Knowing that I understood just enough medical jargon and procedure to be dangerous ( to myself), my primary care physician started paging through a dogeared copy of Taber’s – this little encyclopedia of medical terminology is fat and pretty much all-inclusive. “Ah, here we have it, Kakorrhapiophobia!” I grimaced and admitted that this was a new one that I did not know, but it certainly sounded awful. “Is that what I have?”
Thinking about it, he replied, “it’s not my area of medicine, but being that that jawbreaker describes a condition where a person is abnormally afraid of failure, you might want to tuck that word away for your visit to a therapist. Your anxiety seems to relate to not being able to let anything go. You seem to be very afraid of failing at things you have little or no control of.”
I admitted that last night’s severe anxiety attack was related to things I rationally knew I couldn’t control. But that didn’t stop me from worrying about how I’d have to clean up the mess afterward. I wouldn’t be allowed to get off with a vacuous look on my face, ignore the elephant in the room, and let things slide.
He smiled, put down the book, and said, ” Knowing you, you’d prefer to avoid any of the little pharmaceutical stop gaps I could prescribe. So here’s a hint – have you thought about enrolling in a behavioral modification program? I mean Mindfulness training and meditation?”
He looked at me. Over the twenty years that he’d been my Primary, he’d come to recognize when I was about to become belligerent but also knew how to disjoint the reaction into humor. He reached into a drawer and pulled out a pint of strawberries and a baggie with three stainless steel ball bearings. ” Oh no! not a reference to Humphrey Bogart in the ‘Caine Mutiny’?”, “Well, keep going the way you are, and you’ll start accusing people of stealing the strawberries, and you’ll be rolling the ball bearings around like some early fidget spinner.” I was already palming the balls in my left hand – I dropped them to the desk right away. “OK. The Mindfulness sounds like fun; I’ll do it.”
Then I looked over at him – pointed towards his right hand where he was busily shuffling the bearings around. He sheepishly grinned. “So…are you going to join me in resolving our mutual Kakorrhapiophobia, Doc?