Have you met Fear and it changed the way your brain processed life?
I sure did.
Fresh out of the chains of high school, I was thrilled to start an exhilarating, unknown college experience hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia, PA. I was a rebel and wasn’t afraid of anything. When I turned 18, I bought my first pack of cigarettes and smoked them until I enjoyed it. I was ready to try anything and everything and welcomed the world and its inhabitants with an open heart and mind. I was living the “dream”–at least the dream that I wanted when I was 18 years old–adventuring around the city at all hours of the day and night, cutting class, talking and sharing with all walks of life, and drinking 40’s with the homeless.
Then, one bright and sunny day, I heard that a person got stabbed outside my apartment building–The day I met fear. Immediately after hearing this, a switch turned on in my brain, and I never thought or acted in the same way again. I was rewired. I couldn’t leave my apartment without someone accompanying me. I was desperate–because I felt it was a life or death matter–for someone to go with me everywhere. If I heard a noise that somewhat resembled a gunshot, I would lay face down on my floor until I felt it was safe to get up. I didn’t have curtains on my windows–which completely boggles my mind now–and one time someone had a laser pointer in a hotel high-rise across from my building, and I saw it go across my wall. I felt like I was in a fishbowl and being out in public felt like I was in a video game where someone, somewhere was after me–and it was my turn to “go” next. I was afraid to die.
After that day, I started noticing more people sharing their traumatic experiences and stories that happened to people they knew in the city (e.g., robbed at gunpoint, raped and killed, and other horrors). With each traumatic story, I dug myself a deeper grave of seclusion (Oh, the irony). I started losing my friends, and it felt like I wasn’t “cool” to them to hang anymore because of the challenges I was going through. I had no idea what was truly happening in my brain–I was lost, confused, vulnerable, and wanted to feel “safe” in hibernation for the rest of my life. After a few more weeks of ordering groceries online and hiding in trembling fear in my apartment, I moved back home to my dad’s. I felt like I was a failure and ruined my shot at a good life in the city. From that point on, I began understanding and coping with the symptoms of agoraphobia.
This experience isn’t the end of my story. Nor is it all dark and gloomy; it is quite beautiful and I wouldn’t change a thing. The most significant step I took towards healing was unconditionally accepting and loving myself—and my rewired brain. From that point on, I started to see stars in the darkness and wasn’t running around in fear of the dark–as much. As the years go by, I reach new mental goals with my post-traumatic condition. It isn’t easy, and it feels like I am back at the start sometimes, but I know I have come a long way in healing my body, mind, and spirit.
And this is what I will be writing about from here on out–healing, taking risks, going on challenging solo adventures–and learning to sit next to my mind and hold its hand, instead of shaming it into hiding.
Fear is just a scared little kid that needs a hug.