Friday, March 21, 2014

PBP- Week 12: Fear and anxiety

I have always had an interesting relationship with fear. I'm not the type of person who runs from fear, rather I am much more likely to run towards the things I fear. While I don't like confrontation with anger, I have this thing about trying to prove that I can overcome the things that scare me. Where I run into issues is with things that can't be physically fought (like illness).

I was very much a tom-boy when I was younger. I was an only child, and was allowed to be who I wanted to be and play with the toys I wanted. I had a mix of Barbies, My Little Ponies, GI-Joes, Transformers and Legos. I played dress up, and liked to do my hair when we would go out, but my everyday wear was typically pants and not skirts. I liked getting my hands dirty, and nail polish never stayed on long (of course back then it was the peel off it just gets chipped!)

But being a girl who wanted to hang out with the boys, I constantly felt like I had to prove myself. Not only did I have to keep up, but I had to do better (because I was a girl after all). It became a kind of challenge for myself, if someone else would do something, I would need to prove I could too. Of course it got me into scrapes (and as I got older, definitely put me in positions that weren't the smartest). It definitely molded my “face things head on” attitude.

After high school, as I started stepping out into the 'real world', I came to realize not everything is as easy to face as dark alleys or climbing trees. Being the buddy of the guys I hung out with often put me out of 'date' contention, and even though I had little interest in things like makeup I still felt inadequate compared to the popular 'pretty' girls (objectively I know I am pretty, but emotionally sometimes it is something I struggle with). Being a bit on the outside socially (I was into theater, roleplaying and the occult, hardly the standard building blocks of the school scene), I was very aware that I wasn't really what a lot of people would consider to be 'normal'.

Not that I'm a huge fan of normal, I just struggle with being judged. Typically, I like people. I have a pretty broad range of interests, so can sit and chat with just about anyone. A part of me always wonders what they truly think about me, and if they would really like me if they knew all my deepest secrets. Living in a place where your spiritual beliefs are considered evil doesn't help at all.

The things I fear live inside my own head. I have no doubt that the people I talk to have no clue that half the time I am petrified of the outcome of a conversation. The silliest things will cause me to freeze up. Making phone calls to strangers is particularly hard for me. I can talk to people face-to-face better than I can over the phone. If I need to call a store to ask about something or talk to someone on the phone about a bill, I practice the conversation before I call. If I need to mention specific things (like calling to find out if the car repair place has the right tires for our car), all the information has to be written down in front of me. And it still freaks me out to call.

Objectively I know that the salesperson isn't going to mock me. I'm not going to be hurt by the phone call. Really, if things go the worst they could possibly go, chances are that as soon as I hang up the phone, the situation is over. I'll probably never have to see that person, and even if I did, they weren't going to do anything to me. And yet I still have to push myself to make calls.

The thing that wrecks me the most though is close family getting sick. That is something I absolutely can not fight. Sure, I can take care of them, make sure they get medicine and stay hydrated and all of that stuff. But there is nothing I can do that will make them better. I can't take away their pain. And this puts me in a panic. Quite literally, I physically struggle when my husband or son gets so much as a cold. Even though my mind knows that a little runny nose isn't a big deal, my body will still go into panic mode.

I've gotten better over the years. I shield harder, and work on focusing my mind on building up instead of dwelling on the “what if's”. I know there is a lesson somewhere in there for me, as I keep finding myself as a caretaker. Outwardly I can typically manage, but inside I am torn up.

I think everyone has fear. I think we each have our own hurdles and things that beat us down. And no matter what it is that strikes fear into your heart, you are not alone. No matter how strong someone looks on the outside, there is something that they struggle with. I don't have to have your fear to empathize with you. I may love the thing you fear, and yet I can stand beside you and support you as you fight your own battles. We can turn to each other when our fear is too much for us. We can band together and we don't always have to be strong. We can lean on each other and draw strength from those who have different fears, and by allowing ourselves to accept that help, we in turn give confidence to those who help us that they can use in their own struggles. Fear doesn't make you weak, fear gives you the opportunity to find new ways to be strong.

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