On Writing: Fear

“Fear” was my first short story to be published. I had lived alone for about a year and a half when I wrote this story. I was living in Whitby, ON, and my then partner had taken a job in California. Living alone with only dogs and cats to talk to can make anyone feel as if they are slowly going crazy.

For the record, I do not have any diagnosed mental health issues. I have not been directed to seek mental health assistance. This is not the case for the protagonist of the story. I imagined that this character had paranoid schizophrenia, and as he cycled off of his meds, life became more complicated.

In ancient times, it was difficult for anyone with mental illness to really go through it on their own. People did not live in apartments, collect disability and have the ability to disconnect from the rest of the world. Medical interventions have provided some relief from the issues associated with mental illness. The ever individualizing and disconnecting world of our current introverted trajectory as a people does not do any favours for those with mental illness.

The centre of “Fear” is one such person with mental illness that has no real support system. He has fallen through the cracks in a system based on exclusively medicinal treatments for a holistic being. I set the story in the United States because of their lack of universal healthcare access (at the time the idea of Obamacare was years away). Understanding the health care gaps in Canada that exist, I feared that this must be compounded in a place with no reasonable safety net for the poor and those unable to care for themselves.

I imagined that at the end of “Fear” the protagonist dropped his pen, looked around and ran from his apartment. His delusion that there was a toast conspiracy had evolved into a persecution anxiety. He believed that he was being observed. He believed that the government only needed to be alerted. He had hope. Once he believed that the doctor may be part of the plan to control him, he drops his pen and flees the scene. I worry what becomes of him from here on.

“Fear.” Kaleidowhirl Literary Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2. April, 2006.

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