When I was young, I went on a camping trip to the Boundary Waters (BWCA). On this trip during a specific evening, a huge windstorm came at us at full force. Lightning everywhere punctuated with loud and immediate thunder as rain pelted our tents. I was terrified. At the climax of this storm, a huge clap of thunder reverberated around my tent followed by the sound of a massive pine tree cracking and falling to the ground. As I blindly heard all of this unfolding through the limited and perceived safety of my tent, all I had was fear. “What if this is my end?” “What if I’ll never make it home and see my family again?” “What if I never get to have my first kiss?” (I was 11 or 12 at the time, so kisses were clearly on my mind.)
In an instant, everything was dead quiet. As quickly as the wind storm had appeared it vanished almost like it was a fog lifting on a summer morning. When I stepped out of my nylon tent I saw the chaos that had occurred. This enormous pine tree had fallen between my tent and another with only a few feet between it and me.
After this traumatic experience, I had an unusual and exaggerated fear of storms. Even if it was a bluebird-clear sky, the moment white, puffy clouds began filtering through the air I felt a rising emotion and stress of fear. Later, I learned that the term for this is Astraphobia; the fear of thunderstorms. Upon further reflection I now realize that I always was in fear when any storm was nearby, until I was in my late teens.
I take this fear I had and translate it into many different implications in my own life. Part of the reason storms were so scary to me is that they can pop up out of thin air. There are so many things revolving around everyday life that these pop-ups are just bound to happen. Yet the fear that consumed me no longer does. I think the reason for that is I am now more aware of my immediate feelings in pop up situations, and my lingering feelings after. I can take a moment to explore those feelings, rather than just run from them. Fear can be good. It means we have feelings of some sort, and we can explore what the fears are telling us. I now use this fear as awareness about my own internal processes and attempt to shift my focus to more productive thoughts in the moment.
As I write this blog believe it or not, it’s storming out. The fear I once had is always there and I am reminded every time I see a lightning flash or hear the boom of some distant thunder. Yet I know I will be all right, I know the fear will subside. Fear can be good, because it can remind me of what’s happening inside. I now have a choice; I can sit with the fear a minute and process my feelings in a different way and it makes me feel good to know I’m growing.