A while ago, a friend of mine told me to write about what I am afraid of, and so I promptly wrote a blog on the first topic that popped into my head, abandonment, then I closed the topic on fear. Fear is individualistic and what makes me afraid may be nothing to someone else, but it was pointed out to me today, that perhaps I am afraid of a lot more than I think, or may be willing to admit. For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, fear is something that is deeply ingrained from whatever moment it was that forever changed your life. Fear is an emotion that is most commonly brought about by a perceived threat or danger and usually induces a reaction of flight, fight, or freeze.
As children, when we are being abused there is not the option of flight; if I could have run away, I obviously would have. Having the ability to fight back is also not possible given the average size difference between a child and a perpetrator. I am small in stature and always have been and I gave all the fight I had but could not hold off a teenager or an adult. That leaves only one option; to freeze. To be so afraid, you literally are physically and mentally frozen is our only way to survive the experience, and because we are most likely molested multiple times this reaction becomes habitual and becomes a repeated pattern throughout our lives.
I think I am afraid of fear, if that is even possible. One thing I do know is I’m tired of it. I’m sick of it kicking my ass at every corner and causing me to look over my shoulder both physically and emotionally. I am exhausted from being bouncing between hyper and hypo sensitivity. I blame it on my illnesses and convince myself there are other reasons…I’m too nervous to go there, I am too shy to talk to them, I’m too insecure to try that, and the list goes on. Sure, they are likely enhanced by my disorders but the common denominator, regardless of what I try to label it as, is fear; the root cause of so many emotions. Even as I write this now I find fear of what you, the reader, will think, lurking in the back of my mind.
When I become overwhelmed with life, or with my illnesses, the freeze instinct kicks in for me. I feel so inundated with thoughts and emotions that my mind can no longer differentiate between a past threat and a perceived one, so my habitual response is to shut down and become emotionally and physically disabled. My mind can’t handle the intensity of so many emotions, so the instinctual answer is to shut down all emotions, thereby removing the perceived fear which will lead to me being hurt again, while physically, my body becomes exhausted and numb from being riddled with tension. It is those periods of time, which vary in length that I find it difficult to focus or get anything done. I am in survival mode and whatever strength I have left is used to bring me out of that frame of mind.
The fear of failure is a big one for many people but it does not necessarily mean it will stop them from trying to achieve or accomplish something. Being a survivor with the added bonus of having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) takes whatever emotion, in this case fear, and enhances it to a level that feels like sheer terror. To step outside my comfort zone feels like jumping off a cliff with a parachute and not only convincing yourself that it won’t open but actually preparing for the disaster, with not even a glimmer of hope that it might actually open. So I spent most of my life staying within the confines that I had set and became very good at the things within those boundaries, but did not venture much outside of those lines, for fear of not succeeding. For fear of what not only others would think or say, but fear of my own inner critic which I already battle with daily.
The fear of being vulnerable is also incredibly difficult for survivors because as children someone took advantage of us when we were most susceptible. I think that is why so many survivors build such a thick wall of emotional protection around them, anything to avoid that feeling again. I know for me allowing myself to be emotionally vulnerable is a daily battle, like splitting the day between being a bricklayer and being part of a demolition crew. It involves stepping outside your comfort zone if you are to let someone in and that for me is incredibly difficult. I feel like a turtle extending its neck to take a look around and perhaps get a different view, which then suddenly gets spooked and reverts back into its shell, becoming more afraid to come back out each time.
As with the rest of my healing process, I am a bit impatient and would like to speed the whole process up until I get to the point that fear no longer rules my life. I want to just wake up and feel safe and confident enough to take on the world. I am, however, a long way from that, and so as with everything I proceed forward with baby steps. Starting this blog and allowing my writing to be put out there for others to see is a step in the right direction and as with anything although the first step is the hardest, the second is required to move forward.