Self-Therapy Questions: How Do I Overcome Debilitating Fear?

When looking  back on my entire life as I can remember it, I notice something. From childhood onward, one very powerful emotion has been ever-present. It took a very helpful, yet stressful conversation with my partner for me to really realize that I have absolute debilitating fear.

Some people have said that fear is a very natural human emotion that is normal, and sometimes very healthy. I do not think that the fear that I experience is healthy. What’s more, I am not sure how to overcome it.

From a very early age, I was always afraid of getting into trouble because of corporal punishment. You know, ‘If you’re bad, we will spank you.’ I really did try my very best to be a very good child because I was afraid of my parents. In the religious beliefs my family held, a child is not just supposed to obey parents and respect them. They should fear parents as they fear God. I was the scared, quiet little boy in the corner who played by himself mostly because he was afraid he would get into trouble.

When it came time to start going to school, I found a new fear. As the ‘smart’ one, the one of my siblings who had the greatest will to learn and retain knowledge, I was branded the ‘wonder child.’ I was only allowed As and Bs in school. If I brought home anything lower, I was spanked, grounded, and deprived of everything but books and food. I was the child with all of the potential for greatness while my brothers would probably just be dumb jocks. I was told at a very young age (about 8 or so) by my grandmother that I was our family’s last hope. She said “Your mother pours tea for a living in a cafeteria and doesn’t even really get tips. Your father drives a linen truck, has a paper route and is also a janitor. He has to work 3 jobs because he dropped out of college when he married your mom. He was an idiot. Your older brother works in a palace of sin (at the time he worked at the Gila River Casinos in AZ). Your younger brother is just plain too stupid and lazy to ever amount to anything. The only thing he cares about is sports, and he is terrible at them. This is why the fate of this entire family rests on your shoulders. If you fail, I will disown the lot of you. None of you would be even worth knowing.” Now let me fast forward to today…My older brother is a hero. He is a fire fighter with the Chandler Fire Department. He has a beautiful wife and 3 children. He lives in a fantastic home with hardwood floors and has made quite the life for himself and his family. My younger brother is also a hero. Right after high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force. He has seen deployment in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.  He has served his country in an honorable fashion. Who am I? I am a former drag queen who flips burgers for a ‘living.’ The ‘hope of the entire family,’ the one who was supposed to be someone, the kid too smart for his own good has failed. I am reminded of it by family members quite often in little ways.

I was afraid of voicing my opinion when I was young. In our home, children were not allowed an opinion. Opinions were only for adults over the age of 18. So was freedom of speech. No thought I had about the fairness of anything (“LIFE IS NOT FAIR! WHEN WILL YOU LEARN THAT!”) or about an injustice I’d witnessed was valid. I ended up being a very quiet and shy person who rarely spoke to anyone about anything. I was even left at church twice by my family who thought I was already in the car with them. I was so quiet and rarely said anything that they didn’t realize that I was not present until they arrived at home. I started to think I was invisible. I became a loner, and not because I wanted to be. I was a nerd, and was shunned, but that is quite common. Indeed, I fly my nerd flag much higher than any of the others I might fly. It is the only category I fit into that I am not at all ashamed of.  \V/,  Live long and prosper.

Now that I am an adult, I find that the fear of failure follows me and haunts me. I have failed as a proper roommate many times. I failed as a cook at a nursing home when I was fired. I have failed as a partner many times. I failed as a member of management at the place I currently work, and had to step down or be fired. It embarrasses me every day to walk in the door of that place. Bad things happen when I fail. It is the ONE thing I am so afraid of.

I am afraid of applying for work. When I drive down the road (in a car that is not mine because I cannot afford the upkeep and maintenance of a decent automobile) I don’t just see signs of possibilities. A bank? Why would they hire me? A hotel? My entire resume is full of nothing but food service. If I were a hiring manager and saw my resume cross my desk, I would think “This guy needs to apply for management at McDonald’s. That is where his experience says he belongs. McD’s tells me “You don’t fit our criteria for management. Wanna build a Big Mac?” NO. When going on a job interview, I get so nervous I break out into cold sweats, my voice wavers, I have to clear my throat a lot and it is difficult for me to look the interviewer in the eye. It causes me to hate looking for work. If someone actually DOES notice my resume and actually calls me for an interview, I freak out. I also cannot answer that inevitable question: “Why should we pick you?” I don’t know. I’m nothing special.

