“Untill you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you”- Jon Kabat-Zinn
You know that fear you have…spiders, heights, darkness, small spaces. Now, consider feeling that fear on a consistent basis whilst attempting to function and not freak out. This includes learning to drive a car, revising, going through customs at an airport, being productive at work, entertaining family and my personal favourite; holding a conversation especially one that is based on trust and intimacy.
At it’s worst, I can feel so disconnected over a period of time that I have walked around feeling like I am genuinely in a dream, so spaced out and unattatched to everything around me that I might as well not have been there at all. At other times I have felt like I am in a fish tank looking out into the world, like there is a screen separating me from the rest of the world. I can see everything happening in front of my eyes but I can’t reach out. I can’t make a move to communicate effectively. I have often struggled to finish my own sentences, never mind maintain eye contact and stop myself from awkwardly stuttering my words. I can be in mid conversation and my mind will just go completely blank. I completely shut down and disconnect because my body is unable to cope with the shear state of fear and panic it is in…like a rabbit in headlights.
I know a lot of people don’t like this word but at times I really just feel like I can’t do anything. Writing that sentence alone brings up that niggly gremlin, that feeling of embarrassment and shame (Brené Brown). That feeling of not being a competent, good enough human being. That feeling of being pathetic but I am learning when that feeling arises now how to soothe it, it’s not easy but necessary if I want to get better
Add to the sense of disconnection, people’s affirmations; no one needs to directly tell you that you aren’t ‘normal’, they can simply point out you are often away with the fairies, not making any sense (“chatting shit” is a phrase that I dread hearing) or in disbelief at a very silly mistake you have just made.
People often say, why don’t you talk about it? Just tell me how you feel…How can you explain to people that the very conversation you are having with them is causing your body to go into panic mode? How can you explain why you are shaking at the idea of being physically close with someone you are attracted to? How can you explain why your mind and body react like this when you don’t understand why it happens yourself?…it just does.
Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to pick my feelings apart. I’ve never quite worked out how my fear is linked to my anxiety, it could be the fear of rejection, the fear of mistrust, my most recent theory is the fear of disconnection. One thing I know is it all links back to the strong feeling of not being good enough, not being worthy. Constantly dreading the moment when someone works out who you really are and then inevitably choosing to leave your company, your conversation, your life. It’s in our nature to want to have answers to everything, because if we can understand it then we can deal with it and move on. I have learnt that there aren’t always answers to things, after all the human brain and the world around us can be very complex and that’s ok.
It takes continual hard work and the never ending journey of life to try to ‘be myself’ and whatever that is supposed to mean when struck with that bolt of fear. Whilst listening to Brené Brown’s book; the power of vulnerability she expresses her definition of “being yourself”; “don’t shrink, don’t puff up, just stand your sacred ground”. She then goes on to explain what she means by this…”don’t shrink”, whatever said person likes you automatically like, “don’t puff up”, become defensive or competitive with whatever is being said…just stand by what you believe.
I have spent a lot of time reading blogs, books and posts on how to be “your authentic self”, searching for the answers. One that I have recently come across that has stuck in my mind, is a great blog article by troubles of a twenty something “first blog post: How to just be yourself” . In this blog, Hannah talks about 3 major points that help her to stay in tune with who she is including staying connected to your inner child. Without sounding like a hippy, I think she has a very important point because if you look at children you can often see how free and uninhibited they are when interacting with each other.
My best friend has become my editor since starting this blog and she told me how she had never noticed me feeling this way so intensely. It’s crazy how differently we see ourselves compared to how even our nearest and dearest see us. I guess there is some truth when they say you never know the internal battles people are fighting, all we can do is be kind.
I have heard a lot how mental illness is just that, an illness or even a collection of illnesses coinciding. To me I have always grown up feeling very anxious and very negative. It is only in these last few years through continuous support, hard work and medication I can now start to separate these feelings as me when I am feeling unwell and like a cold that needs treating know when and how to soothe myself rather than shame myself.