“On the day I married David “for time and all eternity,” I clutched him close during the mirrors part. I knew I loved David more than any being I had yet met in life, because I told him, seriously, that I thought I could stand eternity if I was really able to spend it with him. When I looked in the mirrors, I tried to ignore the eternal repetition of our images and focus on our closest reflections: the reflections of us, right now, right then, in that moment."
I didn’t realize that apeirophobia had a name until my husband forwarded this Atlantic video my way last month, with the comment, “This seems important.”
He had a feeling it would be powerful for me to know that I am not alone in my inexplicable fear of immortality; he was privy to my occasional eternity-related panic attacks during our first year of marriage, a particularly trying time for my neurosis considering how often a young married newlywed is reminded of eternal blessings and perspectives.
David was right—this Atlantic piece has been important to me. Hearing testimonies from those who “get” this strange, immobilizing fear that so few people seem to understand has brought me a relief like that of when I learned the word for sleep paralysis, a thing I had experienced many times throughout my life and had always assumed were attempted demonic possessions. As it turns out, it was just interrupted REM sleep.
Like the people in the video, thinking about eternity has a physical effect on me. If it strikes me, I bolt upright, I can’t stay sitting. I pace with desperation, like maybe I can outrun the unwelcome thought that entered my head; I put my hands against walls, breathless, trying to stay in the room, in my head, in some form of sanity. Sometimes the fear hits me when I am trying to explain the fear to others. When this happens, it’s embarrassing and I am apologetic. I want to say, “I know that eternity clearly has a very different effect on me than on you. I’m sorry.” I want to tell them I’m not faking. I guess a lot of fears and anxieties are like this: real to you but hard for others to understand.