Living With Fear

Fear. That feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, that something isn’t right. It’s a survival mechanism, an evolutionary trait meant to keep us safe and to spur us into action when necessary. Sometimes, though, fear can be paralyzing. Instead of fight or flight, fear can keep us stuck, trapped in the situation that makes us feel unsafe.

I’m well versed in fear. If I’m honest with myself, fear has motivated many of my adult life decisions. Fear of the unknown, fear of starting over, fear of never having children, and then fear of being the sole caregiver for said children, all kept me in a marriage that made me miserable for far too long.

Lately, though, my fear has shifted. I’ve conquered many of the fears that kept me immobile for so long. I’ve opened up about my journey, and my shame. Because I AM ashamed. I am angry, at myself, that I let fears of possibilities (never certainties) control my decisions for so long. Now, though, I’m living with a different fear - a very real one - and it’s eating at my insides, day and night. It’s a paralyzing fear, one that causes me to frequently stop and search for the breath that has seemingly left my body.

I stayed with my ex husband because of fear, and I left him because of it, too. Now, eight months later, I carry that same fear with me throughout the day. His words, and his actions, haven’t left me. They echo in my brain, and they keep me awake at night. He isn’t mentally well, and I am not safe. I know this, deep within my bones. And I keep saying it, to whomever will listen, as if that will somehow lessen the fear.

But it doesn’t. Today, like yesterday, and the day before, I will lock myself into my apartment, behind deadbolts and chains and 24-hour video surveillance. I will pull my children close, and snuggle them to sleep, while planning possible escape routes should my ex-husband decide to break a window and attempt to enter my home. When we leave, I will double-and triple check that no one is lurking behind a corner as we head to the car. I will take alternate routes, and one eye will remain on my rear view mirror at all times, waiting to see the familiar color and shape of his truck behind me. I will do everything the experts tell me to do, but the fear, it will not leave. It will continue to sit, an unwelcome visitor, high in my chest, small, tight, persistent.

“You are not safe,” my fear tells me.

“I know,” I whisper back.

And so we continue on together, my fear and I, reluctant yet constant companions. I’d like nothing better than for her to vanish, to leave me alone to celebrate my hard-won freedom and my fresh start without her reminders that Something Is Not Right. Unfortunately, my fear (like my ex), is proving hard to get rid of. Neither one wants to let go, and in that way, he wins. He doesn’t win in any of the ways that matter - a quick examination of the fallout of our separation clearly shows that. But he knows how to make me afraid, and that’s exactly what he is doing. It’s intentional, it’s illegal, and yet it keeps happening.

I am living in fear - of my ex, of what he will do, of how far he will go. I am living in fear for myself and for my children. I am living in fear  - and that’s precisely what he wants me to do.

Comments

  1. This rings true for me as I lived in a situation with violent neighbors who focused their anger on me. For years, I would lie in bed at night, waiting to hear a window break or the door to be kicked in, followed by a man with a gun staring at me. I remember being so ashamed of this, being silenced by my fear. No one did anything to help: not the police, my medical providers and not any of my neighbors (who were well aware).

    I’m sorry you are living with this fear, especially with someone who is so intimate to your family. It’s worse when it comes from someone who was suppose to be your partner. My hope is that somehow, some way, someone is able to find a way to intervene to get him out. In the meantime, you and your family are in my thoughts. Sending love.

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  2. I'm sorry that you continue to live in fear. I hope that you eventually reach a point where you can find peace and security.

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  3. Oh, that's terrible. I wish there were some sort of relief available to you, but it doesn't sound like there's anything easy ahead. Will there be some options in the future, short of him being no longer alive or in your town?

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  4. I am so sorry you are having to live with this kind of fear. Sending you peace and love and hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

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  6. I'm so sorry, Jo. :( I hope he will soon find something else to focus his attention on, and in a more positive way.

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