Lately I’ve been meditating quite a bit on the concept of Fear. I’ve always prided myself in facing my fears, (despite regularly being scared shitless), and maybe to an extent I do. However, as I continue to emerge from within the deepest and darkest sadness I have ever known in my life, it’s becoming clearer to me just how entrenched in fear I had been for so long.
The irony that Fear had such a strong grip on my heart this past year, is that I was so paradoxically strong in the face of it all when Patrick got hurt. Let me tell you: that was a time to be truly afraid. He was broken, shattered, and leveled like a city to rubble by his TBI. He was non-verbal, paralyzed on one side, fed through a tube and breathing only through a machine. I had everything in the world to fear at that time, and my fear was grounded in a cold, dark reality. Yet I chose to believe, to hope, and to love. I looked fear in its grisly face, spat in its eye, and got to work right away on Patrick’s recovery.
Years later, when Patrick was doing the best he ever had, (and I was at my very worst), fear began to take hold of my heart again. I felt as if I had been ground into the dust by the pressure I’d sustained for such a long time, and was slowly blowing away into the wind. I had lost myself in every manner of the word; my health had declined extensively, and I knew that I had to make a change. I knew I had to learn how to love myself, to become healthy, and to finally find balance. But whenever I tried to take steps to do so, the fear stopped me.
This went on for a very long time, and my health continued to decline. In truth, I don’t think I had ever been so afraid in my whole life as I was right before Patrick and I split-up. The fear of what might be was completely paralyzing. I feared how I would be perceived. I feared Patrick’s ultimate well-being. I feared my heart breaking and the “bones” of it never setting right again. I feared the shedding of our labels. I feared the response of those who had looked to us for hope. I feared the loss of my dreams for us. I feared a sense of meaninglessness. I feared regrets in the future…..the list goes on and on. Most of all, I feared that redefining my relationship to Patrick would mean redefining my relationship to myself, and that it would take an enormous self-inquiry, which could ultimately reveal things that I did not like lurking within me.
It turned out, that that was the only fear that I had, which had any basis in reality. Redefining my relationship to Patrick absolutely required an in-depth self-inquiry and journey into my soul, and the terror I felt about traveling within, revealed to me how desperately it was actually needed. I had become so good at compartmentalizing my emotions that I didn’t want to open any of those boxes. Nevertheless, I had to get brutally honest with who I saw in the mirror, with who she was, with what she needed (priority ), and wanted (less of a priority), in order to flourish and thrive.
As much as I did what I did to ultimately save Patrick’s life, the truth is that for the one who is doing the rescuing, there is a certain escape of self in the “life-saving” business (at least for me anyway). I never expected it to be so all-consuming or take up quite as much time as it did, but after awhile it just got more and more difficult to focus on myself or remember how to do it at all. Granted for a long time, it was nearly impossible to do so, but then even after it no longer was, I still found it increasingly more difficult to peel back the layers of me, and discover the woman who had endured this epic journey. In other words, I was stuck in 2013, and afraid to let go of that girl, once and for all, in order to find out who I had become today.
Eventually though, I learned to take the reigns again from the hands of Fear and to steer. And as I slowly enacted the changes (which were and continue to be extremely slow so as to serve everyone’s best interests), I began to see that my fears were unfounded. We had a rocky period, but Patrick has been doing well for months, and it turns out that we can stand on our own two feet without needing the other in an unhealthy way. Furthermore, not being needed in the same way as I once was, has allowed me to inquire about why that was always so necessary for me in order to feel like I had purpose in the first place.
I’m not going to lie. It’s been a huge amount of work, and I still have a long way to go. However, I feel stronger than ever now. I’ve lost 32 lbs, I am in treatment for delayed-onset PTSD, depression and anxiety, and I am working hard to get well. I meditate. I color just for the joy of getting lost in creativity. I ride my bike 3x a week on the boardwalk. I go for long walks at sunset on the beach. I am eating a whole-food, plant-based, vegan diet. I am journaling every day again. I still help Patrick, and he has additional help from a second person as well. However he does more for himself now than he ever has before since his accident. Mostly, I am dreaming again of what is possible.
I’ve learned that surviving tragedy and enduring trauma has the unique ability to transform your perspective, if you let it. I can’t explain to the degree at which I am fully aware of my own mortality, and that I’m going to die some day. It is intense, in a good way, like a thunderstorm you can’t ignore. Being a caregiver for almost four years, and watching someone I love fight for every inch of their life back… makes me want to live.
Something is going to kill me someday, but I know for certain now that Fear isn’t going to be it.
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