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Last week at 4 in the morning I woke my husband in a major panic. “I’m going blind.”

He rolled over and muttered: “Yesterday you had a brain tumor. Go back to sleep.” He rolled back and began gently snoring.

Furious, I tapped him on the back. “That is so wrong. Last night it was you and you were having a heart attack.”

“It was serious!”

“It was indigestion.”

“This time.”

And of course, in this he is right. You never know.

Back when I was smoking, life was much simpler. At 4 in the morning it was lung cancer and you were done. Now the imagination knows no bounds. There is not a body part that might not be affected. A suspicious mole? Two days without going to the toilet? Or worse, how many times did you get up last night to go to the toilet?

There is not a corner of my and my husband’s life that can’t be Googled. I have Web MD and The Mayo clinic at the top of my favorites.

Gluten, Statins, vitamins, plastic particles in cosmetics, hormones, over-use of antibiotics, over-use of alcohol, belly fat…gum disease. All things to worry about late at night.

And there’s so many new one’s that have been added recently: Unspecified combined systolic congestive and diastolic heart failure, COPD, erectile dysfunction, RA, Lyne’s disease… Oh, I forgot, my husband actually did have that.

Never mind man colds (that’s a daytime thing). At night we have depression, stress induced autoimmune diseases, bipolar disaffected disorder, OCD, ADHD, or we’re on the scale (And believe me we’re all on the scale.) Then there’s the additional daily worries: The why did I say that? Why didn’t I say that?

Not to mention money. One quiet day at the office and my husband is convinced bankruptcy is just around the corner.

And when I finally do manage to get to sleep, here come the old perennials: That class that I discover I forgot to drop and suddenly it’s Finals Week and not only did I not study for the exam, I can’t even find the classroom. Or the baby/dog/cat/mother I forgot all about and left somewhere.

And then poof, in the morning, daylight and the sturm and drang dissolves.

In The Sun Also Rises, Hemmingway writes: “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”

Or as my father used to say, “The night is a bad advisor.” And he ought to know. He prowled our house for hours and hours in the dark with the night-horrors.

The question is why do we do this to ourselves at night? Is it to ward off the evil-eye? Is it, if I worry enough maybe it won’t happen?

In order to understand what plagues us at night, I went to TV advertising – not the night-time ads which are all cars and perfume – but daytime ads.

In the US it’s all medications: anything from restless legs to genital warts. But in the UK it’s a whole different kettle of fish. In Britain it’s all burial insurance. The assumption is: you’re going to die and there will be nothing that can be done for you. So just go quietly and don’t be a burden on your children.

And here’s the kicker. The very worst thing you can do for your heath is to worry. So now they’ve got me worrying about worrying.

I’ve read there are various remedies for the night-time plague. Some say, it is essential you get up out of bed. Others say it is essential you remain in bed and do self-hypnosis.

There are the bedside lists of those brilliant ideas or things to do. In the morning if I can even read the illiterate scrawl of letters squirming across the page, none of it makes any sense.

There’s the refrigerator raid. My husband is a great practitioner of this method. It took me some time to realize that the trail of crumbs leading from the kitchen was not due to mice. I try hiding food from him but he is even able to find treats I’ve hidden underneath other food in back of the cupboard or refrigerator. This from a man who can’t even find the carton of milk during the day.

Of course there’s always drugs. Now they do work, only they will set you off worrying about drug dependency.

Here’s one that I’ve tried and it actually kind of works. Set yourself a worry hour. Make it 4-5pm. Until then you needn’t worry because you know you will address your worry then. It’s amazing; half the time you forget your slot.

I’m sure there’s an upside to all of this. I’m just looking for it. It’s like the mother who sees her little boy desperately searching through a huge pile of steaming horse manure. With this much shit, there has to be a pony.

But in the end I guess the only pony is that it’s the price we have to pay for living, for walking through the park on a lovely spring afternoon or spending an evening having drinks with our very best favourite friends.

And I suppose if we can’t believe in that, we’d better start investing in that funeral insurance.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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