Tackling Fear

Around 3 this morning I woke up to a loud sound (probably outside of our home). I rolled over and woke my husband up to see if he could hear anything downstairs. He checked the baby monitor to see if the boys were okay first, then he opened our bedroom door to listen for what I thought could have been an intruder.
This probably happens once a year. He’s super compliant and very brave in these situations (because I’m kinda crazy and it has never been an intruder).
Before I was married and living with my husband, I was living in a prefab home that was at the edge of an apple orchard in Hendersonville, NC. It was a rickety little house that was actually two prefab rooms squished together. There was a huge seam running down the center of the living room.
I lived here for a year. It was perfect for me! I was living by myself, about two miles from the school where I was working, and rent was super cheap (probably because I was renting from the principal of the school, and he knew what I made).
I’m not sure if I ever really slept in that house. I think I may have just entered some trance that resulted in rest. I was terrified there! I never wanted to close my eyes.
I usually got home around 11:30 in the evening II worked from 3-11). I’d call my then boyfriend as I was getting in my car to leave the school. He’d talk to me all the way to my house. I’d drive up the gravel driveway, run to my front door with my key in hand (kinda pointed outward and ready to attack), unlock the door, and run to my room. Then I’d sit in bed watching shows and videos until I couldn’t anymore.
I didn’t like the silence. I just knew that if I was going to be murdered it would be on the edge of that apple orchard, in my adorable peach colored house. I made it!
I never tackled that fear. I was rescued by a handsome man who proposed to me in the living room of that rickety house and later swept me off to Austin, TX. Now we both sleep, and if I get scared I just make him deal with it!
I have a ton of other fears, though. Getting married didn’t take care of all of them. If anything- I’ve got more fears now.
So what is fear? I couldn’t sleep after the mysterious banging noise this morning, so I tried to rack my brain for how I define fear.
It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. It’s an emotion. But what causes it? Is it faulty wiring? Is it a belief that something can hurt me?
I finally dozed back off after deciding that I think that fear (my fear at least) is caused by a firm belief that something is harmful or dangerous (to me or anyone really…this is what really gets the ball rolling for anxious moms.)
Today I’m going to share some of the things that I am afraid of, and how I’m tackling those fears. Some of these fears are things that I still struggle with, but many of them have transitioned from fears to friends. Several of the things that I used to fear greatly have become the things that have grown me the most. I’ll explain more as they come up.
My fears
I am obviously not super comfortable around poisonous spiders and snakes, but those aren’t the types of fears that I’m going to be discussing today. There are things that are somewhat reasonable to fear, and things that aren’t. I’ll be talking about my generally unreasonable fears. The ones that were keeping me from living my life.
  •  Being Exposed- I don’t mean unintentionally becoming nude and being forced to run across the stage at my high school graduation (although, how terrifying?!). I’m talking about a fear of people finding out ‘who I really am’ or ‘what’s really inside my heart.’ I’ve mentioned before that I used to feel like my heart was out of alignment or something, like although I was doing good things, I was not good because of some ugly black thing in the center of my heart.   I have since learned that this thing is my human nature, and that as hard as I try to hide it, it’s going to be seen. I’ve stopped trying to hide the fact that I’m not perfect, and that I’m sometimes driven by what I want and not what’s best for the good of everyone. I still don’t love the fact that I’m not entirely morally pure, but I’m learning that I was holding myself to an impossible standard. I was always afraid that someone would expose me for me. I was afraid of myself, and that’s never a good thing! We are all human. We all have a human nature. Not one of us is God. I’ve decided to stop trying to be ‘God like” and let the process of refining and shaping my heart happen naturally. I’m now more open to learning, more confident in who I have been made to be, and less afraid ALL THE TIME! This has been the biggest fear that I’ve tackled so far.      How’d I do it? By trusting the good and encouraging things that people said about me personally, and by choosing to believe the good things that I read about people as a whole. I had to be honest about my fear, and acknowledge how it was impacting my life. As I did that I opened myself up to healing. I let friends and mentors know how I felt about myself and they swiftly and gently corrected me. They told me about their own shortcomings. They revealed the darkest parts of their own human nature, and it helped. So, instead of fearing exposure, I exposed myself- and it has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself!
  • Medical Issues- When I was a kid I had a series of brain surgeries caused by a recurring brain tumor. My dad was hospitalized a lot (for meningitis, hepatitis, cellulitis- all several times). My mom has been isolated to a wheel chair for as long as I’ve been alive, and she’s legally blind. All of this kinda resulted in a fear of unanticipated medical issues. Honestly, for a decade after my last brain surgery, every headache or dizzy spell would scare the boogers out of me! Then when I became a mom, I’d panic every time one of my boys seemed like he had a headache. I was living under the assumption that something bad was going to happen, and WHEN it did, I wasn’t going to be able to handle it. I was choosing to let my fear control the way that I was enjoying motherhood. I let it rule my thoughts. We were at the doctors office every time the boys coughed because I was afraid of missing something big (because you know coughing is a chief sign of a slow growing brain tumor! no.) This fear can’t be considered tackled, but I think that we can safely categorize it is a friend. I haven’t panicked over a headache of my own in a couple of years, and my boys headaches are all likely caused by the fact that they’re always headbutting each other (boys are nuts!). I’ve learned that although it will be uncomfortable when medical issues arise (for me, my husband, my boys), we will get through it, because we are capable and we’re not alone! For some reason I thought that bravery was the key to getting through medical stuff. Like, I could only make it through if I was a pillar of strength who welcomed pain. Seeing the pain of others has taught me that that’s just not true. My own abilities and allowances have nothing to do with how well I will suffer. Strength comes from external sources, and it comes in abundance when you let it! So, I’m tackling this fear by choosing to be an active part of a community, and by caring about the suffering of others. It’s kinda like exposure therapy.
  • Abandonment- I think this stems from my insecurities, which I’ve discussed in other posts and a bit in the “exposure” bullet above, but I’ve always been afraid that people would leave me- especially my husband and my friends. I’ve never been abandoned by a parent, or sustained anything that would have caused extreme attachment issues, so I have no clue why my insecurities manifested in this way, but they did. From the beginning of my relationship with my husband I have always given him an ‘out’. If we fought, I’d offer to sacrificially break up with him so he didn’t have to leave me. In friendships I never got too attached because I knew that it could only end in pain. The thought of a loved one leaving me still isn’t pleasant, but I no longer classify it as a fear because I no longer see it as presenting harm or danger to me. I now know that IF someone chooses to leave, it’s their prerogative. My job is to love and enjoy my husband and my friends, and in doing so, I’ve found that I feel much more secure in my relationships. Fearing abandonment was pushing people away (I thank God everyday for my husband, who stuck it out because he loved me. He could have easily been scarred by my doubt. He could have easily run and it wouldn’t have been his fault at all!) I can’t really give you specifics when it comes to tackling this one. I think it’s a lot like the work that I put into the other two. My insecurities have shrunk since I’ve been willing to admit them, and my being more involved in my relationships has taught me that people benefit from having me in their lives as much as I benefit from their presence in mine.

