Quitting the Fear that Was Not Mine
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For as long as I can remember, I have hated going to bed. The time between laying down and falling asleep was torturous. I can remember being 4 and 5 years old laying in my bed, inundated in fear, almost paralyzed by it. (Oh, I can feel my anxiety growing as I write this.) It hits very close to home and has caused me incredible suffering through the years. *Deep breath* When I was younger I would imagine either someone hiding under my bed that was going to stab me with needles through my mattress or someone was outside my window waiting until I fell asleep to come in and harm me, and the worst part, that my family had already been killed and no one would be there to help or save me. *Deep breath*
I would lay awake for what seemed like hours, full of fear and worry, and this continued into adulthood. It was the worst when I started living by myself in my mid-twenties. I would lay awake and was certain I could hear the carpet fibers moving underneath the perpetrator’s shoes with each step they took getting closer. I would try and “prepare” myself on what action I would take if someone did come into my room. I would think through the situation deciding if jumping out my second story window would be a good option, if I could make it there in time, etc. I would lock my bedrooms doors and put a hanger on the door handle to make noise if the door opened so I would be woken up if someone opened the door every single night. *Deep breath* *And Another* For a long time, I avoided bedtime and would stay up way later than intended. I hated it because it often led to the most uncomfortable part of my day. I could not figure out why I had these bizarre fears. I knew that they were unrealistic, illogical, and the worry and fear did not provide any help if it were to really occur, but I could not stop it.
Earlier this year, after my big anxiety attack, I finally started the therapy I had been wanting to start for many years. I had tried therapy a couple times before, but I would get to a certain point, it would get hard and uncomfortable, and I would think I made improvements so I would quit going. But this time was different. I finally had the right mindset, the timing was finally right, and I had grown enough to be able to push through the really hard stuff to get to the stuff that really mattered. I was ready for a change; I was ready to do the work.
During one session, my therapist told me a story about fear projection, and as an example he used the story of someone having a great and unrealistic fear of mice because his mother had a huge fear of mice and made a huge scene every time she saw one. This caused the child to also carry this great fear of mice. After thinking about this for a few hours after our session, it started to dawn on me. It was like a light bulb came on in my head. This bizarre fear I had been holding for so long actually wasn’t even my fear to own. This was the fear of my father who has always been paranoid of someone breaking into his house. For as long as I could remember, he had this paranoia and my parents have told me stories about when they first started dating about how my mom would have to be careful waking him up because he might come up swinging due to this paranoia. This realization turned out to be a great relief for me. For the next month or so after this realization, when I would go to bed and start worrying I would remind myself: This fear is not my fear, I cannot own it, and it does not serve me. And since then, the great burden of hating going to bed and laying in angst trying to fall asleep has lifted.The fear tries to creep back in, but I remind myself that it isn’t my fear and I cannot own a fear that isn’t even mine.
This has been a great relief and has improved my life daily because I don’t have to feel that scratchy, uncomfortable anxiety every night. Maybe it was that the timing was finally right for me to move beyond this, but I am sure glad I was able to release it and move into healthier and more comfortable patterns. I had nearly given up on finding a solution for this fear I had been holding for so long, but somehow when I finally did see the light it was easy to let go. It's important we don't give up on on finding answers to our anxiety and fear, to keep faith, and to keep breathing. *and exhale*