Fear Is My Twisted Friend

Fear. Fear. Fear. Are you scared yet? Probably not. But for me, this word strikes a dark chord. It dredges up bad memories, causing dread to climb into my throat. And for once, I’m not being dramatic.

Now let me explain. I’m nearly thirty, and I have found a good place in life. However, that was not always the case. When I was sixteen years old, back in the day of the dinosaurs, I lost the woman who helped my mother raise me. As a disillusioned teen, I bottled my grief up. I pretended losing her didn’t really matter. I would be fine. Everyone else would be fine.

But I wasn’t fine. I was barely surviving the emotional turmoil eating away at me. However, I wasn’t about to tell a soul. I wasn’t going to show my fear. That would allow people to see my weakness, and I didn’t want anyone to suspect that I was fragile—in any way, shape, or form.

A year after losing the person who meant the world to me, I had my first panic attack. It wasn’t anything like what I would have expected. I didn’t need a paper bag to hyperventilate in. I didn’t need to put my head between my legs. No, I needed a trip to the hospital. See I didn’t know what was going on with my body. The sudden choking sensation, the numbness and tingling, the out of body feeling, and the inability to catch my breath didn’t make a lick of sense to a seventeen year-old version of myself. All I understood, all I could process was the pure, undiluted panic pouring through my veins. And of course, the more scared I became, the worse the attack became. After hours in the emergency room, the doctor told me what had happened then he sent me on my merry way. But I was forever changed.

Flash forward a couple of months, I’m sitting in my freshman anatomy class in college, and it hits me—again. Fear. Terror. Total panic. And that was it. I raised my hand and made some pithy excuse before rushing out of class. Yet again, I didn’t understand what was going on. I do have a thick skull, after all. I had been through the panic attack before, but I was still at a complete loss. My rational mind took a vacation for a short period of time. So of course, I wound up visiting my doctor. And he told me exactly what the ER doctor had. You’re having panic attacks. 

By now, I was starting to get the picture. But I didn’t like it. Not one bit. A control freak with a panic disorder? A Kabuki-mask wearing almost-woman with a panic disorder? Me with a panic disorder? It was horrifying. So guess what…more panic attacks started to bombard me.

Over the next two years, I had so many attacks that I lost count. It got so bad that I feared everything, and I truly mean everything. I eventually developed agoraphobia. Yep, more fun stuff for me. The agoraphobia prohibited me from even leaving the house. Unless someone forced me to go somewhere, I couldn’t do it. Even then, the trips were few and far between. The fear paralyzed me that much.

So you might be asking how I conquered the fear. Well, here it is. I talked myself out of the panic. Sound strange? It kind of is.

With two years of debilitating panic attacks under my belt, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t live like that anymore. I wanted to go places. I wanted to be a real person with a life, not someone who lived and died in my own home. Yes, that fear crossed my mind—more than once. But that is another story.

For the next few months, I found a way to fight the fear and win. As Susan Jeffers book says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Well, I did. It wasn’t easy to feel the fear. Hell, it was downright hard. But I did it. Whenever I felt the panic attack coming on, I would let myself feel the fear. I would allow myself to think as rationally as possible through the terror whipping through me. I’d think about being strong, about overcoming my problem. I’d talk myself through whatever fear plagued me at that moment in time. Yes, the fears changed—constantly. I’d even rationalize why I wasn’t dying during the attacks. Yes, that was one of my most prominent thoughts. “I’m dying” was one of my favorite fears. I can’t even tell you how many times those two words spilled from my lips or plagued my thoughts when I was having an attack. It was probably in the thousands, and that is not an exaggeration either.

Once I regained control of my panic attacks, I had another problem—a huge one. How do I go out in public? How do I leave myself that vulnerable? Well, that was something that took me a long time to work through. Each day, I would force myself to do something I hadn’t before. I started small with trips to the mailbox. Then I branched out. Let me tell you, fear became my constant companion all over again. But I forced myself to feel the fear then do it anyway.

Now here I am…twelve years later. I rarely fear things because I did that enough for ten lifetimes during those two years. I won’t say that I feel no fear because that would be an outright lie. I’m still scared of spiders and heights. I still fear the big things in life, the things everyone fears. But, and that is a big but, I can now feel the fear without panicking. I can experience fear without having to hide from what I feel. I no longer seek shelter in my home for weeks at a time. I can drive and go wherever I want. I am who I am. I am who I want to be. And I’m grateful for that.

