Things I Think About Thursday: What I learned about fear from relationship breakups

I used to be afraid of all kinds of things. Worrying, anxious. My parents put it down to being the eldest child, but that wasn’t it. I was afraid of being honest. Afraid of trusting anyone. Afraid that someone not sharing absolutely everything all the time meant they didn’t love me, because I’d been raised with the expectation that I would share everything with my parents.

I was terribly afraid of being cheated on. Of divorce. Of being raped. And further down the line, all my worst relationship fears came to light. I had a lover cheat on me. I divorced another, who also coerced me into having sex with him.

And I learned the most important thing: even when the things that you’re afraid of happening in a relationship happen, you survive. Maybe the relationship doesn’t (and if sexual coercion is involved, it shouldn’t. Get help. Leave as soon as you can. Womens Refuge can help you.) survive. But you will.

I was cheated on, and I kept breathing in and out. My friends were still there. I could still create beautiful things. I cried, sure. I even had anxiety bad enough to need medicating. But I survived. In time, I bounced back.

It was the same with the divorce. Growing up with Christian parents (and identifying as a Christian myself- though I would now consider myself interfaith more than anything else), I was taught that divorce was an awful thing. I’m sure I would have been told it was as bad as sex outside marriage if my parents had ever talked to me about sex when I was growing up. The fear I felt at doing what I knew to be right- leaving a bad and abusive relationship meant it took me a long time to own the decision, and to accept that it really was final and I didn’t want to go back. It wasn’t easy. But it also wasn’t the end. Again, I survived.

When the things I dreaded happened to me, that was when I realised that I was stronger than the fear. I always had been, and I always would be. Because now I know that I can get through the bad things and they don’t mean good things will never happen again.

Simplistic? Yes, probably. But I can make it even simpler. What I know about fear, the most important thing anyone can know about their fears is this: they are survivable. They may look like the end of the world, but they’re just a wall separating you from the next phase of your life. And it’s a wall you CAN get past.

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