There is a reason that I chose “Be Not Afraid” for my blog title, though it has more to do with what I am than what I am not. To be honest, I have suffered with an anxiety/panic disorder for most of my life. It has taken on different forms at different times. Although I didn’t understand the seriousness of this issue until I was well into adulthood, I can remember exactly when “fear” began to take over my senses. I was about 6 or 7 years old and it involved being separated from my father, because of divorce, and being left alone with an alcoholic mother who was at times, out of control.
I used different coping mechanisms to handle it all. Sometimes, I would just talk to myself. I know it sounds simple, but sometimes just telling myself that I was going to be ok…that nothing was going to happen to me…would be enough. However, sometimes, it wasn’t. Routine and ritual was another way of coping. This meant counting the days and the hours until it was my dad’s weekend to have us. I actually ticked off the hours on a calendar or on a piece of paper that I kept in my pocket. I can also remember watching television after school and every time a particular commercial would come on (it was for Wells Fargo Bank) I would think about how much closer I was to being with my dad since the last time that commercial was on. Even at 6 or 7 years old, I knew that sometimes taking lots of deep breaths would help that awful feeling to pass.
At 9 years old, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I risked everything and told my mom that I no longer wanted to live with her….that I needed to live with my dad. She didn’t speak to me for weeks. But, within a short time, we were living with my dad at my grandmother’s house. The panic/anxiety attacks went away forever….or so I thought.
Stay tuned for Part Two.