I have been living in fear for several months now. The fear is pervasive and crushing. There are so many facets to my fear that I don’t know if I can describe them all. You might think I’m nuts. Sometimes, I think I’m nuts.
What do I fear?
My son died on August 18, 2012. A sudden, violent, tragic end to a young adult’s life before he could start living the life he had been anticipating for so long. Since I have already lost the one who I loved the most, why does this make me afraid? I am afraid because we still do not know why he died. We do not know if it was self-inflicted, intentional or accidental, or if it was homicide. As I go through the stages of grief, I know that one day I will receive an autopsy report and a toxicology report that may or may not give me the answers I need. Even if I get the answers to my questions, how am I going to deal with that knowledge? How am I going to feel? Am I going to suffer that crushing grief of that first day all over again? I’m afraid the grief will never ease. I know that it will never go away, but at some point it needs to get easier.
After my son died, I started dating a man who seemed to be sent to comfort me, support me in my grief, be my friend, my partner, my lover, my companion. He was a great actor. At first he was kind, loving, generous and such a gentleman. As time went by, he became his normal self: controlling, possessive, verbally abusive, and emotionally abusive. He stole from me. He cheated on me. He tried to take my deceased son’s truck from me. I learned he had an extensive criminal background, including stalking. When I finally got him escorted from my property by law enforcement, he began harassing and stalking me. He called my cell phone hundreds of times. I had to block his number, his mother’s landline and his mother’s cell phone, and still he called. I had to leave my home for several weeks. I went to stay with relatives in another county. I’m home now, but I’m always scared that he is out there, watching, and waiting for me. I have alarms on all my doors, I’m armed with a variety of weapons and I have my cell phone with me even in the bathroom. I’m still afraid. I watch everyone. I look at all the cars around me when I’m driving. I look around at all the cars in parking lots where I shop or visit. I stand on my deck or in my driveway looking for him. I’m watching over my shoulder all the time. I can’t sleep soundly. I’m afraid to be out after dark. My electric bill is going to be sky-high because of all the lights on in my house.
I had to get a protection order and a warrant, but he has not been served or arrested. As the magistrate told me, the protection order is nothing more than a piece of paper. It won’t stop a bullet. It may make him more determined to control me. I check the web every day to see if he’s been arrested. I’ve called his probation officer to notify him of the harassment and of the protection order, both of which are a violation of his probation. If his probation is revoked, he will be in prison for up to 10 years. His probation officer has failed to return my calls or respond to my faxes.
I have suffered from major depression and generalized anxiety disorder for many years. Sometimes its is basically under control. After my son’s death, it became much worse, which is understandable. Grief, especially over the loss of a child, is crushing. It comes in ever-increasing waves that threaten to drown me. The experience of learning that the man I trusted was not the man I believe he was, and the fear created by his controlling, possessive and abusive nature, has made my depression much worse and my anxiety levels spiral higher than ever.
I have finally agreed to be hospitalized for treatment of my depression. I’m scared of what it will be like in the psychiatric unit. I can’t get any clear answer of what will happen in there. My perception of the psychiatric unit is based on movies, books, blogs, and reports by the few people I know who have been hospitalized for mental health issues. None of what I have read or heard is reassuring. It feels as if I will be in a prison. The list of things that I cannot take with me is baffling, but I know it must be for my safety and the safety of others. I know that I need to try this because I am getting so much worse. My doctors can adjust my medication and observe my response to it in a way that is not possible from outpatient visits. I fear not only the inpatient stay but I fear it will not help me.
What is Fear?
I’ve listed the main things that have me in fear’s grip. So, after discussing my fear with my therapist, I decided to write about it. In that process, I also decided to research fear. Here are some of the things I have found:
Merriam-Webster defines fear as:
an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
b (1) : an instance of this emotion (2) : a state marked by this emotion
: anxious concern : solicitude
: profound reverence and awe especially toward God
: reason for alarm : danger
According to Psychology Today, “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear
Fear, as I have learned, can control you. My fear is controlling me. I’m afraid of everything, even those things that pose no danger to me. “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” This quote by President Franklin Roosevelt often comes to mind, except that there are real things that we should fear.
So, what can I do? I can learn to recognize what real danger is. I can practice relaxation techniques when confronted with perceived versus real danger. I can pray and remember these favorite Bible verses:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
One of my favorite Bible teachers, Joyce Meyer, said: ” Don’t stand still in terror, but take His hand and go forward. Remember, fear torments and God wants to deliver you from all of your fears.” http://www.joycemeyer.org/articles/ea.aspx?article=overcoming_fear
Another quote which I find inspiring is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
At times, I think my biggest fear is a fear of having no control. As long as my fear controls me, I am giving in to the thing I fear most. What a paradox!