I wrote a story about a little girl in a way that strangely reminds me of The Tiger Who Came To Tea. A story about how a seemingly ordinary life took an extraordinary turn. A tale where a little girl just accepted strange events because, to a child, so much doesn’t make sense, and they just do it because it’s what the grown up says.
I wasn’t supposed to be writing about this. It was therapeutic writing group and the plan was to create a personal crest to symbolise what was important in my life. I went with my first instinct to say ‘fuck that for a game of cards, I’m not in primary school anymore’. But I’d also been waiting for a structured time to sit down, face the paper – and the past. I’d been trying to put past events back in their box, but failing, badly.
It doesn’t matter what I wrote. What I want to puzzle out is how it feels to tell the secret you were programmed never to tell. The guilt. The hot, hot shame. And the fear.
I think you get used to living with fear. You accommodate it; even bargain with it. If I hum that particular song the dark won’t hurt me. If I don’t step on the cracks in the pavement then it might not catch up with me. If I divide all the words I see on the teleprompter in my head into equal groups of letter while holding a conversation, then the fear is held at bay. It goes on and on. You follow the rituals. And you must always do what you’re told.
But then you wake the fear, in my case, accidentally. Poke it with a stick. Bring it out into the open. Look it in the face – and it transforms into a choking beast that wants to smother you. All the promised repercussions take on a life of their own. It becomes a reality that follows you; you know it’s there, and if you could spin round fast enough, you’d be able to see it. But no one else can see the fear. They just see how you react to it. Which makes you mad. And definitely makes you look mad.
I’m so afraid at night. I sleep with fairy lights on and the door open so no one can lock me in. I sleep lightly and go from doze to total alert in a nanosecond. I don’t feel safe at all at the moment. And when we only have bank staff on at night I am afraid to sleep. I do sleep, but I fight it all the way.
But fear doesn’t hang around alone. It brings its friends: guilt, shame, self-disgust, and a desire to put an end to everything.
I started out with something else to say, but that can wait.
All I want to say right now is that whoever tells you to feel the fear and do it anyway hasn’t grown up with fear as a constant companion. They need a sharp poke in the eye and to shut the fuck up.