I’m Afraid Of Me


We were on our way to another state to visit some friends of hers when it happened.

The next thing I knew we were pulled over on the highway, the car parked up against a concrete barrier, and she was screaming something to the effect of “WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.” I sat in the backseat, terrified as I watched her hyperventilate and shake uncontrollably.

Seeing the fear in her face I understood that surely we were all going to die.

For several hours I sat in the back seat of my mother’s van, my two brothers next to me, while my mother repeatedly proclaimed that this was the day we were going to meet our fate.

The traffic, the speed, the roads, “this is where you come to die.”

Eventually we made it to our destination. I can’t remember how, which I find strange because of how prominent the memory is in my life, but I really can’t remember. I kind of think maybe my father came and got us, but even then I don’t know if I just fabricated that memory over time.

My mother never got any better with highways, in fact her fear only spread. Soon we didn’t take the train and we didn’t go into the city, oh no, we never went into the city.

I now understand that what happened was a situation derived from her mental illness, but the fear, I can’t seem to let go of it.

I’ve gotten a little better over the last few years. I can now ride with other people while they drive on the highway and as of recent have ventured into the city probably…six or seven times…but as far as driving myself on the highway, never. Literally, NEVER.

I realize this is stupid. I realize that people do this every. single. day. I am utterly embarrassed and I get really tired of people looking at me like I am absolutely crazy when I say that I don’t drive on the highway. I’m tired of having to defend my reasoning without actually giving any details and I feel bad when people tell me that I’m being ridiculous.

Yet still, I can’t make myself do it.

I’m not sure why exactly. In the realm of my childhood this was such a small thing. In terms of actual life threatening events this experience doesn’t even register on the charts, yet it is the single thing that I cannot seem to overcome and I’m not sure why.

My best guess, coming from years of soul searching on this topic, is that seeing my mother, the one who held my fragile life in her hands, the all invincible and terrifying mother so terrified herself, ingrained in me that the highway meant certain death.

If a monster is afraid of something, well surely that fear must trump all others for terror itself can only be terrified by the unimaginable.

So here I am, 31 years old, and it takes me twice as long to get everywhere. I can’t get to a lot of places I need to be and it causes me to rely on my friends parents to take me places that are out of my comfort zone.

That feels great.

No wait…it totally sucks.

I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like I have dealt with much of the damage my past has caused. I’ve spent the last few years digging around in the back of my memories and learning the truth behind why things happened in my life. I’ve accepted the role that I did or did not play in different situations and in the process I learned to not only love, but trust myself. I’ve worked hard at making changes in the choices that I make and I’ve spent time analyzing why I react the way I do in certain situations. I’ve really made efforts to “rehabilitate” my way of thinking in order to get to where I want to be in life. I’ve faced most of my fears and I’ve let go of things that I held too tightly to.

Yet when it comes to this irrational fear of highway driving, I’ve all but shoved it out of my world, deeming it to frightening to even think about.

I think it’s time to change that. As I talked about in the post “Public Announcement: Don’t Be Insane,” sometimes the only way to really move forward is to first stop and take a look back at how you got where you are.

I’m scared, I really am, but what I’ve come to realize as I’ve finally forced myself to face this issue, is that I’m not scared of the highway, I’m scared of myself.

I’m scared to be my mother.

I’m scared that I’ll panic, freak out, and actually get myself killed because I’m reacting in emotion rather than common sense.

I know how I am when things scare me. Remember how scared I was that I would run away from court? Remember how I actually ran out of an attorney’s office because I got scared? As I explained in the post “I’m Going To See My Mother” running really has saved my life on many occasions. Finding myself in a life threatening situation and being able to escape because I got the hell out of there was my only defense for a long time. I was too small to fight back, to weak to save my own life, to tiny to defend my body, and the only way to survive was to just get out. Unfortunately as I also explained that for many obvious reasons running is not a long term coping solution. I’ve done better, so much better, at changing the way that I handle my fears but in all honesty knowing that if it gets to be too much, if I really can’t handle it, that I can just excuse myself and walk away has my little mental safety net.

I obviously can’t do that on the highway and that terrifies me. I literally have visions of myself starting to panic, driving blindly at 150mph just to get to an exit, getting caught in a traffic jam, abandoning the car, and running across six lanes of traffic before jumping over a median and falling to my death.

I’m not even kidding.

Dramatic, I know.

Still not kidding.

Totally serious.

I’m not scared of the highway, I’m scared of me.

That’s really not a good feeling.

I don’t like knowing that I can face my rapey ex but I can’t face something people do every. single. day. I don’t like that I took part of my mother with me. I don’t like not feeling in control of my actions.

