Recently I practiced, in a paper of mine, imitation of a passage from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky describes the main character, Raskolnikov, painting a picture of pure anxiety:
It was not that he was so cowardly an downtrodden, even quite the contrary; but for some time he had been in an irritable and tense state, resembling hypochondria. He was so immersed in himself and had isolated himself so much from everyone that he was afraid not only of meeting his landlady but of meeting anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty; but even his strained circumstances had lately ceased to burden him. He had entirely given up attending to his daily affairs and did not want to attend to them. . .
It was terribly hot out, and moreover it was close, crowded; lime, scaffolding, bricks, dust everywhere, and that special summer stench know so well to every Petersburger who cannot afford to rent a summer house– all at once these things unpleasantly shook the young man’s already overwrought nerves. The intolerable stench from the taverns, especially numerous in that part of the city, and the drunkards he kept running into even though it was a weekday, completed the melancholy coloring of the picture. A feeling of the deepest revulsion flashed for a moment in the young man’s fine features.
I imitated this passage, describing my own struggle with clinical anxiety:
It was not that I was so cowardly and downtrodden, even quite the contrary; but for some time I had been in an irritable and tense state, resembling hypochondria. I was so immersed in myself and had isolated myself so much from everyone that I was afraid of not only meeting my sick brother across the hall, but of meeting anyone at all. I was crushed by anxiety. I had entirely given up attending to my schoolwork and did not desire to attend to anything of the sort. Each day became an obligation. It was always terribly hot out, being from Dallas, and moreover it was close, crowded; dust, wood, brick everywhere in the old school building that the miniscule Cambridge School of Dallas inhabited. And that high school stench consisting of body odor, teen angst, and highly contagious illness filled the air. All at once these things unpleasantly shook my already overwrought nerves. The intolerable stench from the crowded restaurants, and the drunken teenagers I somehow found myself surrounded by, influencing my own actions, completed the loathsome and melancholy coloring of the picture of my anxiety.