I’ve had two concepts in my mind. The first is: Anxiety is fear in disguise. The second is: Anxiety is a great teacher if you allow it. I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, and he was talking about fear, anxiety, depression, etc. all being forms of resistance. The urge to create versus just about everything else. It felt like the artist’s Bible, and he had somehow written all of my thoughts in a masterful book. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. Initially, I wanted to be like Stephen King or Anne Rice, because they were the authors whose words took me away from hating my life. In grade school, I was the weird, quiet kid carrying thick books with her nose buried in them. In seventh grade, my teacher told my parents that I had a gift for writing, but I tended to be overly descriptive. I made my mom laugh telling her I was just too heavily influenced by Dean Koontz. (Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms)
In 8th grade, I promised my English teacher I would dedicate my first novel to her, and she smiled and told me she had no doubt I would. At some point, I gave up on all of it. I set my sights on career, money, and being a success. I spent years believing I had failed, and I was a failure; regardless of the accomplishments. I did it all at once – working full-time with a 3-year-old, and graduating college pregnant with my daughter. Promotions came as my sights were laser-focused on being in sales because that was where the money was. Ultimately, I got the job I wanted, and I realized after having my first nervous breakdown my grand plan was flawed. I never believed I had a limit. I was unstoppable. I had to be perfect. Then, I found out the hard way it was a lie. For months, I’d find myself sitting on my kitchen floor sobbing or drinking myself into oblivion to escape the vice grip of reality. The reality that I was miserable, I had been miserable, and I don’t know what to do.
After the breakdown, I started journaling, and a new life came back to me. It was like reuniting with an old friend. A few of my friends told me I should start writing again. It would take years to actually listen to them. Flash forward to now, and I’m coming to grips with a familiar feeling that is even worse than before. I am miserable, I have been miserable, and I don’t know what to do. I am terrified to write. When I started writing, I just let it go. Now, it takes me days of, “dude, seriously, just write something.” It’s not because I lack inspiration or even discipline. It’s because I’m completely and totally in fear of writing anywhere but my journal. Months ago, I told Jack I killed my muse. As usual, it wasn’t the whole truth, because I don’t like to let my real thoughts and feelings out. I used to when I wrote. Now, though, my writing is as redacted as my speaking. I still write, sure, but it’s as fulfilling and satisfying as eating 3-day old pizza that’s been sitting out in the box.
I started wondering if the root of the panic attacks I’ve been having lies in not writing. Has my life become a manifestation of U2’s With or Without You? With the paramour in my song being my ability to write? The War of Art gave me the initial kick in the ass, and I began realizing I’m afraid to write, and most of my life has been fear, anxiety, and depression by suppressing my dream and gift. My fear of writing started when I was convinced people were going to kill me and my family. I hadn’t slept for about 2 weeks at that point, I believed my phone was being controlled, and I lost my grips on reality. I prayed to whatever gods were listening to spare my family, and I’d never write again. Yet, here I am attempting to cobble something together. Searching the muddy waters in my mind for a lotus of peace. There is a part of me terrified I’m reneging on some sort of agreement, and there is a part of me completely unsure which part is crazier. That’s life.
I’ve come to learn the biggest step you can take is accepting where you are, who you are, and what you are. I’ve spent so much time running away from or fighting myself, sometimes it’s a hell of a relief to sit inside your own personal hell or whatever you want to call it, nod, and say, okay where do we go from here? If all I’ve ever wanted was to be a writer, yet I do not write, I’m giving myself a death sentence without hope of reprieve. In truth, we all have a death sentence the moment we’re born, but living before that inevitable date is a privilege so many deny. I’m guilty of that, for sure.
My fear of writing reverted me back to the world of books, but not my usual horror stories. I went into the world of philosophy, and I found my home. Buddha, Plato, Nietzsche, Alan Watts, Terence McKenna, Eckhart Tolle, Osho, St. Thomas Aquinas, and on and on have been zapping my brain. Now, I’m oversaturated with thoughts and not a clue what to do with them. I immersed myself in shows and movies, then, to escape the constant stream of thoughts and lose myself in fictional worlds, envious of the imagination and creativity that built them. I felt massive pangs of frustration and sadness that I can’t do it. But who said I can’t? Me?
