Here comes the fear

One of the book project ideas that I get from time to time is a study of fear. Stephen King notes that it is the most physically debilitating of human emotions. The blood pounds, the pores gush, the heartrate increases. Fear is the root of everything bad. All sadness is based on fear. The Condition I labour under is based on fear.

The panic attack is the greatest physical manifestation of fear. You get the symptoms I’ve listed above, plus your limbs go tingly and numb, you get a dizziness in your head, a shakiness in your legs. The only thing that doesn’t happen to me is the cliched thing of pissing or soiling yourself, for which I suppose I’m grateful.

But the physical aspects aren’t the half of it. Attacks generally happen outside, when there’s loads going on – shops, big logos, heavy traffic, wide roads, loads of people around. The mind is rebelling: it’s overloaded, it’s saying too much information. And then there’s this sickening derealisation, and that’s the most terrifying part: you’re convinced that none of this is actually real, and that the universe is about to fold in on itself. Suddenly nothing makes sense. Meaningless phrases from conversation around you and snatches of songs run through your head. You feel like you have fallen off the edge of the world.

The panic attack is like a rejection of the world as it is. Sartre described this rejection as ‘nausea’; Soren Kierkegaard called it ‘fear and trembling’; while Hunter S Thompson dubbed it ‘fear and loathing’. You think of the Duke staggering through Las Vegas, swigging from a bottle of ethel and thinking this is what the world would have been like if the Nazis had won the war. Writers have a habit of seeing the world in bizarre ways. If there’s a link between literature and panic, or creativity and mental illness in general, it surely lies here.


2 Responses to “Here comes the fear”

  1. Sarah Wind Says:

    Hi there,

    Your analogy is excellent. I couldn’t agree more. I had been a panic sufferer for eleven long years of hell. But there is an answer and it’s not in psychology. We are not crazy. It’s physiological. If you want to know more, email me. NO, I’ll just tell you right now what it is. It’s the vestibular system in the inner ear most of the time. We’ve been screwed by psychologists into thinking it’s our fault and it isn’t. Does motion bring them on for you? Do you get car sick or plane sick? Go to your local ENT or read Dr. Levinson’s book, “Phobia Free”. The hell will be over for good.

  2. jg Says:

    “swigging from a bottle of ethel”
    Uhm, I think you mean INHALING from a bottle of ETHER.

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