Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thoughts on Fear

One of the more famous quotes from Dune is :

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain"

That's so true on so many levels. We are all affected by fear, it's part of us, it shapes us, sometimes it controls us, sometimes it traps us if we allow it to.

I have my own collection of fears. Some I've moved on from, some I've accepted, some I still continually battle against. Some creep out from behind me and tap me on the shoulder when I've forgotten they're there.

I still have the fear that makes me wobble when going down elevators. That's a vertigo inspired fear. I've conquered it for elevators and my engineering knowledge makes me ok going over bridges that make other people go seriously wibbly. That's an example where the fear has been analysed and abated through knowing that the event the fear is convincing you may happen (the elevator pitching you forward, the lift going into uncontrolled descent or the bridge collapsing) will not happen because the engineering is there to prevent it happening. But that doesn't help with me going to high places that don't have guard rails.

Yep. You won't see me peering over the edges of cliffs any time soon.

I think there's a genuine reason for this in my past, where an event reinforced that fear of high places. What was that event ? Let's just say it's an event that's marked me for the past 25 years and an event that will always be with me.

The trigger for this post comes from the BBC ... It's about how a producer overcomes her fear of sharks. I can barely swim, I don't think that's a fear of water per se but it's a skill I've rarely had the need to develop. Perhaps when my skin is better, it would be a good source of low impact exercise.

That's another fear that's been locking me down - the fear that the conditions of my outsides becomes apparent when I'm out and ... socially embarassing. That's a super genuine fear, part of it is to conceal my ongoing condition from others. There's a reason why I'm still wearing jumpers at the moment when it's a little warm for them maybe when coming into the office from the bus. Same as I'll predominantly wear dark clothing or clothing that doesn't show those signs that bad patches have been leaking.

That's not nearly so bad as it was, I'm well on the way to being mended but ... it's taking so much time. It would be a tragedy if I allowed that fear of exposure to stay with me and turn me into a recluse.

I think a darling little lady has helped me with that. She saw the arms at almost their worst (not the legs because I'm not in a habit of showing my legs to people in public) and although I bet there was a part of her that was screaming inside, I got a sense of acceptance. That it isn't as bad as I personally am thinking it is. I still have that sense of "Imperfection - DESTROY" that's holding the healing back but her influence is making me more confident about being out and about.

That's another lesson - do not be afraid (there's that word again) to tell others about your fears, if they're a good friend then they'll help you through those fears. They'll lend their strength. Or ... in the case where you've been abused, they can be a reminder that normal people aren't like that. That there is kindness and love to balance violence.

For those reading who have been a victim of abuse, do not be afraid to run. The worst thing to do would be to stay with your abuser for fear of what may happen if you go. Abusive people have no right to your loyalty and that includes those who abuse by words as well as by action.

I've been a victim of those abusive people in the past. Not by action, as I seem to have this aura that makes people think twice about attempting physical violence. But I've definitely felt the effect of psychological abuse. That's tougher than the physical abuse because there are rarely any outward signs for how it is affecting you. Even tougher because sometimes you don't know who you can talk to. In my case, when I was suffering the psychological abuse, I was part of a network of people who were all interconnected and I knew that something I said to one would work its way around that network.

That need for psychological reassurance is why I get so frustrated when I do reach out to people, the questions remain unanswered or apparently unacknowledged. There's a few cases where I've asked questions like :

"Have you heard from ... ? She's disappeared again and I hope she's ok". The person who disappeared is a Facebook friend who has been treated for suicidal drug overdoses multiple times, so you can imagine my concern when she disappeared from the friends list. She's still out there, I noticed a replying comment from her but I'm very disappointed that the question "have you heard from ..." was not answered.

Various comments and questions that go unanswered. The one above is the one that took the biscuit but there's a few ex-colleagues who I've sent comments, questions, lead ins for jokes to and there's ... absolutely no reply. That's not just one comment, it's over many comments and it's not just work, it's over social media thingys like Twitter too. So much that I stop reaching out to them and reach out to more fun people instead (like LTK, she joins in the madness whole heartedly, SQ when she's not mired in the insane busy that's pretty global at work now and Cupid's Gift)

Fears ?

Let's mention the cricket ...

I used to be afraid of the ball. Which is understandable because a cricket ball is 5 and a quarter ounces of bone breaking, bruise inflicting pain. If you allow it. The mistake is to allow that fear to have any impact on how you treat the ball. If you field perfectly and your batting skills or protection is up to the job, the ball doesn't hurt you. But that fear is a paralysing factor that throws your timing off enough for that ball to hurt you.

I've been hit on the head by a cricket ball 3 times now. Two of those (without a helmet) saw me suffer psychological/neurological effects and the middle time (with a helmet) just saw me almost vomit in the changing room after the game. The first time is what I call Nose Job no 1, it hit me in the eye with my glasses saving my eye from ... quite possibly losing the eye. But it smashed my nose sideways to the point where I couldn't breathe properly through the nose. That was fixed with Nose Job 2 a few weeks later.

How many weeks ? I'm not sure* ... but I was able to play cricket again before the rains came to end that season. I got one game in wearing a helmet where I had the chance to bat again, which allowed me to confront that fear of being hit before it had a chance to fester over the off season. I'm still affected, I'm pretty sure I'm different as a person to how I was before the impact.

*The impact damaged my memory. My short term memory is now pretty poor and prone to complete gaps. I lost the PIN to my main credit card, it's like the memory cells it was in got corrupted and the PIN was just ... gone. That's one example of how it hits. My memory for faces to names is also affected by it. I've accepted that.

There's a couple of England cricketers who have been hit badly on the head over the past few seasons, they'll never be the same again. Both were hit by balls that managed to sneak their way past the grille. Craig Kieswetter was a wicketkeeper batsman, a good one too. But he always had a weakness where he just couldn't see the fastest balls which meant he continually failed at international level. I think being hit has made him think that his weakness in vision is down to the impact and he'll probably have to retire because it's affecting him at country level as well now. Stuart Broad was a very promising lower order batsman but his confidence has been shattered now since he got hit. He's made a Test hundred (a big one) but is now a shadow of what he used to be.

I made my biggest scores after being hit that first time but ... I don't know how it would have affected me if I hadn't had that chance to bat again before the demons had a chance to set in. I know I had a subconscious need to change all of the kit associated with that impact, bat, pads, gloves etc. I've never played again at the ground where I got hit but that's mostly due to opportunity.

Oh my gosh I'm rambling on aren't I.

Lessons - fear is valid. Fear is rarely silly. Anyone who tells you otherwise is scared of accepting their own fears.

Fears usually have a rational explanation. An external source or other cause.

Fears can be analysed. Like my vertigo. I'm now less wibbly about those escalators.

Fears can be faced. Like me with batting and those cricket balls.

Fears can be confronted. If I didn't confront my fear of isolation, then I'd retreat into a shell when not getting replies or recognition of stuff I send to people.

Fears can be accepted. I have fear that my plans get thwarted. I accept that unanticipated things can happen and have loads of back up plans in my back pocket ready to come out if I need them. Some would call this being paralysed into paranoid inaction ... I'm just surprised when things work first time.

Fears do not have to be tackled alone. I think this most applies to the abuse cases where talking about your abuse means you will get a reply of "Nothing, it's not your fault" to those inner feelings of "What did I do to deserve this". You didn't deserve it but you do deserve better people.

Fear can be a mindkiller, if you allow it to. Don't let it get that kind of control over you, be master of your own destiny.

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