I don’t know if anyone reads these words or why they would be here, but if you find yourself lurking and feel you may have the same struggle as me then I hope you can find solidarity in my words. Or at least find a distraction while you read about someone else’s struggles.
I have anxiety. Many people don’t know this upon first looking at me and many still don’t know even if they had known me for a long time. I am really good at concealing it for one reason, my anxiety only comes out when I am dating someone. My disorder is purely phobia based, there was no traumatic childhood that caused me to be anxious, there was no horrible ex who started my descent into fear; I just grew up sheltered and never learned to accept certain aspects of life. My phobias are: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and fear of spiders. The first three are purely mental states that don’t actually manifest into anything. I can’t avoid failure like I can avoid spiders. I can’t avoid rejection or the future, I can only limit the amount of exposure I get to it and that’s not a way to live. The only way to limit my exposure is by refusing to do anything risky, anything that I have never experienced before. That’s not living, that’s survival.
I once became accustomed to my fear of spiders. One summer, a medium sized spider decided to make a home between my window and the screen. It was perfectly wedged so that if I slide my window open then the spider would crawl into my room. Since I could not afford to move again, I decided I would let it be until winter would inevitably kill it. Well, this spider brought friends and what turned into a small problem led to more and more spiders making homes in and around my window. Some of the spiders were massive and just staring at them made my skin crawl. Winter came around and I saw little of them, but some remained, reminding me to never open my window. Then spring came around and those spiders had babies and the cycle continued. While these creatures made lives outside my window, I was able to observe them. I spent weeks avoiding the window and then I would look at them in glancing and finally sat down and observed them. They were still creepy to me, but the internal alarm within me became muffled when it saw that there was no real threat. I was protected by glass and even if they came inside they were not harmful (I did research on the type of spider they were). They looked sinister and harmful, but they weren’t and I got comfortable with spiders. I wouldn’t pick them up, but if I was outside of my room and found myself face to face with these creatures then I would not scream or run away. I wouldn’t feel the need to kill it either, I would just continue on after acknowledging it. In the back of my mind, I still knew I should be afraid, but my experiences told me that I had been afraid of nothing. I made spiders to be scarier than they really were.
I told that story because my other fears, failure, rejection, the unknown, are just like the spiders. I make them out to be scarier than they are and because I have this fear of them, I avoid them like the plague. But the above is exactly what I need – exposure therapy. To face my fears and understand that the intrusive thoughts I have are harmless and I can face what may come my way. I have to sit down with my fears and study them until they no longer cause me stress. Then I will be free. After that? Who knows what may happen but I’m not going to be scared of what lies beyond my control. You shouldn’t be scared either.