Posted by: Jack Hope | Tuesday July 24, 2012

I’m Afraid

Dear Terry,

This is something that I have been wanting to write for a long time, but that I haven’t found the words for. The ideas are there, the feelings are there, but for whatever reason the words just won’t come. It’s frustrating, it reminds me of being in the depths of Depression when I would sit down in front of the computer with all of these things inside of me and yet, I couldn’t make the connection.

Writing has become to me like an electric circuit, something has to trigger the spark to jump between my fingers and the keyboard. These days, that comes pretty easily to me.

Except when it comes to writing about this subject. Then I sit in front of the computer and feel that same, crushing paralysis.

The crushing paralysis of fear. I’m afraid.

Anxiety, fear, terror, all of these things are something that I think most people like me struggle with. Clinical Depression and other mental illnesses easily increase a person’s fears and anxieties, both real and imagined. I can well remember being afraid to leave the apartment when I was plummeting into the worst of what I was suffering from. I can remember having a bad reaction to the first anti-depressant I was on, feeling like there was someone else in the room with me. I can remember the panic attacks I had, one where I was convinced that I had somehow utterly wrecked my left foot (it was in a shoe) and that it was a bloody mess. It actually felt as painful as any broken bone I have ever had.

So I know what fear is, what being afraid of even ordinary things can be like. How it can linger long after the experience has passed, a shadow cast in the back of my mind.

I am timid.

I’m sure you must think that me uttering those words is (pardon the expression) completely mad. After all, I’m the guy who took off for two years to East Asia. The guy who took a sketchy looking skip line off the Great Wall. The guy who helped you get up the stairs at the Duomo in Florence. The guy who moved away from all of his friends and family to pursue his dream.

Surely, I have a decent amount of bravery and courage? No, not really.

It’s easy to take off on adventure (and that’s what all of the stuff have done is) and it’s easy to embrace those opportunities. After all, the consequences of almost all of that is pretty minor. The really brave stuff, standing up and fighting for what I believe in, standing tall (well, taller) and living with the consequences long-term, is something that I haven’t ever let myself face.

As an example, my last job in Calgary, where I just rolled over and let those above and below me both go off in the wrong directions at my own expense. I really cared about what I was doing but at the same time, I was so terrified of interpersonal confrontation, that I let the people I was responsible for run roughshod over me and let the people over me back me into corners that I couldn’t handle.

Or being so afraid of failing at pursuing higher education that I would back out at the last-minute (sometimes even towards the end of a course) rather than let the chips fall where the would, for good or ill.

Or being brave enough to face being alone, rather than just starting a relationship with the first person who looked like he would stick around for five minutes.

That’s the fears that I experience, the anxieties that an adult life spent in a long battle with Clinical Depression have left me with. Not physical fears or fears of the exotic and strange. I’m pretty sure I could jump out of an airplane. I’m damn sure that I can travel anywhere on planet Earth.

But tell my boss that I think they’re making a mistake, or signing up for a University course, or asking for help for myself, and these things scare me. All of them have long consequences that I have to live with, for good or ill.

Easier not to ask, easier not to try, easier to just nod and smile. Why rock the boat?

But I don’t want to be that person anymore. My experiences, especially over the last few years have taught me that the safety of just being quiet, of not standing out, of not working to advance myself and not fighting for the things I care about, is a useless and hopeless path. It’s a path to a second-rate life.

That security that I thought I was buying for myself by not making waves, it was all ephemeral, it vanished in a heartbeat. Settling for the easy path just made sure that when I lost it all, that I couldn’t even feel proud of the things that I had done. I hadn’t done very much of note.

Acknowledging the problem is just step one obviously. It takes a long time to undo habits built up through a long and difficult period of struggle with mental illness. I’m not even sure how to begin to tackle this one. Not really.

Not the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

It was fear that got me into this again. Last year, towards the end of the year I was so close to pulling out of this long period of Depression, but fear held me back. Fear of being judged, fear of embracing life again and moving on. In a way, it’s easier to be sick, to be not quite back. The expectations are lower. And it’s not unpleasant.

But it’s not really living either.

Now that I’m approaching that point again, I have to face the fear question. Am I going to let it dominate my life again? Am I going to accept a post-depression life that is still dominated by the same lingering fears, the habits built up over a lifetime of avoidance and dodging?

I don’t want it to.

But that’s enough. I have to find the strength and the skills to really face my fears. To stand my ground for the first time in my life and really, genuinely fight for the things that I care about.

It’s the start of another major challenge on my road to recovery.

I hope you’re well and I miss you. I miss you every day.

All my love,

Jack

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Responses

  1. I applaud your fearlessness with this post. Acknowledging fear is the first step to overcoming it. Good for you! 🙂

  2. Often most fears are unfounded, that is an unfortunate aspect of your situation, you are held back by nothing but illusions (fears).

    • Very true. Fear is entirely internal and often a learned response. Unlearning it is going to be tough.

  3. Do you know the root of the fears? A lot of theories say fears are based on childhood experiences–I don’t know if that’s true. When I read your words it sounds like they are deeply rooted.

    I can speak about my fears–these fears that keep me “safe” yet limit my life and what I want to do. I want to “get over” these fears Jack.

    How do I take away a fear that I believe keeps me “safe” without first, finding something real to keep me safe in its place? It’s a real mind-f*$k to mess with your fears energetically without a safety net (trust me on this one).

    Is safety found in something real?

    I don’t think so. I think it lies in self-love and trust that everything is just right. That’s my take anyway. I also recognize that these are two things I was never strong in and my experience with mental illness obliterated any strength I had.

    So my fears are my fears. My deep-rooted limiting beliefs are my beliefs. I honour them for keeping me “safe”. And everyday I take teeny weenie steps to challenge them, mainly by being more of myself and honouring my needs first. I am building confidence. I am full of love. The Universal trust thing–well a little shaky. You know–the whole God thing.

    And it is my theory that these beliefs based on fears will no longer be needed by my psyche. When? Well… when they are no longer needed.

    I will move pass them. I have things to do Jack–things I am doing to the best of my ability right now and will just get better.

    I truly believe you will too.

  4. Hi Jack, I’ve just been catching up on your blog. I haven’t been online much in the past week or so; just haven’t had the energy. I know about the fear you write about. It’s debilitating and demoralizing and it often feels stupid, but it’s there. There’s a book that might help you, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. You might also want to try an assertiveness course. I haven’t read the book, but have had it recommended to me. I have taken assertiveness training and found it useful. The biggest hurdle for me has been (and still is) in speaking up for myself is convincing myself that I deserve to be treated better and that I’m worth fighting for. I’m much more likely to speak up for someone else than for myself. You’ll get there, Jack. You’re fighting the good fight.


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