facts about The Fear, after 20 years of life with her
The Fear is NOT:
an intruder, invader, or some other entity from "outside" You
inappropriate, wrong, or incorrect
"irrational" or otherwise able to be understood through a relationship to "rationality"
an "inaccurate" representation of reality
The Fear IS:
an innate part of you
extra-rational—she exists outside and completely independent from "rationality" and does not respond to being judged according to that lens
self-love—her purpose is to protect you and keep you safe
self-sufficient—fear is a 100% whole, complete entity that doesn't "represent" or "reflect" something else
earnest—fear is always a 100% real experience that is exactly as it is felt, and, needing no comparison or reference to any external reality, it is not "dishonest" or "inaccurate"— it asserts a claim about only itself
subversive [not quite the word I am looking for but it will have to do]— is not necessarily beholden to social and cultural norms of what should be feared, how much, and how you should respond. She does not stop existing in the absence or suppression of vocabulary to describe her.
a demand for care— she does not just communicate to you but to the community you are part of; she calls attention to an obligation that this community has toward you, to make sure that you are safe within it and that your experiences are heard and understood.
yeah, so, i've had severe anxiety for my whole life and the way it's been treated and dealt with, and the way I've been taught to understand it, has really fucked me up so I am trying to lay the groundwork for understanding it differently
I think it's pretty fucked up that we're taught to see anxiety as deceptive or inaccurate. Now, obviously the images or projections in my fearful thoughts do not usually "reflect reality," but I have come to see this as...not particularly important?
Teaching an anxiety sufferer to restructure their thoughts to dismiss and contradict "irrational" fear is, in my opinion, the same as teaching a chronic pain sufferer to restructure their thoughts to dismiss and contradict pain with no clear physical source. You might as well speak of "irrational" pain, and pain has the same relationship to rationality that fear has.
"Irrationality" is a quality assigned to fear that is judged by an outside observer, or by the collective cultural biases and hang-ups of a society, as not appropriate to a given situation. This is total fucking nonsense and we should be talking about that, because...well, the first reason is that it implies some kind of fixed standard for what fear ultimately is and isn't for. i like to tell people to watch one of those Coyote Peterson videos where he's going to get a tarantula hawk wasp to sting him, because he's obviously having a strong physical fear response, even though he knows it won't kill him. Is it "rational" to fear suffering and not just death? How much suffering? Sit with that one a little while.
The second reason, which is even more convincing, is that the "rational" brain is not consulted at any point, ever, when a person feels afraid. It's just a response. The fear response is not routed through the conscious, sapient, reasoning brain. And thank God, because if we needed to hear back from an upstairs executive before we could decide whether to run from a lion, our species would be extinct.
Techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy were absolute fucking shit at making my life any better, but fantastic at wrecking my ability to identify my own emotions, because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety basically amounts to trying to brainwash yourself into thinking you don't feel the emotions that you do. It's a really neat way to develop bizarre psychosomatic symptoms and start experiencing anxiety through constant body pain, swollen lymph nodes, and digestive issues.
For an institution that pathologizes having "alters," psychiatry sure loves to encourage a suffering person to view normal and ultimately good parts of themselves as distinct, intruding entities to be shoved in a closet somewhere.
And yes. Fear is ultimately a good part of you, a part of you that loves you.
What began to set me free was feeling that acid terror and sickness and rage course through my body and realizing—really realizing—that I was being illuminated with this ancient, powerful force driving me to LIVE.
I want us to make it. I want you to live.
And you know what, I want me to live too.
I abandoned the doctrine of calming down—Lord knows it had never worked anyway—and started really just exploring and existing in the Fear.
How did that feel? Bad. Very very very very very bad and really not productive or helpful at all initially. Which was unavoidable. Necessary. She had been frantically clawing to communicate with me for so long, and I had been shutting her away, silencing her, resenting her presence in my psyche. I started trying to show gratitude toward the signals my body gave me. I started trying to show gratitude toward her—and i guess the Fear was a Her now, this just seemed more respectful.
And it seemed like nothing happened, but several things happened.
I stopped searching for validation. That was a big one. At some point I just...stopped needing a "reason" or justification for the fear I felt (trauma???? neurodivergence???? neurodivergence trauma????) and the fact that I experienced it became completely sufficient and satisfying to me. So much guilt and confusion disappeared.
I also became steadily more confident about my own boundaries, particularly in regards to recovery.
It's awful now that I think about it, but I think I felt this sense of almost moral obligation towards "recovery," as if I needed to "overcome fear" to be Courageous and Virtuous. It made me feel crushing guilt to feel any hesitation about this.
But then this started to change. It became more real to me that was the only person affected by the steps I did or didn't take toward recovery, and there was no moral dimension to it. A therapist couldn't put me in a box I wouldn't willingly go into.
Freedom from these judgmental frameworks is really important to me. I think that I always hated the idea of getting "better" because it seemed like "better" would mean just getting better at submitting to things I was afraid of while everything felt just as bad as it always did on the inside.
And on some level—even though I could never put it into words at the time—I violently hated the idea of "recovery" from some of my fears because it seemed like the ultimate denial of agency. I didn't want to "become okay with it"—the possibility felt dehumanizing. It felt awful.
And I realize now that this is because The Fear represented something I needed to have a right to. Many of my most life-destroying fears centered around things being done to my body, and if I could have pressed a button and been no longer afraid, I wouldn't have, even though it would have spared me so much suffering, because...I needed it to be okay to want agency over my body. I needed it to be right. The Fear, in this case, was a demand that my body be treated as sacred.
I realized that there were many cases where The Fear was a territorial claim of sorts, a demand that certain needs be honored and met—She needs this. This is FUCKING non-negotiable.
And it really...prompted me to look backward on my life and see The Fear differently: not as a responsibility I had failed to shoulder (me?? a little child??? responsible?? Responsible for being brave, when every day felt like facing a firing squad?????) but as a collective responsibility
Because I was not alone in those memories—I was surrounded by adults that saw me suffering, and often dismissed, ignored or ridiculed it. The Fear grew larger and larger; why?—to protect me. Because teachers, nurses, doctors, and camp counselors did not do any of the thousand thousand things they could have done to make that little girl feel safe. Because my well-meaning parents praised me when I was "brave" but I, a little kid, literally couldn't communicate how awful it always felt.
The Fear was not there to torture me. The Fear was and is doing her best to keep me safe. It's not wrong, there's no need for guilt. It just is.
It doesn't feel good. But maybe one day it will feel better.
Let’s clear some things up!
This is the rainbow infinity symbol. It’s the symbol for autism, and autism alone, as it was created for AUTISTIC Pride Day!
This is the rainbow butterfly! It’s intended to be an ADHD symbol. It was made by an allistic ADHDer, purely out of spite for autistic people who stated the rainbow infinity symbol was theirs. It’s not just that the creator is anti-autistic; it’s that the design was purposefully created to be similar to the rainbow infinity symbol, making it so that the anti-autistic bias is a key part of its design.
This is the black butterfly! It is also an ADHD symbol. Except this one wasn’t designed to spite autistic people.
The black butterfly is still somewhat similar to the autistic symbol, but that’s a-okay! ADHD and autism are similar! It makes sense that the symbols would be similar, within reason. The difference lies in if it was made similar from a place of negativity, or a place of desired solidarity. And the black butterfly is free from any negative intentions towards autistic people and their symbols.
Please take this information into consideration while using these symbols!
— an autistic ADHDer