Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How I Became Fearless

As for how I became green tinted
that is another story for another time.
Over at Rubber Shoes In Hell I read yesterday about How To Be Strong. Today we are going to talk about How I Became Fearless. You're welcome.

As someone with anxiety disorder, I know a lot about fear. 

When I was little I was picked on a lot for being a tattletale, but I still did what I consider fearless things. In kindergarten I punched a first grader in the nose for bullying me out of my seat on a daily basis and he stopped. In first grade I kicked a boy who told me he did not love me and he fell on the ground. 

(Sorry, Joey White, and I hope your leg is better). 

I also was the only one in my first grade class to try out for choir. Nobody wanted to try out with me, and I wanted to sing. I did not want to sing alone, though, so I grabbed my friends and we ran up to the front of the classroom by the piano, giggling. I was the only one who made it.  My friends seemed relieved they did not get in, and I was elated. Singing is my life.

As I grew older, I became less fearless and moved in the opposite direction. At eight years old I watched my childhood neighbor Erica die in a house fire. After that I became extremely depressed and withdrawn. By age eleven I thought about suicide on a daily basis. By sixteen I had been hospitalized for a manic episode after years of treatment for depression. 

When I got out of the hospital, I felt so embarrassed and weak. My biggest goal was to be strong, but I was very afraid of everything. I had agoraphobia that was not easily conquered until my mid-twenties. I remember thinking at the time that everything would be better if I were fearless.

There is a difference between being fearless and being brave. Bravery was something I had, of course. I had to steel myself up for everything that was a threat, whether it was a trip to the grocery store or confronting my ex that it just was not working out and that I wanted to see other people. Life is full of unpleasant anxieties that we have to steel ourselves up for and it is okay to be afraid.

What I am talking about is letting fear control your life.  And I this is what I have been fighting against for years. It has taken many steps.

Step one: Pretend to be someone else.  Anyone, anyone else.
About twelve years ago today I was twenty years old, writing about how I was super depressed.  I had just moved out of my Dad's house after a big fight and we weren't really speaking. I felt so afraid I did not want to leave my apartment. I also felt so low on myself that the only thing I could do is wish I was like someone else. I gave my authenticity in character that others saw just so I could emulate what I saw as fearlessness in other people. My friends saw so much potential in me, but I was blind to it because I was afraid.

What I would do when I was afraid was pretend to be people I saw in the movies during the scary parts.

When I had to be angry I was Louise from Thelma and Louise, pulling my calmest Susan Sarandon murder voice.

I also do an AMAZING sarcastic Thelma.

When I felt intimidated and had to be charming and not cowardly I would do my best Shirley MacLaine from Steel Magnolias.

Sometimes if I needed to tone it down I'll conjure up Olympia Dukakis.

And when I needed to seem super innocent and my depression was lying to me telling me I was filthy and disgusting I would channel Kathy Najimy from Sister Act.

But I secretly wanted to be seen as Sister Mary Robert, the one with the sudden miracle voice.

Step two: Pretend you are fearless by doing easy things all your friends are too afraid to do.
As the years went on I still missed my dad and the deep connection we had when I was young, but I was able to become the person I always wanted to be. Fearless and brave, I kept trying new things and taking risks. 

At first the purpose of taking risks was to seem fearless.  

Hey look at me, playing stupid songs on my guitar and posting them on the internet at age 24!


“If you don't like the way that I drive 
please get off the road 

Damn, get off the road. 

I don't want to deal with your big white trash ass on the road anyway.

You've got nothing to say that I want to hear. 

You're rude and you're 
ugly and you're 
fat and you're 
lazy and yeah I don't want to deal with your ugly ass. 

If you don't like the way I drive get off the road. 

If you don't like the way I drive get off the road."

Wow, look, I cut my own sidebangs at age 28!

Sidebangs are my favorite! LOOK HOW BOLD I AM! Never mind that this took 6 days of hemming and hawing and tutorials and crying to decide to do and it still doesn't look like side bangs, but I felt so bad ass. 

Look at me, so brave to pose in my one-piece at 175 lbs when I was 29.

I hope I can get here again!

Hey look at me. I never wear makeup. I am dancing, singing, and telling jokes in a way that you would never be able to do because I'm so bold, so brash. Unlike you! So come join me. Be bold, like me, and you will be happy, like I tell myself that I will be someday.

Soon enough, I did not have to tell myself that I was confident.  I was confident. It became truth through action and love. 

Wait that's a lie because this happened first.  But it was eventually true!

Step three-through eleventy: Get mental health counseling for several years.

Step gazillion: Bitches get shit done
Eventually the purpose of taking risks was to get shit done. All of the really great changes in my life from going to school, living in a more expensive neighborhood, and getting married?  They were all super scary to me at first, but I did them. Taking those risks lead to a more take charge personality that I am proud of. 

I may say that I am not quirky, but quirk is part of my package and has lead to the fearlessness I lacked at age 20. It might be inaccurate to say I am not quirky.  It is more accurate to say that I am not only quirky. Quirkiness is not the only quality I have that is admirable and awesome.  I am also a smart risk taker, a cat person, and a fighter. 

Today I live my life with fearlessness and I go to bed content with my daily accomplishments. I also go to bed with my cat who uses my boob as a pillow which is cute as hell.

To recap:

  • Act like you are not afraid to get through easy scary stuff
  • Show off what you are not afraid of doing to remind the world you are still a badass
  • Seek help with the really hard stuff
  • Get shit done