One thing I’ve always been called, repeatedly, is brave. Even people that have admitted they don’t like me as a person has said they admire my courage. It’s a lovely thing to be recognised for and something that I actually do appreciate that I am. What I am not, but am told I am a lot, is fearless.

I’m absolutely terrified. Every moment of my waking life is met with fear and not just because I have anxiety. My fear wakes me up in the middle of the night, it can limit my relationships, it dominated my teen years. I am, in every way, a nervous wreck. Please don’t forget it.

When I spoke out about my childhood abuse, I was terrified. There was nothing fearless about it and although I absolutely never, ever regret doing it I do feel my fear was justified. It changed my life beyond all recognition. In my mind, there is a Sarah before the speaking out and a Sarah after. Neither were happy, both will always be victims of abuse but what happened after; my father’s entire family cut me out… It changed me. I was right to be scared. I was about to experience loss and betrayal on a deep, deep level.

This fear has stuck. It will never fully leave me. As much as I despise admitting it, I will always be a victim of not only abuse but gaslighting and betrayal. Nobody could recover from that and I’m tired of pretending I’m anything near recovered.

Here’s the thing, though. I will always live in fear but this fear makes me.

Fear makes me strive hard to be a better person because the only thing worse than what my family did to me is the prospect of being them. It makes me work through demons and bad habits, no matter how oddly comforting they are.

Fear makes me love. I love hard. I love with reckless abandon. Once I love you, I’m in. I love you. And I always will. Much to the frustration of my friends and family, I see you at your worst and I’m still there because I know what it is to be the one that people can’t handle. The one who is too angry, too intense, too difficult. I know what it is to feel unloved or like “too much” and I never want to put somebody else in that position. The thought terrifies me. You’re a wreck and so am I, let’s be gentle with one another.

Fear makes me work. When you’re a victim of abuse, and a dropout, people have ideas of where you’ll go. I’m repeatedly told that I’ve done so well “considering” and I hate it. I am not a statistic. As much as I accept the victim label, I won’t accept the connotations that the label comes with. I’m broken, I’m bruised and I’m not all that trusting but I am also smart, dedicated, creative and so much more than my experiences seem to suggest.

My demons lurk at the end of my bed, rest in the pit of my stomach, appear at my darkest times to remind me both how much worse it could be and how much worse it has been. They sit beside me at my desk, slowly feeding my Imposter Syndrome.

And they terrify the shit out of me.

So I use Fear and I fight. I fight for every part of my life, every day. Fear is the sting in my lungs, it’s the stutter when I speak, it’s where I look when looking people in the eye is too much, it’s weighted nausea at the back of my throat and it makes me. 

I live through it and with it. I kiss it in the morning before braving the outside world and I smile at it at night when I come home.

I’m not fearless and I don’t want to be.