Some months ago, Mint came home and told me he was planning a trek to Sikkim with his colleagues. A 9 day trek that would take them through the Himalayan range. Typically in such situations, my initial reaction is to lose it and ask him to cut it out. Because I am by nature an extremely anxious person. The first thought that enters my head is: what if something goes wrong? Why expose yourself to dangers that can easily be avoided? How will I get by the days living with such intense worry?
Unfortunately, other than being an anxious person, I am also a fairly rational person and realise my own line of thought is at times quite ridiculous. I find it hard to justify my fears to my own self, let alone to Mint. Other than knowing the odds of something fatal happening were very low, I also knew living a life completely devoid of risks isn’t a possibility. And of course, we also have all those theories about space and letting your partner live their own life and blah. So this time when he told me about the trek, I said nothing. When he told me he was booking his flight tickets, I said nothing. I remained silent as he went about making all his travel arrangements. He booked his accommodation, purchased the gear he would need be needing for his trek. It was all finalised.
And then two days before he was to leave, I broke down. I realised he would be going through completely uncivilized terrain and passing through settlements with no electricity. There would be no mobile coverage. The thought of remaining disconnected for days together when he was in the wild made me feel sick. I threw a fit and asked him to cancel his trip. He looked at me with disbelief when I said it. I was asking him to cancel a trip that he had booked over 3 months in advance, one that he was highly looking forward to, was fully paid for and would result in a complete loss. Yes, I repeated what I had just said. Don’t go.
He negotiated with me for a while, requested me not worry. When I would not budge, he agreed to cancel it. As usual, I didn’t know what it was that would make me happy. The thought of him going was killing me with worry. The thought of him not going was killing me with guilt. After a lot of turmoil, I turned around and asked him to go. Only to back out a day before he was to leave and create another scene. I screamed, accused him of not caring about me, being the most inconsiderate partner and so on. I knew I was being unreasonable but who is to stop me at such times? He was back to asking me if he should cancel his trip and I was back to saying no and then hating him for going.
We decided to have a good heart to heart on the evening before he was to leave. What exactly was my worry, he wanted to know. I thought for a few minutes, and then blurted out. I was worried he would die. There, I said it. Of course, he laughed and told me he was going for a trek, not on a war. Before you laugh at me, let me tell you anxiety is not rational. And it sucks that most people with anxiety realise how irrational their fears are. We had a good long discussion and he acknowledged my fears instead of dismissing or ridiculing them. Somehow that conversation put me at ease. I felt better after a long time and was able to let him leave on a cheerful note the next morning.
It took him two flights and a 7 hour car journey that went over the ghats to reach the place from where he was to start trekking. He called me the next morning before beginning his trek. I reminded him again that I expected to hear from him at least once in every 24 hours. If there was no mobile coverage in the area, he was to find a landline. He told me knew how worried I was and that was worrying him and making him uneasy. He wasn’t able to put his mind at rest knowing my condition. I promised him again that I would try to not worry.
And just like that, I lost all contact with him after that conversation. I waited for night to set in. Maybe he would call when they stopped for the day. He didn’t. I convinced myself to pull through the night. When I hadn’t heard from him by the next morning either, I was in a state of extreme panic. What could have gone wrong? I knew he would be making all possible attempts to call. So then, why couldn’t he? His phone was switched off.
One day stretched into another. By the end of the second day, I was sure I would not survive anymore. I kept calling him every 3 minutes, knowing very well that it wouldn’t help. I was trying so hard to not imagine the worst. What if something had happened to him? How would that impact me? Please God, make sure he is alive and well. I prayed with all my heart.
I was feeling physically sick by day 3. If something has happened to him and he is no more, maybe I will really not survive myself. How bloody fortunate I was to have met him in my life. Maybe I was so fortunate that it had to be short lived? He is the best thing to have happened to me. What if I have to spend the rest of my life without him? Oh my God! We have a massive loan that I will never be able to take care of single handedly. Well, I will sell the house immediately. But oh, what if I am unable to sell the house because the market prices are too low? The loan will not disappear. I will be ruined. I will be all alone. I will die too. Oh God. Stop! Stop! Stop!
On day 4 I decided I hate him. How could he subject me to this anguish for the sake of his own pleasures? He knows that I would be dying every minute. People who have partners with anxiety should try to curtail their lives and desires to an extent. Yes, this was his fault. I will never talk to him. Oh wait, I will not talk to him only after I know he is alive and well. Please God, just let me hear from him once.
He called finally on the 5th day. This time I thought I would die of relief. I had no words to tell him the kind of hell I had been to. Like I should have guessed, he could not call for all those days because he had absolutely no means to do so. No mobile network or coverage, no access to landlines. Nothing. I hated him for going to a place like that. These adventures are meant for people who are free and footloose. People who have no responsibilities and can live their lives with glee and abandonment. Not for people with massive loans and wives who suffer from anxiety disorders.
When I had calmed down though, I knew the biggest lesson was for me. I have always known my anxiety makes me deviate from my sense of logic. It begins to exercise a deep level of control over my every day life. For example, I still panic when my dad comes home two hours late and we aren’t able to get through to him. When other people would attribute it to heavy traffic and a phone that has run out of charge, my mind embarks on a journey of it’s own. What if he was in a accident? What if his phone was stolen? What if something terrible happened? How will we get through it?
I read in an article that having anxiety is like having a brain with a faulty alarm system wired into it. The alarm goes off in your head even when there is no real need for it to, even when there is no sense of danger. And then you spend your time freaking out knowing well that there is no reason to freak out, but being unable to stop yourself from freaking out. It’s like wanting to stop the blaring alarm that is causing a heart attack and driving you nuts but you just don’ know where the ‘dismiss’ button lies.
I know coping with anxiety has always been one of the biggest challenges of my life. But this whole episode has taught me that this isn’t a sustainable way to live. I will always be exposed to situations that have more questions than answers. But every time I face a question, I cannot let myself assume the worst answer, not even in my subconscious. I have promised myself I am going to try to be a more secure person. I know it will be a long journey, but the first step is making myself believe that I can do it.