The Fear

Fear has been with me for even longer than I can remember. My mother tells me that as a young child I used to complain about butterflies in my tummy so much that eventually I was checked over at the hospital. It turned out I was just nervous about going to school.

In my early twenties I read the self-help classic Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. The book isn’t without value and I agree with the sentiment, but it’s only half the story. How exactly do you feel the fear and do it anyway when it’s paralysing you? I’d say it’s completely human to feel the fear and hide under the duvet, as was my way for many years.

For me, anxiety manifests in a number of ways. I feel frightened and tense, I fidget as a result of agitation, have vivid bad dreams and am plagued with incessant worry over the slightest thing. I believe people think badly of me, including friends and family. I’m all wrong; from what I say and do, to the way I look. I also feel an intense vulnerability, as if my skin has been peeled off and I have no protection. I lose all perspective, with reality distorted to a scary degree. As a wise friend said to me last night “Your mind lying to you”.

There’s a lot of stigma around anti-depressants but if you feel constant, irrational fear – or to give it its medical name – generalised anxiety disorder – then SSRIs (or a variant there of) can be life-changing.  There are other things like talking, mindfulness and exercise that work, but if anxiety is out of control, it’s likely you’re going to need to combine these with meds. I have no intention of ever coming off them.

Like most people, I sought help over a decade later than I could have. It may seem strange but until then, it never occurred to me to go to my GP about my mental health. The message seems to be getting through now though.

I tried about 4 different tablets before I found the one that worked for me. The lesson being, don’t give up if at first they don’t make a difference. It’s agony waiting that month to see if they’ll help, but it’s better than not having any hope of things changing at all.

Finding the right medication dialed down The Fear enough for me to start stepping out of my debilitatingly small comfort zone and subsequently “get a life”. Without them it was just too strong to overcome alone.

My anxiety became manageable on a day-to-day basis and I could do normal things without fear, like walking down the road without having to give myself a constant pep talk or going to bed without my thoughts tormenting me. It does spike when I have to do something out of the ordinary but that’s understandable.

Now, extreme anxiety only surfaces on an infrequent basis, but I thought I’d write about it while it’s here. At times like these, I’m lucky to have people I can turn to who remind me to breathe deeply, not to get caught up in what my mind is telling me and to wait for it to pass – because it will pass.

Posting about it feels uncomfortable in the extreme but the more we talk about it, the better it is for everyone out there who struggles. Realising we are not alone makes all the difference.

 

the scream

 

 

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58 Comments

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58 responses to “The Fear

  1. Remember when we first met at LS? I sat in the chair in the back of the store so overcome with panic I couldn´t get up. I disguise it well. One learns to do so. I spent the next months worrying what you and V and the rest of the London blogger scene must have thought of me. That we ended up as real friends is one of the biggest blessings in my life. Extreme anxiety is a pain in the arse. It comes up to bite you when you least expect it and before you know it you fall back down into the abyss!! However experience and understanding reminds you that you have been there and done that, probably own several t-shirts, and you don´t actually like it. So you get out more quickly. Does that make sense. As the founder of anxiety disorder I could on. 😉 ….. Ich hab dich wirklich lieb Tara, well done. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had no idea you were panicking, V. I thought we were all just glad to sit down on that very hot day. But I wouldn’t have thought any less of you had I known. xx

      Like

    • We all think it’s just us. If we only knew! That’s the good thing about sharing how we feel. I’ve been surprised more times than I can tell you by people I thought had it all under control, suddenly disclosing their mental health issues.
      What you say makes total sense.
      Dank mein lieber Freund.

      Like

  2. Lady Jane Grey

    There is loads of anxiety out there – our word is putting awful lot of pressure and stress on us. That makes us (me!) less and less resiliant and we cannot perceive objectively whether our mind is lying to us. The message in your precious post is so very important, T. : there is help for you, and you and you! Go and get it now, don’t wait any longer !
    I’m sending to you an even stronger and more enveloping hug as the usual one !
    LOVE
    m

    Like

  3. Bea

    Thank you so much for being so open about this. I believe you speak for many of us who cannot yet be so brave. xox

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra

    Such a moving post Tara. You are taking charge and working against the fear. There are times when fear takes a nasty grip on my life or in certain situations. I also think that SSRIs can be pivotal for people to stop being paralyzed by fear. Thank you for being so open and honest as I think this is a subject that needs to be addressed urgently so that people can get the help that they need. Sandra xoxo

    Like

    • Thanks, Sandra. Yes, I think another benefit of talking about it publicly is that it then feels less weird to ask for help because we’re more aware of it.

