There’s this feeling you get when you’re scared, but you aren’t sure if you should be.
Have you ever had that feeling?
It’s like when you’re heading up the first hill on a roller coaster, that excited anticipation mixed with something that you really don’t want to call fear, because no one likes to admit they’re afraid of something that someone somewhere deemed “safe” even though the elements of danger are always present.
Like riding in cars, for instance, or strapping on a pair of skates for the first time in twenty years, or going on a first date with someone you’ve never met.
Simple questions asked in writing classes that open barrels of snakes.
What’s something you’ve done that you were scared of, but you did it anyway?
Well, I got out of bed this morning.
Yesterday I went to a party where there were some people I didn’t know, and I had to make a few seconds of polite small talk with them.
Saturday I went to the grocery store, that’s one of the scariest things I do on the regular, and every time I escape the check out aisle alive I feel like I’m one trip closer to going back to BJ’s alone.
Last Wednesday there was a thunderstorm in the evening, and I resisted the urge to stay home, got in my car and drove the five minutes to my psychiatrist appointment anyway, because he’s supposed to be able to help me with all this.
When you have mental health problems that feed on and manifest fear: PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder – every day is filled with little horrors.
That truck driving toward me in the opposite lane, that WILL hit me head on, and I’ll be thrilled and surprised to pass by it in one piece.
Every morning I’ll be relieved that my eleven year old kept breathing all through the night, because I heard once that there are freak cases of a kind of SIDS that lasts through adolescence.
How did you overcome it? What did you learn?
Well, I keep getting up in the morning.
I get dressed in spite of the voices in my head telling I’m fat, I’m ugly, it doesn’t matter what I put on this body or what it looks like because no one wants to look at me anyway.
I get my kid fed and ready for her day, steel her against the bullies with all the love I have to give her, and then send her out into the madness of school or summer camp, hoping every day she comes back safe.
I sit down at my computer for my hour of writing each morning and do my best to make sense of things, weave some clarity and hopefully some change into my words.
But the fear comes along with me.
The fear-black dragon that’s wrapped around my neck and shoulders, I carry him with me wherever I go.
You can’t see him, but I know he’s there. I can feel his hot breath on my neck when he whispers in my ear watch out, watch out, and I feel his whip tail slithering down my back, arching my spine, stealing my breath.
This dragon’s a fucking liar, but it’s hard to argue with that constant noose of crushing consternation.
What would you tell others about this fear?
It’s sad to realize that when you’re hard pressed to do it, you can’t remember the last time your heart beat faster because you wanted something so badly to go right that you felt scared it wouldn’t happen.
I mean, obviously, the worst thing that can happen can always happen.
No one suspects they will be struck by lightning or gnawed on by sharks, but it happens.
No one expects it will their car flying over the bridge, or their child getting shot, or their house burning down, but it happens.
No one expects a plane to crash on their house, but it fucking happens.
But you keep getting up in the morning anyway.
Life will go on.
What will happen will always happen.
But the dragon is coming along, too.