Peace Versus Fear

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself –nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. [Emphasis added.]” — From Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address delivered on March 4th, 1933.

What is the opposite of fear?

My counselor asked me this question during our last session. I guessed fear’s opposite to be bravery or courage. Thinking about it a bit more, one must experience fear to be brave or courageous; thus, bravery and courage are an action resulting from the emotional state of fear, not fear’s opposite.

I can’t think about fear without also thinking about the current state of affairs in the United States. This year’s election campaign is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever witnessed. People have themselves worked up in a frenzy over it — most certainly for good reason given the idiocy we’ve come to tolerate; but politics is a mere distraction meant to divide people through their fears. Fear is a powerful weapon. It’s been used since the beginning of time to divide, conquer, and enslave. Politics is its current manifestation — a competition, a game of manipulation, that preys upon the insecurities and weaknesses of the public.

It’s a game, not meant to test the merit of its competitors but the virtue of its spectators.

I don’t understand what “need” competition fulfills in those who compete or even those who choose to watch (not just in politics but sports or any other form of competition). If we, as humans, moved past that rivalry and antagonism, perhaps we could finally move toward cooperation and teamwork for the sake of, you know, actually getting shit done. It’s that cooperation and teamwork that unites people — a prerequisite for promoting a “civilized society.”

I’m guessing some people don’t want that. I’m sure there are some people who would love nothing more than to see everything collapse into a state of anarchy. I get it. Chaos is stimulating. It’s action versus inaction. It’s something different. It’s scoffing at a broken system, demanding it to change to suit some arbitrary need.

Except — everything in the Universe is like a finely tuned machine that eventually balances out and follows a pattern despite chaos.

Anarchy is like a deep-seated anger or tantruming 2-year-old.

If you subscribe to Robert Plutchik’s theory of emotion, anger is the polar opposite of fear. Anger is certainly in abundance during this election season, but that anger is more appropriately fueled by fear. Isn’t anger comparable to the fight response of fear? Isn’t “hate” a form of anger and thereby also an extension of fear?

The next time you start to use the word “hate” use instead the word “fear” because that is what it really is.

“The biggest thing you have to fear is not a terrorist or a shooter or a deadly home invasion. You are the biggest threat to your own safety.” — Neil Strauss, from Rolling Stone’s, Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear

Thinking about “fear,” I imagine a feral cat or deer or even a black bear. Where I grew up in East Tennessee, deer and black bear sightings were fairly common, especially in the Smoky Mountains. Past and present, I’ve had ample opportunity to watch wildlife as it’s a passion of mine. Watching wild animals’ behavior helped me understand my own behavior as much as other people’s behavior. Go anywhere near a wild animal, startle it, and you’ll witness raw fear in its purest, most instinctual form. The wild animal will either freeze, run away, or attack — same as any of us when we’re in the emotional state of fear. Yet, if you observe a wild animal from afar in perfect stillness and quiet calmness, that same wild animal will remain perfectly at peace, content in its environment.

This leads me to believe the opposite of fear is peace — calmness.


During the last 8 years, I have worked diligently to maintain a simple, safe and secure, peaceful environment to benefit my mental health. That is what I need. Perceived threats [see: The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share] — whether real or imagined — cause life to feel out of control, chaotic, and full of fear.

Fear and anxiety have been constant companions throughout my 44 years of life. Fighting fear requires all of my energy just to maintain that level of balance I need to nurture my mental health. Fighting fear is the equivalent of avoiding it — whether through distraction or numbing or denial of its existence. Fighting fear is an unconscious coping method/defense mechanism that takes over, subconsciously stating, “This feels bad. I don’t know what this is. I must avoid it.”

Fighting fear is action without exploration.

Accepting fear is the opposite reaction, requiring conscious action. Accepting fear leads to peace, a state of freedom — the opposite of fear. Accepting fear is the equivalent of consciously choosing to acknowledge, “I am scared” or “I am anxious.” Accepting fear is exploring my state of fear to gain understanding which allows me to validate the emotion. Accepting fear soothes, comforts, and nurtures the soul.

