The challenges of fear

Fear is a weird emotion. In one way fear protects us when we are in trouble. When danger is looming and our instinct sends signals to our mind. A signal warns us and we get this ominous feeling inside, we get afraid. Somehow we need this kind of fear to remain alert. But sometimes fear walks out of hands. We cannot shake it off anymore. This is the other side of fear. A fear that is in our way. It became our enemy that we are fighting against every single day.

fear

Fear is a mechanism to protect us in times of danger but if we don’t  control it, it can become our greatest enemy. An enemy so difficult to get rid off that we need the help of therapists and psychologists and even then it is unclear whether we can ever truly overcome it.

But often the fear is not the greatest issue. The greatest issue with fear is the way our environment is dealing with it. If you are lucky, you have people around you who support you. Who cheer you on and help you with your anxiety. This is an ideal picture because in 80% of the cases it is the other way around. In so many of the cases people don’t understand. In their misunderstanding, they wonder why you just cannot get over it. Why you simply cannot ignore it. Why you are making such a problem of something that isn’t even scary or true. They get annoyed with you. Tired of all the times you bring it up again, as if it really is a personal choice. Often the people who should support us most, are our worst enemies, if it comes up to fear. Not because they want to be, or are, but because they don’t understand!

‘Just because you are not afraid, doesn’t mean somebody else cannot be’. 

For people who live with anxiety and fear, compassion and kindness is more than welcome. People who live in fear never made the choice to live this way. Things happened in life that hurt them so much. All there is left is fear.

Let me tell you about my personal situation. I have been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, in short it means that I have multiple fears at multiple places in my life. Growing up, I never had teachers who believed in me, in fact teachers saw me as a dumb girl and in my last class before going to middle (or High) school, they literally told me and my parents this. At home I was overprotected. My parents meant well but it had negative consequences for the future. I never had true friends. I was bullied. Even grown ups, who I was supposed to trust, turned against me. I have been through a lot. To deal with all of this and to improve myself, I have done 2 assertivity trainings, 1 anxiety course, I have had 3 psychologist and 1 therapist. Trust me, I have done my fair share of work to get rid of the fear. And still the fear is inside of me. Not because I choose to but because therapies either didn’t work or because they had a really bad effect on me. Life can be brutal to all of us, but sometimes we find ourselves in a place where letting go of the past isn’t as simple as it sounds.

And even now I have to say that the fear itself has never been my greatest hurt. My greatest hurt has been the way people deal with it. As a teenager I was very insecure. I was a wall-flower, a little grey mouse desperately trying to make herself invisible. It happened so often that, instead of supporting me, people took advantage of me by making fun of me. The times I have been made fun of, or laughed at, I cannot count them anymore. At home I was in a safe environment, where my parents, brothers and sisters-in-law definitely tried to help me, but out there in the world, I was an easy victim. Internship supervisors, grown ups who should know better, made fun of me and even bullied me. I was only 16-19 years old and I didn’t have the tools to stand up for myself as I have them right now. But it created a deep infectuous wound in my soul that I am still trying to mend.

All I ever needed was love, compassion and a helping hand but all I received was indifference. It is the very reason why I am writing this blog today. I want to make a plea to the world. Don’t hurt people with fear. Try to understand that some of us have a problem that we didn’t create and cannot overcome.

‘Instead of ridiculing people with fear, we should lend a helping hand’!

We cannot take the fear away. We cannot make the insecurity less, but we can be friendly. A smile is one of the easiest ways to make a person feel comfortable. A smile is a kiss of love that your heart gives to a stranger!
Greeting someone is not that difficult and can make such a difference. Simply saying ‘Hello’ to someone, even when we don’t like them, can make someone feel welcome and wanted. A feeling this person maybe never felt. People always feel that in order to make a difference in the world, they have to do missionary work in Afrika or Asia. But the greatest difference you can make is right where you are.

Love, kindness and compassion are not that difficult, it just takes a willing heart!

