Monday, July 27, 2009

Be still my beating heart

I just read an Augusten Burroughs short story. In it he depicts a childhood obsession with his heartbeat. He accounts for all the fears and dreads of the possibility of it stopping beating, and with that, an acute continuous awareness of its presence in his body as something vital yet seemingly fallible, ready to cease beating at any given moment. I couldn't believe I was reading this; I went through precisely the same thing when I was 8-9 years old. I remember nights when it was just me and dad. Mum was at work. It was all weird because we sat in front of the TV in that dank living room and dad never talked to me. All I could do was muster up a fast heart-beat and fill my eight year old mind with worries and neurosis that have taken a lifetime thus far to gently dissipate, waft away, like spots of crude oil drifting away atop the vast ocean. I could never talk about this stuff to anyone back then.

I vividly recall worrying about my heart and making myself anxious about the possibility of it stopping beating. It never happened of course, I'm still here. By the time I was 10 I'd shelved that particular anxiety (and only to take up other coats of anxieties ten-fold over the coming decade) and frankly having my heart stop beating is naturally the least of my worries now. I assume my heart's quite healthy and if it does stop beating which it will do eventually I'll be the last to know. Or the first??

The more I read Augusten Burroughs the more I see myself in him. He is clearly an obsessive character and he borders on being neurotically compulsive. I don't quite think I'm neurotic but I do see parallels between us. Obsessive, about certain things, I am. I can be hit by stress and anxiety at a pin-drop though peculiarly I seem to not stress about the things that tend to stress most people on a day-to-day basis.

After this particular collection of short stories I'll be onto Augusten's most recent opus, A Wolf at the Table, where he recounts true childhood stories of life with his father. Sarah tells me (she put me onto Augusten in the first place) that it's quite shady and ominous so to speak, and not lighthearted like his other works. I wonder how many more parallels I'll find with my life's story when I read this book.

So there I have it. I've discovered for the first time today that I'm not the only person on the planet who went through a terrible obsessive-compulsive disorder about their own heart as a child!!! Any other takers??

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Al-Anon

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