I thought I’d try writing out some of my fears, mostly to see if I can categorize and extrapolate on them to understand them and myself a bit better. We’ll see. Anyway, here they are:
-Rejection, typically of any kind, no matter if I care about being approved of by the person, group, or institution
-Not living up to the expectations of others, even if I know their expectations are ill-founded, or beyond the limits of reason, or don’t reflect my abilities or skill-set
-Being left behind or being forgotten about, confirming that I was never worth inviting or remembering in the first place
- I’m thankful I was never abandoned as a child. My parents were always around and I only got lost in the grocery store that one time.
- Being alone isn’t a problem either. But loneliness is—being abandoned while everyone and everything else continues without me, like I was never needed in the first place, that’s a major anxiety for me.
-That the love I’ve received so far is as good as it’s going to get.
- I’ve been hurt by people who haven’t treated me like a full human being, thinking that because I don’t speak up for myself and my own feelings that I must not feel the pain when they are trampled on.
- I’ve finally started believing that my emotional state is valid, as is my worth as a person, but I still fear that the ones who have hurt me were right to do so, or were extending the full amount of love any person can receive and that my desire to feel truly appreciated and truly seen by a romantic partner is foolish because the pain I’ve gotten is the best I’ll ever get.
-That somewhere out there is someone who fears all the same things I do. I used to believe everyone dealt with the same baggage I did, and it was only my inability to handle being betrayed, rejected, and hurt that separated me from anyone else.
- I now believe that what I experience is distinct although not uncommon; the various problems I have are just that: problems, not normal experiences I am incapable of handling.
- But I fear for how many people are out there who have the same fears and burdens I do but have no way of parsing them or understanding that they are mental health issues, not things they are at fault for struggling with.
- I am truly afraid of how many people out there are crippled by their fear of the world, of all the pain it causes and believe that there is no one out there who understands, or cares, or believes them when they try to articulate just how debilitating being inside their own mind is.
-That I will never be well enough to cling to a normal life.
- I want to get a 9-5 job, but with every rejection I receive, I worry the people who want to hire me have seen how truly broken I am and know I won’t be capable of handling the position they’re offering.
- I’m so tired of being rejected because I can’t present myself as a fully-together person unlike all the other people who are capable of doing so by lying. Everything I have is there, I don’t draw attention to it, but neither do I have the strength to hide it from anyone anymore.
- I truly fear jobs where you are expected to put your emotional state to the side and carry on for hours at a time like you have no fear, no guilt, no pain that you have to keep acknowledging in order to struggle against it. I know the more I try to hide it, the harder it becomes to handle the weight of all of it, so I have to tell people when I’m not able to do something or excuse myself when everything becomes too much.
- And by everything I mean: every insecurity I get seeing everyone happy and fulfilled, every anxiety I have about how everyone sees me and how they must be judging every action I make, every passing fear that a subject of conversation, a sudden request, or a probing question will all but destroy my ability to carry on in that public setting.
- I can’t imagine working at a place where telling someone the truth about all this would be considered unacceptable and that I would be encouraged to “get a handle” on something I’ve struggled with long enough to know it won’t go away just because I grit my teeth enough.
- I desperately want to get back to work, but every application I fill and interview I do that tells me a place will not be kind to me sets me back days, days I spent building up the courage to be able to face the application process again and again.
- That would be one big setback, but combined with getting rejected by the places that seem like they would be legitimately healthy for me to work at, where I could feel at ease and comfortable enough to be myself and produce the kind of quality work I know I am capable of creating, it all becomes too much and I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to work for somewhere where I can earn a living wage.
-That I will be left behind again
- It’s only really been on self-reflection that I started to see just how much I fear being left behind. Not just rejected and ignored, but purposely abandoned by those I want so desperately to be with and emulate.
- I got used to being left behind a lot by other kids. Not everyone liked having me around. I don’t think I ever found a reason why. I know I wasn’t the funniest, the bravest, the most talented, or the most interesting. I was just me.
- But I got ignored when I was a toddler, when I was a kid, a preteen, a teenager, and even nowadays I sometimes feel like I’m not wanted by a lot of people. I honestly don’t know why this is.
- I don’t know what I need to do, what I have to say, or what I am supposed to be like for people to just accept me and want me around.
- I have good friends, great friends even. I have a lot of people in my life who love me for who I am.
- But I never quite been able to overcome the despair that comes from having a bunch of kids leave without a trace when I go to the bathroom, or invite everyone but me to a birthday party, or whisper things about me when they think I can’t hear.
- It seems so stupid to care about things that most kids experience at some point. But that anxiety and fear is still there today. So much of what I fear is still tied to being a little five-year-old, crying at the playground because no one wanted to play with me yet again.
- I don’t want pity for any of this. If there’s anything I want, it would be to make sure no kid ever feels like no one wants to play with her or him.
- I want no child ever feels neglected not only by their peers, but their parents, their teachers, the people who are supposed to care most for them.
- I want no child to ever feel like whenever they try to talk about the depths of fear and despair they feel, that no one tells them it’s perfectly natural and they’ll just get over it eventually. Some do but some don’t.
- Some kids talk to their parents and teachers and pastors and counselors for years before they can find someone who tries to understand just how afraid they are every single day. Someone who says “What you’re feeling isn’t silly or stupid. Your feelings matter and your fears aren’t trivial.”
- I went to one councelor who specialized working with kids. She had a large collection of toys on shelves around her office. She told me to find one that represented each one of my fears (they were slightly different at the time). Then find one that represented me. I honestly didn’t see what I had created until I had finished placing everything. It was a tiny toy Piglet from Winnie the Pooh surrounded by cobras and wolves. That sounds ridiculously on-the-nose, but I swear I had no idea what I was doing until I had finished.
- It spooked me.
- Was this how I felt, like the most defenceless cartoon character of all time surrounded by apex predators from all sides?
- But I was just anxious about my masters’ program and my finances and my engagement falling apart and my friends and family being so far away and no one really understanding just how depressed I really was and how every obligation I had was crushing me so much I felt trapped 500 feet underground with no sunlight and barely any air left.
- Apparently I was much more afraid than I realized.
- I kept berating myself, telling myself that my problems weren’t that big, so I shouldn’t complain, I shouldn’t cry, I should just shut up and get over it all.
- But those fears were larger than anything else in my mind. My sense of self, my esteem, everything that made up who I am was completely surrounded by these anxieties, suffocating and about to be devoured.
- No wonder I felt so small.
- No wonder I felt so helpless.
- My fears ruled my life, slowly crushing everything I had left.
- And they still do.
- I’m still afraid.
- I’m not in my masters program, I have help with my finances, I’m close to my friends and family…
- but I’m still afraid.
- I’m still afraid of being alone
- and I’m still afraid that as soon as I turn my back, everyone will abandon me again
- and that if they do, they’re right to do so, that I’m not worth being around
I usually try and end these blogs with a positive turn, a focus on the hope of the future and how things have gotten better.
They have and they will. I firmly believe this. I know that I feel scared right now, but tomorrow is another day and things will slowly get better, as they have.
But I don’t want to talk about that too much right now. Not because I don’t believe it’s true, because I really do. But because I want to focus on what I’ve written here. Because I’ve tried to hide it all for so long and although I don’t want to embrace these fears, I do want to understand them. I want to understand why an anxiety I had as a toddler is still present today. I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m not afraid of monsters or strangers or even bees (I used to be afraid of bees; now I just feel icky around them. Progress!).
But I am still terrified of being left behind. In all my experiences and growth as a person, that fear has never left nor dissipated. It’s been satiated and reassured, but it has never left or lost its intensity.