If you read this blog, can I challenge you to be a little kinder to shy, insecure people and to people who are dealing with fear? Can I challenge you be kind to them and to help them? Can I challenge you to stop making fun of people? Trust me, with a little bit of kindness you can make such a big difference in a person’s life!

My kindness came from my last internship supervisor. A lady who went out of her way to give me a little bit of strength. After all of the unkind, and sometimes even mean, supervisors, she was a breath of fresh air. She taught me to stop seeing myself as a failure. She taught me perseverance. Don’t give up when you make a mistake but try again until you can do it. She made me feel one of a team, something I hadn’t felt…ever! She made a difference. A difference I will never forget!

How I deal with anxiety and stress.

This time of year is a busy one. We hardly have any time to relax because we are simply too occupied with too many things. Work, Christmas preparations, children (if you have them) and more. There is no time to breath. I don’t know about you but this is my reality. For the record, I do not have children but I do feel very busy. So busy in fact that I feel something, or rather someone, inside of me plea for a break. A moment to relax. Some peaceful time. And I would truly love to give myself a minute but too many things are asking for my attention. But do they really? Or is it my own desire to show the world a perfect picture of myself?

This is the question that has been going through my mind in the last couple of weeks. The reason why I started pondering about this subject is because a month ago I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to cancel something from church. I felt miserable, especially since I do go very often. I hardly ever skip. It bothered me so much that I felt anxiety attacks coming up. Something inside of me was whispering that I had to go. What if I miss something important? What if they will stop liking me because I didn’t go? Seriously the craziest ideas came to mind. Ideas that forced me to stop myself and think very carefully!

In my early twenties I was diagnosed with a General Anxiety Disorder. Even though I haven’t noticed it for at least five years, I gradually recognised that it is back. A year ago I had to have a wisdom tooth pulled out and it was such a traumatizing experience that my anxiety disorder came back in full force. My mistake was that I ignored it for too long. I know the signs and symptoms but I stuck my head in the sand. Until I was in it so deep that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. A stupid act on my part, especially since I have the skills to deal with it. (skills I learned in therapy) If I would have applied these skills early on, it would not have gone this far.

The skills I learned are easy. Whenever I become afraid I ask myself questions. Why am I afraid? What happens when my fair becomes a reality? And what is so bad about that? After asking myself these questions, I search for ways to turn my thinking around. By slowly changing the thoughts in my mind, I change my perception also. For example; I am afraid to cancel a get-together from church because I am afraid that people will stop liking me. The first question I ask myself is, what will happen if people indeed stop liking me? Well I would feel pretty bad about myself. I would also feel very alone.
Okay, next question. What happens if you feel bad about yourself? What happens if you feel alone? Nothing. Nothing would happen.
Another question. Is it rational to be feeling these feelings? No because in reality I am not alone. If some people won’t like me, I still have plenty of other people left who will. People like my mom and dad, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, grandmother, my good friend. On top of that I will always have God. God will never stop liking me. So my feelings aren’t rational.
By repeating these questions, I can slowly change my perception. In the end, the fear will become smaller and smaller, and often even disappear.

What also helps me is to reduce stress by planning moments of rest. It can be tricky at times but it is so valuable. Our bodies and minds need rest from time to time in order to recharge. Without rest, we would be developing a burn-out in seconds rather than minutes. I am learning therefore that it is good to say, “No” at times. In this case, I said no to church, to give my mind a moment of rest. You know what the point is? Our bodies may be able to handle a lot of stress but that doesn’t mean that our minds are the same! Sometimes we can physically deal with a lot of work, while we mentally feel tired and weak. We have to try and find a balance in our life, where we can be meaningful and stress-free at the same time. A balance between duties (work, activities, family etc.) and rest.

I started my blog with a question. Am I really so busy or is it my own desire to show a perfect picture? I say yes. I am trying to show a perfect picture. I am trying to prove myself to everyone. I am trying to prove that I am worth it. But is this a rational thought? No because I am worthful for God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I do not need to prove myself in order to be loved. God the Father said it Himself two months ago, “I love you regardless of what you do”. I do not have to earn His love. I receive it for free.
And you know what! My parents also love me. And so do my brothers, even if they forget to show me sometimes. I have God (three-in-one) and a loving family. What more do I need? The only person I need to convince that I am worthy is myself. It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. What is most important, is what I think about myself! If I keep on finding my own inner happiness, I will be just fine.

