Scroll around the internet for about 5 minutes and you are highly likely to stumble across some motivational quotation at overcoming your fears. The two most popular:
Feel the fear & do it anyway;
Fear is a liar.
So what is it that you are afraid of? Often it is something tangible: spiders or heights, but sometimes, it isn't so easy to pin point what creates that cold dread you feel in the pit of your stomach. When you are dealing with anxiety, somedays you may wake up with a fundamental unease which you can neither interpret or resolve, but it feels as real as if you were standing on the edge of a cliff.
When you start to learn about anxiety on panic disorders, one of the first things you are likely to read is about the 'fight or flight response.' Fight or flight is a physiological response to a perceived threat. It primes the body to either battle or flee for your life. Without boring you with too much science, stress hormones are released into the body to prepare you, which creates a number of physical symptoms:
- Heart rate and bloody pressure increase;
- Pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible;
- Muscles tense, energised with adrenaline;
- And my personal fave, all non emergency bodily processes shut down to direct energy where it is needed. So you know when you get nervous before an exam & need the loo, that's your fight or flight response.
This is perhaps our most primal response to our surroundings & one we share with all animals, which, if the reality of you getting mauled by a tiger is a real one is super helpful, but, if you are just trying to get onto the tube to work, not so much.
Fear is there to help us to survive but in a society where a significant proportion of us are safe & not left wanting for much, why are so many of us afraid?
Spoiler alert: I don't have an answer for this. I wish I did because I think it would help me understand so many of my fears which have hindered my life at one point or another.
On Friday I will be getting on a plane for the first time in about 8 years. Of all the hurdles I have overcome in my battle with anxiety, this is the largest & therefore, obviously the last I decided to tackle. Every night this week I have woken up at 4am sweating, my heart pounding in my ears as my brain swirls around all the possibilities. Despite my attempts to rationalise my response, the fear feels as real to me as any threat I could ever face.
Its demoralising & certainly debilitating. When I feel this intensity to flee it can make me feel that nothing I have previously achieve has meant very much at all. This is why people say that fear is a liar. It can numb you to every positive experience, every tangible building block we use to build resilience.
During these times I remember to talk to my partner, my parents & friends. They remind me of all the many, many steps forward I have taken & those previous insurmountable situations that I have tackled & overcome.
This particular trip is for my hen-do so I have to try. And I will try. I am determined to. I certainly am feeling the fear, will I do it anyway? Well, I certainly hope so.