I'm giving zero fucks about... my fear of fear

Yesterday I was sat in a paddock of wild flowers, pink and purple and white. Those delicate flowers that look like green wheat, but they aren’t, caught the wind, blowing and tapping against my bare shoulders. It was beautiful. But I’d waded through stinging nettles to get there, the patch of ground I rested on was scraggy and rough, there was something invisible to me that kept prickling my knee, and big-ass blue bottle flies established me as their resting ground almost immediately. Still, this was my version of perfection for the day: it wasn’t perfect, it was a little troublesome, but it felt peaceful and good.

This is my depression patch. It’s a small grassy area, off the side of a planted woodland area in Shenley, Hertfordshire. When I’ve been depressed, I would make this a daily walk, through the yellow paths that ran down the side of green fields, through woodland and along hedge-lined rural roads. I wish I could have been proud of it at the time; for being out of the house when that felt so impossible, but I was supposed to be walking around other people and I had chosen this route for one key feature: its desertedness.

It’s strange that a place that is so visibly empty can feel so laden with everything but emptiness. This walk feels thick with… something that I can’t articulate, but it sits heavy in the air, runs in delicate streams down the pathways, and coats the hedgerow branches. I only visit this place on 1st July now - my anniversary of recovery from my last episode of depression - and, in part, it still feels as it always has. It feels sad. I remember a girl, a girl who was supposedly me, her feet falling where mine did yesterday, loaded with fear and uncertainty. She couldn’t have felt more unsure of her place in the world. She couldn’t have wanted to be smaller. She just wanted to disappear, slowly, bit by bit, day by day. Did she look terrified to others or did she just feel it?

I recovered from that depression after ten months (everything is temporary in the end), but that fear pervaded. Every year I’d fear that feeling I’d carried round this walk: of being scared of a life that I felt responsible for turning into something ugly, undesirable and useless. At my year anniversary, while friends told me how proud they were of me and my therapist told me “you’re doing great” and I lived a life that every day took a step further away from depression, I felt like I was on long piece of elastic that any day could snap me back. I felt quite certain that one day the “me” I didn’t like would turn up to the woods on 1st July.

My fear will never go because if I ask my fear what it wants, the answer is a hundred different versions of certainty. Certainty that I’ll never feel that way again, certainty that I’ll know how to handle it if I do, certainty that life will continue to build rather than crumble, certainty that 1st July will always fill me with pride and confidence, rather than serving as a reminder that I once was a different, better person. These are things I cannot give myself. However, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from a recurring, selfish depression is that acceptance brings peace. I can’t take depression out of my life for good any more than I can give myself a brain transplant. Therefore, I have to accept my depression and I must accept that I am, and will always be, scared of it. Surprisingly, my fear shrinks because I’ve brought it closer to me.

Maybe some of us would feel less fear at the moment if we had the certainty we crave. Our lives are lived week-to-week, solid plans cannot exist (though I have continued to book gig tickets for this year and you can call me stupid if you like and I might not disagree), and we don’t know what the world will look like once “normality” is restored. The fact is, big, fuck-off, bull-in-a-china-shop life events fuck shit up and nothing is the same once that’s happened. Of course it’s not, you’ve had a bull in your china shop, that’s fucking traumatic. I wouldn’t even stand in the same field as one, let alone be in a small retail outlet with one, for Christ’s sake. We are feeling fear now and we will continue to feel it in some form for a long time.

But let me take you back to that paddock. As I sat there with my diet coke, writing in my diary while flies were most probably shitting on me and my knees pricked with nettle stings, I considered leaving. It was quite uncomfortable. But I stayed. I sat and wrote and remembered when I would sit in this exact same spot and look up to the cloud-shrouded sun that sat just above the ferns. I stayed because I love this life, for the good and the bad that it brings, and I stayed because I now want to embrace it all. Even if there is always a version of the future that I will forever be fearful of.

It’s ok if some of us are feeling scared and anxious and worried right now. Nothing is certain and I’m finding that, sometimes, rather than being unsettling, that is a feeling that can bring immense peace if we bring it close.

Happy two years free to me 🖤