Friday, June 1, 2012

Monsters Under the Bed

The other day, one of the pages that I follow on Facebook posted some insights about fear.  Without repeating them verbatim (because I don’t have the copyright/trademark rights to do so) they basically pointed out that we’re not afraid of specific scenarios or actions, but rather of the results if something within those scenarios or actions were to go wrong. I entitled this blog "Monsters Under the Bed" as an example. Kids aren't afraid of the monsters themselves, they're afraid, presumably, of being attacked by the monsters. (I say presumably because I oddly never had this fear as a child). The same goes for more adult fears - it's the potential result, not the thing itself, that we fear. 

Fear is a touchy subject. People are ok with saying “I’m afraid of heights or spiders or flying”.  They’re not as ok with saying “I’m afraid of being hurt or rejected or losing control of a situation” (these latter are not related to the heights or spiders or closed in spaces, for the record).  It seems the more personal a fear is, the less inclined people are to disclose it. Perhaps it’s that we don’t fully understand our fears – we might not understand why we’re afraid of a situation, or that it involves a fear at all.  If someone doesn’t like big crowds, they may just think it’s “not their thing” and not realize there’s an underlying fear that goes along with this aversion. This lack of awareness makes it difficult for them to acknowledge the fear, let alone tackle it.

When I first began this journey of self-discovery, fear was a major factor. I had no idea how people would react to my openness, to finding out about my condition, to learning what I go through. It could go one of two ways: being praised for my courage and supported through this journey, or having most people I know run for the hills. In all likelihood, it would be a combination. While most people have had the ware withal not to run away yelling loudly about it, I’m sure there are people who might be a bit more leery of getting close to me after knowing about my condition and the bit of emotional flip-flopping it can cause. A majority of people have been supportive, however, including many of whom I didn’t expect to react one way or the other (i.e. I didn’t even expect them to read my blogs).

For me, much of dealing with my fears is about acceptance – of myself and of the particulars of my life.  This doesn’t apply so much to fears of physical things (I’m petrified of bees, because I’m allergic), but to situations. In the theme of openness, I thought I’d express some fears that I’ve dealt with throughout my life, and in some instances, still do. With these, I’ll share the way I’ve begun to logically try to think about each fear, which I do best when not right in the moment. In sharing, I hope this helps others to start thinking through their own fears, and how they can view them differently. These are in no particular order than the one in which they came to me when compiling this list.

1. People will think I’m crazy, walk away from me, or react in some other way negatively.

My logical reaction: They might. And if they do, are those people I want in my life? Not particularly. Besides, everyone has their own demons. Mine just come with a name and DSMIV listing, and I’m just more open about mine than a lot of people.

2.  I’m going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life.
My logical reaction: This is true. And I’m really lucky for the medication and for the support that helps me. There’s no “curing” my condition, so I might as well learn how to live with it and be happy overall.  I have also realized that I want to use my condition for good – to help others through support, awareness and education.

3. I’m going to end up alone.

My response: I’m quite sure there’s no condition required to have this fear. In fact, I’d bet at least 50 percent of people that have gone through a bad breakup or divorce has had this thought at least once. In reality, I probably won’t be. It might take a while, but I have time.

4.  People won’t understand.
My response: They don’t have to understand exactly how it feels. I don’t (thankfully) understand how many conditions feel. But I can listen when someone tries to explain, I can empathize and I can support them in the way that they need. Sometimes, I just have to say “I’m having a bad cyclothymia day” or “my (hymponaic or depressed) cycles are bad today” and that has to be enough. Basically, some days, I’m not on my A game. No one is “on” all of the time. If I can educate those close to me about what I need from them during those times – even if it’s to be left alone – then they know better what to expect from me, and I from them. Communication is key.

Do you have fears you’re working through or need help understanding? I realize some people might not feel comfortable sharing these yet. They can be deep and personal. If you do, though, either in a group or privately, I’m happy to listen.  I feel that understanding, and ultimately conquering ones fears, is one of the most important steps in being happy with and loving oneself and one’s life.  

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