Fear Itself

It finally, really hit me today, like a missile: real fear about what’s going on.

I do this thing sometimes where I’ll say in conversations with friends or colleagues that I’m more concerned about something than I actually feel.

I might say out loud that I’m worried or scared in situations I think I should, but not really feel it that much. I think I do it partially as a way to talk to others about it, and maybe give them the opportunity to say they’re worried or scared, if they want to get it off their chest.

Or I say it because I think it’s social normalcy, even though it hasn’t fully hit me yet (I process things very slowly.)

Or…I do it as a way to protect myself. Because maybe I think that by saying out loud that I’m worried or scared, I’m trying to get ahead of my emotions to say, “listen, Worry. Listen, Fear. I know you’re probably waiting for the moment to pop up and take over, but by saying that I’m already feeling you, I’m in charge here, got it?!”

Frankly, it’s probably all of the above.

(Please bear with me because I’m unpacking this in actual time while I write. Welcome to my brain. It’s a weird place.)

So about two weeks ago when all of this COVID-19 stuff started getting super real, and close to home — literally — I preemptively began saying, “I’m worried, oh my gosh, this could be so crazy.”

And even though outwardly (to others, and myself) it seemed like I was in-check with my emotions and doing the healthy thing by talking about them, it was actually not super healthy, and very much a mask.

To “protect” myself.


Because the thing I’m most afraid of…is actually fear.

Feeling afraid. Feeling ungrounded. Feeling like I’m alone in open waters with no life preserver and the waves are getting rougher.

And this fear — the fear of being afraid, of having something to fear — is constant in me.

Maybe it’s common for lots of folks with anxiety, I’m not sure.

But it’s like, I’m always on the defensive when it comes to anything that could possibly induce fear.

I’m a chronic avoider and procrastinator. I’m insanely talented at hiding from myself.

And so, while I’m a slow processor and it takes awhile for things to actually hit me, to reach my gut, I’m very quick to identify that something COULD cause me fear, and I’ll quickly do whatever I can to protect myself from it. Or make myself feel in control of it.

So, I’ll say to friends, “I’m worried about this,” even if I don’t necessarily feel that completely about the particular thing. To try and get ahead of the fear that I know is likely coming. It’s like the opposite of saying affirmations in the hope of manifesting them. I speak in anxiety affirmations. To manifest worry and fear. Coooooool.

I’ll put off even sitting down to write a blog post, because I know that if I try to write, I might come up short and not have the words, or the idea might not be as good as I thought it was. Or if I do write it, someone might say they hate it. Or, I might not hear from anyone saying they loved it.

I put off studying for my yoga teacher training, because if I sit down to study, I might realize it’s all just too hard and I can’t do it, or I won’t be able to study effectively and I’ll get frustrated and give up. (Fear says: If you don’t try, you don’t have to worry about failing! Yay!) Or, if I do sit down and study effectively, I still might get to our next yoga workshop, stand up to teach, and do a terrible job. So if I haven’t studied, I can at least say, “well, I didn’t do well because I didn’t study.”

Perhaps this is wha FDR meant when he said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

(To be clear; I’m not suggesting he was talking about yoga teacher training.)

I don’t know, maybe it had nothing to do with the feeling of fear I experience at all. (Was he an anxious person?)

But I do know that…he’s right. There’s nothing to fear but fear itself…which is my BIGGEST fear.

So when all of this COVID-19 stuff started creeping up, I immediately jumped on the train of talking about it. I ordered like 11 boxes of Kind bars and an extra bag of Charlie’s dog food. I emailed the property where I just signed a 14-month apartment lease to ask if I could shift back my move-in date.

And while these actions seem like they were those of a prepared, plan-ahead type of person, let me assure you, 1) I am not a plan ahead type of person [hi, ADHD brain] and 2) these actions were taken out of fear. But not fear of COVID; fear of fear.

If you’re like “Tori, what the actual hell are you talking about?” I don’t blame you. But like I said, I’m unpacking this in real time. So…yeah.

(And by the way, me making that disclaimer? That’s fear, too. Self-deprecation is a major manifestation of fear for many, myself very, very included.)

Since all of this pandemic panic has begun, my outward fear has been very surface-level. I’ve been keeping myself busy as hell with client work, and two major reasons for that are 1) I want to keep showing up for my people, and 2) I want to keep the income stream as strong as possible.

But….surprise! There’s a third reason!

FEAR. And not fear of COVID. Fear of being afraid.

I’ve been afraid to pause and take inventory of how I’m actually feeling.

Today, the Universe finally said, “lol, I got your number, lady.”

I had to go pick up my anxiety med prescription at Wal-Mart (hellooooo, irony). I haven’t left the house really at all, because I work from home, and we’re all…social distancing. But I needed my script.

11am on a Sunday is normally just about the busiest time of the week at the Wal-Mart here in town. But today….it was like….Dawn of the Dead.

As I walked back to my car, I was overwhelmed with a wave of fear and sadness, and for the first time since all of this began…it all hit me.

I left my work-from-home-doesn’t-get-out-much-anyways bubble. I had to literally look up from the work I’ve been keeping myself busy with, and look at the world. I had to pause…and as soon as I did, it all came rushing it. It felt like getting punched in the gut.

Many of you have already had this moment of it becoming real. And you might be rolling your eyes thinking about how I’m entitled I am, because while millions of people have lost their jobs or worse, I’m sitting over here talking about being busy with work and having anxiety and being afraid of FEAR.

And you wouldn’t be wrong to think that.

But this is my experience.

And so now that this has manifested for me…what do I do?

I do what anxious writers do — write about it.

I share it, in hopes that maybe make it makes just one person feel less alone.

I tell you that yup, I’m officially freaking out a little. That my hands are actually shaky as I type these last few sentences.

And then? I focus on doing the next right thing.

Because sitting and dwelling in the fear and worry doesn’t do anyone any good, least of all me. I am now aware that I’m feeling this way, and the feeling might last for weeks or months. But all I can do is feel the surges when they arise, try to process them, and then focus on doing the next right thing.

All the while, putting as much love and kindness and curiosity into the world as I can.

Because — truly — the only way we get through this?


Full of fear,