I struggled with posting this…it’s super personal so maybe I ought to keep it in my journal and locked away. But I feel so fucking tired and maybe a rant is what it needs to become. With all the terrible things I read on social media, it is more important than ever to be open and at least start a conversation. A conversation on fear, self doubt, and even assault. A conversation that some day I will have with my daughter because I don’t want her to face the walls that I have stood in front of with no way to climb over them.
This morning Wren had a nightmare, crawled into bed with me, and immediately fell into a deep and peaceful sleep within seconds. I watched her and thought to myself, imagine being a 5 year old with zero fucks given about the world they live in besides eating copious amounts of cereal and watching Spongebob? Imagine being a fearless adult woman?
Wren has that personality that people notice…
Strong willed (stubborn as shit)
I think about her and myself and how different we are, well in some ways, but according to my mom I was exactly like her once. Covered in dirt at the park, wild hair, chugging down gravel driveways on my knees or plunging down hills in my yellow egg which in hindsight most definitely wasn’t safe.
Once upon a time I was Just. Like. Her.
So I think to myself, when did I cease to be that way? When did social anxiety, self consciousness, panic attacks jump on board to ruin that amazing view at life? I definitely didn’t have fear in grade 4 when I decided I didn’t have to go to school anymore, recruited a bunch of cronies from the school yard to ‘fake’ going to school and then run over to my house to play records and dress up all day long. It all went awesome until the school called my dad and asked him where I had been all week.
I ran a parallel with Wren who in kindergarten led a bunch of kids on a hunt for an unlocked door in order to free themselves into the world! Or at least to go play in the big yard with the big kids. Later she realized that sneaking on her own under the fence was much more conducive in her success at never getting caught.
I think it started around grade 5 when my teachers thought it was an excellent and fun idea to drag me in front of the entire school to measure my gapping height as the tallest student in elementary. Nothing says awkward like watching your peers snicker in awe at your beastly body covered in stretch marks because I grew tall so fast.
It definitely festered in academia, when I got the highest award for my Halloween story in 6th grade, the winner was to be published in the paper, and I still clearly recall being so proud of it, so excited for it. But even though I had the best mark, my teacher teased me, pulled me aside and said it was never going to happen because it was too ‘graphic’. So they published a lesser story and he told me to tone it down next time.
I even recall my 8th grade history teacher who called me out in front of the whole class for getting a 100%, and why couldn’t all the other kids be like me. As per normal pre-pubescent a-holes, I was then labeled the ‘nerd’ and ostracized to the point of deliberately submitting wrong answers so I wouldn’t be the best anymore. When I look back on it, I am so angry with myself for succumbing to that fear but when you are that young, and at a new school and desperate to make friends, being smart isn’t always priority #1.
Brains aside, around that age I became painfully aware of my body. In hindsight, I was not a huge girl, but I wasn’t skinny and I felt so much shame for myself. I purposely avoided all sports and abhorred gym class which then steamrolled into my hatred of food. As a teenager I starved myself, then prayed that I could just start bulimia which would be so much easier then limiting myself. I went on every stupid diet I could, but even when I was at my skinniest, I didn’t like what I saw. I looked tired and still felt utterly ugly.
It’s been 30 years and I still have a fear of food. Some weeks are better then others and I know the way I see things isn’t right. I know I can’t breathe a word of it in front of Wren. I know it’s wrong, but like an addiction, I can’t help myself. My husband can tell me I’m lovely and I’ll say thank you, but I’ll never fully believe it.
Jumping into my 20’s I started to come into my personality, figuring out who I was, and my sexuality came into play. Maybe I could be fearless once again. I started to date, I began to feel pretty…and then I was sexually assaulted.
And even as I write that line, I don’t fully believe it was not my fault. I still think, well, maybe if I hadn’t done this, or said that, or acted like that, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. It caused me to fear sex, to hate it, to hate my body and nearly ruined my relationship with my now husband. I hated myself as self doubt and social anxiety grabbed me by the throat. I don’t talk about it, I doubt if my family even knows about it, but it happened and it has shaped my fears and is relevant to this story.
In my 30’s, the joyous panic attacks began. Debilitating anxiety that over took me whenever I left the house. I started working for myself, hated to talk on the phone, disliked large crowds, avoided large group activities, definitely no sports for me. My comfort zone became my whole life and when I left it, I struggled.
To this day, heading to a hotel or for a vacation will always result in panic attacks and anxiety that leave me exhausted and angry. Even this past weekend, sharing a cottage, close to home, with people I consider family had me jumping up on Sunday with a fight or flight mentality. I needed to get up and launch myself into the car before my brain took over and made me sick.
You might never have seen this side of me or you might have seen too much of this side of me. I try to suck it up as best I can. I don’t want to moan and complain. I don’t want to be Debbie Downer. I hate that these things loom around me. I see women that I admire, I see my daughter and how I want to be the best teacher for her. I don’t like being these things, but they are what I am. I want to be bold, and creative and jump into things feet first, but I also believe that in order to be fearless you have to be honest, which can be the most terrifying thing of all.