Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, one night, knowing - with every fibre of your being - that you are going to die?
When the bubble of almost-immortality that you have been carefully nurturing over thirty years of existence bursts (with a bang) leaving you feeling bereft - cheated, almost.
It's the kind of feeling that inspires utter terror. Terror that you live with almost every day for months. Terror that makes you imagine ways (and the more creative your mental faculties, the more bizarre the images conjured) of how you will meet your inevitable fate. Eventually, after running through all the possibilities, you realize that what you fear the most (amongst the many things that are scaring-the-bejeezers-out-of-you) is not dying, but a slow-lingering-death, the kind of death borne of a disease, particularly one of those that may have people avoiding you like the plague (pun intended), leave you alone, and make worthless all your life's achievements up until the point when your identity becomes just the sick-diseased-person that everyone needs to avoid at all costs. And even though you have no idea whether you are - or will be - victim to the dreaded disease, your brain is in overdrive for months while it cooks up every single possible scenario of social isolation, disease-induced-pain-and-misery and eventually a lonely, miserable death.
Soon, you convince yourself that you do indeed have the disease. It's only a matter of time until someone finds out and the somewhat-happy-bubble you currently live in (and are beginning to appreciate more and more) will be destroyed forever. Imagine, waking up every morning with this certainty. And living every single day in the abject fear that your life - as you know it - is effectively over.
A part of your mind rebels, tries to convince yourself that you need proof before you succumb to hypocondria. You decide to go for tests. Many, many tests. And when you pull through hale and healthy, you feel relieved for a few days, until the strange terrified part of your brain comes back to life and tries to convince you that the tests are wrong. The laboratory made a mistake. The person running the test decided that your disease is so horrible that you should not be told about it.
And then the terrors are back.
You try talking about it to those you love. They listen, they counsel, they tell you you're mad (in a kind, joking kind of way). They scold, they get angry, they tell you not to be an idiot. Eventually you realize that you need to stop talking for fear that someone is going to realize that this is not getting any better, and try to throw you into the loony bin (where you will really be alone and isolated and miserable and... you get my point right?) or worse just write you off as a lost cause and stop associating with you. So you shut-up, and just stop talking altogether. What is the point of dragging more people into this madness?
You discover that the only thing that works against the terrors is distraction. Throwing yourself into work till there's no thought for anything but the next task at hand. Partying till your brain is numbed and cannot possibly remind you of all the bad stuff. Tiring yourself out so much so that there is no room for dreams, just the blissful sleep of the dead (more puns, more intended).
Except at some point - despite all your efforts - your brain sneakily finds the time to think. And it does. And you wake up in the night, steeped in sweat, terrified of all sorts of terrible things that will destroy life as you know it forever and ever. Knowing, with every fibre of your being - that you are going to die.
Has this ever happened to you?