Hello, my lovelies! Thank you for being here because I have a super important, super exciting announcement to make. I am nominated for Blogger Of The Year at the MH Blog Awards this year! But there is a catch, I need your help! From now until June 4, you can go to the MH Blog Awards website and vote for Amber @ The Winter Of My Discontent for Blogger Of The Year!
It’s a true honor to be nominated with some of the best MH content creators on the web and I can’t wait to find out the results. As always, thank you so much to all of you who do and have supported me. You all mean the world to me and you just keep pushing me to be better and to keep fighting the good fight. It means everything, truly and I hope that I have earned your vote over these months.
As I near the end of my leave of absence and my impending “graduation” from therapy, it has me thinking about the changes that I’ve made over the last couple of years, but the last 6 months specifically. For the first time in a long time, I feel strong, capable, and comfortable in my own skin. I’ve walked away from old beliefs and thought patterns that held me back and my self-esteem has soared in the realization that I have so much to offer this world.
I’ll be honest, though, it feels like a long time coming. I’ll be 39 in a little over a month. So what has held me back for so long? Why didn’t I advocate for myself harder and sooner? Why didn’t I write about my experiences before now? Why have I never invested myself fully in an idea or let myself wholeheartedly chase a dream? The answer, if we’re being honest (and I said we were), is fear.
Fear has molded and shaped me, held me back, and stifled my growth. I have let fear paralyze any forward movement in my life. As some of you know, I started this blog back in May 2020. I didn’t know about my diagnosis yet; I just knew that I wanted to speak out about my experience so I started telling my story. But my experience was a lot of pain and anguish. Those posts were heartfelt but dark and they rehashed the most painful experiences of my life.
The more I wrote, the more I started to have anxiety over it. Who would read them? Would they see themselves in the posts and get angry? Do I have the energy to defend myself if they do or will I crumble under the pressure? Would I inadvertently ruin relationships by telling my truth? Fear. Every bit of it was fear and it rode me like a wave. Eventually, I caved. I shelved the blog.
This is not even close to the first time that I let fear win. I have let fear hold me back from every ambition I have ever had until they all died a sad and miserable death. It has kept me from moving forward on important, life-changing decisions until it was too late. It has kept me from making friends and finding a career that I love instead of stagnating in one that merely pays the bills. Fear has kept me complacent.
Fear Of Rejection/Not Being Loved
Here’s the thing. I came into this world loved, do you hear me? My parents and my extended family loved me so much. They surrounded me with it, filled me up with it. Love and adoration, all around. But when I was still just a wee Amber, things in my life changed drastically. Suddenly, love was in short supply; replaced with scorn and ridicule. Love and acceptance were withheld as punishment. Fear and anger were the motivators.
From my earliest days, I only ever wanted to be accepted. By my family, by my peers. As I grew older, that need grew and I found myself masking to fit in most of the time. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone not liking me or thinking untrue or bad things about me. I never felt the need to be adored, but to be actively not liked by someone was more than I could bear. This stems directly from the fact that I was openly despised by an adult who was supposed to care for me, starting when I was 7 years old.
It’s hard for me to open up and drop my masks for fear of being rejected at my core. Due to some severe betrayal and friendships gone wrong, this has gotten worse over time and I mask harder than ever. That said, I no longer care much what anyone thinks about me, true or not. I understand now that I am not for everyone and that’s okay. Those are not my people and life will march forward without them. I also no longer make time for friends who can’t handle me without masks. Again, not my people.
Fear Of Failure
This is something a lot of people probably deal with, I’d imagine. Fear of going after the thing because we feel humiliation and shame if it doesn’t work out. I am no different. I have let the fear of failure hold me back from success countless times. For me, it feels bigger than just being scared to fail; it feels like something more than that. There’s a reason for that.
All of my life, I have survived on hope. During my darkest times, hope for something more is what made me hold on. When I was a kid, I floated on the hope that my parents would get back together. When that hope was dashed, I lived on the hope that I would one day live with my mom. Then that hope was ripped away from me, I became hopeless. I felt like a trapped animal and eventually, I broke.
That cycle has repeated itself over and over. But hope for a better life, a better me, and a better future is always what has kept me going. If I well and truly shoot my shot and I fail, then my hope is gone. My future looks less bright. It becomes a glaringly real possibility that the rest of my life is just more of the same. My passions die; I give up on myself. So, time after time, I let fear of failure hold me back from even trying to succeed.
Fear Of Success
Conversely, I’m scared to death of success, as well. I’m not sure of all the reasons why, but I’m vaguely aware of some of them. The first is Imposter Syndrome, mostly. The idea that any success that I find is an accident or luck. I’ve been told that I am not good enough for most of my life, my aspirations were not realistic, and that I am lazy and flighty. At some point, you start to internalize those voices.