Sometimes I think about how much fear controlled my life, and it breaks my heart to know that I wasted so much time. Other times, I think about how much fear changed my life, how much it taught me, and how much it transformed me and my life path. So I have to say that in an insanely twisted way fear is my friend. Strange, I know. But guess what, I’m a very strange girl.

Have a happy Tuesday, 69ers! XOXOXO!

Love and cherries,

-Mia

Categories: Uncategorized | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Fear Is My Twisted Friend

  1. Laurie P

    Thank you so much Mia. In the span of 9 months I had 4 car accidents. So driving wasn’t on my fun things to do list anymore. And I started getting little periods of feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath. I just dealt with it. And I kept going on. I am currently on disability because of panic attacks. The day I made myself so sick, to the point of vomiting at the thought of going to work I knew I had a problem. Then getting fired on top of that just added to my problem. So I’m slowly working my way through this, because I now also don’t want to leave the house anymore either. So thank you for giving me hope.

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    • Mia Ashlinn

      You are very welcome, Laurie. I’m glad that I gave you hope. It is not an easy path (which you definitely know). But it will make you stronger in the end. I know that probably sounds trite and silly. However, it is the truth. I remember hearing so many people telling me how they got through the attacks, and I just couldn’t imagine ever being able to pull through it. But I did. And I know you can. Just be strong. If you ever need someone to talk to, email me at miaashlinn@gmail.com. I’m very willing to talk with anyone about the attacks and help in any way that I can. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands can make a difference. 🙂

      Like

  2. Thank you.

    Like

  3. Tara Rose

    Thank you for this. You’re brave to share your story. I know it will help countless others. 🙂

    Like

    • Mia Ashlinn

      I hope it helps, Tara. If it makes a difference for even one person then it will be worth it. 🙂

      Like

  4. Thanks for sharing. Lots of courage went into this post and into climbing out of your darkness. You should be proud~

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    • Mia Ashlinn

      Empetrova, opening up is hard for me – especially about something like this. But it is my hope that someone else out there will take something from my story. Or maybe, they’ll realize they’re not alone in the fear. After going through it, I want people to find their way out of the darkness and into the light. The world out there is a beautiful place. It just took me a while to see that. Now that I have, I want everyone to get a chance to see it. No regrets, you know? 🙂

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  5. Sky Robinson

    It is amazing that you were able to overcome that, and for sharing yourself and giving hope to everyone out there struggling.

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    • Mia Ashlinn

      People are far stronger than they realize, Sky. I found that out the hard way. But that’s okay. I found out and that’s what matters. 🙂

      Like

  6. Elizabeth

    I am so glad that you were able to overcome this. What a brave admission. I hope this helps someone else with similar issues.

    Like

    • Mia Ashlinn

      Me too, Elizabeth. I want to help people suffering from panic attacks. It is a very lonely and debilitating issue that controls a person mind, body, and soul.

      I struggled to write this post. I knew I wanted to say so many thing, but I didn’t know how to say them. But when I was done, I felt a strange surge of freedom. I guess I don’t talk about it often enough to others. 🙂

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  7. thanks for sharing your story. so glad you are doing better. i have had a few “panic attacks”. woke up out of a dead sleep and felt this worst feeling/fear ever.
    i also went through a period where i didn’t want to venture out on my own. i had become deathly ill with my Crohn’s disease and spent several months in the hospital. i had a life saving, life altering surgery while i was in the hospital. i had sunk into a deep depression and then the fear kicked in. if my boyfriend at the time wasn’t with me, i stayed home. normally i worked a 40 hour work week and also had a billion things to do after work with family, friends, house, you name it. it took until i went back to work a year later for some of the fear to subside (and that was because i had to go), but i don’t think it has truly ever left. i pick the situations i want to be in, who i am with, and where i go. i don’t let it keep me from any important event, and i am on the go for the most part; but i am not as carefree about it like i once was.

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    • Mia Ashlinn

      girlfromwva, I know exactly what you are talking about. It is different. Going somewhere because you have to versus wanting to isn’t the same at all. However, it sounds like you are on the right track. Hopefully, one day, you will be back to your old self or an even better version of yourself. 🙂

      I’m so glad to hear that you had a life saving surgery, and that you are doing better. I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to deal with Crohn’s disease. I had a young friend who suffered from it, but her case wasn’t that bad. Or that’s what the doctor said. Anyway, I saw how hard it was on her. So I’m happy to hear that you are doing better. 🙂

      Like

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