If there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, it is the power of fear. Fear is what melted my brain and reality. Fear is what brought me to the darkest regions of myself. Yet here I am, I survived it. I survived hiding in a bathroom waiting to be admitted to the mental hospital pulling my hoodie strings as tightly around my neck as possible, hoping to strangle myself and save my family. I know I’ve referenced this before, but I have never been more scared in my life. When Chris Cornell killed himself, I went to my room, and I sobbed. His story was so eerily similar to mine, I have chills typing it again. His wife said Chris kept repeating how tired he was. That was how I was. When I showed up at my ex’s after almost plowing into a telephone pole, I kept telling him I was fine, I just needed sleep. The next day, I was screaming I killed us all and later standing in a bathroom trying to strangle myself. That’s life too.
I survived all of this, but I am not yet living, because I am still afraid. I read a teaching from The Buddha, where he essentially said you can undo lifetimes of Karma in a moment by deciding to change. I’ve attempted to battle my fears, which made me more afraid, escape my fears, which made me more confused and do absolutely nothing, which made me numb. So, I thought maybe just writing would be helpful. It’s a novel idea.
That’s the fear, isn’t it? It’s not that I believed anyone was actually going to kill my family; I was terrified I was going to ruin my family. My lofty dreams of success as a writer, taking a leap, a bet, a chance on my dream would put us all at risk. I deleted the blog because I believed I was hurting everyone, and I believed I was deluding myself. I still do, so I redact my soul. I was afraid of failing, but more importantly, I am afraid of succeeding. All because long ago, when I was that little girl with books, I came to believe I was not allowed to be happy or loved. I had to make everyone else happy and loved. I make everyone else’s dreams come true. When I focused on making myself happy with writing on my blog, my world fell apart. I have lost almost everything at this point. One thing remains – my dream of being a writer versus the reality of being a writer who isn’t writing.
While I was not writing, I felt numb and closed off. I wasn’t listening to music again. I became a pinata of a person, and I didn’t even have candy inside. It was worse than before because I know what I was doing and why. I came back to meditation after being terrified of meditating, I am slowly coming back to yoga after being terrified of yoga, and I know if I want a chance of living, I have to write. I wrote in my journal after meditating, “stop thinking and write!” I think Stephen King said not to wait for inspiration to strike, but to write no matter what.
Inevitably, I come back to where I started: Expect Nothing. I keep trying to find the right words, story, poem, whatever to lift this fear, to make me successful, to something. When I started writing, it just flowed outta my brain. I was thrilled to simply be writing, but now I feel I’m supposed to be something or do something, to prove that I am not a failure. Before, I’d have ideas or whatever, but when fingers went to keys, it would be what it was. Many say they aren’t the ones writing, they’re the channel words flow through. I write better when I don’t think about it. I live better when I don’t think about it.
As I’m currently welling up with tears, I know very deeply my biggest fear is acknowledging my entire life has been an unending series of me thinking all of these wonderful plans, goals, and aspirations, and not a single one actually working out. Since I was in 8th grade, I had one goal, plan, and aspiration: be a writer. I’ve spent 20 years doing everything but. I’m really great at over-complicating things, and the only sure way to fail at being a writer is not actually writing. With those two big concepts in mind, the only fear I actually have is of being myself. Not being what I think everyone wants me to be. Not living life in the safe guideposts of everyone else’s opinions and expectations. I have to wonder now if everything before was to show me the power of imagination. The hells Stephen King and Anne Rice create had to live somewhere. Maybe I had to lose my mind to learn to accept my mind. Maybe I had to have my ass kicked by fear to see it as the great teacher it is. Maybe I’m not crazy, I just need to write more. Maybe “maybe” is the only truth there is.
Thank you for reading 🙂
The fool who persists in his folly will become wise ~William Blake