I don’t like the fear constantly following me around like a shadow I can’t shake; a shadow that while black and terrifying, is very much the silhouette of me.

I don’t want to be scared of me anymore.

It’s time to do something about this.

I have some plans and I’m going to start working on this. My goal is to be able to take my kids to the zoo. It’s an easy drive from my house, roughly thirty minutes, and one that I’ve done in the passenger seat many, many times. It’s a good goal to have because not only am I learning to overcome my fears, but I’m hoping to shred the last strand of fear that I have, the fear that in some ways I might be just like my mother, panicking with my kids in the back of the car.

I’m not going to rush it. I’m certainly not taking any children with me until I’ve faced enough traffic jams and scary drivers to know that I won’t lose my cool, but it’s a start.

It’s the start of my last big hurdle and as much as I’m not looking forward to it, I kind of am.

I’ve been through a lot, I’ve faced a lot, I’ve dealt with a lot, and I’ve healed, from a lot. I don’t want to spend anymore of my life conquering my ex, conquering my mother, conquering my past, but forever being terrified of myself.

Fears of the self oftentimes hide behind the fear of something else. We spend years being terrified of something only to realize that the fear wasn’t in the act itself, it was in what we believed it to be. It’s the shadow that looks so much bigger on our bedroom wall, it’s the crack in the closet door that we are convinced all evil stems from. When you objectively look at a fear, without all it’s projected emotions, only then are you able to see it for what it really is.

You can only face a fear when you know what you are really facing, for it is impossible to overcome an abstract concept because you cannot conquer an illusion.

As I work through my fear, I hope that you will walk with me and work through yours. What are you really afraid of? Have you given yourself excuses as to why you don’t want a relationship, children, a specific job, a responsibility, or an opportunity, because you don’t want to engage in the situation itself, or are you really just scared of how you will handle it?

When we let fear steal pieces of our lives what we are really doing is shutting out pieces of ourselves. We are letting fear deem parts of us as unusable and we are relinquishing the opportunities that come with it.

You can make peace with your past, you can look forward to your future, but if you are ignoring the parts of you that scare you, you are walking your journey as less of the person that you could be.

You deserve to be a whole person, not split between who you are and what your shadow is making out of you.

Shadows, much like fear, darken the world around us. They appear in their monster like forms and make it hard to see what is really there. They take something simple and they make it look bigger, scarier.

It is not until you cast light on the shadow behind you will you finally be able to see the monster in its true form.

Only when you realize where the monster from your past really sleeps, will you stop looking for him around every corner in your future.

It is not until you finally face yourself will you ever be able leave the past behind.

I’m turning on the light, I’m casting out the shadows.

It’s time to stop being afraid of the dark.

Photo Credits
Shadow hand
Hiding Girl
Caution Sign

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19 Comments

  • Trevor Young
    January 9, 2015 at 8:00 am

    You can do this Eden! You've fought off so many other demons in your life and won, this will be the same. We're all behind you.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Wow I haven’t heard from you in a while!! Thank you for your support, it really does mean a lot 🙂

      *hugs*

  • Butterfly14
    January 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    When I was a new mom many years ago, I too was afraid of becoming my mother. She had physically abused me for most of my life (what I now understand, can forgive but never forget, was her immaturity and mimicking her own childhood upbringing). I did everything in my power to NOT become her. When faced with choices I would think “What would my mother do?” and then do just the opposite! When my infant son would cry inconsolably, after trying everything I could think of (wet diapers, hungry, pain???) knowing my mother had hit me as an inconsolable infant, I put him in his crib knowing he'd be safe and I sat on the bathroom floor crying and rocking myself until he fell asleep – just to keep myself from hurting him. That was the only time I felt like hurting my own child but 34 years later I remember it like yesterday. You can do this Eden, you are not your mother and you've proved it over and over again. Take a small ride on the highway at an off time and you'll prove to yourself that you CAN do it. Faith that you can …† ♥

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 9, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Aw, that actually sounds a lot like how I try to parent, make the opposite choices. You seem like an AMAZING mother to me 🙂

      Thanks love

      *hugs*

  • Mzfuzz
    January 9, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    The unfortunate reality is that the ONLY way to stop being afraid of something is to face it over and over again. Every time you face it, it gets a little bit less. The nice thing is that if you realize that you can conquer one fear, you realize you can conquer them all. I have great faith that you'll conquer this fear, wherever it comes from, and many others besides. And also know that sometimes fear serves a valid purpose. It's ok to heed the fear without letting it control you. 🙂

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 9, 2015 at 9:26 am

      “Courage does not erase our fears, courage is when you face your fears.”

