Fear is something I have had a lot of, and frankly, I’m a little sick of it. It makes me uncertain, it makes me doubt everything I think about and everything I do, and it burrows inside my head like a worm inside an apple. It makes me feel like my heart is about to pound its way out of my chest, like I am constantly about to throw up, and it makes my mind run so fast that I can’t sleep very well. So I’d like to be done with it for a little while.
Largely, my fear has been talking to my parents again after our somewhat explosive and extremely unpleasant phone call last Wednesday. I don’t think anybody involved got anything they wanted, just a lot of fear, sadness, anger, and frustration. But since the topic is, and will likely continue to be, my life and how it will move forward, I think that I need to take a more active and assertive role in this. I’ve been a passive participant in my life for too long; it was easier to just let my parents guide my life, especially when I was most depressed. But letting them direct my life also made my depression worse, because I was so afraid of what they would say about my life that I didn’t know if I could do what they expected of me. So now I have to move away from that and become the prime mover in my life, and that’s a scary prospect, for both me and for my parents.
I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but at the same time I also need to be able to let them know that it is my life. I cannot let the fear I feel when my mother starts sounding disappointed or my father starts getting angry put me back in the shoes of a child. It feels awful, and it doesn’t do anyone any good; it makes me withdraw, and it frustrates them. So, fear or not, I have to be able to confront this and let them know what I am thinking and going to do – and that while I welcome their help and advice and support, it cannot come in the form of yelling or crying.
A fear I have recently managed to face – even if it did only take a few minutes to do, while I worried about it for at least a day – is the fear of rejection. Specifically, romantic rejection. I have, historically, had a terrible record in this area; my first try ended very badly, and subsequent attempts to venture into the area of a romantic relationship have been met with rejection and then depression. And so, when I realized that I had feeling for someone – though the signs had apparently been there for weeks, and I was just a little slow on the uptake – I wasn’t sure that I wanted to face the fear to come. I feared being rejected, not just as a romantic interest, but as a friend as well – that telling her about how I felt would be met with a total stop to our friendship.
Her friendship is one of the things I have come to value most in treatment, and so the fear that I would be rejected both as a romantic interest and as a friend was nearly crippling. Like I described earlier, I had this terrible feeling, like my heart was beating so fast and pounding so hard that it would burst out of my chest, and that’s when it didn’t feel like it was lodged in my throat. Once I realized what I felt, I kept looking for reasons not to tell her, that maybe it would just go away, but the feeling just got worse. It took a lot for me to realize that burying my feelings wouldn’t work and wouldn’t help, and even more to realize that I had to tell her how I felt.
I did tell her, and while it didn’t go as well as I could have hoped, it also didn’t go nearly as badly as I had been catastrophizing. We’re still friends, and I think she realizes what it took for me to be able to tell her, even if she can’t return the feelings. Even better, that feeling that my heart would just rip itself out of my chest like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (but without Mola Ram) went away. Sure, there was disappointment and sadness, but not crushing depression; she wasn’t rejecting me, just letting me know her feelings weren’t the same as mine. Being able to do that actually makes me feel better about having to talk to my parents.
Fear is such a hard opponent to fight, because it’s inside you. You can only really make it go away by doing what you’re afraid of; otherwise the fear grabs hold of your life and takes control, and you probably won’t like where it takes you. Fear can be useful, at times, to keep you from doing overly dangerous or crazy things, but you have to be in control of it. If you let fear control you, like I have for large parts of my life, you start forgetting what it was like to crawl out of the cave it has put you in, and that makes it that much harder to crawl out when you finally decide to.