Accepting fear consciously acknowledges, explores, validates, and nurtures; thus allowing you to move from a state of fear into the state of peace. 

Living in a constant state of fear is exhausting. Fighting, fleeing, or freezing all seem to take on the same avoidance characteristics. Each serves a purpose, and none is either right or wrong. They’re reactions to fear and still methods of coping. For me, it’s a persistent, never-ending battle to cope with fear and anxiety. I’m still learning to recognize and remain “conscious” when I find myself in these states of emotion (or any state of emotion, for that matter). I’m convinced it takes a lifetime to master.

My advice for anyone facing these same challenges:

  • You’re NOT weak. Fear and anxiety are normal responses, especially in precarious times such as these. Above all, remember that. Go easy on yourself.
  • Practice living in this present moment. Conscious awareness is key. If you find yourself depressed, you’re living in the past. If you find yourself anxious, you’re living in the future. Now is really all that matters.
  • Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. Take a break from media. That shit will drive you crazy! It’s all about moderation and balance. Go for a walk out in nature, spend time with friends and family, do something that lifts you up rather than brings you down. Give yourself space when you need it.

Seek out moments of calm. Moments of calm are practice for the emotional state of peace. 

Tips from around the web:

  • “A calm, balanced frame of mind is necessary to evaluate and understand our changing emotions. Calmness ideally is a baseline state, unlike emotions, which arise when triggered and then recede.” — Atlas of Emotions
  • “The goal… is to separate real threats from manufactured ones. And to find a balance where we are not so scared that we’re making bad decisions that hurt us and our freedom, but not so oblivious that we aren’t taking steps to protect ourselves.” — Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone’s, Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear
  • “When we let go of our notion of fear as the welling up of evil forces within us—the Freudian motif—and begin to see fear and its companion emotions as basically information, we can think about them consciously. And the more clearly and calmly we can articulate the origins of the fear, the less our fears will frighten us and control us.” — Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., Psychology Today, The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share
  • “The question isn’t whether or not we experience fear in our lives (because we all do and always will for as long as we live); the more important question for each of us to ask and answer is how we can move through our fears in an honest way so that they don’t stop us from being who we really are and going for what we truly want in life.” — Mike Robbins, The Huffington Post, How to Move Through Your Fear in 7 Steps

A Tragic Loss

An acquaintance/friend of ours died by suicide on July 29th. I was shocked to hear this when KR told me about it. He was, too. While I had only spoken with this friend a couple of times, briefly, I admired his animated, lively way of speaking and telling stories. I love a good storyteller. He was a good guy with a big heart. KR worked with him up until the middle of May when the friend “pointed out.” For anyone not familiar with the “point system,” a lot of factories in this area use points to discourage tardiness, absenteeism, and other work-related mistakes. If employees get too many points, they’re fired.

This friend was struggling. His marriage ended, and he was left without a home for a while. He stayed with some mutual friends of ours before finding another place to live. Then, he lost his job. Why can’t employers take into consideration major life changes like a divorce? Divorce is a huge stressor. Being homeless is a huge stressor. Losing a job is a huge stressor. I can understand his despair and hopelessness because I’ve been there.

His family didn’t even have a funeral for him — no wake, no memorial service, nothing. A few of us who knew him got together this past Saturday to memorialize his passing. As I listened to the stories everyone shared about him, I wondered what went through his mind before he made that fateful decision. No one will ever know. I can imagine because I’ve been there so many times, but I can’t know. 

It’s a tragic loss when anyone dies by suicide. I feel sad for our friend. I feel sad that he couldn’t reach out to anyone for help. I feel sad that no one recognized his pain. I feel sad that he died so alone in that way. His death is another tragic reminder to me that depression can be fatal. I wouldn’t wish this dis-ease on anyone. As for me, I’m coping with the trigger in the best ways I know how. I chose to draw this friend’s portrait today while wishing his soul my best on its journey. I can only hope he found the peace he was searching for.

