Fear is such a strange thing to me, probably because I spent my entire life eaten with anxiety. I never really understood the difference between a phobia or fear and just living normally everyday until I got a handle on my behaviors. I mean, when your panic and paranoia make everything seem like a threat, and your experience indicates that actually very few things are a real threat, then understanding fear is a weird and bumpy road. Still, there are things that freak me out.
Fear of Losing another kid
No brainer, right? Well, there’s a difference between being a parent and fearing that something might happen to your offspring, and then actually going through it and realizing just how little control you have over the lifespan of your progeny. It’s even worse when there are clear and present dangers that you really don’t have any control over.
I can’t look inside Daniel’s brain and predict when a really big seizure is going to impact, say, his ability to breathe, nor can I wrap him in a giant bubble and prevent him from falling in a dangerous manner when the next seizure (big or small) happens. And really, that is a serious concern: Kids with LGS have a 1 in 10 chance or so of not making it to adulthood. So, clearly this is not a paranoia, it’s a real thing, and it’s a fear that I live with daily.
That’s the background, but here’s what I’m really afraid of. If Daniel doesn’t make it to [enter age here], it’s over for him. He doesn’t have anything else to worry about. I, on the other hand, know that I could fall (again) into such a state of despair that I don’t know if I could find my way out. It was bizarre luck that got me through last time, finding the right combination of people and therapies, and I know I could turn back to them if it happens again, but there has to be a willingness to want to get better, to want to recover, and sometimes grief and sorrow preclude that condition.
Fear of dying unexpectedly, leaving things undone
Again, if I die unexpectedly, I’m not going to really care anymore, right? I’m dead, it’s over, all done… but I might tend to worry a little excessively over the care and feeding of my family after that. This is something that weighs on my mind probably more than usual around the holidays, for some reason. I’m not sure what the association is, but it freaks me out.
I’ve gone so far as to prepare a number of documents with instructions and passwords and all kinds of things like that, just in case. I update them periodically, but I try to catch myself before it becomes paranoia (is it paranoia? Could it be? We all die sometime, who doesn’t plan for that?), and I hardly ever remember to put them in the fire safe.
In my imagination, it happens when a car veers off from the other side of the road and hits me head on. It happens when a gust of wind picks up my car and smashes it over the bridge. It happens when I am getting a yearly checkup and they find something weird, something aggressive.
It’s not the same thing as being afraid of dying. I’ve known Death my whole life, and I’m not afraid of that event for myself. It will happen, and it will pass, and that will be that, but I don’t want my sons to grow up missing me – especially not when I know how hard it is to miss so many people you can’t talk to anymore. When I’m old and have lived my life, I expect there will be a grand going-away party for me when I’m gone, but before that… I fear their experience of loss, especially at such crucial ages.
Fear of Going into the ocean
This might actually be a sensory sensitivity thing, but I really, really have a hard time going into the ocean. Lakes, too, kinda freak me out, but oceans are especially weird. Part of it is probably the way the wet sand feels in my toes and against my feet, but even with water shoes on, it feels weird.
It’s also kind of invasive, I think. I don’t like the idea of invading another creature’s space, and things rubbing up against me freaks me out like nobody’s business. It’s enough that the last time I went swimming in a natural body of water, I suffered a near complete shutdown. I know (now) that it was a defense mechanism because I was starting to panic from having so many things rubbing against me, and in the shutdown state, I could almost enjoy it, but then the fear came back and I had to get back to shore ASAP.
I don’t think I’ve always had that. I remember playing in the Gulf of Mexico as a kid, so probably not… but maybe there’s a memory there that triggered the phobia. Whatever the case, I have no burning desire to frolic in the waves, so I’m not too concerned.
Fear of Being Unemployable
Probably strongly related to my fears of leaving my family untended, I am constantly eaten by the nagging fear that my breadth and width of experience is so vast that I have no specialty and that I am essentially unemployable for any kind of a decent wage. It doesn’t matter how many things I do well, it seems like I can never find a decent paying job that uses those things to good effect.
Of course, that leads me to the whole idea of self-employment and having my own little mini-agency, but that brings on a whole second set of fears related to the first one, similar to that whole “what if I throw a party and no one shows up” thing, except with paychecks and rent being overdue.
I used to have this button that said, “I do many things well, none of which generate income,” and while it’s a crappy saying, it seems to be the words I live by. Another extended span of unemployment is going to drive me f**king crazy, I’m sure, especially now that I have three kids at home. It’s a pronounced fear, definitely.
Fear of being merely tolerated
This is a depression/self-deprecating fear, one that I (think) I have overcome really well in the past, but it still creeps up every now and again, usually when other stressors are in place (having eaten wheat on accident, for instance, or being sleep deprived for too long).
The il-logic goes like this: It was easier for Craig to say yes when I proposed because getting untangled would have been messy, and it was nice that he didn’t have to cook and do laundry. Like a joke or a lie that’s taken too far, it took on a life of its own, and now there are multiple “coping mechanisms” that he uses to tolerate my presence, even though he is consciously and actively affectionate and shows me love on a daily basis.
Likewise, friends only come over because they feel sorry for me, my “self-medicating” around people (having a few glasses of wine) is really tawdry and frowned-upon, no one thinks I’m funny (they’re laughing because it would be rude not to), my writing is terrible (they’re my friends and don’t want to hurt my feelings), and really nothing that I do is especially appreciated or valued because I’m just a sorry excuse for a person, and I’m entirely too weird and off-the-wall to be any kind of success ever on any level.
This feeds back into the “unemployable” fear, and then it collides with the “dying too soon” fear, and then I end up in a conflict of whether or not everyone would just be better off without me, because what the hell do they know, clearly I don’t contribute anything positive to the human race…
So… yeah… fear is weird.
Lucky for me, I have a LOT of experience overcoming fears and knocking them right out of the ballpark now, so when they come up, and I deal with them quickly. Sometimes, though, you just need to feel a little afraid, you know?