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When Fear Is a Thief

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It’s always there, lurking, waiting. Watching for a vulnerable moment, or one when I’m actually enjoying myself. It catches me off guard, tearing the smile from my face. It loves to lie to me, to try to convince me everything is not all right. It is a thief, robbing me of joy and of peace.

It casts a shadow over everything, a dark fog I am still navigating my way through. I’ll never reach the other side. I’ve got to learn to accept that, but to accept that means to lose hope. I’m not ready to do that just yet.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and major depressive disorder, and what I am referring to is fear. I live my life by fear, in fear and with fear. It is inescapable. Though at times it dims, it never leaves. It’s always there, waiting just around the corner. I can’t fully relax because I know at any minute it will rear its ugly head, pulling me down into its depths, suffocating me until I tire.

I’ll get past the fear of one thing only to be confronted with the fear off another on its tail. I may be able to use my learned resources to get through an episode, talk myself through it, ignore it, sleep it away or medicate so it’s dulled. I also may not be able to and may find myself in a full-blown panic attack.

The choice, often, does not feel like my own. Either way, when the episode is complete, I will be utterly and completely exhausted. To fight this monster within me takes everything I have.

I do it every single day. There is not a day that goes by that is not impacted by my illnesses. Not a full day of peace and comfort for me to experience. There hasn’t been for 23 plus years. Whether it’s something major that’s got me worried or something minor that would barely bother anyone, it consumes me. It overwhelms me. It is the biggest fear in the whole wide world.

My brain does not produce enough serotonin, resulting in my illnesses. I’ve been through countless forms of therapy and medication, and, sadly, I have found there is no cure. Fortunately, there is help and some relief, and I will certainly take it.

Though there are not whole days when I am free, there are moments, hours even, when I am overcome with joy. There are smiles to be had and shared. Laughter to be roared and conversations to have. There is love to feel and love to give. Along with the fear and sadness, these are also part of my life. I am not willing to lose them.

So the fight continues. Indefinitely. Perhaps forever. I must come to terms with knowing this may be as good as it gets (multiple professionals have told me as much). I must recognize I cannot merely “decide” to be happy. It doesn’t work that way for me; it’s actually physically impossible. I must accept these are the cards I was dealt, and I can do my best to play them. I can get up every day and decide to continue taking my medication, decide to continue my therapy and decide to use my exercises when I am faced with fear and depression.

I am not my illnesses, and they are not me. Though, for the time being, they may be at the forefront and they may take more time and energy than I would like, there is hope. There is hope that one day a cure might be found. There is hope I may get better. There is hope sharing my struggles will help others to know they needn’t suffer alone. There is healing in hope. There is also happiness.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 14, 2016
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