If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.

Pokémon Go Home

I’m sure most everyone has heard something or another about Pokémon Go by now. KR and I downloaded it last Sunday to check it out — ya know, just for kicks-and-giggles. We goofed off with it throughout the day around the house but didn’t make much progress. The game rewards getting out and about to find imaginary beasts to capture. It has the potential to take gaming to a different level. It’s much like a scavenger hunt, and I like that about it.

Tonight, there was an event at the Depot museum in Cookeville, a pizza/Pokémon Go party before the movie at the Depot. Usually, I enjoy these types of events because they get me out of my comfort zone and at least, around people; but today, I struggled to make myself leave the house. I didn’t even go on my usual Friday afternoon hike. I did an hour of yoga at home instead. Yet, I made myself go to the Depot anyway, despite that uneasy feeling I often get over leaving my home. I walked around downtown for about 45 minutes, with the intent of getting an ice cream cone at Cream City and watching tonight’s movie afterward.

I’m not really sure when that feeling took over. I felt exposed — like “you’re-such-a-pathetic-loner” exposed. If I had to properly label it, I guess it was a feeling of sadness (lonely, inadequate?) and fear (insecure, foolish, embarrassed, discouraged). By the time I got back to Cream City, the line was out the door. It’s a small space. I stood in line for only a few minutes before bolting. The crowd was too much. I left — no ice cream, no movie. I left and came back home.

I didn’t want a repeat of Monday. I hate having panic attacks in public. Usually, I can fake it well enough so no one notices when I’m having a panic attack. Monday afternoon was different. I felt trapped. The doorway was blocked by a crowd of people. The little girl in the waiting area having a meltdown reminded me of me at that age. Her mother’s comments about her being a bad little girl for the whole room to hear caused me to empathize with the child despite her overwhelming shrieks.

I’m not sure if all of this is a symptom of social anxiety or PTSD, but I simply wasn’t up for being around people tonight. Lately, I haven’t been up for much at all.

Writer’s Block

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve wanted to write something, anything here, but found I have nothing “good” to say. No new insights. No helpful tidbits that might skew my thoughts enough to change my perception. Nothing but frustration about things I think I’ve pretty well covered in past posts.

Same shit, different day.

Today was a bad day, a very bad day — mentally and emotionally, and for no good reason I can come up with. It just was. Frustration prevents me from speaking my mind. Fear and paranoia prevent me from being truly open and honest. Doubt fuels my insecurity. And despair just keeps telling me, “Give up already.” She’s a trip, that one.

Worry set up camp in my mind, fueling a great many “daymares.” These internal arguments play out like flashbacks except — rather than flashing back into the past, these are more often possible future scenarios that end in a few raging choice words that aren’t pleasant at all. 

I wonder if “daymares” are a real thing. Does anyone else experience horrifying nuggets of imagination and anxiety that mix to form crazy daydreams that rival the worst nightmare?

I do.

Not sure how long these have been going on, but then again, I feel as though I’m caught somewhere between sleepwalking through life right now and numb disconnect. Maybe that’s simply my norm. Maybe it’s just that time of year. Where does it begin and where does it end? What triggers it? Maybe it’s not a continuous cycle but a never-ending state of mind. Brief moments of awareness send me right back there because everyone else’s reality sucks a little bit more than my own.

At least in my inner world, I have others to talk to. Loneliness and isolation are probably the worst symptoms of depression; but quite honestly, I don’t have the patience to deal with other people’s shit.

I digress. I apologize for the cynicism. It’s a shame that I rarely make myself write on the “good” days.

Coping seems to be the only solution. “Deal with it.” That’s the message I’m getting lately.

