Fear and loathing riverside…

A fearful heart requires love, compassion and time

Over the holiday season I had an opportunity to get in touch with a part of myself that I had been avoiding for years, perhaps decades. And as I felt my way through this part of me, I found myself felled to my knees with emotion.

It may sound a bit crazy and perhaps you don’t understand, but my hope for this blog is that you get it and it helps you. Because that is what Grow Optimism, and this work is all about. Helping each other connect through shared experiences and not feeling so fucking alone in this world.

Ok. So here goes. For as long as I can remember, I have felt scared. In fact, I have been having some trauma release lately and had a flash back to where I would play as a child to create safety. And it was under my bed or in my closet. I believe that this flash back ( experienced at the end of last year) connected me to the part of me that grew up scared. Scared to be hurt.

My family did the best they could with what they knew and they loved me something fierce. But, as an adoptee, I was brought into a family that had undergone traumatic and complex grief before my arrival. And the expectation placed on my little newly born soul, was to bring joy into their lives. And, as any good girl knows, you do what is expected of you. For fear they will take you back. For fear they will hit you again or punish you for not behaving the way they want. For fear you will be ridiculed, belittled or shamed. For fear that you will not be loved. And for fear that you will never be worthy of love if you don’t show up as expected.

Fear hung around most of my primary years and found me asserting myself in my adolescence. And again in early adulthood. When I left home for good at age 19, never to return, and in crisis, my anxiety attacks began. At the time, there was little known about anxiety so I spent most of my early twenties thinking I was dying. Until a wise and beautiful friend held me up in the hallways of the University if Guelph, as I grappled with an enormous panic attack, and then promptly walked me to the Psychologist’s on campus office where I was told what it was. Yet, I spent the better part of my thirties and forties unconnected from my fearful heart and playing out all sorts of fear based reactions in my daily life.

As I grew older and studied psychology and sociology and went to work as a Social Service Worker, I would be able to compartmentalize my fear until I couldn’t. And I would manifest illness after illness, shut down, become immobilized and be emotionally dis-regulated. I found myself difficult to love. So I spent most of my days running as hard as I could, as fast as I could, towards achievement and being professionally and academically driven. And in a society that rewards this behaviour, my fear remained unseen. And avoided. Until it wasn’t and I’d have another panic attack and call 911 or end up in my Drs office wondering what was wrong with me physically.

As I played out my go faster, be better,do more way of distracting myself, I got into a groove in my forties. Raising babies, managing a fulfilling career, having a solid marriage and doing all the things that were expected of me. Until I couldn’t. After a massive trauma in 2014 ( house fire), found me face down and completely empty. Void. Unable to move forward. Distraught. And disconnected from myself and the world. I was suicidal for a minute. ( and that wasn’t the first time) And I began therapy. And it helped. It changed my life. I began to understand myself. Become self aware. Emotionally regulated. I began to focus on my needs, set boundaries and begin the slow return to self. However, returning to self is a lifelong journey, and that is where I found myself two weeks ago.

‘ It dawned on me that I was still operating from fear. One that had been a slow burn since the start of the pandemic and when I worked in front line health care. Only this time, it immobilized me differently and was much more insidious, because it was stealth and played on my deepest fears.’

As my flash backs gained my attention, I focused my attention on fear. And unpacking it’s hold on me. Realizing with deep horror that there has been this quiet, consistent voice telling me that I’m going to fail. I’m going to get Covid and die. That I’m never going to succeed. That everything my family has told me about being ‘difficult’ and ‘too much’ and ‘psycho’ is true and I’m not worthy of being loved, let alone loving myself. That the worst is going to happen and I’ll be all alone again, and hiding under the bed from that which can hurt me. In fact, I think I crawled back under the bed in March of 2020 and didn’t come out until December 31st, 2021 where I found myself weeping with gratitude, and feeling a spaciousness and openness to joy that I had not felt since my late teens.

And those stealth fears sound like an inner voice. And that inner voice sounds truthful. And that inner voice that says all sorts of shitty things wants nothing more then to keep us small and safe. However, I realized, that the kind of safety I was using was just keeping my life and my whole self small. And lacking joy. And hyper vigilant for the next shoe to drop so that I could race back under the bed again quickly.

Yup, I’m telling you all of it. And as I tell you, I weep. With gratitude for the opportunity to reach down inside of myself and find that part of me that never learned that joy is not only a birthplace of growth, but also deserving for everyone. I weep for that little girl part of myself that was taught to fear. I weep for all of us who were never taught safety within ourselves and in relationship with others. And i choose to teach and support others in this journey. To use these lessons to hopefully land on just one persons heart, and help them to feel seen and loved exactly as they are.

Realizing that I was still holding onto so much fear is enormous. I can see how it has held me back from true joy for decades. I can see how I have chosen armour and self protection instead of ownership. I see how it has showed up in relationships for good or bad. And I feel how it feels in my body now. And I embrace it. I understand where it came from and why. And I know it will always be a part of me. That I have greater clarity and felt the joy of release, I can be vulnerable to it and own it. I can breathe through it and soothe it a little easier. Because all of the parts of us require this to feel safe. And as I embraced that part of me these past weeks, I’ve found it so much easier to find joy and calm. Grounded confidence.

I know that this is just the beginning. And that therapeutic support is required to continue this path forward safely. I also know that every little part of my everything and your everything and our everything is deserving of this. Deserving of understanding where we are blocked, and how to use too,s to navigate through the discomfort of them. Deserving of self awareness and self worth no matter what you believe or were told. Deserving of connection to self and to others through authentically courageous anchoring to self.

Fear and self loathing love to hide out with shame. And shame cannot stand to be spoken or loved and empathized with. By speaking my truth, I hope it helps you with yours. By teaching you about self compassion, I hope it helps you shine love and empathy on the shame that surrounds any parts of you that feel scared or unworthy. Because, well, fuck those voices and fuck fear. Let’s get weird and sloppy and messy with all of the emotions and trust that we have the right therapeutic supports in place, are surrounded by the right people and are capable of learning how to hold ourselves with deep compassion through anything this world and life has to offer….especially the joy!

I see you. I hear you. I feel you.I love you. And me too!

3 thoughts on “Fear and loathing riverside…

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