Everyone gets nervous from time to time, especially during these days of unemployment, high prices and chronic uncertainty.
But what about the person who is nervous all of the time, even when things are going well?
He or she may be constantly touchy, shy and withdrawn, or calm, cool, and collected...on the outside.
But underneath the skin, and hidden from sight, the psyche of the chronically nervous person resembles this woodcut of Edvard Munch's The Scream.
Though such a person is among people, he or she is really alone, because the slightest stress shoots sparks along the nerves and up the spine, resulting in a permanent case of the heebie-jeebies.
What makes a person this way?
Scientists are still arguing whether it's nature or nurture, or both.
58-year-old Peter Federson is one such person, tormented by his own nervous system. In this excerpt from Chapter 2, he stumbles upon a picture of himself from nearly 40 years ago while cleaning his filthy trailer, after losing yet another low-paying job:
"I looked at that slim, clear-eyed teenager on the student ID and thought about what I looked like now. I touched my face, and felt the nerves running beneath my exceedingly thin skin. Muscles corded around the nerves until they tightened into lines of tension on either side of my jaw, like strings on a violin. The strings were wound too tight, so my neck was bent by the pressure. This nervous energy sunk my cheeks until they were hollow cups, traced wrinkles down either side of my nose like gashes, and drew dark rings around my eye sockets, from which crow‘s feet radiated like jagged scars.
God, I wish I could start over again!"
Peter gets his chance in Chapter 3.