Fast forward to the present.
My nightmares now no longer involve me being kidnapped. [I’d be a bit worried if they did!] Rather, they involve people I’m close to dying (usually my parents, my sister or R). Not in a gruesome way or anything. Just dying. And me hearing the news. And me crying. And feeling all that you feel when a loved ones dies. Things I wish I’d said. Things I wish I’d done. Until I wake up gasping feeling this choked up feeling as though I was really crying. Only to realise it was all a dream nightmare.
Rewind back to me being a kid.
I didn’t just have nightmares of being kidnapped. When I was awake, I had fears of something bad happening to my parents resulting in me never seeing them again or something happening to me (like being kidnapped and never seeing my parents again). I vividly remember one incident when I was around 7. My parents had left my sister and me in the car (door unlocked) and gone across the road to a shop. It seemed like hours and I started having intrusive thoughts about someone in the store shooting people [I have no idea where that came from!] and my parents dying and my sis and I being orphaned. You get the drift. Anyway, I started crying in the car and my 2 year old sister looked at me strangely. I prayed for a while saying all the prayers I knew. And then I started shouting for my parents [Yes, from across the busy road] until they did come out and get annoyed with me. Especially as I didn’t share with them my reason for making such a spectacle.
I had several other times when I feared their death especially if one of them fell sick. It was almost as if my mind took me straight to the worst-case scenario. Mum has the flu equalled mum was going to die. Dad has been hit by a motorbike equalled dad was going to die. Mum having a heart problem took me to the worst-case scenario. Dad having high blood pressure also takes me to the worst-case scenario. Both of them and my sister undergoing immense stress thanks to the evil grandmother, makes me think of the worst.
If anything, I wonder whether as a child I would have met the criteria for Separation Anxiety Disorder or even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (with the intrusive thoughts about death and then the compulsive behaviour of praying or seeking reassurance from parents without them knowing what was actually going on in my head).
Somehow though, the older I’ve grown, the thoughts have become less intrusive. But they haven’t completely disappear. As I said with my current nightmares, I still fear the death of loved ones. And sometimes, the intrusive images can be so vivid, they have the potential of reducing me to tears. The plus side of doing psychology though is that I understand these are just thoughts and images and don’t always get sucked into them. But then, in addition to being a psychologist, I’m human too. I have my failings and my thoughts do get the better of me at other times. Especially given that I am anxious in more than just this area.
One thing I can say is that these thoughts are no longer debilitating. I get them, I worry but then I can carry on my day to day tasks. The nightmares scare the shit out of me but then I am okay after a few hours.
At the end of the day, I guess this is a fear everyone has. Most of my clients with an anxiety disorder definitely have these thoughts. And most people who are worriers and not necessarily diagnosable also have them. It’s part and parcel of life and relationships.
I guess the only way to not have even a little bit of these worries and fears is to not have any close relationships. But if you are going to get close to people, you must be prepared that you will lose them.
Losing people is after all, a fact of life. Whether through death or otherwise.
Until next time,