The last few posts were easier to write: I was (for the most part) on the other side of the struggles. This one though, is a lot harder. Fear still plays a fairly consistent role in my life, and I struggle immensely with it. According to my therapist, I may forever struggle with it to some degree, which is kind of depressing, but it’s becoming a little more manageable each day.
My biggest fear is getting hurt. Specifically, of getting hurt again, that the things in my life that have happened will repeat. It’s to the point where I can’t look at the news anymore because I start to get paranoid.
It’s not surprising that I’m so scared though. Like I’ve mentioned before, my brother would get violent during a good amount of the time he was living in our house. From the ages of maybe six or seven up until I was just a few weeks shy of my 16th birthday, I was in fear of being hit by my brother. That’s not including the months (maybe years) after his move, which happened in November 2015, that I’ll struggle to overcome this fear. An example: One thing that people find out very quickly about me is that I cannot be surprised. Popping out of closets, jumping on my back when I’m not looking, even giving me a really fast high five can make me scream and bolt.
Physical hurt is definitely a huge fear of mine; however, I’m also afraid of emotional hurt, maybe even more. My mom had a very hard time coping with my brother’s diagnosis of autism, which resulted in a lot of anger. She would often yell at me or my dad without warning for trivial things, and I felt like I had to walk on eggshells around her for a lot of my childhood. I don’t actually remember anything she has said to me, but I remember how they made me feel: inadequate, not good enough, and scared. My mom has since gotten help for her anger, and we’ve been continually resolving the hurts and wounds. She’s actually one of the closest people to me, and we can relate to each other a lot, and that’s completely because of God; however, the fears are still there. I cannot handle people yelling at me, even if it isn’t critical or all that hurtful, out of the fear that I did something wrong and they’ll be unpredictable. I completely shut down.
For a very long time, the way I coped with these fears was to just close off any opportunity for me to get hurt. I would be occasionally be “open” in my relationships, but I wasn’t “vulnerable.” The difference? Being open means sharing what’s going on; being vulnerable means sharing how it affects me and how I feel. Being vulnerable is showing people exactly how to hurt me and trusting that they won’t. If you’re still confused, listen to “Unpack Your Heart” by Phillip Phillips (the lyrics are #friendshipgoals). According to my therapist, this fear of getting hurt is probably why I have yet to have my first crush, even though I’m almost 17, and she’s probably right. Somewhere deep inside my heart, I am half-convinced that opening myself up to another person will put me in the same position I was in a few years ago.
I will say though, it’s a lonely world being the only one to know my secrets. Thankfully, God has consistently put people in my life that help bring me closer and closer to having real, honest, and vulnerable relationships that are essential to good emotional health.
One of these people is Naomi. She’s the friend that is in the trenches with me on my worst days and slides down rainbows with me on my best days. We’ve each independently gone through quite a bit of life, if you catch my drift, so we relate to each other a lot, but our personalities are also quite different, so we have different perspectives that help us build one another up. She’s one of the only friends that has physically been there at every stage of my life. We were raised as best friends, and although we’ve had our fall outs, we always end up closer in the end.
Recently, during our church’s North American conference in St. Louis, I was having a really rough day. It was one of those days where everything is really overwhelming, and I was bombarded with triggers that entire day (which is, by the way, no one’s fault). I had been fighting (unsuccessfully) all day to fight off a flashback, and that Saturday evening, it all came crashing down. For those who don’t know, a flashback is “a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past, typically as the result of psychological trauma” (thanks Google). I bolted into the lobby of our hotel at midnight terrified, looking for someone to pray with me, hold my hand, and tell me I was safe. Pretty much immediately, Naomi saw me, and I must have looked absolutely terrified because she came out of nowhere and said right off the bat, “Do you want to talk?” She took me to a quiet (ish) hallway where there weren’t very many people, but I honestly didn’t even care who saw me. I was so distressed I could barely think. Just being with her helped me feel so much safer. She prayed with me and brought me back to God. Her actions and being there for me are the reasons I was able to sleep that night.
My Alaska Hope Youth Corp is another group that has really helped me work past my fears of getting hurt. I don’t know what it was about these people, but it was so easy to be vulnerable with them, specifically the guys. Somewhere alone the line in my development, I got this idea in my head that I can’t trust men (outside my dad). I don’t exactly know where it came from, but I thought that they wouldn’t understand, make fun of me, be judgmental, or just be weirded out by my experiences in life. All six of the guys on my youth corp proved me wrong. Very wrong. When I told them about my brother, past and present struggles, and my fears, they were respectful and empathetic. When I told them I couldn’t handle them popping out of nowhere and scaring me, they respected that and didn’t give me any pushback. Instead, they tried to understand. I credit them with the fact that I actually have close friends that are guys now.
The girls on my youth corp were also really helpful. I kept this part short because if I wrote any more, it would take up the entire post. Basically, a lot of us related to each others’ lives a scary amount, the majority of us going through very similar experiences. There was no judgment from anyone, only love and empathy. They showed me I’m not alone and that there’s value in being vulnerable, even if I don’t know the people I’m talking to very well. I still keep up with a lot of them, and we pray for each other constantly.
Having such a positive response from sharing my life with then complete strangers helped pave the way for me to be able to share my story so openly with everyone now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still absolutely terrified of getting hurt, but these people made it a little less scary, which made all the difference.
Like I said before, fear still plays a big role in my life. Even while I was writing this post I had to take breaks so that I didn’t go into flashback-fighting mode. Despite all this, one thing that has really helped me work through this fear is God’s Word, specifically 1 John 4:18 —
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
The only thing that can drive out fear is love — perfect love, which is only in God. Just knowing that there’s a more powerful force than fear gives me hope that I can be set free. It’s a constant battle, but I’m more than willing to fight.