knock knock. who’s there? Fear. Boo! Ahhh!
Having a panic attack is like a training session for not dying in the face of paralyzing fear. Having an anxiety attack is good practice in case you ever need to build a bird house in a room full of sleeping hungry lions.
I’ve been getting lots of training in.
I’ve also been reading lots. Sometimes I read books that make me want to have sex. Other times I read books that make me think. My favorite books do both. Right now, I’m reading a juicy young adult sci-fi novel (that I won’t name so that I don’t spoil it for you).
In the book, the sexy characters are training to be brave and fearless so they enter a “fear landscape” to face their own deepest fears again and again until they can figure out how to overcome them. This really makes me think about the power in bringing your fears to the surface. There is power in doing this in therapy. Once we can understand exactly what we are most afraid of, fears become like any other problem that we can work to solve.
I feel like my journey through depression and crazy has been my own “fear landscape” and has forced me to face some big universal fears like the fear of death, fear of toaster strudel, fear of losing your mind, fear of the doorbell, fear of your mother.
In the book, one of the (sexy) characters grew up with an abusive father. In his fear landscape, he sees his father beating him with a belt. Eventually he grows up, leaves the house, learns to fight and after a while, beats the shit out of his father. Then, his fear landscape changes. He is no longer afraid of being beaten by his father, instead, his deepest fear sees him turn into his father. Reading this struck me so deeply.
“I was no longer a child, afraid of the threat my terrifying father posed to my safety. I was a man, afraid of the threat he posed to my character, to my future, to my identity.”
I wonder if this is a typical emotional journey for an abused child? I spent so long thinking that my fear of my mother was normal, repressing it. Then, through therapy, I came to understand it. I started recognizing the abusive behaviours and understanding which parts made it hurt. Cutting her off put me in control of this pain. It showed me that I have power to protect myself and walk away from her attacks.
Then, I had to learn that I had the strength to fight back against getting hurt. Just like the character in the book had to find his strength by beating his father with a belt, the way he was beaten- I had to abandon my mother during her cancer journey, just like she abandoned me during my postpartum depression and all that followed.
(If you don’t really understand this, I know I sound like a huge bitch. Maybe I am, but I’m protecting my kids so I don’t care.)
After the fear of being hurt by my mother subsided, she was still in my “fear landscape”. Why? Because now I was a woman and a mother and she posed a threat to ‘my character, my future and my identity’. Instead of being afraid of her words and actions, I was afraid of becoming her. I was terrified of hearing her words coming out of my mouth. Terrified of making my children feel the way she made me feel. I’m not quite sure how I’m working through this, but I think that putting words to the fears and bringing each one to the surface is a big part of the process of getting her out of my fear landscape for good.
There is a new fear in my landscape now, the fear of losing my children and husband, the fear of harm coming to them. This is a good fear. I am keeping it. I love them.