Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop, Friend

Dear you, reading this,

After my court hearing today, I spent all day sleeping. I woke up and went downtown for a couple of hours and now I am ready for sleep again. During my drives, I listened to podcasts about the news and the cocaine queenpin who invented the motorcycle drive-by shooting. I'd like to talk about fear in the modern first world.

I'm not afraid of death itself. In fact, for years now I've contemplated suicide. This is not a cry for help nor an attempt to be edgy. In my mind, it's not even depressing. There are many people living today who fear their life may end sooner than they'd like. I'm not a parent, but from what I hear that fear extends to their children. Millions are starving in Yemen.  Thousands of people are getting gunned down in the Philippines. Hell, even in America, cops are shooting hundreds and disproportionately attacking people of color. Gun violence is scaring kids away from schools and gang violence is terrifying people in their neighborhoods. I'm sheltered from all of that. I have huge confidence that I'll see several years to come. This is the privilege of being a white male in middle-class suburban America. In my mind death is a choice. Either I want to keep living or not. No one is going to take it from me. That doesn't mean I'm immune to fear. I'm afraid of debt, lack of social mobility, and losing relationships. Lately, I've been afraid of what the courts might do to me based on what amounts to a frivolous charge. My greatest fear is not doing enough. It used to be not being great or remembered after I die, but what does any of that matter if people aren't excited about life?

From a very young age, I was told that I was special and smart. I was literally told I was going to change the world. I've heard pundits and media personalities refer to people in my generation as "snowflakes" and I can definitely see where they're coming from. I can't be the only one who was given every opportunity to find success and let it fall by the wayside because they believed they were meant for something more. When something better didn't fall into my lap, I did what was easiest. It's only now looking back that I realize how misguided I was and to a large extent still am. This post isn't going to change anything. That terrifies me. I'm so scared that this is what my life amounts to. I'm scared that I came into this world with the ability to make it better for the ones who need help and I squandered it because I couldn't and can't see past my own hubris. Some days this fear paralyzes me. I see people out there fighting for change and then, I get scared that they will fail because people like me exist and won't put their ego's aside and do what it takes to make the world better.

We used to believe there were two responses to fear: fight or flight. I know I have engaged in both of these. I have lashed out at the ones I love because I was afraid they were holding me back. I have left relationships, homes, states, and countries, because I was afraid that I couldn't succeed within them. Recently, I've learned that there are more recognized responses to fear: freeze, flop, and friend. These have been my responses lately. I get scared of my own inabilities and instead of focusing on fixing them, I hide in my room. I sleep. I speak less. I become oddly proud of how detached I be. When I look back at these times and note how it has caused me to slip into inaction, I get scared. The fear leads once again into hiding, sleeping, and detaching.

There is another response to fear which I don't think gets talked about nearly enough: acceptance. When I accept that I'm afraid, I no longer feed into it. Fear becomes just another observable part of life and I can choose whether or not to focus on it. Focusing on fear can be wonderful. Knowing why you're afraid and observing it from a distance can allow you to determine what is causing it and whether or not it's serving you. Being afraid of the hole in my tooth leading to greater tooth decay will compel me to sign up for medicaid and see a dentist. That's good. Being afraid of socializing compels me to stay home when my friends put on shows and could use the support. Often, that particular fear is useless because I've successfully socialized throughout my whole life and always have fun doing it. What's important to note is those conclusions aren't reached when reacting to fear by fighting, fleeing, freezing, flopping, or submitting to the cause. In order to make a beneficial change, fear must be accepted. It's a part of life that can be studied and acted upon, not an unstoppable force. If it seems that way, accept it as such and see if it changes.

I'm not a medical professional and by no means a role model. My life, although difficult at times, has been sheltered and privileged. In life or death situations, I assume biology will overtake the body and cause one of the five responses listed in the title; However, what may seem like life or death isn't always and my sincere hope is that by accepting your fear, you will be able to manage it whatever the cause may be.

as always, thank you for reading,


J say of the day: I'd say those who stigmatize mental illness are mentality ill, but I try not to stigmatize mental illness.


P.S. If this seems like I'm contradicting my earlier claims of nonexistence I'd like to note that the body I inhabit came with memories, family, and friends. Just because I know I'm not supposed to be here doesn't mean they accept it and it's easier to just let them believe I'm the same guy they knew and love. Please bare with the slipping in and out of a constant life narrative. This is confusing for me too. If it makes it easier, the switch happened August 30th 2015.