I feel that in order to pull myself out of this poverty income bracket, I must go back to college. I did go to college for three semesters right out of high school. My parents chose the college and my major, and all of my classes. I had to pay for it and actually do the work. They chose computer aided drafting (CAD) for me as my major. I hated it. I eventually dropped out when I had to move away from home. I’ve spent the rest of this time trying to get settled and trying to figure out which path my life should go in. I really have no idea what to choose for a major. People tell me to choose something I like, but I have this fear that everything I like to do cannot translate into a career that actually makes decent money. I am terrified of making a $30,000 education mistake. I must choose a major that has promise of a job after school is over. The South does not have many venues for actual careers coming from a college education unless it is in the medical field or a trade. I don’t want to have spent those thousands of dollars for a certificate or degree that ends up just being another piece of paper with my name on it that means nothing. I’ve had many career fantasies throughout my life. Each one was a dream too big. Naval architect? My math skills and understanding will always keep me from a career in anything technical. No building ships at Harland & Wolff or John Brown for me. Ship captain? Getting into naval academies is very difficult, and it takes years upon years of study before I’d ever find myself the captain of a passenger ship. (Cargo ships do not interest me. They are ugly and only designed industrial purpose.) Chef? I actually did used to want to be a chef. Now I realize that I need out of the food service industry. It is not kind to its employees and there is no job security. A better cook is always out there who will accept smaller pay. Graphic design? Advertising? This is what I am toying with right now, but there are nearly no venues in this town for this field. Nearly all projects requiring graphic design are outsourced to Atlanta. Move to Atlanta? I just don’t really think so. Move to another big city? Possibly. That means leaving behind my partner, and just about everything else.  I am so scared of making a huge mistake!

People try to tell me all the time that I am young and have most of my life ahead of me. I say BULL SPIT. I am 31 years old. My life is halfway over. I really have no desire to live past the age of 65 because of what is going on in Washington right now. I won’t have anyone to help me take care of myself. I have no children. Medicare will have been disbanded. The age I wish to expire may change in the future, but right now I plan my 65th birthday to be a suicide party. While everyone else is living it up at the party, I will be in private taking my own life so I don’t have to experience my body breaking down with no insurance to pay for its upkeep.

This huge fear of failure has kept me right exactly where I have been for the past 10 years. When will it end? How can I fight it? I understand I will get 50 nos to one yes. I also know that time is ticking by and that I cannot afford to waste any time. It takes months, years to get those 50 nos. It takes years to get a degree. I wish my life to end at age 65…and I do not want my life to finally begin at age 45 or 50. I feel like I’ve wasted away the years of my life that really matter, trying to find appropriate living situations. I feel like I’ve let everyone down, including myself. How do I stop this? How can it change? I’M TIRED OF BEING AFRAID. I AM TIRED OF FEELING LIKE A FAILURE.

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~ by blueeyedcubtn on May 27, 2011.

4 Responses to “Self-Therapy Questions: How Do I Overcome Debilitating Fear?”

  1. Bless your heart.

    Call your local community college and take English or Math and just get your feet wet and stop ruminating over what you don’t know.

    They have aptitude test you can take that can help guide you.

    A very wise person once told me, “Take a short look inward and a long look outward.” Meaning that self obsession can only harm.

    One phone call puts you in touch with your local state sponsored community college.

    Since you don’t feel led to any one career at the present, just take some kind of introductory course.

    Consider a two year certificate in something benign that you could at least pay your own bills with, like x-ray tech.

  2. Overcoming fear is a lifelong process. The only way out is through, so to speak. I agree with Ken. You just have to go for it.

    Since reading this a few days ago, I have been thinking about you a lot. Another helpful step may be to ask if McDonald’s has an EAP program. It stand for Employee Assistance, and it is a free counseling service many businesses offer their employees. There should be a number you can call to talk with a trained counselor. It’s free. If that isn’t possible, call your local health department and ask what they offer. For so many people, some sort of counseling often helps, and there are possibilities out there for you, too. Hang tough.

    Here’s a quote for you:
    “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh”
    I know it’s Winnie the Pooh, but I love the quote.

  3. This sounds like only a slightly more extreme me…

    And colleges over counselors who will help you pick an area of study. The first year or two are mostly generic classes though so you have a lot to do while you figure it out. Then take your electives in random things…

    And I still say it sounds like moving will help….

    • The first thing I must do is change jobs. I have a GM that doesn’t really work with school schedules, unless I want to be cut down to about 20 hours a week. We must have open availability to get any kind of good hours. I have already heard from Chattanooga State Community College regarding my FAFSA, I am eligible for financial aid. I just have to get into a job that will allow a full-time school schedule also.

      Moving from Chattanooga…that is part of my plans, but my partner won’t leave while his mother is still alive and needs him. She just had a bout with breast cancer (for which she can say she is a survivor of now), and sepsis from a troubled colon. She nearly died on the operating table a few years ago. She is 72 and restarting her life because of a pending divorce. His mother needs him and I cannot stand in his way with good conscience.

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