“I see the sunflower in you. And all I ask, is for you to see it to”. (From the poem ‘The Sunflower, spoken to me by God the Father)

A work in progress!

The other day I was visiting a friend of mine to meet her newborn baby. It is her fourth child and the sweetest little thing, as most babies are! I showed her my blog and she asked me a question. “Do you do all of the things you write about yourself”? “Yes I do”, I told her, “but I am still a work in progress though”. It is good to have a friend like her! A friend that is honest with you and not afraid to ask the right questions. I try to do everything I write about, however I am only human. Sometimes I am better at it, then other times. Especially when my fear is getting in the way.

When I was in my early twenties, I was diagnosed, by a psychologist, with a general anxiety disorder. After I had therapy, it died down until a year and a half ago. I had a traumatizing experience at the dentist and ever since it is back in full force. Again I am fighting a high dosis of fear every day. A fear that was almost gone. I know, with the help of God, that I can overcome this fear but it takes a lot of patience. And patience is one of my weak spots. Often I want to rush things when I should actually take it easy. I want things to happen right away, when God asks me to wait.

Fear will always be a part of my life…unfortunately. However often I have prayed for healing, it is something that I have come to terms with. After all, Jesus was afraid too when He was praying in Gethsemane garden! Right before Jesus was taken captive, He prayed to His Father if the cup could be taken from Him. Or in modern day language, if He could please be spared from what was awaiting Him. You know, many people say that Jesus was not afraid anymore after that. That after that prayer, He knew what to do and He did it without fear because He knew His journey. But you know what, I believe that He was still afraid. I don’t think the fear left Him. I believe that He simply decided to go through with it, regardless of His fear. And with the fear in His hands, He climbed on that cross. His love was bigger than His fear.

His love being bigger than His fear is something that I recognize. When I like what I have to do, it is easier than when I have to do something I don’t like. When your heart is passionate for something, fear reduces to a tiny flame, making it easier to do it. But the tiny flame becomes a huge fire when your heart is not fully in on it. Of course there is a difference between a healthy fear, like before a speaking engagement, or a fear that goes through the roof. Sometimes I can control my fear but there are also moments that I cannot.

For example, after the traumatizing experience at the dentist, I tried to ignore my fear for a long time. I went to the dentist again and even though I had a much better experience, the fear was so big that I could not control it anymore. The trick that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit taught me is; with patience and relaxation you can overcome it. The fear never goes away overnight. This is a fact that I have to be fully aware of, but it will go away in the end. This thought gives me a lot of peace already. The second step I take is becoming rational. I tell myself to calm down. Jesus loves me and there is nothing on earth more important than that. I also skip things from my agenda when I feel in my heart that I need time for myself. To plan moments of calmth is very important. I am not superwoman. I cannot do everything and that is okay. My life is not easy and God is keeping a lot of things away from me, like a family. Just because I am not married and I don’t have children, does not mean that my life is easier. I have not been requested to do it all, but to do what I can. I focus on my talents and gifts and not on what I am not good at. But the biggest of all remains patience! With a lot of patience, and a lot of faith I overcome my fear. I cannot let it go away but I can make it smaller and that gives me room to breath.

Life remains a battle. Yet in this battle it is good to remind ourselves of one very important thing. Jesus love for us is everything! It is more important than our fear. And with that in mind we can overcome anything. Jesus’s love makes me get up every morning. Just the thought that, besides Jesus, I have a Father in Heaven who loves me so much, makes me want to try again. Of course I am not capable of doing everything. Like I said, I am not superwoman. There are some things that I am, and never will be, good at. But that is okay. God accepts me for who I am. And if I do the same; if I work hard and focus on the gifts and talents that the Father, in all His goodness, gave me, it will all work itself out in the end. Fear may be an ever present companion but at least I can shut him up whenever he talks to much!