Mail(box) Anxiety Syndrom

Huh? What’s that? Was there such a thing? If not, the term needs to be introduced. Since my becoming disabled in 2007 and becoming dependent on welfare in the process, I think I’ve been developing this particular form of anxiety. What I mean by it is that it gets harder to go and clear my mailbox by the week and every time I do so, I typically require about a day or two to muster the courage and mental preparation to open letters from my health insurance, the pension fund, the equivalent of the IRS in my country (catering to all things taxes) and potential other letters from “the system” at large. The reason being that there is no room for empathy or sympathy in the system. There is no such thing as the system cutting some slack for someone who is no longer able to respond to the demands and challenges our lifestyles bring about. Or in different words: “Give me a break, will ya?” is not a call you can make when depending on said parties. They set the rules, the pace and they call the shots. Always. You’re not feeling up to filling in a multiple pages long questionnaire? Not their problem. You want us to secure your biologicial survival, you do as we say. Period. No ifs, whens or buts. No exceptions made. I find this to be particularly true for the country I live in: Germany. Remember one of the most horrific episodes in human history a.k.a. the Holocaust? A genocide of epic proportions and horrific not only for the sheer number of mass murders carried out, but – to me – for the infallible precision by which it was carried out. No exceptions made there, either. I’m mildly aware that some might not see it as appropriate at all to liken my own history to the aforementioned historic atrocity and thus blow it up to such a proportion. Aye, agreed and granted. However, I believe and dare say aspects of my situation more often than not feel similar. It’s bad enough not to be in a position of sustaining onesself any longer and needing to depend on help from outside. But was it really necessary to get it pushed in one’s face over and over again and thus be humiliated time and again? To give you an idea, there is this recent incident. Since my original post is in German, I’ll give you the quick run-through:

I collect a meager pension, which the law sees fit as securing the most basic needs of human survival. In my particular case, they deny me some payments I require and which I’m entitled to by law, which aggravates the situation even more. Despite preexisting chronic illness for all my life I have always taken charge of my life as best as I could. I continue to do so now and muster willpower and personal commitment whenever and whereever possible. In other words: I do my best to get by with what it is for now while not tiring to look for ways of ending my dependency on public money and scouting out ways of returning to a self-sustained life. I’d love to work within my qualifications and talents whenever possible. In order to sort of “test the waters” on this, I recently participated in a medical study that sought to investigate some of the limitations one of the sidelining aspects of my illness brings about. (IBS in this case). All in all the associated effort totalled at around 2 hours of online time and an interview carried out via telephone. Compensation was said to be 50,- EUR (approx. some 70,- $). As I’m required to report any additional income, no matter how meager, I did so and reported the announced 50,- to my case manager via email. I can’t even begin to describe the scope and degree of triggered feelings setting in upon receiving their reply:

We hereby inform you that we won’t consider your additional income for the calculation of your monthly monetary needs. This is a tenative one-time courtesy, provided your additional income won’t exceed the amount of 50,- EUR per year.

What?! The bastards so much as mercifully let me have the additional amount of 50,- EUR one time only, when they have been denying me some additional 35,- per month for about two years, something I’m still fighting for and a case that has been sitting at the state department for more than a year by now? But it isn’t about the money per se. What’s so devastating is the underlying message that says: Whatever additional income you generate, we will take from you right away as you make it! No, it’s even better: Before I make it as I have to report expected additional incomes prior to actually receiving them. I mean, I don’t know about you, but how can you not interpret this as getting punished for wanting to be better? For wanting to be a part of society again at some point? For wanting to end depending on money that other people made or make on my behalf. How do you not read this as “you’re gone, sucker, and we don’t want you back – ever.” Was I hallucinating or what?

So, it’s due to the nature of such replies that the short distance to the mailbox now feels like walking the green mile to me. I kid you not: I imagine, convicts of the death penalty in the Middle Ages, sentenced to the stake or guillotine, must have felt similar physical sensations when being dragged to where the execution took place.

I’m completely aware this is going to read like an out-of-bounds dramatization to non-affected visitors of this blog. Those of you, who suffer from anything along the lines of the PTSD-spectrum related disorders will most likely be able to relate, I’d assume. Suffice it to say that a full trauma-like response is triggered only from seeing the letterheads… Needless to say, this entire experience is humiliating beyond compare and has me increasingly despair over finding a positive outlook ever again.

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4 thoughts on “Mail(box) Anxiety Syndrom

  1. I can totally relate. I felt that same way for about 2 years after my husband left. I never knew what bomb was in that box – more bills I didn’t know about, another letter from the IRS or communication (or yet another bill!) from an attorney. I would spend about an hour preparing myself, feeling sick and shakey the whole time. Then, if there was nothing volitile to be found, it would take me about 30 minutes to unwind. If there was a bomb…. let’s just say it wasn’t good.

    • I so feel you on that one, Lisa! No, the bombs aren’t good and with me – and it seems, you too – everything I feel generates a strong physical sensation, which can get very exhausting on the physical level.
      I’m glad to see you’re equipped with a fighting spirit yourself. That’s our “insurance”, isn’t it? May we continue to muster the pressures from the system and peers alike….

      • That is insurance! My MAS (Mailbox Anxiety Syndrome) finally improved after repeated exposure with no bombs. Now, I can handle the occasional explosive when it comes. I hope your bombs diminish for you too:)

      • Isn’t that what these geniuses administering CBT always lecture? That exposure is supposed to desensitize known triggers? Yes and no. Depends, whether they fall on scorched earth or not. I’ve become better in handling them, indeed. I prepare for the big one, though….

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