The nervous chills come sometimes.
Sometimes I have an idea what has brought them on. A piece of bad news. A hostile tweet on my social media. An unsuccessful audition that leads to fears I’ll never work again. Needing to be held, have my hair stroked gently and reassured that I’m doing great and everything is going to be alright. The desperate yearning to be touched — just a tender, chaste brush of the fingertips– but knowing that there is no relief on the horizon while we are separated from our loved ones by the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves in 2020. An unexpected bill landing on my doormat that leads to images of impending destitution. The worry that there is more hatred and cruelty in the world than I had realised….
Other times they sneak up on me like a cat-burglar, creeping down unlit corridors in my mind. I feel fine, the world seems stable and I’m confident in my ability to keep my balance. Things may not be perfect but, then, what ever is?
Then there’s a familiar tingling that starts to build. I feel it first at my crown. As though someone has cracked an egg on the top of my skull, only instead of yolk and albumen, there is ice and chilled water. I feel it slowly coursing down my body, deep underneath my skin. It gets a little harder to breathe. First my arms, then my legs begin to weaken and feel shaky. Little pinpricks of fluoroscent white light start to dance in my vision, like an army of ghostly spirit orbs descending upon me, and I feel myself losing my balance. Literally. Figuratively, too.
If, like me, you suffer from an anxiety disorder, these nervous chills may be familiar to you. Perhaps they are the reason that so many of us reach for a blanket or a duvet– something warm in which to snuggle and keep ourselves cocooned. This connection may sound obvious and, yes, I am aware that anxiety triggers our “flight or fight” response, which can lead us to heat up and become sweaty, and when that sweat meets the air, we may feel cold and clammy. But when my nervous chills creep their way from my crown and all the way down to my toes, I feel them underneath my skin, deep inside. I can’t even tell whereabouts inside they are. My muscles? No, I don’t think so. My skeleton? Surely that isn’t possible.
As the sensations advance and take a hold of me, and I become teary and maudlin, I become convinced that these are chills not of my body, but of my soul; that intangible spirit of the Self with a capital ‘S’. And I find a sad sense of poetry in that idea; that some incorporeal, discarnate essence of “me-ness” is feeling hurt/ frightened/ rejected/ alone.
At such moments, it is a slippery slope into despair and depression. I have to remind myself not to wallow or romanticise these feelings. Look at them, yes- absolutely! There is nothing to be gained from squeezing my eyes shut and pretending everything is OK. If I can’t see it and acknowledge it, how can I expect to come up with a plan to deal with it?
But once I’ve looked, have admitted to myself how I feel and, hopefully, been able to ascertain the reason, I must try my best to formulate a way forward. That can be hard to do. But I’ve done it before, so I know that I can do it again.
Basically, what I’m saying is that today, for numerous reasons, I’m feeling a lot like Danny Zuko in ‘Grease’–
I’ve got chills.
If you’ve got those soul-chills, too (and with the disruptive presence of COVID-19 and anxiously watching and waiting for the results of the US election, there may be many of you), I wish you strength, an empathetic hug, and a soft and fluffly blanket to keep you warm. xx