Ripping Fear Out of My Life

A personal account on letting go of fear and giving into life.

“How do I stop this? Its causes me pain and stops me from living my life. The anxiety kills me slowly and no-one can see it because I maintain this facade like a boss.”

Depressed. Curve in my spine. The drugs didn’t stop on the weekends anymore. My heart was in agony. I needed a way to get the pain out, or at the least, manage it.

This became a more noticeable thing for me after the breakup. Man, this breakup would change my life, thoughts, behaviors- my whole perspective on the world. I’m a fan of love when I think it will be forever-ever, till it isn’t.

Then, fuck this shit. Can I rip it out of my chest? Ugh. I guess not. I found yoga and meditation as a means to quiet my mind and heart.

Then, the pain. It was in my chest. Stabbing away. People, and specifically doctors, generally get into a tither when they hear “chest pain”. I didn’t. I kept it to myself. Not one person knew. Financial constraints wouldn’t allow me to have something dire. So, what do all young and naive people do? Ignore the shit out of it. Eat some garlic. Drink green tea. Yeah, like that’s going to help. What about the yoga? I sought it out as a way to just get basic exercise. I thought I was doing it for the image of what I thought yoga was, too. I was attached to the idea of being healthy, but I continued harming myself with my vices. I still hurt my body, even after healing it. Dissonant as fuck, right?

I had a really bad smoking habit. Here in Vietnam, smoking is part of the culture. If you smoke thuốc lào, Vietnamese dude’s would give you a thumbs up. Strong man. He smokes the pipe with us. I loved taking time to smoke on the side of the road at a little tea stand. It was a way to blow off steam, smoke (pun intended, and de-stress before classes. It was a way to start or end the day people watching. It hurt me a lot. Yet, I kept on that horse.

Fast forward a year. My yoga practice is strong now, curve in my spine is all but gone. I’m feeling better about myself, but the pain is still in my chest. I dropped acid at a party. Bad setting. Thought I could handle myself because I felt safe with my friends. Long story short, paranoia kicks in and I needed to leave. “I just need to get home. I need to get home.” I scramble inside my apartment. Sigh with massive relief and take a shower to calm down. Bad tripping. How do I get this shit under control? I turned to meditation.

I sat down for twenty minutes and it changed my life. I’ll remember this forever. In my meditation, still tripping hard, a question surfaced: “Why did you freak out like that?” Why did I? What am I feeling so strongly about right now? “Listen. Listen to your body Damian... Where is it coming from? My chest. Fear is doing this to me!!! My fear of belonging to a tribe, rejection, loving a partner, intimacy with her, fear of failure, success, fear of being alive…” (Yeah, that last one is something I didn’t think possible).

I made/had a vision in my mind of a brilliant, white “UFO-like” light sucking up these sticky, hairy black balls, made up of eyes and the most fucked up teeth not found on animals, created from fear, anxiety, guilt, punishment, anger and more that I put there through years of repression, neglect and the unwillingness to accept my reality. Sucking them, and the pain, up and out of my body and life. The pain dissipated a bit, but more than that, I had taken a massive step in claiming my life back from the darkness. Also, the wonders of psychedelics!

Fast forward another year. The pain had become worse. A Friday work dinner lead to post dinner drinks and then back to a mates place for chill beers, a joint or two and my first ever full blown anxiety attack. I’ve now learned, smoking to relieve anxiety only increases it. A degree in psychology didn’t prepare me for this.

It’s easy to see things in others, not so easy to see it in one’s self. I had two good friends with me, I tried to keep it in for so long but…

“Damian, are you okay?”
“No… I think my anxiety is going to kill me. It hurts inside. I can’t stop smoking. I know I must, but I just can’t seem to.”

Tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t breathe. There was a limit on the course of my life if I didn’t stop this habit. My partner had given me a book that helped thousands stop smoking and I had finished it, but here I was puffing away waiting for it to stop.

The next day…

Once again, psychedelics pop into my story! I had made plans with some friends for a chill mushroom trip on a Saturday. The anxiety attack was on my mind the whole time. Near the end, we rolled up some weed , put some Adventure Time on, took a puff and I felt the pain sear through me. I stopped, exhaled, asked myself: “Am I really going to keep doing this forever?” No. I wasn’t. Something just clicked inside. I was done putting fear into my body. It didn’t even taste “good” anymore. I don’t attribute my decision solely to the psilocybin. It just helped me organize my thoughts about everything. I was ready to stop for so long, I just needed a push. I had linked my fear of everything to my smoking habit. That’s what I feel smoking was for me: a physical manifestation of my poisonous fears I kept taking out and setting fire to, thinking they’d disappear every time I clicked the lighter.

Looking back on those years, I can’t believe I ignored my body for so long. I spent two years with an uncomfortable chest pain, yet my head was where the issue was. My brain was riding me like some freak show pony at a fare. My fears were eating me alive. A toothy psychosomatic nightmare.

What living with my fears taught me.

  • That it fucking sucks ass. More than that, it comes in different forms. We have to sit in its stink for a while before we can’t take it anymore. Figure out what that shit looks like and rip it the fuck out of our lives. If a good friend allows me to quote her, “”.
  • Get on top of your brain. Physiologically, the brain is an amazing thing. You can control it instead of the other way around.
  • To listen. I’ve learned to listen to myself. My heart. My body. My thoughts and feelings. Listening to what my body needs is the best music.
  • To take steps. Baby. Big. Giant leaps. Any unit of measurement works, as long as I keep stepping.