Fear is one of the most powerful motivators there is. Fear can push you into the deepest of hiding places or give you superhuman strength. It can cause you to quit jobs or progress a career to new heights. It can be totally incapacitating or overwhelmingly powerful. It can be negative or positive.
I have many fears that drive me through my life. Many are simple fears that we all deal with in one form or another. I have a fear of heights, and a fear of cockroaches (Ugh!). Drowning is high on the list and suffocation in general. There is a fear of crowds, and the fear of being alone. I am afraid for my children, wanting them to be happy, safe and successful. And I have the fear that I will be unsuccessful in dealing with these fears in a rational and intelligent way.
And being bipolar only makes it worse.
There are many ways that I can fail. I am afraid of losing the relationships that are most important. Having been married four times is proof that my ability to attract and keep healthy relationships has had a very poor success rate. A big factor to so many failed relationships is the influence of being bipolar. When in a manic phase, I become attracted to women who tend to be enablers and feed into my grandiose thinking. And over time the instability of the core relationship cannot sustain success. There is the problem of living with someone bipolar as well. Even in a more healthy relationship, the strain and difficulty of living with the constant and extreme mood swings can be fatal. This is not an irrational fear for me, up until now at least it’s been a fact.
Disappointment is something to fear as well. Not necessarily the fear of being disappointed; I have learned to expect that. If you expect the worst, you are never surprised. My fear is in disappointing others. I have the ability to set the level of expectations high, and produce to that level. At least I can produce for a while. Ultimately though, either as a result of debilitating mania or paralyzing depression, I lose the momentum, and fail. Knowing that I have failed others is a heavy load to bear. It feeds into an insecurity and low self esteem. The motivation is to work harder, try harder and focus on remaining constant. And it always works. Until it fails as it always does.
Probably the biggest fear is the fear of “what if”. For me, worry about what might happen is the easiest to control and the hardest to deal with. “What if” keeps you up all night, going over and over all the ways things can go wrong. “What if” pushes you into poor decisions about how to deal with what might happen. I can spend so much energy worrying about things that could happen I have little left to deal with what has already happened. Speaking for myself, usually the “What if’s” are not about me. I worry about what can happen to others. Those I hurt and disappoint. Fear for who are most affected by my failures and losses. And most of all the fear of all the bad things that could happen that can cause pain and loss to those for which I care the most. Watching a loved one suffer can be the greatest pain. But so many times the worry is completely unfounded. One of my favorite quotes is (From Herman Wouk’s “War and Remembrance”) “I’ve had a lot of troubles in my life, and most never happened”. It should be easy. Deal with what’s in front of you and trust that you’ll always have the strength and ability to handle anything that happens. But it rarely works out that way… The focus is on the potential loss, and troubles and failures instead of the positive and happy things that really matter.
Everyone has something they are afraid of. And some of the fears are real, while others are unfounded and irrational. Being bipolar however has multiplied my inability to react in a healthy way and greatly increases the likelihood that my fears will come true. It can lower the base level of confidence creating a vulnerability and tendency to give in to fear. It can also produce a grandiosity and overconfidence that set up failures and disappointments that turn the fear into reality. My goal is always to overcome the fear, trust in the things that count, and accept every day for what it is. I can take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of my fears are never going to be realized, and that things always work out for the best.
I’m afraid I’m not always successful