Fear of the unknown

Starting in the fall of 2017, I began waking up full of dread. I literally felt as though nothing good was ever going to happen in the world again — that we were all collectively doomed. That is when my morning routine, which has always been important to me anyway, became critical. I will spare you the “ball-by-ball” details of my routine. What matters about it is that each step of the routine did seem to have the effect of diminishing that dread just a little — so that by the time I was up and out and waiting for the bus, I was feeling relatively OK. And even if I was not, the sight of the bus coming around the corner comforted me some; and then I would take my seat and cue up a podcast — and by then I was generally feeling ready to face the day. I supplemented the comforting effect of the morning routine with a “Reminder” on my iPhone that sent me a “Please stop worrying!” notification at 6am, just as I was heading out to the bus stop. On the weekends I had a different version of this routine that started later. For some reason, the Sunday angst was the worst, but I cannot figure out why.

In the summer of 2019, I was prescribed some oral medication for atopic dermatitis. In addition to relieving itching, the medication also has a mild anti-anxiety effect — and I was rather amazed at how I felt the first morning after taking it. I got to know what it feels like to not be actively worrying about anything. I mentioned it to my doctor, and she suggested I might benefit from taking anti-depressants. But I did not want to go down that road without first exploring alternatives, so I agreed to a course of talk therapy. And that was a good move, because it ultimately led to my autism diagnosis in March of 2020. The week after my diagnosis, the governor of Washington State issued the stay-at-home order — and then the whole world started to unravel.

Oddly enough, I have been feeling a lot better since then. The atopic dermatitis has subsided to a level that can be managed without medication. And although I still wake up feeling fearful, it makes sense now. The world is in crisis. The pandemic has upended the world for just about everyone and there is no end in sight. The United States appears to be on the brink of a civil war and large parts of western states are on fire. And in many parts of the world, things are even more desperate.

I have never considered myself to be psychic, with the ability to see into the future. But I can not help wondering if I was having some subconscious premonition of what was to come to pass in the year 2020 — something that manifest as I was sleeping and lingered into my waking state. And now that the waiting is over, the fear is of something real that affects all of us, as opposed to a fear of the unknown, which I was carrying alone.

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