I honestly thought the world was on the brink of collapse. I was constantly on edge, and every news headline or flippant joke about the apocalypse sent me into a tailspin.
By
Gemma Kaczerepa

15 Mar 2018 - 11:14 AM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2018 - 11:22 AM

It was 11pm on a routine Tuesday and I was lying in bed, fully alert, waiting for a nuclear bomb to drop. A distant gentle hum - like an approaching missile - got louder the more I concentrated on it, and I was sure I could occasionally feel my bed shake. Every sensation triggered an electric reaction; my heart started beating faster and my muscles tightened. 

But that hum was simply my neighbour’s pool pump and the quivering bed a figment of my imagination. Nothing unusual was happening, but my mind was so addled with anxiety, that the nuclear apocalypse was near palpable. I was convinced the world would end in minutes.

Last year was a rocky one for Planet Earth. Between Trump’s first year in office, tensions with Russia and North Korea, increasing anxiety over the environment and AI, mass shootings and acts of terrorism, it was hard to stomach the state of the world.

The overall mood was a sombre one and each day delivered more harrowing news.

I’d also had my first brushes with death-too-soon. Two family members died within months of each other, both much too young. These were harsh reminders that life really does end — often unfairly.

To compound the world’s collective heartache and my own, I had an incredible but pressure-filled job, a cruel amount of money being poured into Sydney’s rental market, and an unshakeable feeling of purposelessness.

Bearable anxiety morphed into something unbridled and scary, a beast I couldn’t tame.

By July, the stress was too much. Manageable daily strains became a constant state of panic. Bearable anxiety morphed into something unbridled and scary, a beast I couldn’t tame.

I honestly thought the world was on the brink of collapse. I was constantly on edge, and every news headline or flippant joke about the apocalypse sent me into a tailspin.

I was ready for a nuclear bomb to drop, a natural disaster to sweep the globe, or an unforeseen object to plunge into Earth.

Manic spells of flicking through articles and far-flung opinion pieces on everything from solar flares and global warming, to the robot revolution and nuclear winter, replaced sleep, and I suffered mild panic attacks.

I could somewhat intellectualise how unlikely an apocalypse was, but therein lies the rub with anxiety: it’s usually irrational and uncontrollable.

I believed that by thinking enough about a catastrophe, I could prevent it. That researching something until I was blue in the face would offer some kind of consolation.

And while I recognised that others shared my feelings of global unease, I felt alone in my apocalyptic realisation. I wanted to shake anyone peacefully going about their lives, tell them to wake up and smell the impending end-times.

I wondered how they could be so ignorant towards something so obvious. After two months of this, I had to completely switch off from the news. But I also understood that burying my head in the sand wasn’t a long-term solution.

I decided to open up to my therapist.

Manic spells of flicking through articles and far-flung opinion pieces on everything from solar flares and global warming, to the robot revolution and nuclear winter, replaced sleep, and I suffered mild panic attacks.

She taught me about severe stress and how it can spiral into extreme anxiety, as well as being exposed to death and acquiring it as a lens through which you view the world. The extinction of one life can generate a fear of dying on a much greater, possibly global, scale.

Online, I discovered a small but powerful collection of personal stories about stressful experiences that triggered apocalyptic thinking. A girl who, like me, experienced death and assumed a catastrophic mindset. Another who, during her final exams, watched a sensationalised documentary about space, and spent nights sitting in her garden, waiting for an asteroid to strike Earth.

I was oblivious to how impactful stress was, and how many guises anxiety could adopt, but now I understood

I made a conscious effort to reduce unnecessary stresses, channel my anxiety through creative outlets, and properly process the losses I’d experienced through therapy and mindfulness. (Some schools of philosophy say that meditating on death is the best way of coming to terms with it). After months of work, patience and learning, I regained control over my thoughts and could go about my days with an ease I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

I could sleep soundly — finally — knowing the world and I would almost certainly wake up the next morning.

Mental health services: 

  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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