought.

elph's picture

You did some research!

That link isn't recent (but still valid!)... and is an excellent site for all that's new in science and medicine!