Fear Teaches Me, It Doesn’t Define Me

It started on a late Friday evening in 2011. Although I was consumed with complete happiness with the joy of my first born child, I had deep fears. I never mentioned these fears to anybody, including my husband, for FEAR of being crazy.

If my husband dies, “they” will take my baby away. The government will see that “they” are more capable of taking care of this child. I will never be good enough to raise this child. I know nothing. My actions towards other people were becoming increasingly irrational and it led to constant frustrations between my husband and I.

Fortunately, I never let these thoughts linger for long and within a year, they had all but faded (partly because in all honesty I don’t remember anything, or at least it feels that way). Having my son was the most joyful experience. I loved seeing all his firsts and I found that I really could take care of my child. That I was capable and most importantly, that I was really happy.

Fast forward to August 2012, and after nine months of trying to get pregnant for the second time, I found myself surprised to see that I wasn’t excited to be pregnant. I tried to convince myself that I should be grateful to be expecting. This is what I wanted all along. But, I couldn’t help but question if this is really what I did want. Though I functioned at an exceptional level during the next eight months, I found it difficult to be excited for the birth of my new baby girl. The confusion proved to be rather difficult.

Finally, the long awaited day arrived and my darling baby girl was born. She was beautiful beyond all description. Her head was full of blonde and shiny hair. Her eyelashes were long and beautiful. She IS what I considered to be perfection. And again, I was in love. I find that my fears and rationalizations seemed ridiculous. I was SO happy; I couldn’t imagine ever feeling any different.

Two months postpartum I felt I was experiencing a HUGE shift in my mental state. What I was capable of doing during my pregnancy I found hard, exhausting, and overwhelming. My friend FEAR came back. And I was afraid of him (Ironic, now I think about it). I was scared and felt alone. I didn’t want to tell my husband for FEAR he would think I was crazy.  I used the things I learned in counseling and I tried to rewire my brain by telling myself the truth. I am strong and capable. I am successful, loving, kind, and beautiful. I knew this deep down, but I wasn’t feeling it. I knew that I loved my husband and my two children whom I adore more than anything in this world, but I didn’t feel it. I was really confused and scared. My husband walked out the door to go to work and I felt it would be the last time I would see him. I was scared to raise my children by myself. I never wanted him to leave. My imagination ran wild and I had unrealistic fears. Everything around me seemed scary and fear seemed to have had a  tight grip on me. Unfortunately, postpartum depression is a real and scary condition and often help in many different forms is the best way to help pull you out.

An apple is what started my path into healing. I laugh now, but was pretty upset then. My sweet husband was eating an apple. I had HAD it. Everything from the way he was holding the apple, to the way he chewed it, to the sound he made while eating it got to me. I was so angry with him  and let him have a piece of my mind. All he could say is, “You are so ornery.” Though he was COMPLETELY right, the statement made me even more angry. I felt the need to run away. But I was scared (and am truly grateful for fear) because the only place I could think that was reasonable to run away to was my closet. Yes, the closet that holds my clothes, shoes, and dirty laundry. Peaceful, not sure, but that is where I spent the next two hours in what I now see as a panic attack.

My Friend, Fear

My Friend, Fear

My husband is the most patient and loving man I have ever met and over the course of the next couple of years he helped me tread through rough water. I tried everything to have peace restored in my life.  Meditation. Gratitude journals. Constant service. Dancing at the gym. Counseling. Life coaching.  Dietary changes such as drinking almond milk (unsweetened) in the name of getting my health back. You name it, I probably tried it. It took longer than expected but I began experiencing peace in my life. All of these little things added up and started healing me in ways that were unreal. I started opening myself up more to people, to life, play, and enjoyment. I knew, from the beginning that hard as this might be, I would walk out a better person. I would walk out as the person I so earnestly prayed to become: Real. I noticed it. My husband noticed it. I was a new person and I liked it.

I have always felt a desire to make a difference in the world by helping others feel loved and valued. Byron Katie, a motivational speaker and author, said:

“A teacher of fear can’t bring peace on Earth. We have been trying to do it that way for thousands of years. The person who turns inner violence around, the person who finds peace inside and lives it, is the one who teaches what true peace is. We are waiting for just one teacher. You’re the one.”

After reading this quote and pondering my life experiences-the stories I have told myself-I realized feeling fear so deeply, rather than ignoring it and trying to make it go away, helped me to be a teacher of peace. One who finds peace and lives it inside and out. Does this mean I never experience fear? No. But I choose to trust that my experiences and feelings teach me what I need to know. I trust that all experiences happen for reasons most the time beyond what we can scientifically reason. I choose to love my family, my friends, and most importantly myself in ways I had never allowed myself to do because I know I’m worth it and I now know that FEAR teaches me, it doesn’t define me.

I believe in you. I believe you can make miracles happen. And I believe that peace (true inner peace) is the answer.