Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fear Lies Widest Awake in the Darkness

Fear lives widest awake in the darkness. The howling wind that knocks a stray plastic flowerpot against the house or makes the welcome sign clatter against the siding turn into intruders with sinister intent. The single chirp of a smoke alarm with a weakening battery at 3:00 am becomes the alarm system going off as a window is being opened. My thudding heart pounds in my ears causing me to question every noise. This was me, the great Christian, while my husband was recently on yet another business trip. 

I am not sure when fear first tip-toed into my life, but can't remember a time when it wasn't at least lurking in the shadows. I can't remember when it first visited and set up residence inside my fragile heart. 

My earliest memories of fear were of not pleasing my narcissistic mother and incurring her rages and wrath. I as far back as my memories go, constantly walking on eggshells never knowing when “Mommy Dearest” would arrive. One incident that stands out clearly in my young mind was from the spring or early summer when I was three years old. I know by the weather and which house we were living in as we we moved out of it early in the fall before I turned four. I was playing on our swing set with a neighbor girl and for some reason we began giggling and singing, “Pee pee, poo poo. Pee pee, poo poo.” Next thing I know Mom was out like a flash, shrieking like a banshee and sent my friend home and dragged me into the house. I was yelled at, smacked and handled roughly for singing such terrible things. She then put some dish soap in a cup and gave it to me to wash our my mouth. I am crying and uncertain what to do but somehow manage to swallow enough of it while sitting where she had roughly sat me down between the back door and the basement steps. My stomach reacted violently to the soap and I threw up and it went all over the basement stairs. I was then in trouble for throwing up all over the steps which caused much more yelling and her dragging me to another room and after that moment I can’t remember more about that early memory.

Fears were manifest in many areas of my life. I was frequently jumping as far as I could to get in or out of bed for fear of the monsters that lived under my bed at night. Though the most frightening monster I ever encountered went by the name Mom. I developed fears of fires and lightning storms neither which were helped by a Dad who chased smoke until we could see the burning building or a third grade teacher who told horror story after horror story of people being struck by lightning. As I matured, my fears did too. Fear of not being accepted, fear of not getting good enough grades, fear of failure, fear of not ever being attractive enough to be loved, fear of being alone, fear of being in new social circles where I didn't know anyone...fear of, fear of, fear of!!! Of course my mother daily reminded me of how inadequate I was - how ugly, how naughty, how selfish and such a liar. 

At seventeen after a thwarted attack by a drunk man began a whole new set of fears. Thankfully a neighbor that lived on my three block walking route to work intervened. I knew I couldn't tell anybody for fear my parents would find out and then Mom would make me quit my job which would mean I would never afford college or a car and would never escape from home. Now fear of rape or other attacks plagued me. Now entered the long era of nights alone becoming a battlefield of terror and horrific "what ifs".

  “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God has been so faithful to help me face up to many of my fears, literally head on. He has bit by bit drawn me out of the shadows and into the light. He moved a girl terrified of mild spring thunderstorms to live for five years in Tornado Alley. He brought a loving, godly man into my life who after over 30 years of marriage still finds me beautiful in spite of the gravity pull of time. We once lived under evacuation notice for three weeks as forest fires raged nearby. The girl afraid of meeting new people, being accepted and new situations married a man who was raised in a loving family who frequently traveled all over the world, who was comfortable in all sorts of new situations and oblivious to any of the fears I had and assumed everybody was his friend. This same man joined the military weeks after we were married and we spent the next ten years moving all over. Our decade in the military was good for me as the distance from my narcissistic mother and new experiences helped to draw me out and to find out I was not quite as bad as I feared. Either that or I had been able to be “good enough” that my awful shameful self was not fully exposed to new friends I made. I grew in ability to enter new situations with less palpable fear and dread though I never was what one would think of as confidant. 