Injustice Trigger

By now I’m sure most people have heard about the reprehensible lenient sentence given to Brock Turner, a 20-year-old Stanford University student convicted on three counts of felony assault — “the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/ unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.” [Source: CNN] Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to a mere 6 months in county jail.

Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker

Her letter — her courageous account describing her attack, as well as the aftermath and impact on her life — gives all of us who have ever experienced rape/sexual assault a voice. My heart goes out to this woman who suffered a horrible violation of not only being raped but also an injustice of the court system.

As is so often the case when stories like this appear in my news feed, I couldn’t turn a blind eye, not even with the knowledge that it would trigger my own suffering once again. Granted I’ve already been struggling for the past couple of weeks with a triggered loss of safety due to the theft I wrote about in my last post, Strangers and Thieves; but the Stanford survivor’s story gave me serious pause. The circumstances of her rape were frighteningly similar to that of my own during that first rape in ’98.

Those of us who have been victims of rape — survived such unconscionable acts of violence — suffer the consequences of our rapists’ decision for the remainder of our lives. Had someone told me that in the aftermath of the rapes I endured, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself every time I found myself (yet again) struggling with any of the following symptoms that so many of us are forced to cope with after such trauma:

  • The intrusion of memories of: the actual rape itself; the immediate events afterward and our own reaction; the responses of those we’ve told; displaced emotion; and for those who had the courage to press charges, that ordeal as well.
  • Flashbacks and panic attacks that force us back into those horrid moments, reliving the emotions and vivid recollection of such memories.
  • Nightmares that wake us from the safety of our own bed, preventing us from getting restful sleep.
  • The hyper-vigilance of constantly being “on guard” in an attempt to protect ourselves from further threats, including an exaggerated startle response, and the exhaustion that results from being in that constant state of anxiety and fear.
  • Triggered dissociation, feeling numb, inability to experience emotion (not even joy or happiness), or feeling out of touch with reality.
  • The lack of trust and problems maintaining relationships with others that lead to isolation.
  • Shame, worthlessness, and loss of “self.”

Don’t get me wrong, these symptoms may lessen over time; but unfortunately, they never completely go away. And a lot of the time, at least for me, when I’m triggered it feels just like it did back then.

We live in an overly-sexualized society that permits rape culture, blames the victim, and excuses a behavior that is nothing short of murderous intent — murder of the soul. Rape should carry as harsh a penalty as that of murder, not a mere slap on the wrist like what Turner received. It truly is no wonder why so many rape victims don’t press charges, myself included, and why so many more don’t even report the rape. When society, especially that society’s judicial system, values a rapist’s “potential” more than the victim’s suffering, it fails in every sense of the word to be a civilized community.

It’s shameful that so many people still don’t comprehend the damage rape does to its victims. It saddens and angers me greatly that Judge Persky failed to recognize the seriousness of Turner’s actions. It’s even more shameful that a judge would favor a rapist convicted on three counts of felony assault over the victim who has no choice but to now “cope” with what was done to her.

It’s not just shameful. It’s WRONG!

And just a reminder for those entitled few who still haven’t gotten the message:

Sex without consent is rape.

Strangers and Thieves

Tonight was kind of weird — okay, very weird. Around 7:30 pm, someone knocked on my door. It was the man I wrote about back in December 2014 who was asking about the still vacant trailer on this property. KR said he has talked to him once before as well, not to mention I’ve spoken with him on at least one other occasion since then as well. He continuously uses the excuse that he is interested in renting that trailer each time he comes back here. It’s a dead-end, graveled road. We don’t get much traffic, so it’s unusual to see strangers.

Today, he used the excuse that he ran out of gas. His vehicle was parked at the beginning of the graveled drive close to the main road. He walked down to see if we had some gas to get him on his way. I told him he could use a couple of gallons from the gas can we keep for mowing the yard. I walked with him out to the shed where we keep the mowers and gas which is closest to the vacant trailer. To my surprise, both gas cans as well as our weed eater weren’t there.