      I’m trying to find the courage lol!! WHERE IS IT HIDING!?

  • tulip
    January 10, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Eden, we must be long lost sisters or something because my mom was the exact same way. She told my siblings and me it was because she was once in a car accident on the highway. She would always drive local and us kids always had to get up so early and were a little resentful. I ended up being afraid of driving. I didn't get my license until I was 19 (partly also because my mother would have been the one to teach me, haha) and I was terrified to use it! I also have anxiety and nausea when riding the car with other people. I am afraid when I see her in myself too and becoming like her is one of my biggest fears! This is the baggage our parents have saddled us with and it's up to us to handle it for the rest of our lives and hopefully not pass it on. I find something that really helps is remembering that when you are driving, YOU are driving and in control. Part of the fear and trauma comes from not being in control of the car when we were riding. Good luck to you!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 10, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Whoa and I didn’t get my license until I was 19 either (and I really didn’t even start driving until I was into my 20’s).

      Thank you, we can do this!!

      *hugs*

  • CD
    January 10, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    You think you're bad Eden – I'm 25 and still don't even have my license! Luckily now I live in a place where I don't really need a car, but ultimately I know it's a fear I'm going to need to face. Same goes with everything else you mentioned… jobs, relationships, everything where my luck has been bad/nonexistent and I just learned to go without because it's less painful. I feel stupid to keep trying – as you mentioned the other day, the definition of insanity? Lolol, maybe that doesn't apply to everything…Also, as someone who also grew up isolated, I too was fearful of the world (including driving!) because my mother was. And with your mother it sounds a lot worse than just anxiety. Just… scary. I hope you're able to make sense of her behaviors, as irrational as they were, and learn from them. Cause this is something I'm still struggling with.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 10, 2015 at 8:21 am

      You should get your license this year!! We will all face our fears together!!!

      Come on, we can do this 🙂

      *hugs*

  • Sara A.
    January 11, 2015 at 5:46 am

    I haven't driven much in a long time. We're a single car household and my husband needs the car to get to work. I get to drive once a week, maybe. I used to drive everywhere- highways, dirt roads, cities with no second thoughts. Now it's nerve-wracking for me. I want to get to the point where I'd feel comfortable driving anywhere with my daughter in the car. She is the most precious thing in the world to me and I am terrified that I will get into an accident with her in the car.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 13, 2015 at 7:03 am

      I feel you on that. Do you ever feel like you are going crazy at home without a car? I think I would lose my mind, but then again people tell me the same thing when they imagine being stuck in the suburbs!

      Geesh it’s crazy, I didn’t know there were so many people with a driving fear. I’m glad to know I’m not alone!

  • CD
    January 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Oh I'm gonna do it. Just since I wrote that, a friend offered to sell me his car… between that and this post, I wonder if this is a sign?!I know how weird it is to not have done simple things like this yet in other ways, you've seen too much. You're probably more scared because you've never done it, I know that's my problem. But sometimes our comfort zone is only that because it's all we know…*hugs back atcha*

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 13, 2015 at 7:04 am

      We will do this! Next year we will look back and laugh at ourselves. Take the sign and run with it!! 🙂

  • Trevor Young
    January 15, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Sorry about that, but I do read this blog every week, you can be sure of that.

  • Trevor Young
    January 15, 2015 at 6:10 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Anonymous
    July 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Hi there… I just found this post because is beign a year and a half since i last drove in united states. I learned to drive when I was 26 and I only had to drive on a country road to the house and walmart so it was easy. Life took me to Germany where I had to learn how to drive in the european roads, after 3 years of practice in europe life brought me back to the states and now I am in one big and busy city. I am intimidated, I haven't touch the car for a year and a half, only as a passenger and I get heart attacks every time I see how people throw themselves in front of you with no signal and run red lights. San antonio sucks for people like me who fear driving. My husband is no longer going to be able to take me to places so I have to start driving soon. i cant refuse since I have 3 kids and I am suppose to take care of them. I dont want to be like your mom, but I fear the freaking highways. I dont want to be that mom that hurt my kids or make them become like me. They know my fear, they know when their dad is gone I will probably wont drive to the city to avoid accidents. =( I guess I can think that I can practice slowly and maybe then I be ok. I guess I can get in the highway and get off on the first exit, and next day get off on the second exit and so on. Maybe then I will feel more secure. I fear many lanes and I am not too quick at passing people. I wish I could be like everyone else.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      July 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Trust me, I know how scary it feels, as you can see by my post! The key is to just take little steps towards your goal. If I can do it, so can you!!

      • NotMyShametoBear
        July 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

        Oh and good luck!! 🙂

        *hugs*

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