By Deborah Marini ~
I don’t actually know when it started. I don’t know if you’re born with it or if life inserts it into your soul…
But I’m afraid.
I’m afraid of not being enough. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid to show my imperfections. I’m afraid to be vulnerable.
Throughout my life I’ve always lived with my fears. If my friends thought one way I did too. Fear of not fitting in. When everyone at the Adirondacks was learning to water ski, I was watching from the dock. Fear of failure. When I thought my boyfriend was getting tired of me I would break up with him first. Fear of rejection. But the biggest fear that ruled my life was the fear of being vulnerable.
The more hurts I received the more my wall would go up. Sure I would engage in relationships, I had a ton of friends, I was perceived as being incredibly social and well liked. But I would float. I would stay in one place just long enough to give a glimpse of myself then I would disappear for a while. I would peace out before any faults or weaknesses had a chance to come through, as if my authentic self would be a disappointment to all. The one fear I didn’t have was fear of change!
Even as I embarked on my journey as a wife, a mother and eventually establishing a career for myself those fears lurked in the background. My way of handling them was… well… basically to ignore them. To get angry with them. To go through the motions of my day proving to those fears that I’m good enough and coming home exhausted.
I wasn’t “handling” them…I was pacifying them! I was simply putting them down for a nap until the alarm went off again and they would wake and return. I knew I had to find another way. Life handed me the catalyst to do that.
In 2001 we lost everything in a house fire when the fireplace malfunctioned. In 2010 we lost everything again when the hotel next door caught fire and took our home and 6 others with it.
That was my catalyst.
I tried to move forward but all of my safety and security had been ripped from us a second time. My fears were like dark shadows.
As winter approached I would smell fire places burning and panic. I would literally run outside with my nose in the air to determine the type of smell.
You never forget that smell of your life burning. Never.
Every time I heard a fire truck my back would stand straight. Every time I would try to decorate my home when we finally rebuilt I would pick up something at Home Goods that I liked, put it in my cart only to eventually talk myself out of it, take it out of the cart and walk out empty-handed. I didn’t want to bring another thing that I was attached to into my home. After all… it’s all temporary right? Fear of becoming attached!
Eventually I realized I needed help. I couldn’t handle this on my own. My fears were winning. They were gripping my arms guiding me to operate from a complete place of looking over my shoulder and I was hiding it. From everyone.
My journey back to mental health involved therapy and a lot of my own research into the brain and what happens to the brain after a traumatic event. Here’s what I know now. That we can’t just push our fears down. Immediately after the trauma, yes,we do need that time to regroup so to speak…. to ease back into the reality of our new normal. We aren’t quite ready or equipped to face our fears.
But we do need to eventually make the time to examine them. To look at them and define the why. By doing this it helped me to realize that my fears were part of who I am and could unlock patterns that I needed to look at in order to grow. Confronting and examining my fears made me look for the reason as to how they came to be in the first place.
“Why are you here?”
By asking ourselves where are fears come from and tracing them back to the origin helps us to not just understand them …. but to work WITH them and THROUGH them.
All of my fears, all of your fears… they don’t magically go away. But…There is a way to learn to dance with those fears. To invite them in, recognize them, question them, examine them, talk to them and reason with them. Sort of an “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em approach”! You have to look at fear as something necessary to help you grow in the direction of the light.
If we are the tree that’s been planted, fear is the weed and fertilizer is our consciousness! As the owner of the tree, God gives us the weeds for us to examine, determine how we can continue to grow in spite of the weed and then nurture ourselves by saying “ok. I know I fear this but why? How can I be more gentle with myself and allow the fear to dissolve? What are my expectations and are they based on reality? ” Fear is there and exists to push us to our authenticity!
To take it a step further… I’ve learned to be vulnerable and talk about my fears with others. By doing this I not only receive additional guidance as to other methods of addressing them, but it gives me the chance to listen to others struggle with their own demons.
So now, when I feel a fear creeping in I take the time to ask why it’s there. For example, as I was preparing to teach a certification seminar for Youth Mental Health First Aid I felt a sudden sense of panic! I felt unprepared, frazzled and not quite ready. The anxiety was creeping in. So…. I sat with it. I asked my fear “why are you here?” and wrote down all of the reasons why:
Because it had been awhile since my last training.
Because all of my materials were buried in the new house never unpacked after the move.
Because I was feeling vulnerable.
As I wrote down the reasons I also wrote next to it another way to frame that thought. Yes it’s been awhile but I know my s***t!
Ok, I just need to work a bit harder to find what I need in this house but I will find it.
Ok…. and this is a tough one… being vulnerable is what makes me approachable as a Mental Health Instructor so that’s ok. It allows me to share my human side to show no one is alone in their struggle.
And that’s ok.
So…. take your fears by the hand. They’re there to teach you the lessons you are equipped to learn.
In short…..Don’t be afraid of your fears 🙂