      Like

  5. This is such an important and thought provoking piece, and thanks for feeling the fear and posting it anyway! I am sorry I didn’t realise your anxiety had been as ongoing as it has. I suffer from my nerves too at times, and it is so hard to know what is simply the stress of modern life and what has become an unlivable with degree of anxiety. I have never taken meds, but they sound like a great way to give a person a baseline of confidence. At my own age, there are so many hormones flying around, it is additionally hard to know whether this is just how women are meant to feel in their fifties. But IMO it would be a cruel design fault if so…

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    • V, I was nearly too afraid to post!
      Yes, it is hard to know what is normal and what isn’t. I guess when life becomes a struggle and you can’t do the things you need/want to, it’s time to do something about it.
      There is a huge link between the menopause and anxiety which isn’t talked about as much as the physical symptoms

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  6. J

    Thanks for saying this. It really helps the more people that come forward to normalize these conditions and stop the shame around mental health. Both my daughter and I suffer and it’s nice to be reminded we’re not alone.

    Like

    • I really appreciate your comment, J. Thank-you.
      With social media constantly bombarding us with the highlights of other people’s lives it’s easy to think we are the only ones struggling through life. I do worry about the young generation especially as I find it hard enough to remind myself those posts don’t tell the whole story, what must it be like for a teen?
      You and your daughter are most definitely not alone. Sending you both much love.

      Like

  7. Tara,
    You are hero and inspiration. So glad we are friends.
    Thanks for sharing this incredibly personal journey with us. It’s good to know and I bet it helps others with your predicament.
    Love you,
    Portia xx

    Like

  8. Kirk Thompson

    Tara,
    To acknowledge & write about your fears so openly is such a courageous and admirable thing to do. We can do nothing but feel inspired by your willingness to share such a personal thing.
    Know that your post will undoubtedly touch & encourage others to seek help from similar or other unseen debilitating illnesses. Being prepared to face up to & do something about it is a sign of unfathomable strength. You are nothing short of amazing!! accept nothing less!!
    xx

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Dear Tara, Like you, I have no intention to ever come of my meds. Anxiety can be life threatening. I’m sorry that I didnLt make it to PLL on Tuesday, would have liked to give you a hug.

    Like

    • I didn’t know you took meds too Sabine. Thanks for sharing that. I appreciate you commenting while on your travels and hope to get that hug when you’re back.

      Like

  10. Hamamelis

    Thank you Tara for being so open about your struggles, reading it made me think of the title of your blog, and that I am glad the rose is unbottling herself and doing it freely and for the benefit of others too.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hayley

    Hi just wanted to say I identified with your whole post. Meds were a life saver. I am on an even keel now but was terrified of admitting anything was wrong, I became good at hiding the anxiety and panic attacks.
    Thank you for sharing and love your blog.

    Like

    • Thanks very much Hayley. Admitting what’s going is the hardest but it’s the only way to curtail your suffering. The sky doesn’t fall in like your fear and hopefully you get the understanding and support you need. I’m so glad you managed to get help and regain your balance.

      Like

  12. davina

    thanks for sharing this Tara. you’re one extraordinary human being. while my heart reaches out to you for your suffering, i am happy and so inspired by your openness and honesty. anxiety is awful to endure. it is not black and white, and we are all susceptible. it can strike anyone at anytime. i let my inner critic and nerves get the better of me for years and it isnt a case of flipping a switch. we’re so much more complex than that. not one person isthe same and i believe we can really benefit from sharing and hearing others be open about it. you’ve made some big strides and are one beautiful and talented soul with so much to offer. the world needs your voice tara. davina xxxx

    Like

    • Whenever I write posts like this ( I don’t have The Fear, more like extreme neurosis about things like my dehydration phobia ), I also feel extremely uncomfortable and horribly vulnerable, but then relieved. You can also distance yourself and let go of it by just pressing the publish button. A brave, but possibly quite necessary, thing to do .

      x

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    • Thanks so much for these lovely, encouraging words, Davina.
      Did you hear the recent School of Greatness episode with Mo Gawdat? It helped me a lot this week. He spoke about how you can feel the pain but not suffer. Writing about it has reduced the suffering because I’m not alone with it or hiding it. I can let it pass through it as a result of that, friends like you and training at the gym last night, I feel different again today.

