It is amazing how skilled we are at protecting ourselves, and never letting anyone see inside when we’re scared or hurting. This submission broke my heart because I know the person who submitted it, and had no idea the suffering they endured. This kind of courage is so much bigger than people realize, and I am overwhelmingly proud of my friend for sharing this because I know it’ll hit home for so many readers.
My brave is probably much different than a lot. My brave is simple: it can be just leaving the house for a walk.
For as long as I can remember I have suffered from fear. It started as simple fears, like me being afraid of dogs, and little things that many children are afraid of. For some reason unknown to me I also developed a huge fear of men as a very young child. It was so extreme that as early as kindergarten I would not want to go to school because there were male teachers in the building. I wouldn’t go to friends’ birthday parties without my mom calling to see if the dad was going to be there first. If the dad was going to be there I wouldn’t go. My parents tried to help, and had my in therapy as a very young girl, around 5 or 6 years old. I began just trying to hide the fear out of embarrassment but the problem was the fear was intensifying.
As a young girl dealing with fear, I had many incidences involving men that intensified it. One time when I was around 8 years old I was wearing a shirt with my name on it and a man engaged in a conversation with me acting as though he knew me because he was using my name. I had forgotten my name was on my shirt but because I was so fearful I (luckily) ran away from him. When I was around 10 years old, my family visited a local mall to see Santa. I needed to use the washroom and went down the hallway to where the washrooms were. I was chased down the hall by a group of older teenaged boys. I’m not certain now if they were trying to hurt me, but having a group of 17-18 boys running after me down a hallway scared the crap out of me. Then to top it off, when I was 12 years old a friend and I were at the public library doing research for a project we were working on. We were researching a haunted house that was in the area of the library. We decided to go explore and see if we could find the house. On our journey and car pulled up to us and asked us for directions. We told the male driver that we were not from the neighbourhood, and we didn’t know the street he asked us for. The man drove away, but came back to us again about 5 minutes later. He called us back over to the car. I was very nervous with him approaching again but we went up to his car to see what he wanted. The man in the vehicle than grab my friend by the coat and I looked down to see that he was masturbating. I grabbed my friend and we ran as fast as we could until we found someone to help us. It was terrifying. Needless to say my fear escalated to a new level.
Things were so difficult for me. I was so embarrassed by the fear so I tried to hide it but was not able to do the regular things my friends were doing. If my friends were wanting to meet at a park there was no way I could do that. I couldn’t walk anywhere by myself, couldn’t go to a store to buy candy. I was a mess inside. This fear carried on with me to my adult years. I moved out of my parents’ home and with friends when I went to college. If my roommates weren’t home I was so scared, especially at night. When I moved out on my own in my own apartment it was horrible. I can remember many nights with me literally sleeping at my front door with a frying pan with me so I would know if someone was breaking in. I had many night terrors of me being raped. For years I had the very same dream night after night. I was totally held captive by this fear.
Unfortunately, I also brought this fear into my first marriage.
By this time in my life I was in my mid-20s. My fear was so extreme, I was not able to take my dog for a walk. I’d have to run to the mailbox to get my mail from outside. To walk through the mall by myself I was a nervous wreck. Consistently looking around me, always thinking someone was watching me. I’d literally duck behind displays and hide from everyone that looked like they were a threat to me. My husband at the time had to endure me not allowing him to have a job that involved night shifts. If he wanted to go out at night with his friends I wouldn’t let him. I think he thought I was just being jealous of what he was doing, but the truth of the matter was I was just terrified to be home alone, especially at night. I’m sure I pushed my husband away, but for many other reason also we ended up divorced.
At the time of our divorce I had a beautiful 2 year old boy. The first while of being alone was horrible; I was completely falling apart. Lack of sleep due to being afraid and lack of eating due to stress of the divorce put me at a whole new level. I was a mess but needed to clean myself up for my son. Around 6 months after my marriage ended, I decided to sell our home and have a fresh start.
I went to counselling and began working on some of the issues I had been dealing with my whole life. I started going to church again, and had counsel from my pastor as well. My faith played a huge roll in my victory over fear. I had to begin to put my trust into something.
As I walked through this journey of healing, which by the way is still a daily walk for me, I began seeing victories in so many areas.
It seems so strange to celebrate being able to go for a walk by myself, but that is a huge victory for me. I now can walk through a mall by myself with confidence, go get gas in my car by myself, and even go in a convenience store (which I have never been able to do alone). I was even able to take my son to Toronto by public transportation. That is something I would have never attempted in the past due to fear.
These simple daily activities are my brave. I have hidden this part of my life from almost everyone in my life over the years.
My desire is to let anyone, even if it’s just one person, know that you are not alone in fighting your fears. Big are small they are real and they can be defeated. Looking my fear in the face is my brave.
The #ShowMeYourBrave Project asks people, “What’s the bravest, scariest, or most intimidating thing you’ve ever done?”. The idea of the project is to share stories of everyday bravery and human resilience to bring us closer together. In sharing, we not only find our voices, but we find support, allies, and others who have faced similar challenges. If you would like to submit your story, we would love to feature your bravery here.