Monday, July 22, 2013

Overcoming a Phobia

Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; 
It is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow 
-Alice Mackenzie Swain

For 3 weeks I have barely left my house. For 3 weeks I have dealt with immense FEAR. The silly thing is that this fear is controlling my life. It takes my breath away. It consumes my every thought. I have even found myself holding my breath for too long. This phobia of mine is very embarrassing and is irrational.

For the past 2 years, I have dealt with the incline of being afraid of storms. Even if it's a little bit windy; I am afraid. Even if there is only 10% chance of rain; I am afraid.  If there is a dust storm coming my way, I want to hide in a basement. No joke. Now I check my weather apps and the news 50 times a day to prepare myself if bad weather were coming my way.  It is absurd.  This is not how I want to live my life.

This all started 2 years ago when I was big and pregnant with my son.  There was a bad monsoon storm, and all I could hear was the pelting of rain and hail on my roof, and the howling wind. Hiding in the closet, I called my mother who lived 4 hours away and frantically cried, screaming that I thought the roof was going to fly off. The only way to describe the intensity of this fear is to say that it is equivalent to the fear of being in a tornado. It makes no sense but that's how much it scares me.

Last summer, the monsoon season still scared me but not to the extent it does now. The last 3 weeks have been beyond horrible. To the point that I begged my family to put me in the hospital because it is the only place where I would feel safe.  I wanted some peace and comfort, and thought the hospital would be the only place to find that. I never got my wish, but am trying to find ways to cope with this debilitating phobia.  The crazy thing is that it didn't even dawn on me that I have developed a phobia until this week...  When my counselor showed me a work book titled "Anxiety and Phobias", that's when I knew this has gotten out of hand.  The great news is that he says it is 100% fixable. As long as I am facing my past, present, and future, and attacking this fear, then I can overcome this.

My counselor keeps asking me what happened during my childhood. He keeps asking me over and over again, trying to dig something out.  How the heck does my past have anything to do with my anxiety and fear I'm dealing with today?  To me, the honest answer was that my life felt pretty "normal".  Other than the fact that my parents ended up divorced from one night of abuse, I felt like my family life was pretty normal.  That night when I heard my parents fighting and found my dad pinning my mom on the bed was very traumatic.  I'm still very confused about some stuff though, and have never acknowledged that my dad was verbally harsh with my brother. There were two times growing up when my brother and dad got into raging arguments. When I was 5 and then again around 15, I had to witness my dad being a total jackass (no better word). He used a Judo move on my brother and sat on top of him, holding my brother's arms down to the ground. At 5 years old, I remember running behind a chair, screaming, "Get off him! I'm going to call the police if you don't stop!"  I have always questioned if that is abuse or not... I'm not sure, and that's what bothers me. Then there was the time when I was 15 and was deep in depression. For 3 days straight I did not sleep. I was on suicide watch. My mom stayed up with me for at least 2 days and then needed a break. Within the first 20 minutes of my dad taking over "the watch", he fell asleep on the couch.  I just sat next to him thinking "what in the world?  does he even care? I could go in the other room and hurt myself and he wouldn't even notice."  It was the first time I felt the deep pain of realizing my father was not there for me.  How can a parent fall asleep like that when their child might kill herself?  It is still a memory that angers me to this day.  I also discussed with the counselor that I had been in a car accident with my dad around 4 year old, and then by myself when I was in college. I was not able to get back into a car for awhile. To this day, I try to avoid freeways at all costs.

During last week's session, my counselor said that it sounds like I had a scary childhood. That I have lived in fear for a very long time now...  It didn't dawn on me until now that he is right. I kept trying to convince myself that this was normal life...that there was nothing bad about my childhood. My entire life I have felt like the people closest to me have left me, or I have fear that I will grow up to be like some of my family members. I'm not sure how it all plays into the storm phobia issue, but I am learning that the fear I have held onto my entire life is now showing it's ugly head through my anxiety.

In the last few weeks, I have felt utterly lost. Like the roof is caving in on me. It devastated me to have another major fallout with my dad a few weeks back. This time I think it's totally over. I cannot have him in my life if it's going to cause me more hurt than good.  With that happening, finding out our medical debt is beyond our control, and then the monsoon started, I crumbled. Life got to me. I couldn't take anymore. So the anxiety took the place of everything else and now I'm dealing with fear every second of the day.

But I will say that today I felt real hope.  My first trace of hope in 3 weeks!  Today I didn't have rapid heartbeat, I did not worry that a storm was coming our way. I told myself, "Nothing bad is going to happen. You will survive."  That should be my motto for life. When bad things happen or I get down on myself I should always remind myself that "Bad things might happen, but you will survive".

Although it has been really difficult to share this on social media, I hope that I am not utterly alone. I don't want anyone to think I am crazy (that's my worst fear), or to label me as a "freak". Hopefully someone can understand my "issues" and can relate in one way or another. It is not a happy post. I'm not one to sugarcoat things.  This is about real life. The ugly, the happy, and the honesty that life brings.  I am in the middle of this mess, and maybe a few months from now, a year from now, I will be writing about how I came out on the other side.  Maybe I will have an inspirational story of how I overcame my fear... But until then, I'm working through this tough stuff and becoming stronger.

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