Kick, keep your head above water
At eighteen years old I was a prisoner of my own fear. I had become afraid of speaking in social situations, afraid to eat in, afraid to sleep incase, afraid to leave the house, afraid to be in crowds. For every situation there was a ‘I can’t, what if…’. Soon my fears became a trap and I felt damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. I reached a stage where there was hardly anything I could do without wanting to be magically turned into a small worm so someone would step on me and I could get out of doing what ever it was I should have been.
Learning to swim
‘This has to stop’, I told myself one day, ‘you can’t go on like this; everyday your world get smaller’.
I figured it had to be like learning to swim, just throw yourself into a lake and if you don’t kick and keep your head above water- you drown.
And so began my mission to conquer fear. My motto became ‘do one thing everyday that scares the shit out of you’ and ‘when you’re scared, kick, keep your head up and don’t drown’.
My first big challenge was teaching myself to eat in public. I started gently, gradually building up the challenge and pushing my own comfort zone.
It started with having a glass of water in front of friends in my own house. That first glass felt like a swimming pool full of marbles. It was nothing short of torture trying to drink with people around me. Like an Olympic sprinter on the starting block waiting to run the race of their life I looked at my glass. I summoned all my strength, picked up the glass and sank the contents in a single gulp. ‘Great!’ I thought ‘That is the only time I will ever have to drink water in public for the first time. At least next time I’ll have something to compare it to’.
Once I’d mastered that I moved on to having water at someone else house. Then in a café full of strangers! I then stepped up to coffee, after that I added a biscuit and so on. Each time I’d achieved something I told myself ‘Well, that’s one less thing to be scared of.’
I remember so clearly sitting in a café with a good friend being really brave and having lunch. I was doing so well; I was getting this glorious sense of achievement that had me buzzing with excitement.
And then two people I vaguely recognized walked passed and spotted us. My friend waved and they came and joined our table. Suddenly my very small and manageable sandwich felt like it had grown to the size of a family caravan, my knife and fork felt like telegraph poles and I was convinced I would choke.
I took a deep breath, speared a mouthful of caravan with my telegraph pole and said to myself ‘Kick, don’t drown’.
And didn’t choke
I could have climbed onto the table and burst into a rendition of ‘I will survive’! I decided how ever that I should at least finish my sandwich first. In my mind, I had passed the ultimate test and that meant there was no challenge I couldn’t attempt.
Keeping my head above water
Now when there is an obstacle in my path I remember that feeling of being terrified, and the feeling of having conquered my fear. I never want to go back to that feeling of being trapped, so no matter what lands in my way I kick, keep my head above water -and swim!