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      • davina

        and be much stronger for it darling. writing helps me make sense of my journey as well and by sharing it with others you’ve taken it to the next level. i will check out the podcast thanks. mind and body are connected. when in a funk change your physiology. sometimes a 1%shift is all we need to get through a bad day xx

        Like

        • It is amazing the difference it can make in such a short period of time, Davina. Writing helped me feel better but sharing it made me feel stronger.

          Like

  13. henriette72

    Beautiful post and I recognise the battle against life’s fears. Thank you for sharing and embracing those vulnerable moments. I am so glad you found the right way for you to live comfortably 😃

    Like

    • Hi henriette72. I like your choice of the word “embracing”. It’s hard to share these struggles because it feels like something we should hide (and be ashamed of) but going the opposite direction is a form of embracing. Thanks for this valuable perspective.

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  14. This is a wonderful post by a wonderful woman – and you are so right about your subconscious lying to you. It can be such a cruel trick, yet so debilitating. You’ve not deserved any of this and have just been unlucky.

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    • Thanks for your lovely comment, Pia. It’s validation and support like this that makes all the difference. It is so hard not to believe those negative thoughts but sharing them helps.

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  15. crikey

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. The inside of one’s head can be an awfully dark and lonely space sometimes. Sharing helps those on the outside of that space, as well as those on the inside, I think.

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    • Crikey, I hoped that would be the case and since posting it really does seem to be that way. I feel better for it and it seems to have made a few people feel less alone which makes taking the risk of being so vulneravle worthwhile.

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  16. Dear Tara,
    I’m so glad you found your way to help and so proud of you – not even for what you’re doing for yourself (though that too), but for what your post might (and will) do for others!

    It’s so strange that in our time and age people are still struggling to get help: while nobody would think twice about people putting on a cast for the broken bone, that fear of medicine that can actually help people to feel better in day to day life is completely unacceptable! We – as a society and each one of us – should try to change it: not for future generations, but already today, for our generation. For all of us.

    Hugs!

    Like

    • Undina, I’m truly touched by your comment. I would never have posted without Val’s encouragement but already it seems to have been worth it from the effect it’s had on myself as well as others.
      Meds aren’t always appropriate of course and don’t work for everyone but fear shouldn’t be a barrier to trying them. Exactly.
      Thanks the hugs!

      Like

  17. Hi Tara. Great post and your honesty will no doubt help others too. I believe many of us suffer from anxiety to a greater or lesser extent but never voice it or put a finger on what it is that isn’t quite right. Glad to hear that things are improving for you. Virtual hugs!

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  18. Hi Tara, thank you very much again for posting your article. I agree with Megan that we all suffer from anxiety in one way or another and I relate what you say as to writing about it as an act of strength, something other people can relate to as well and inspire them. None of us are perfect and showing that is an act of great strength. Hugs, Esperanza

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  19. It’s truly great that you speak up, and dare to talk about your anxiety in this way. We’re still a long way off mental health issues being treated as ‘real’ discease, but at least we can now talk more openly about it, which will hopefully lead to people getting treatment that decade sooner than you and I, for example. I talked to a friend of mine the other day, saying how she suffered when she had to call in ill because she didn’t have the flu but just couldn’t get out of bed…

    Like

    • I can well imagine what your friend went through. It’s that fear of being met with a lack of understanding or worse, derision, that puts us off talking about it and getting help. I can’t even read back what I wrote above and that’s for he same reasons. We internalise how we fear others will judge us and that turns to shame. All we can do is try to speak up when/if we feel strong enough.

      Like

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