Welcome to Fear

I’ve been trying to write a post for weeks. I started it on a work trip, struggled to get words down and then wondered how I was going to edit the mess I had created. Last week I traveled again, pulled up the document and….once again didn’t know how to make what I had down into a coherent blog post. With that, I’m going back to the way I seem to write best, vomiting all over this page…you’re welcome.

I’ve been having trouble putting into words all the emotional shifting that has been bombarding me over the past couple of months. I’ve experienced joy, pain, fear, anger, irritation, anxiety and grief, often in the same week, maybe even over a day. The constant cycling has been exhausting, as well as trying to hold onto my full-time work as I waited to be able to transition into part-time work. During this time, I’ve had the conversation with my mom that didn’t really give me what I needed to move forward with her and ultimately made the decision to for-real-this time let go of my parents. Unlike other times you’ve been privy to if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, this decision wasn’t made in anger, it was made from a new place of self-care and understanding mixed with sadness. I thought I should be able to move forward with my family, until I sat in a therapy session and these words escaped my lips, “I guess I just grit my teeth and get through it”. By the end of that session, I changed my tune to “I don’t think I can see them”. That particular session centered around how Stretch Guy triggered me, how I had realized that I was reacting to him as if he were my parents, and landed squarely in fear. By the time I got to my therapist, I had been able to be straight with Stretch Guy that I had realized how I was reacting to him and apologized, so that part was relatively ok at that point. The fear though, that was something else bubbling below the surface in my interactions with him. I started talking with my therapist about fearing rejection, she effectively drew out of me that I was scared of Stretch Guy rejecting me once he found out who the real me was. Most of the time in her office, I struggled to find the words to talk about how I felt and other than recognizing fear, I couldn’t articulate. I didn’t know where it came from or even why I would be scared of being rejected by Stretch Guy. It didn’t make sense to have that kind of fear around someone I’ve been able to learn how to trust. She pointed out that when that happens, it’s probably pre-verbal. This means that the conditioning of me trying to meet everyone else’s expectations started before I could talk.

As a baby, I was taught to perform to expectations. Once I realized this, I started processing what it meant for me and how I’ve moved through my life. As I processed over the next couple of days, I saw Dr. M who noted that it seemed something heavy was hanging out in my back. He also noted that I was going through a shitty part of the healing process and advised me to not make any major decisions or changes until it passed. I followed up the appointment with Dr. M with a stretch appointment as I often try to do to reinforce to my muscles to stay relaxed. By the time I got to that appointment, I was fearful, anxious and feeling shame. Brene Brown often talks about speaking shame and how that takes the power away from shame. So, since I was visibly upset anyway, I went ahead and told Stretch Guy I was processing a metric ton of fear and it seemed to be fear of rejection, that if I’m not what people want or think I am that they will reject me. Which then led to some revealing on his part what it was like to get to know me over the past year or so. Listening to those words and taking them to heart led me to another realization.

I was so afraid of being rejected for not performing that I wasn’t anything at all. I was afraid of not meeting expectations, but I didn’t know what those expectations were so I squashed all of me, put my head down and tried to figure out who I should be. People never saw who I was, just who I thought I should be and I built up this armor of being walled off, performing academically, basically being a robot. My only emotional outlet was to get angry and explode when I couldn’t take the pressure anymore leading to more shame spiraling, further walling myself off from human contact.

I think they call this a breakthrough. It’s so different from earlier in the summer where I started feeling emotions and being able to handle them better. This staring at myself in the mirror and having a real sense of what other people see and experience.