I remember the days you used to live in my head.
More than that, I remember how you moved in without me even realising, like a friendly, polite—if a little reserved—houseguest who livened up my home and made it seem all the nicer with you in it.
You found yourself a spot in the living room and settled into it, claiming it your own. You visited so often and for such increasing durations of time that eventually you became a fixture and I became so used to seeing you, feeling you, hearing you there that I began to fear you leaving.
Yes, you made me fear that fear would leave.
You grew large and heavy, sitting in that spot in my mind. You became like those really large people they feature in documentaries, who sit so stoically in their 600-pound-flesh in the same spot on the same sofa that their skin starts to weld to the cushion covers. By the time I began to feel like you had outstayed your welcome, it seemed impossible to ask you to leave.
Finally, finally, I heaved and I ho’d and I pushed you out of the front door, your swollen veiny legs kicking against the chair as you were wheeled you out—part by part by part by part, there was so much of you. I know, Fear, you wouldn’t go without a fight. You screamed at me on the way out, how stupid I was, how useless I would be without you, how ungrateful.
But I got rid of you, Fear.
The carpet in the living room of my mind is still stained—there’s a deep ugly pockmark of a dent created by years of holding your weight as you sat and stewed and boiled over in that chair. Even after I willingly forced you out, there is still always a reminder that you took centre place of the home that is my heart and my mind and my body.
But then, I think now I really am grateful for you being there, for taking up so much space in me that I could no longer see where I ended and where you began. Because when you left—the whole stinking, sweaty, imposing bulk of you—the curlers of light, no matter how small, how peek-a-boo, that shone through the window seemed more cheerful than ever. The fact that I could even see these shards of light, that you weren’t blocking it out with your sticky, liquid-black mass, was enough to make me smile.
So yes, I am grateful to you, Fear, for showing me how to appreciate something as simple as a slice of light again.
I am grateful that you were so often cruel and tricksy and dark, because it has shown me exactly what I don’t want to be.
I am grateful that you were so unkind, so overbearing, so constantly there because it has taught me exactly how we should never treat anyone, not even ourselves.
I am grateful for you telling me, over and over again, sneering from the dark corner you had parked yourself in, how useless and stupid and ugly I was, so that I could learn to rediscover the magic, strong, uniquely-me parts of me that I had long denied and shelved away, to make room for you.
I am grateful that you made me afraid and ashamed of everything I felt and was because it’s had the opposite effect on me, Fear. It didn’t keep me on an emotional lockdown. Instead, I’ve learnt how to really be authentic, bare-naked-honest to myself and own everything I feel or do. Now nobody tells me how I should or shouldn’t be feeling but me.
I am grateful that you made me despise myself so deeply and for making me feel small, because it has only made me enjoy the smallest accomplishments and littlest pleasures my body and mind afford me with even more fervor.
I am grateful that you made me hate, scorn, bully and oppress other people, even people I loved; that you would whisper over and over to me how bad and stupid and damaging those people were even if they did nothing but try their best to fight their own battles. It has taught me that single precious lesson of how I must never, ever again treat anyone the way I did, while I did your bidding. More than that, it has taught me how to love people—all these people—even more than I could have ever done before, even more than you could have anticipated.
I am grateful that you showed me what malice meant, so that I would forever remember what it looked liked and know to stay well away from it.
I am grateful to have lived for years under your dark wing of threats, that rotting last-resort carrot you dangled every instance I even thought of evicting you from inside my head: “But what if…” “You know what will happen if…” “Don’t do that or…” “You must do that, if not…” It has shown me so many things. 1: threats are cowardly. 2: threats are desperate. 3: eventually, it’s not the things we’re threatened with that we fear, but the being doing the threatening that we so tire of. Don’t you see the irony, Fear? Your threats tried to keep me beholden to you but they were precisely what made me drive you out in the end. So thank you, again: You showed me how I didn’t want to live anymore; not with you on that sofa, brandishing your black cards.
I am grateful that you forced me into a constant purgatory between a terror of the past and a suffocating anxiety of the future—it’s made me understand more acutely than ever the sweetness of staying present, feeling presence.
I am grateful for all the times you told me my body was just a shell, that it is alright—nay, necessary—to tire it, stretch its limits, work it to collapse. Mind over matter. Make the most of it, you told me, The rest of you is worthless, invisible, will amount to nothing anyway; might as well let your body show for something. Since then, I’ve learnt how it feels to really love it, and appreciate—really, deep down appreciation—what this body really does for me. It is not a shell; it enables me to do everything I can do, including (or have you forgotten?) housing you for so long. But I guess that’s precisely what you, Fear, didn’t want me to find out.
I am grateful that you made me wish to die almost every night—just fall asleep forever. Without you, Fear, creeping around my head like a weight mass of thorns, I think I would never have learnt what it means to live with all the fullness and love and freedom and lightness of beauty I can now enjoy.
So thank you, Fear, for coming to stay and even for outstaying your welcome. You came empty-handed, traipsing in light-footed and unassuming, but in the shadows of your leaving, I have found enormous gifts.
That last thing you wailed, as we dragged you out of my head—part by part of you, as you had become so large by the end—was how ungrateful and selfish I was.
But you see, I really am grateful, after all. I really am grateful.
With love to you, Fear,
Photo by Holly Lay on Flickr Creative Commons