After our military years we returned to my hometown and lived within minutes of mom and Aydan. I quickly returned to old patterns of conforming to Mom out of fear of the consequences. The years of gas-lighting led me to believe I was truly as terrible of a child as she told me I had been. Then entered a long season of over fifteen years where I tried to be "good enough" to earn her approval and make amends. Fear of upsetting Mom or causing her wrath made me be easily played by Mom’s manipulation to the point her needs were put ahead of those of my husband or children. I tried to anticipate Mom’s every need and be there to help even before she asked. In the midst of this season I was still fighting my demons of fear that attacked me in night mares and while my husband had frequent travels in long tormented sleepless nights. Feelings of frustration of not being able to do as I wanted and at times feeling like I was "damned if I do and damned if I don’t" when it came to Mom were frequently present too. These feeling were usually accompanied with large doses of guilt as our relationship strains were really all my fault.

A few years ago God set the stage to enable me to realize my prison of fears and manipulation. We moved cross country with a job transfer with my husband’s company. This was not expected or wanted at the time but we had enough faith in God to pray to Him to direct our course by opening and closing doors. God slammed shut every door in our hometown and there were no decent paying jobs in his career field. Likewise He widely opened the doors for our move and all the details for the sale of our home, the move and the purchasing of another home in our new location fell beautifully into place. The greatest surprise was the bird out of its cage freedom feeling I experienced with this move. I suddenly saw the chains of manipulation and doubts my mom had wrapped around me and began to start thinking for myself and just being me! 

Shortly after moving, I attended a ladies Bible study where the focus was to believe based only on what the Word of God said not based on church traditions, what your Sunday school teacher taught or what your parents said. Rather fully believe in God and who He says He is and who He says I am. This was a big step in realizing the hold fear had on me. As I studied God’s Word and chose to believe Him, the more I recognized the false views of my mom, my false views about me and how much my fears were a lack of faith.

Since this move I have learned to come out of my shell and make friends and even enjoy some new social situations. All our moving and making friends in the military years means we have friends scattered all over the world which makes being able to catch up on Facebook a blessing. He has shown me that being real and vulnerable doesn't bring about more rejection as I feared, but tears down walls to build more relationships. Lately my loving Father has had me confront my fear of public speaking by having me share at women's events in our church. I must admit I was battling fear up until the moment I began to share, then God's peace washes over me as I began to speak and I actually enjoyed it!! Fearful Me!! 

One area that has been the most difficult to overcome is my fears of evil attackers while alone at night. My husband has traveled throughout our marriage both in the military and the years as a civilian. I have come a long ways and am SO much better than I was in the past. I know all the verses on safety, peace and sleep and can quote most of them by memory. For the most part, the last few years I have had many victorious times where I slept peacefully while he was gone. I realized last time as I relapsed and let fear once more rule, that I am still battling this and will only succeed when I keep my eyes on the Light of the World instead of looking into the darkness of what-ifs.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Over the last couple years, as I have recognized my mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, read up on it and going through counseling I am able to deal head on with many of my fears in ways I was incapable of before. I have actually had views that vary with my mom and expressed those to her. They are not met with approval and have caused her to hang up on me, give tongue lashings and bad mouth me to others. My husband and I have figured out what are the boundaries we are keeping to prevent her from manipulating me/us or inflicting verbal abuse. I still have the panicky racing heart and twisted guts when she calls and tries to manipulate or begins a rage on the phone. Going home to visit brings much apprehension and battles as she has not liked the fact we choose our own itinerary and stay with our married son rather than her. The weeks before and during our visit I am on Zantac to deal with stomach pains the emotions bring on me. I now deal with fear and dread as my father’s dementia advances at how ugly things may be in the very near future as she still refuses to talk or look at care options and continues to demand her children do all care she cannot do on her own. My siblings and I are unified in the fact when it is too much for her to do on her own she needs to get outside help. Then there is the dread of how to handle it all when Dad is gone… Can I hope to be disowned? How do we tell her when she can again travel she is not welcome in our home? Ugh that makes my stomach churn… 

I need to remember to not dwell on fears of the future, to not fall into the traps of the what-ifs but instead fill my mind with the "whatevers". 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8

Hoping each of you be able to face your difficult life circumstances with faith rather than fear.

Love and blessings,


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