Have Heart, My Dear, We’re Bound To Be Afraid

by Susan Pogorzelski on November 10, 2008 · 2 comments

Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you, dear…

Snow Patrol, “Run”

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While I’ve had some incredible experiences in the past week and done things I never would have imagined (traveling on my own, hauling wood from a forest, mixing compost), while I’m living out a dream of writing by a fire in the mountains of France, I’ve experienced homesickness to a degree that I’ve never quite felt before, coupled with an emotion that I’m all-too familiar with.

I’ve always been candid about my anxiety disorder — it’s essentially a part of me, something through which I’ve grown and learned, something that I’m still struggling to cope with. And it’s come back in full force on this journey.

Anxiety is debilitating, and I don’t mean the kind of anxiety felt before a presentation or a test — I mean the type of anxiety where emotion is magnified, where your mind locks onto thoughts, where pictures and feelings and sensations of unease build up. It reduces you to a mess of tears and fear, makes you regress ten, fifteen, twenty years. Anxiety corners you and holds you firmly in its grasp, not letting you think clearly, too consumed by irrational, sometimes irresponsible emotion.

The thing about anxiety is that it forces you to feel things in the moment; it has no sense of time. You can’t look to the past for comfort and you can’t look towards the future for hope. You’re stuck in a barrage of emotion that seemingly has no escape.

So when I say that I was homesick, I mean that I’ve been crippled by emotion that has reduced me to night after night of tears and shaking fear, that has locked onto the very thought of home and causes me to want to flee to my own version of safety, that has taken every support system and every last bit of courage and strength for me not to change my flight plans and run back seeking comfort, as I have done so many times before.

In a conversation with Monica (via Twitter, no less), I expressed that I tend to live too far into the future, anticipating events and waiting for the unexpected, leading to false hope, irrational fear, and unnecessary anxiety. She pondered if this was a Generation Y trait, wanting to control the uncontrollable and becoming increasingly anxious in knowing that this is never quite possible. It was an interesting theory, and when I did a quick search, I found some articles quoting that those in their twenties have the highest rate of anxiety disorders. When you consider it, it certainly makes enough sense — we’re transitioning into adulthood, hoisting the weight of the world onto unsteady shoulders, wanting change yet hesitant to take that first step towards it.

At least, that’s my own personal story. I always equated this anxiety with caring too damn much, as I tend to favor others’ needs before my own, their happiness becoming my own. It’s not something I’m really consciously aware of, but rather it feels natural, intrinsic, especially in terms of those who are dearest to me. A part of me, perhaps the selfish part, wants to cocoon them or bubble wrap them, to tuck them in safely, so that no heartache or pain will ever come to them. I always thought that loving too much was my Achilles’ heel, my gift as well as my burden because while love is the strongest emotion, with it can follow fear. And both emotions are no strangers to me.

So it makes me wonder. Is this anxiety something that most of us feel, but rarely admit? Is my hypersensitivity a personality trait or a generational trait? Either way, I’ve accepted that it’s a part of me, something I need to learn to cope with and that will enable me to grow through its challenges, just like my homesickness is a part of this experience that will hopefully make me stronger and more independent.

I don’t have any advice for getting over homesickness and overcoming anxiety. I’ve googled and read articles and books, and it all seems easier said than done. But one piece of advice I’ve seen, especially for children, is to have a piece of your home with you. Now, that I can do.

With love in my heart and email and a phone card in hand, I’ve gratefully got that covered. And maybe that’s the greatest lesson I’m learning: wherever I go, no matter the distance, love lingers with you.

With that, you‘ll never be alone.

And you’ll never, ever have to be afraid.

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