Letter about fears and feeling invisible

31st of March 2020

Dear reader

I was a little disappointed with myself that I had nothing to write this weekend. But I didn’t want to try to write dispite the nothing. I wanted to have something to share. And today I remembered this story that was on my mind last week. A story that felt worth writing.

I remembered it because my mom told me I am doing great. Like all my mental health problems were gone and everything is fine and there is nothing wrong. I am able to get out of bed every day, I get two meals a day that I make myself, I fight to keep myself active, I am not deeply suicidal. But it’s a struggle to do those things and somewhere underneath how I am coping, all the problems are there. Just waiting for me to drop my guard and let them take over again. I’m doing so great on the surface. I function. But something hurts inside of me and I want to rip it out, with roots and all. To make sure it doesn’t get to live inside me ever again. And people are telling me I just have to accept it, my mom especially wants me to just pretend it’s not there, the same way she hopes to pretend we are a close family. But I don’t want to pretend anything. I crave truth an authenticity. Even when it hurts. Because only then does happiness and joy and the good feelings feel true. Only when they are not a mask, asked to cover something painful, shameful or unwanted. And unlike my mom I have decided that all my feelings are wanted and welcome.

But it was the sting for hearing how well I am doing when it only feels like a thin layer on the surface that jugged my memory.

When I was a kid my parents signed me up for swimming lessons at the local pool. There were three pools. A baby pool, a longer pool, and a very deep pool. And as a kid learning how to swim you start in the baby pool. I was a slow learner. My body is not a place I know how to inhabit and I was uncomfortable in the water. So when after the first year the other kids my age moved to the bigger pools I had to stay behind for a while. A year I think. Or maybe just six month. I didn’t really mind. It wasn’t a social thing.

When I was finally told I had to move to another swim team at another pool I felt like I was supposed to feel proud and happy. But I didn’t like the prospect. Maybe it was the change. I was very ad at change. Still am sometimes. Or maybe I knew. I don’t remember if I knew. They moved me to the very deep pool. And I was so scared of the depth of the water. I have no reason why. It’s the only irrational fear I have. I don’t know if it’s a phobia. But the deep water terrified me. It was five meters deep. And looking down into that water made me so afraid. But I was supposed to go in the water and swim to the other side, and back, and again and again and again. And I did. Because I didn’t know I had a choice. I clung to the side of the pool whenever I reached it. I reluctantly let go and then made my way desperately to the other side, back to safety. If they let me swim next to the side of the pool I would stop and grap hold and I wasn’t supposed to. So often I wouldn’t get to swim there. And there would be no way to feel secure till I got to the other side.

Even now remembering this my body recalls the panic it felt and my mind refused to bring me a visual memory of the water.

One day after swimming my mom told me how much better I had gotten. How much faster. Especially with one of the swimming style that required my head to be in the water most of the time, and where I had learned to look at the bottom between strokes. And I can’t remember if I told her. I just remember the inconsistency between what she was telling me and what I was feeling. She told me I was doing well and she saw my progress. And somehow that was all anyone could see. The pure terror I felt at the water was invisible.

I feel so bad about this fear of mine. I prefer the ways I so often feel fearless. But deep waters still scare me. The times I’ve been back to the pools since, I stay as far away from the deep pool as possible. I have no intention of ever going in again. Deep water is also a returning thing I my nightmares. I don’t know why. I have no reason for this fear. And I hate that I have it. But maybe it’s good not to be fearless. Fear has its place. And it helps me have empathy for other people’s fears. I’m not afraid of heights or spiders or the dark. I am uncomfortable with some insects, especially worms, larva and snails, but I have examined that discomfort over and over and I keep concluding that it is disgust and not fear I feel. My mom has a deep fear of rats and mice. So I guess it might be normal to have something. But I do feel oddly ashamed that I am afraid of something for no reason. I did face my fear though, back then. I have decided that I do not need to do that again. Not at this point in my life. It is not a fear that prevents me from doing things, and I my nephew wants me to go to the pool someday I‘ll go with him and we’ll have other, less deep pools to play in. Because thought the water scares me, I am not as afraid in the shallow water.

I’ve been thinking this week about my mom not being able to see how I really feel. And my conclusion is that it’s not entirely her own fault. I’ve worked hard to hide it. To protect her. To protect myself. She isn’t always a safe person to share the truth with. I don’t want my pain to cause her pain too. And I know I cannot trust her to allow my feeling to exist and to their job. She will try to dismiss them and call them unnecessary. As if any feeling that isn’t happiness is unwanted and unwelcome. She has dismissed my feelings and thoughts so much I believed I had no right to them. And now she has no right to know about them. That is one of the ways I reclaim my right to myself and to what I feel.

But still. I wanted the truth of my feelings seen and heard and acknowledged. And I wonder if I’ve done that with everything in my life. Made getting to the other side look like progress and like I am doing well. How often do I feel like I am drowning, like I am unsafe, like I am in pain or scared or angry or something else, and the people around me see me doing fine. I do not mean for that to be what I show the world. But that is often what they see. And I hate that. I know it can be a good skill to have, but it doesn’t feel like skill I can turn on or off at will. It’s just what I am. I so often don’t feel seen or heard or taken serious because people cannot see how I truly feel. I’m not sure what to do about that, because I would prefer that my truth was a little less invisible.

This was difficult to write. Mostly because English isn’t my first language and there were so many words and phrases that were difficult to translate. I hope I did it right or at least made myself clear. I should probably edit this, read it through a few times. But I can’t do that today. I think if I ask that of myself I will end up not posting at all. And I wanted to post this.

I hope whoever is out there doesn’t feel invisible and that maybe my story of being afraid can make you feel a little validated with whatever fears you have. I am still learning to accept that I have this kind of fear and that that is okay.

Take good care of yourself, I always ask people to do that. But I know it’s a little more relevant right now. Thank you for your time.