Monday, August 27, 2012

fear held and let go, held and let go


When I am quiet on here, I'm usually busily working stuff out. Thinking and thinking and thinking.

Well, I should say, When I'm quiet in general, I'm working stuff out! In real life, I sometimes start twiddling my hair, gazing off into space, and thinking deep thoughts. My husband always notices, always asks what I'm thinking. Sometimes I can tell him, sometimes, I haven't figured out what exactly I'm thinking, just that I am! My thoughts come in all these colours, kind of like drifting into a cloud made of paint bubbles, as well as snatches of music, books I've read, photos I've taken, moments I've lived, and fears and joys I've felt and carried about with me like trinkets.

It's busy in this mind of mine. Busy good, busy sad, busy afraid, busy planning, busy dreaming, busy hoping, busy taking it all in, this extraordinary life.

We're flying to Perth for a big family holiday in three weeks today. If you've read my blog for a while, you might know I have a fear of flying. But I don't know if I've been that clear about this fear, certainly not recently: my fear has been profound and debilitating, and in January, when I tried to plan a trip to the US, it was the main thing that brought me down.

If you don't have a fear like this, it must be hard to believe. This crazy fear—it's been like the monster in my closet, and whenever I look at it and give it energy, it comes roaring into my bed, sits on my blankets, curls up inside my chest and sings terrible songs that keep me awake for days.

So I've been working with a counsellor for 8 months to deal with it, and with all the related monsters and monster babies that come along with something like this. Because the fear feeds other fears, unsurprisingly, and brings up all sorts of memories. The fear lives inside my history and who I am. I've been trying to figure it all out. Try and accept the fear and move on, have a life that isn't pinned down by it.

I'm doing really, really well. This flight is our test run, and from there, I'm hoping I can get on a plane to visit my husband's family in the US. We have friends and family over the sea, such dear, dear people, and I want to see them.

One of the things I've said over and over is how important I think it is to be up front about my issues with depression and anxiety, so that it isn't a hidden illness, something to be ashamed of, so that anyone with a history with this illness might feel less alone.

But I write that I am afraid of flying and I feel a bit silly. Like, I've been working with a counsellor for this long about something this safe? Really?

I'm not afraid of heights, but some people are. It's hard for me to imagine how that might feel. I'm not afraid of small enclosed spaces, or sharks, or dogs, but some people are. I don't feel their fear, but I get it. Some fears seem to come and swallow you whole. You can't explain it. You just try your best to live.

Sometimes it doesn't work so well. But sometimes, with hard work and words spoken and thoughts thought and with lots of writing and looking for beauty and checking in and having the best mental safety net in place, it does start to work. It starts to get better. The fear loses its strangle hold.

The last three weeks have been crazy busy with amazing, wonderful, happy things.

At the same time, since the beginning of August, I've been getting this wild panicky feeling in my chest. It hit me around about then, in this, Oh Wow, way. Oh. I'm getting on a plane. Wow. I am getting on a plane. And if I give any space or air to the feeling, up comes the wild fire of fear. What if? What if? What if?

I feel like a motorcycle daredevil then. I'm heading towards the burning hoop. I am going so fast. I have done this before, I am in my flame-retardant suit, there are people standing by with fire extinguishers, the crowd is moving me forward with goodwill and prayers, my family is standing by, my children are hopping up and down with excitement. It should be okay, but you never know for sure. All you can do, is let go. Surrender to the movement of the bike, of your path forward and through.

And when I surrender—because I really want to jump; I want to leap through that hoop—I suddenly see.

There is no burning. There are no flames. The fear makes pictures only I can see.

There is so much beauty. Beauty on this side of the hoop and on the other. I am pointed at the hoop, moving forward, surrendering, accepting. Letting go.


  1. Helena,

    I understand your fear. I have a fear of flying as well. A fear of cruise ships too. I have never been on one and my husband would desperately love to take a cruise, as would my girls but I cannot even imagine stepping one foot onto a ship. Boats I am fine with, which makes no sense, but I am sure you understand that the thought of being on a ship makes me panic.

    Planes are similar. I can do it but the anxiety it produces makes me a not-so-nice-to-be-around Mama. It has prevented me from taking trips. Just this week I wrote about wanting to visit my friend Michele in Chicago and I keep trying to rationalize how I can drive there by myself (16 hours) and make it a weekend trip. I can't. But I also can't fly there by myself. It was all I could do to handle the airport and the flight last November with Greg by my side.

    Don't think this is a silly fear or that you are struggling in silence. It is very real and very overwhelming. I respect that you are seeking help in conquering it so that you can take that trip and visit friends and family in other parts of this beautiful world. Keep working. I will be sending wishes of strength and power.

    1. Thanks so much, Jess. Thanks for your honesty and support. I really appreciate it ( and all the wishes of strength and power! If you keep those up, I could turn into a Superhero) :)

  2. Helena, I am so glad you wrote today! I have been thinking about you for a week at least, and very nearly emailed to see how you were doing. You are amazing. You can do it.

    1. Thanks, Deb, my friend. Yes. I CAN do it, yes, you're right; I AM amazing! ;) (note to self: repeat Deb's mantra, repeat Deb's mantra, repeat Deb's mantra!)

  3. I have been thinking of you so often Helena. Wondering how you were doing. I had a horrible fear of airplanes and also ships like Jess said. I knew, I just knew I would never be able to fly. When I moved to California for 2 years I was so sad because I thought I would never be able to fly home. But I did it. The things I could tell you. I joined an online help group and got so much positive advice from them. I spilled all my fears and it was a group that knew exactly how I felt. I bought books and I listened to audio tapes. When I did fly for that first time it was from San Fran to layover. I got on that plane and told everyone around me that I was terrified and had never flown. They really helped me. To just lay it out there. I told them I may run up and down the aisles screaming and they said that would be fine. And you know what? I WAS FINE. And you will be too. Seriously my fear was so big but I was fine. Oh Helena I am sending you brave thoughts and hugs and the assurance that I know you can do this. Even though you are afraid, you can do this. I promise you.

    1. It's so lovely and empowering to read your words, Karen! I appreciate them so much. And thank your for the thoughts and hugs and assurance, and for your faith.

  4. Hi Helena,
    I too was wondering when we would hear from you. I wish you all the best in tackling your fears.
    Love to you and your family.

    1. Oh, Yeshe, it's really nice to hear from you. Thanks so much. Thanks for the love and your beautiful wishes.

  5. I can't relate to the fear of flying, but I do have an irrational fear of slugs - they move so fast, you know. Unlike me, your words are stunning and I know you will handle yourself with grace and fighting spirit. Also sending hugs and braveness.

  6. I don't have a specific fear of flying, but I do have what I call "death anxiety" about too many things. Before every vacation, I struggle with it. I work hard to wrestle my mind over to positive thoughts (versus the horrible things it comes up with!). I heard something once that I liked: FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real. If we can remind ourselves that our fears - the images, the "what ifs" - are not real but imagined, it helps. Hugs to you - I know how crummy anxiety can feel! Also, deep breaths. I'll say a prayer for you for peace. :)

  7. Good day! It was so fantastic to visit your blog and in particularly to read this blog article. Also I can't wait to ask you one thing that I am interested about. Have you ever practiced guest blogging?


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.