Quickly, I called KR to be sure he hadn’t moved them. He, of course, hadn’t; but I wanted to be sure. The only conclusion we could come to is that they were stolen. Not even 2 weeks ago, his air compressor was stolen out of the shed. Granted, that shed isn’t secure; and there’s really no way to secure it. Yet, it’s the only place we have to store outdoor equipment like that.

I apologized to the man about the gas. Instead, I allowed him to use my phone to call for help. Afterwards, I called the police out here to file a report. I don’t expect anything to come of it, but this is getting ridiculous. Thieves are the worst sort of coward. I have nothing but contempt for them.

Between the oddity that is this strange man who keeps showing up and having to call the police to report stolen property, I feel triggered and seriously paranoid! I’m fighting panic and considering the fact that KR and I may need to invest in a home security system just for peace of mind. I really don’t feel equipped to handle crap like this.

My Life-Line

I’m attempting to process a suggestion made by my new case manager yesterday and my reaction to it — especially my reaction to it. During the course of our visit, which mostly consisted of filling out initial paperwork since this was only our second visit, she mentioned journaling. I told her I was an avid journaler, had been for years.

Her suggestion was to burn, shred, tear up, or otherwise destroy what I’ve written.

This suggestion seriously hit me the wrong way! My reaction went something like this:

Thinking to myself: Wait… what?

Voices quickly firing off in my mind: Did she just say what we think she said?…. She’s not to be trusted…. She knows nothing about us…. Destroy 22 years worth of writing?! That’s more than 16 journals…. What about the sketch journals and art journals? For that matter, what about the blogs or anything else we’ve written or worked on?….  She done lost her goddamn mind…. 

I was completely aghast, positively horrified by the idea of destroying my life’s work in this way. Quite honestly, I about lost it! I told her, maybe a little too firmly and aggressively, “NO! I refuse to do that! I will NOT destroy my journals! So, not happening.

A protector voice immediately took over telling me: STOP talking! Don’t say anything else! (I swear I thought I literally heard sirens going off in my mind because I felt so angry.)

Then, I promptly shut down — got quiet, listening to the voices of agreement in my head, ALL expressing the same disgust and rage over a suggestion that seemed to blatantly disregard how much time and effort I have put into recording my life in this way.

Throughout my journals and everything I’ve ever written, drawn, painted, photographed, or otherwise created, each holds a piece of a puzzle I’ve spent my whole life trying to put back together. I’ve worked hard on myself for the past 22 years to gain a better understanding of my life, my personality, my values — everything about ME, as an “individual” — despite my struggles with mental illness, trauma, and life, in general. Every single part of me has contributed to those journals in an attempt to understand what it means to be human in a general sense as well as an abstract sense. My journals are a part of me. They reflect the good and the bad. They are a timeline of my life. Everything I’ve ever created is a part of that timeline.

And all of it is my legacy to my children.

My case manager continued to explain that destroying whatever I’ve written out of angst and pain would allow me to release it, let it go. Holding onto it all would only prevent me from moving forward. This reminded me of a statement made by my counselor a few weeks ago — something about how I hold my past on a pedestal, refusing to let it go and move forward. I can’t remember his exact words, but both sentiments were basically the same — at least, in my mind.

Get the fuck over it and move on already.

The effects of mental illness and trauma are only a piece of the puzzle that is my life as well. ALL of my life experiences — good and bad — have made me the person I am today. All of that self-introspection in my journals and through my art are my attempts to process and cope with the effects of trauma on my life, especially when nothing else helps! The act of releasing is in the art of writing it all down. It is in the art of creation. I purge it from my system each and every time I find the words or imagery to get it out. My journals, my art, my blogs, and whatever else I choose to create are my life-line. Why would I want to destroy that? To destroy any of it would be like destroying a part of myself.

My case manager noticed I shut down, saying, “You got quiet.” I only smiled, patiently waiting for her to change the subject — all the while, seething inside.