I have found that emotions felt by one, are often fuel for another’s judgment. Pain, sadness, trust, frustration, fear, seem to come with invisible requirements on what is “acceptable” to emote and what needs to be kept within. What is misunderstood, however, is that emotions cannot be put into a “one size fits all” category. Emotions can be considered universal in how they are defined but not universal in how they are felt, shared, or experienced.
Fear is no exception to this observation. Fear, by definition, is a feeling caused by belief in a danger that may cause pain or threat. It is something that everyone experiences or at least has experienced in some way or another. However, it is one of those emotions that seems to come with requirements. Fear in and of itself can become isolating, but when those around us judge our fears, the isolation can feel debilitating.
Experiencing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), I experience fear in a debilitating way. Having a mental health disorder, the lines between what is a known and immediate threat and what is the disorder leading me to believe there is a threat, become blurred. I live in a world where my “fears” are all around me and possible at any moment. The ability to decipher what is real, what is my mind, and what is purely unknown, can be maddening.
Contamination is something that I am always on alert for. I am afraid to be “contaminated” and I am afraid to “contaminate” others. These feelings switch off or sometimes coincide with one another. Illness and spread of illness between individuals is real, is possible, and does happen. It is warranted to fear that. However, with the OCD I experience, contamination is always an imminent threat, turning the real fear into isolating anxiety.
This past year, I have been learning a lot about this individual experience and a lot about fear. During the pandemic, my OCD diagnosis became a target for assumptions and judgment. More so than it already had in the past. OCD became my identity. I was talked to differently, looked at differently, perceived differently, and described as being controlling and irrational. While living my worst “fear” turned reality, instead of receiving support, I was being exposed as a pessimistic irrational control freak. I started to really believe this feedback I was getting from others around me, so much so, that hiding and isolating became my main source of comfort. A comfort filled with so much despair.
I discovered who and where my true support comes from. I learned to listen to those that were truly looking out for my heart and to know that those who were passing judgment were just experiencing their own fears in a different way. Pandemic or no pandemic, I experience emotions, I experience fear, and I experience the way my body and mind were made. It is different than others, but it is not me. I am not OCD. I am not what I am afraid of or anxious about. I am me. I am enough.
I experienced ups and downs of judgment for what I am afraid of. My eyes were opened when I was put on the other side of this experience. I watched as an individual I know became confronted with a fear I had no idea they had. It was there, it was real, I saw it with my own eyes. And even when it went away, I knew that that thing could be anywhere and come at any time. Just like germs. Just like illness. Just like what I fear.
When they were confronted with this, I had no fear at all. It was not something that caused me fear. They were trembling, they were hurting, they were reacting in a way I perceived as unnecessary. But to them, it was. And it hit me then, that that is how others view me when I am afraid of germs. Fear, at that moment, became so little, and I felt so strong. For at that moment, fear was not something that I was. Fear was an emotion and a response that we all know and we all express. It was not mine, it was just what it is. An emotion.
My first desire was to respond to this person’s fear with “that does not scare me at all.” However, I quickly put myself back in my own shoes when so many had reacted a similar way to me. At that moment, I just listened to them. I just let them share what they were experiencing. The judgment that I had been given before and the judgment that was creeping up within me was melted away.
Fears are real. Anxiety is real. Our experiences and perceptions of these are real. It is a tendency to respond to others experiencing fear and anxiety we don’t understand with misunderstanding that often leads to judgment, isolation, and pain. Fear and one’s response to it does not always make sense to others. But it does not mean it isn’t happening or should be hidden away. We need to, instead, view fear in others as a feeling we have felt in ourselves. We do not need to push others away, but instead listen and view it as a moment to try to be the best support to them as we can be.
When I am feeling afraid, I do not need to be fixed, lectured, instructed, or isolated. I need to know that I am not alone and that I will have a hand in finding the best support that I can. Fears will be there for everyone. But they should not become everyone. For a fear, is not an identity.
It does nothing to judge others’ fears. It does everything to help them find the ways they can live life NOT as their fear, their disorder, or their experience but as their true self.
Through this learning journey, I am discovering that I have started to fear feeling anxiety or OCD. I am currently sitting atop a mountain town in one of my very happiest places. Prior to this physical journey to this town, I was afraid of all the places and moments I had experienced anxiety before. Not only were the fears of driving and contamination real, but I was fearing feeling these feelings again, knowing that they were coming.
Making it here and going through and decontaminating and breaking down into tears about being out in the world more than I have been in 13 months, I was reminded that I am not what anxiety is telling me I am. This experience does not have to be what anxiety and fear are telling me it has to be. I decided, day two of my trip, I would try and go forward to experience things that have brought me fear before with my support system behind me.
My support system was there to remind me that I am Kelsy and I thrive in the mountains. Although those anxieties were still there, I discussed with my husband what brings me joy when I am here. I remembered the joy of hiking, meditating, and listening to the mountains. I determined and learned that I feel most safe, when I am connected to the earth. Connected to the mountain, I become connected to joy, stillness, spirit, and clarity.
I sat down and we meditated in the mountain. Ten minutes we spent in stillness rooted to Mother earth. I hiked and dug my feet into the snow and climbed up, down, and around. I became the most mindfully connected to the present moment of living, as my true self, than I have been in months.
I am learning and will continue to learn. I am learning to know that fear and anxiety may arise, for me and for others. But I have learned that it is not me, it is not them, and it does not run our lives. Having this clarity, I was able to mindfully find what in this world brings me stillness and joy.
May you know that you are not your fears, your experiences, or your diagnoses. May you know that you are enough. May you find your support, your clarity, and your mountain.
Grounding and earth connection are a beautiful way to settle in and experience a moment of mindfulness. Whether you are on a mountain, on a beach, in a tree, in your yard, in an apartment, or at your desk, grounding mindfulness can be a healing resource for you.
Settle into your space. Close down your eyes if that feels comfortable.
Start to notice the connection of your body to your space. Start to notice where you are sitting or lying. Try to bring awareness to where you are in space and what is around you, without looking.
Begin to notice the connection of your body with what is beneath you. This might be a chair, a bed, a floor, the ground, etc. Just notice.
Find awareness of the back of the head, the neck, the spine, the arms, the hands, the sits bones, the backs of the legs, and the feet and where each of these points connect with the earth.
Allow your body to sink deeper into the space while imagining the earth is rising up to meet you.
Begin to release letting the earth hold you as you feel grounded here. It may be extra grounding to place palms face down on each knee or over the abdomen.
Deepen the breath drawing in what you would like to receive during this practice. Exhale releasing anything that does not serve you in this practice.
Return the breath to its natural rhythm and depth.
Rest here finding stillness with the supportive earth. Stay here as long as you need, whether it is 30 seconds to 2 hours.
Fear is no match for mindfulness. When we allow moments of mindfulness to fill our hearts, minds, and souls, fear becomes an emotion, not our identity. May you find a grounding place of mindfulness whenever you need.
“To be fearless isn’t really to overcome fear, it’s to come to know its nature.” ~Pema Chodron
Thank you for those that always guide me back to my true self~my parents, Matt, my family, Claire, Vanessa, Tori, and Ellie.