I fear the dark. I fear new places. I fear buses, airplanes, trains, and the back of SUVs. I fear elevators and rollercoasters and I even used to fear movie theaters. But no. In reality, I don’t fear these things. I fear the anxiety, the panic that all these places can stir up inside me. I fear eternity. I fear being trapped.
Let me start from the beginning.
When I was very little, I was shoved into a trashcan by two neighborhood boys. They shut me in and wouldn’t let me out. I have no memory of this and no witnesses. All I know is that I came running home sobbing and telling my mom what happened.
It took me a very long time to realize how much that moment has shaped my life. I was starting to see it in so many areas. There was a time when drinking water with lemon was the scariest thing, something I actually had to overcome in therapy. It was the seeds. It was irrational.
You see, about 10 years ago now – wow. I had to take an “I need to compose myself” break here. This was shocking. So many years I have suffered. So many exhausting years – I was eating a burrito (oh my gosh that sounds so ridiculous).. *sigh*… So I was eating a burrito and I swallowed too big of a bite. It felt like it was going to get stuck and I instantly launched into an intense panic attack. I went outside and got myself to calm down but something had changed in that moment. A switch was flipped and from that point on, I would be dealing with the effects of this moment for a long time to come.
My counselor one time asked me to visualize anxiety. “What would it look like?” This is the best thing I could ever describe it as:
This was a dark, black smoke filling my body at all times. Sometimes it was so thick it was all I could see, all I could feel. It would choke me, robbing me of breath and the light from my soul. It would burn and fill my eyes with tears. It would tear me down, it would break me. Over and over again. I would go blind. I would shut down. I would break free then I would break down.
This was not a sustainable way to live so about a year ago I got help. I started seeing a counselor and it was LIFE CHANGING. I could go into a year’s worth of what I learned, and maybe someday I will. For now, I want to share my story in the present, I want to share my progress as I continue to learn to live with anxiety, to cope and to eventually, hopefully, be free of it.
I am still scared of the dark.
I am 33 years old and I have to use a night light. I used to be ashamed of that because I didn’t know why. Let me explain a little more. I’m not really afraid of the dark. The dark makes me do weird – and potentially dangerous – things. Here’s a quick story:
Over 10 years ago, around the same time (probably after) the burrito/choking incident, I was in Florida with a friend. We were in a hotel and up on the 11th floor if I recall. I had a dream that I still vividly remember. I was in a room, a dark room, and I couldn’t see any doors or windows. I started panicking (in my dream) while fumbling around this room looking for a way out. I felt for a handle and found it. I opened the door and there I was. Standing on the 11th story balcony looking out over the ocean. But I was no longer in my dream. I was now awake. Had I not woke up..
Needless to say, we leaned a chair up against the door handle to be sure I wouldn’t do it again (I mean who knows what would’ve happened had the light not brought me back to reality.) To this day, I still sleep with a light on. If I don’t, I will wake up, usually screaming in a full-blown panic. I don’t ever have panic attacks as violent or painful as the ones I have when I dream in dark rooms.
I have come a long, long way.
I drink water with lemon. I go on elevators (though I am picky and I usually avoid them. Plus, stairs = good exercise anyways.). I ride in the back of my car but I have a hard time in other cars. I haven’t yet gone on a plane again but working towards that. No trains for now. I love movie theaters.
I have ups and downs and plenty of setbacks but I’m moving forward, always. I’ll be keeping up with my progress as I start my EMDR this week. Stay tuned and if you’re the praying sort, please keep me there, in your prayers. This doesn’t just affect me, it affects everyone around me, especially my husband and my baby boy. It keeps us from living our lives to the fullest and that…. THAT I hope to change.
For myself. For them.