Be Afraid But Live Anyway

Be Afraid But Live Anyway
Do you know who wrote this?

Back in May of 2013, I came across the above image on Facebook that I call Be Afraid But Live Anyway.

It reminded me of a session I had with a psych doc about some years ago. It was during a time that I had become very agoraphobic (not my first experience nor my last) because of a trip to the grocery store.

I remember my oldest son was walking alongside me while I had my boy/girl twins in the cart. I was asking the twins to not stand up and the eldest to stop touching everything when a man approached us and started addressing my children. He said something like “You need to listen to your mother. Very bad things happen to kids when they don’t listen. Especially little girls.”. Then he looked me in the eye and verbatim said, “I know your mother knows what I mean. Don’t you?

You know the bad things that can happen to little girls?”

Well, I didn’t take that in the way it was probably intended. He was probably harmless, maybe trying to be helpful to an overwhelmed mom, and was just bad with the wording. I couldn’t see that though at that moment. Instead, it acted as a trigger. Stupidly those words brought every nightmare I ever had about my children to life and simultaneously made all the things that had been done to me play in my head all the same time. And I felt it all: the fear, the pain, the humiliation — every scrap of it — all in the space of a few moments.

I pushed my son behind me, stood in front of the cart, and then just froze. He wandered off (I don’t know if he said anything else), but it probably took me a good five or more minutes to actually be able to take another step. I pretty much terrified my kids because I couldn’t hear them asking me why we weren’t moving along. I stayed silent with tears streaming down my face feeling like an idiotic frightened little girl.  Once I got enough of a hold on myself, we checked out immediately and sat in the car for a bit until I could drive.

I was so angry at myself. If I couldn’t just blow the guy off, why couldn’t I get angry instead? Why couldn’t I be the type of girl who could just say “Fuck Off!” and not give the incident another thought? I was also angry because one of my thoughts was “I am fat now so these things shouldn’t happen to me anymore”.

Instead, I went home and stayed home for quite some time.

So, back to the psychiatrist visit… enough time had passed since that grocery store event but the agoraphobia wasn’t lifting. I do not know how to be afraid but live anyway. I wanted to know why and the frustration over it was greater than the fear of going to see the doctor. Unfortunately, the best he had to offer was…

“If every time you went outside you found it was raining, then you would eventually learn to not leave the house without an umbrella. If you feel that every time you leave the house something bad will happen, then you will eventually stop leaving.”

And he left it there.

What I had to figure out on my own is what’s said in the above graphic …

Be Afraid But Live Anyway.

It took years and a lot of work, but I learned to do just that.

Unconsciously, I have gotten even heavier — in part as a shield, but I have tried to learn to accept the fears and Live Anyway. At least here online. I push past the absolute terror to be open and vulnerable and to constantly take risks. A lot of it is paying homage to the saying… fake the smile until you feel it. I talk a lot online about loving yourself and being brave and finding self-confidence. Some days it’s real and I’m sharing and other days, I am posting to convince myself. All with the goal in mind to be okay with the fear and live my life anyway.

You are braver and stronger than you realize.

Fast Forward: As mentioned above, I originally wrote this in 2013 and it is now 2022. I still have days when I cannot leave the house, but those moments no longer turn into months or even weeks. My time as a mental health advocate during the early 2000s ended a few months after writing this post ironically. Later that year, my marriage started to crumble and I became unable to write any longer (that story is for another post though.) My fear of people in general, but specifically men was made worse by what happened in the years since. At the same time, I have learned better coping skills and have adapted to living within my limits. There is no happy magical complete healing to share, but I can tell you that learning self-acceptance and self-love has made for a more peaceful life. And maybe that is okay enough. For now.

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