But the biggest reason that I’m afraid of succeeding is that I’m scared to death that I’ll finally obtain my dreams…I’ll finally “make it,” whatever that looks like, and that I won’t be able to maintain it. Intense fear tells me that I’ll blow it. I’ll never be able to keep up the facade of a successful person. So, once again, fear of success has always held me back.
Being afraid of failure and being afraid of success means that I’ve let fear freeze me in my tracks; squandering away even things that I loved the most. I used to be an actress. It feels like another lifetime, but I dreamed of seeing my name in the lights. I fantasized about winning an Oscar and being on late-night television. I really believed that I could make it, I still think I could have, but I was too afraid to put myself out there. I’d have a small success and then I wouldn’t do anything for 6 months. Have another win, put me on hold for a year. It was fear every time.
Fear Of Being Too Much
A lot of people with ADHD spend their lives being told they are “too much.” Too loud, too fidgety, too emotional, too talkative…just too much in general. Again, it becomes hard not to internalize the voices that tell you these things. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become extremely reserved when I first meet people. I clam up, getting quiet and awkward. I’m sizing up the other person, trying to figure them out. I’m gauging how safe I am with them; how much of me they can handle.
I’m sure that some people think that I am a bitch when they first meet me, which is so far from the truth and so not the vibe that I am trying to give off, but I can’t help myself. Fear tells me that I am too much because life has taught me that I am too much. I have to protect myself from the people who will hurt me, so I put up a shield. I would like to be better about this. I used to be a warm and welcoming person, but I just can’t seem to get past the fear of being too much.
Fear Of Being What They Said
They said I was lazy. They said I was irresponsible. They said I was toxic. They said I was rebellious. They said I would never be anything in life. “They” have said a lot of things about me as time passed. I became obsessed with proving them wrong, but not in a good way. Instead of chasing after my dreams, I worried myself sick about dead-end jobs and how I was going to pay the bills. I was so afraid that I would become what they had always said I was.
I started to become hyper-responsible, dealing with large amounts of anxiety over juggling my day jobs with my hopes and dreams. The day job always won out. If I was unable to pay a bill or got behind, I would ruminate and worry to an unnatural level. I became depressed if I felt like I was proving them right…I was just a loser who couldn’t pay her bills.
It is also why I didn’t travel more when I was younger. I was afraid to spend the money, afraid to take the time. Now that I don’t have the time, I regret not doing more to see other places in this world. But fear held me back.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
On my path to healing, I’ve decided that I can no longer let fear have the wheel. It has stolen too many things from me already. I’ve already started facing some of my fears; ignoring them in favor of what my heart really wants. This blog is a perfect example of that. Putting your thoughts, flaws, and talents into the world is frightening. What if no one reads it? What if no one likes it? What will they think of you?
But I started and every day, I put one foot in front of the other. Every day, I decided to blow past the fear and the Imposter Syndrome and I write to fight the good fight. I write because it helps me and teaches me. I write this blog because it’s what I was put here to do in this time and this place. In the last 6 months, my path has been affirmed for me, several times over, and I will not let fear be the thing that snatches that away.
I’m working really hard to no longer be affected by what other people think of me. I refuse to stunt my growth as a person because I’m worried about judgment and scorn. I will no longer spend another second worrying about whether people think I’m a bad mother. The fact is, I’m not. I’m a really good mom. Not a perfect one, but a good one. So who cares what anyone else thinks?
I’m also pushing through some of my social fears. There was a time when I was at ease with new people. I’m a friendly person and I like making friends. In fact, I thrive in situations where I can be social. So, I’ve started forcing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. The ADHD Hub has a Friday night “ADHD Party” on Zoom. I have gone several times now and, for whatever reason, I am absolutely terrified every time. But I push through. I make myself go, even if I’m awkwardly quiet the whole time.
In EMDR, there is something called, “the answer.” It is basically the coping mechanism that you have honed the most, sometimes since childhood. Likely, you don’t even realize you do it because it has been so ingrained in who you are. It is your answer to unpleasant and traumatic experiences. My answer, I have found, is avoidance. I avoid what hurts. Emotional pain scares me; I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it, I’ve lived it. I stuff it down and make myself not think about it. I avoid confrontation at all costs.
This has been apparent to me when it comes to therapy. As my sessions have gotten tougher, I find it harder and harder to make myself go. I make up every excuse imaginable to convince myself why but the truth is…I’m trying to avoid the pain. Trauma therapy is exhausting and harder than it looks; my brain is telling me to run from the hard work of it all. I can’t listen to it. It’s a lie. The fear will no longer rule me.
I’m busting through the fear, making myself feel uncomfortable, stepping out of my bubble. I’m going to write this blog with all of the fire and intensity that I can muster. I’m going to go out and cultivate new friendships and connections with people who know, and are ok with, my mental health status. I’m going to chase my dream of being a writer, a speaker, and an advocate. Fear can suck it, y’all!!
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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