#leapfear Day 15 – Sarah

Sarah wrote me and asked if she could change her answers to my questions.  She had been reading the other women’s posts each day and made a decision that she wanted to reveal more in her story.  She hopes that in doing so, she can help to inspire others like the other women have inspired her.

And isn’t that an important theme in all of these posts?  That fear is like a prison.  That when we decide to confront our fear or leap past it, that is when freedom really comes.

I understand Sarah’s hesitation.  I too have lived with anxiety and depression for most of my life.  I am on meds now for over 11 years, and to me it is like insulin.  I will continue to take it because with it, I have a chance at a better life.

Sarah is an extraordinary teacher.  I worked with her on a committee years ago and came to see her as a passionate, empathetic, intelligent and fierce advocate of students.  She was entering into the world of motherhood and has embraced it with the same integrity.  Her husband brought her children for part of the session and they were simply priceless.  You can see in their eyes that they are loved and I can’t wait to see the women that they will become.

 

What changed that made you realize you were living a life of fear?

I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever really lived a life of fear. Nor have I ever really feared fear. But, as a mom of two young girls it was becoming more and more important that I live intentionally without fear. I had to show my girls what a woman looks like and sounds like when she lives fearlessly. I have always tackled life head on and I want that lesson to be something that my girls take away from me and internalize in themselves as they grow up. Living without fear takes strength and sometimes we have to dig deep f2016-02-15_0005.jpgor that strength. But, in the end, it’s often there. That well is deeper than we think it is.

Although I haven’t lived a life of fear, I have struggled with anxiety and OCD for a good chunk of my adult life and that often feels a lot like fear. Even though you may
not be living in fear, anxiety has a sneaky way of making you afraid of it. Afraid that, in the moments of reprieve, it’s right around the corner ready to strike. I became terrified that people would find out that I was struggling. Struggling to keep it all together on a daily basis. Because some days I felt like I could crawl right out of my own skin. That’s the best way I can put it. My anxiety/OCD is both a great motivator and and the same time, debilitator. I lived with that beast for two solid years before I tackled it. For me, that took courage. I had to confront the mental health stigma head on and own the fact that I had anxiety and OCD (sometimes the chemicals in my brain don’t cooperate and don’t work well with others!) Personally and professionally that was a huge step. Even as I type this, I’m shaking a bit. But I’m leaping fear and telling the world.
Now, having said all of that, I recently had to push myself out of my comfort zone professionally. I was terrified that in doing so, my anxiety would take hold again. But it didn’t.  So far the payoff has been great. A job opportunity popped up and if I hadn’t gone for it it would have been a decision ruled by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that it would trigger the chemicals in my brain to go out of whack again. I knew that I didn’t want that reason to be the deciding factor. So I took a deep breath and went for it.

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Once you realized that you were living a life in fear, what stopped you from moving forward? What held you back for so long?

Two words: Comfort Zone.

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Once you did take the leap, what did you have to let go of?

I had to let go of that cushy, predictable, cozy, comfort zone. But do you know what I held onto? My confidence. I let confidence reign. I started to listen to the voices that had the utmost confidence in me and I took a leap. My hope is that this is the first leap in a line of many in the future.

I also had to let go of the fear of what people would think of me when I let my truth out. My truth about my (sometimes raging) anxiety and OCD.

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Once you let go, what did you find on the other side that was worth taking the leap?

I found new experiences that built my “life repertoire”. I found new perspectives from those around me and my own as well.We are always worried that if we take a leap we won’t be happy. Well, why not? Change is OK. If you take the leap and don’t end up being happy, take another one! It’s really that simple. Also, happiness is usually a matter of perspective and attitude.

I have also found that people, by and large, are pretty non-reactive when I tell about my struggles. Maybe that’s because I’ve never let it get in my way. Maybe it’s because we’re finally realizing that mental health is real.  Who knows, in any case it’s been really positive.

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What would you tell someone whose fears are still holding them back?

Ask your self, “what’s the worst that could happen?” And if the “worst that could happen” is something you can live with, then go for it!

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