A Year of Fear.

This post was written on New Year’s Day whilst on holiday in Gambia and not posted until 6th January 2019. 

As we prepare to welcome in another New Year (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?!?!), I have spent the past week reflecting less on where I have come from and more on where I am going. As I started doing this, the universe began to send me signs that I am on the right path.

On a river crossing yesterday, we sat at the back of the boat as it was the only area in the shade and sheeeeeesh was it hot (38°C, I kid you not). We watched the ferry fill with people, lorries of goats load on and even a live, squealing pig wrapped in a hessian sack and tied with string was carried on, flung over the shoulder of a young, suited man. As the ferry pulled away from the dock, it suddenly completed a 180° turn so instead of being at the back of the ferry looking at where we had been, we were now at the front of the ferry looking at where we going.

Everywhere I look, I see signs advocating the right path for me, almost akin to the religious fervour of the smirking statue in Derry Girls. If you haven’t started watching this 80’s comedy based in Derry, Northern Ireland, you really should. Essentially, you will see something if you look hard enough for it.

I can’t remember what my resolutions were last year and as I am electronic free on a beach in Gambia (did I mention that I was on holiday?), I can’t look back at them (synchronicity again eh?!). I assume I’m likely to have failed in accomplishing them, since I can’t remember what they were… Instead, this year, I am going to look forward and in a battle to overcome (or merely tame) my anxiety, I am conducting my own Year of Fear where I will do something every week that scares me.

It may come as a surprise to some people who know me and my fearless, indomitable (and often loud) spirit, but I am actually scared of everything. Whilst in the early stages of my recovery, I avoided anything that caused me fear as the extreme emotion was a trigger for me and I would, in the past, drink to calm the washing machine spin cycle of my brain. I would avoid social activities based around drinking using my recovery as an excuse when actually, my anxiety was the reason behind my being unable to attend. Or I would attend, but would cling to my delightfully handsome safety net (Hubs), who wouldn’t be able to leave my side. Not even for a second.

Both of these coping mechanisms (avoidance and safety net) managed to get me through the early stages of my recovery but now, they are not healthy coping mechanisms. They just don’t serve me well anymore. I don’t want to avoid doing things that I want to do. I don’t want to be unable to do things on my own, without a safety net. In the long run, this avoidance does not help me or my anxiety. And after reading an article in Psychologies magazine about overcoming anxiety, this year I will be trying to face mine head on in a more healthy way. Synchronicity again, eh?

So where will I start this week in Gambia? (I’m on holiday whilst writing this, I’m not sure if I mentioned that.) This week, I am going to target being more confident socially.

Currently, Hubs has to do everything from ordering drinks at the bar to getting the bill or asking for directions. This week, starting from today, I will aim to complete at least two social transactions each day, especially for things that I want and fall into the habit of expecting hubs to manage for me.

Historically, giving my needs an equal importance to somebody else’s (and God forbid I give my needs a higher importance than theirs), would have been a punishable event leaving me bruised, emotionally and physically, and filled with shame at my own audacity. It is something I am still learning to do now, knowing that those conditions (violence, manipulation, shame) no longer impact my life. To know what my needs are and to fulfil them in a healthy way is the key outcome for this challenge.

We’ve all seen the image of the empty vessel trying to fill up other empty vessels and being unable to do so. We all, individually, must fill our own vessels first, meet our own needs first, before we can fill up the vessels of other people. 

This challenge will be partly targeting the development of understanding my needs and meeting them, without relying on other people to do this for me. This will both build my confidence and lessen the burden of such additional responsibility for Hubs. And I aim to continue doing this every week, until it becomes a habit again and opens up my sometimes narrow and restrictive anxious world.

Other challenges may be one off events. Some may be as simple as leaving the house during the really bad days. Either way, every week, I will be doing something that scares me to challenge myself and continue to grow after a very challenging year. And I will of course, keep you updated.

Chin, chin and a Happy New Year!


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