Y’all, there are like a bazillion other fears that I have had the joy of checking off of my ‘tackling fears’ list as a result of these same principals. So instead of listing all of them (and I’m serious, there are a ton), I’m going to list the things that helped me tackle them…

  1.  Being open about my fears
  2. Listening to the people around me
  3. Praying/reading my Bible/reading other helpful literature
  4. Trusting people- I have no concrete solution for trusting people. I just decided to act as if I trusted people, and eventually I did.
  5. Trusting myself and my abilities- again, no step by step guide, I just decided that I wasn’t broken and I started implementing trusting behaviors (stopped shaming myself, started caring for myself). The trust eventually came.
  6. Saying nice things to myself- whenever I realized that I was speaking lies to myself, I just reversed them. It felt really silly at first, but I eventually stopped speaking lies to myself. I eventually started to believe the reversed lies, and now I don’t have to do this silly exercise that often because I’ve stopped lying to myself (for the most part).

Fear is a jerk! It is powerful and overbearing. Don’t let it rule your life! Reach out to others. Seek the help of a mental health professional (I DID!). Take medication if you need it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your spouse, your friends, your family. ACT, because you’ll feel so much better once you stop the cycle of fear that you may be trapped in.

I know that at one point my fears seemed too big to tackle. There were even times that I didn’t realize that I was being ruled by them. They’re sneaky sometimes, but they can infiltrate everything in your life.

I hope that this has been an encouragement to someone who is struggling like I was. You are not faulty! You can feel better!

Please feel free to like, follow, comment, and share. I hope you all have an awesome FRIDAY!!

-LJ Brehm



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