On Fear Nights and Snow Days

I am lying in bed in the dark on the verge of another panic attack, even on the anti-anxiety medication that the ER doctor prescribed for me a few days ago when I thought I was having a heart attack. It seems that all of my biggest fears have curled up in bed with me, right between me and Marley’s sweet, furry, snoring girth. Every fear is magnified in the dark of night, isn’t it?

A Facebook Memory that popped up today from six years ago…Sophie and Coops.

I have realized that I’ve become afraid of death, of losing yet another person or animal that I love. I’m tired of loss and grief, of having my heart ripped from my chest time after time. In the span of five and a half years, I have lost my precious mother, my two dogs that I raised from puppies, my cat, and a very dear friend who was like a brother to me, each with little or no warning, no time to really process the impact. Each loss has brought up all the others, making the waves of pain almost unbearable at times. I find myself watching Dan’s chest when he sleeps to make sure that he is still breathing, terrified of a loss I don’t think I could bear. Absolutely ridiculous, I know, but that is where I seem to be right now.

I’m afraid of succeeding at all of the wonderful things that have been put in my path, only to find that I am still not good enough to deserve them. People congratulate and compliment me and I smile and thank them outwardly, while inwardly I am wondering when they will see the fake, the failure hiding behind all of the success. How could I deserve all of this? A book published? Oh, it’s mostly interviews, not that big of a book. First woman Full Professor in our Department? I’m nice to people and they are just being nice to me. President-Elect of my international professional organization? Well, I did two terms as Secretary and three years as State Chair Coordinator…people just knew my name from seeing it so much.

And on and on. The good ol’ Imposter Syndrome that so many women battle.

Intellectually I realize that I have worked hard over the course of my career to earn these good things, that I have fought hard-won battles to earn the happiness I’ve found, but something deep inside continues to throw the monkey wrench of doubt into my psyche. When will it all come crashing down around me? So incredibly frustrating.

Snow Day snuggles without the snow…

Today was declared a snow day in Birmingham and classes were cancelled. We had been predicted to have two to four inches of snow- a rarity for our Southern city. We were so excited, looking forward to seeing Marley play in the snow for the first time. Nothing much came of it other than rain and a few flurries, but I am grateful for the surprise free day no matter what. Time to continue to try to recharge my drained emotional battery and to think through things in the peace of our home.

No show snow…

I realize that this is a phase of the grief I’m experiencing and that there will be sunnier days ahead. I am seeing both my doctor and the wonderful therapist who helped me through losing Mom next week to help me develop a plan of action for acknowledging my wounds, feeling what I need to feel and then moving forward. There is far too little time and too much wonderful life to be lived to stay mired in sadness and fear. As my mentor used to say, “Next…onto the next.”

But gently.Marley…

7 thoughts on “On Fear Nights and Snow Days

  1. I share many of these struggles, some instigated by different circumstances but nonetheless leaving me fearful. The future scares the begeezus out of me. And now, since I’ve managed over the last four years to make huge strides professionally and financially, another stupid problem from the past seems poised to, probably not undo everything, but certainly cause me some headaches, possibly big ones. In my case, the metaphor I use is being stuck in a spider web (this one related to my former married life), unable to *completely* and fully get it off of me, even if most of it is. I asked my smart Auntie Jane, who spent many years of her professional life counseling mental patients in West TN, why problems seem so much bigger at night. She said, for the same reason nursing home paitents have problems with “sundowning” at the end of the day. At first I was a little defensive (I’m not old yet, and I’m certainly not senile), but then I felt better knowing there’s actually a good reason our fears and worries seem amplified at night. I am sending you big hugs from way up here. We are smart, motivated people who deserve to live the rewarding lives we have. The phrase I hear echoed from my ballet past is the one the choreographer uses when setting new steps, after everybody has ‘gotten’ the last phrase: “Going on….” Onto the next! ~Deb

    1. Deb, thank you so much for sharing this with me- it helps to know that we are not alone with these feelings. I shared what I have been going through somewhat with my students, as I wanted them to know hat you can be successful and happy and still struggle sometimes and that’s okay. You can get help and work your way through the maze. I know that we can do that, too, and I’m sending a big hug your way. And- I’d love at least a bit of your snow. 😊❤️

  2. Denise, the capacity for grief most certainly points to a great capacity for love. Your heart is enormous. It is only by experiencing heart break that we can truly appreciate passion and joy and happiness. Please allow yourself to grieve AND to open your heart to receive and return love. Hugs to you!!
    p.s. You are worthy of all good things – not because you are “lucky” but because you have earned them!!!

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