One of the books that has helped me most with my struggle to cope with mental illness is Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Self-help books often get a bad rap. Especially if they have catchy titles. However, I found Feel The Fear to be a revelation and it's incredibly useful. This book is one of the main reasons I was able to crawl out of the depths of anxiety and depression. And the most revelatory part? Everybody feels fear.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? But I was convinced that confident people were a different species to me. I never considered that they feel fear.
Jeffers also offers 5 truths about fear:
1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out... and do it.
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out... and do it.
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I'm on unfamiliar territory, but so is everybody else.
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
Jeffers explains these in detail and they are the foundation of the book, which I recommend to anybody and everybody. It helped me when I was afraid to leave the house; it helped me hop on a plane (for the first time ever, on my own) and visit a friend in Valencia.
But it's only in recent weeks that I have thought of applying the lessons in Feel The Fear to my writing. I tend to be self-critical and avoid submitting my writing anywhere, because I'm convinced it won't be good enough. Whenever I get up the nerve to enter a story in a competition, I imagine it get photocopied and passed around - for people to laugh at.
If I was to continue like this, where would it leave me? At home, writing thousands and thousands of words I will never send out. I have to face the possibility not only that I'm too scared to be a writer, but that I might be scared of being a writer.
So what can I do? Give up on my lifelong dream? Er, no. I have to take action. I have to literally feel the fear and do it anyway.
I've submitted stories to a few competitions this week and plan to submit several more over the next week or two. I don't know when I will stop worrying about judges reading my stories and saying 'what possessed her to send us this crap', but I know there will be a day when I enter a competition or send a story to a literary journal and not feel it's such a big deal.
Because it's not a big deal for a writer to submit stories: it's a necessity.
I will have to do it again and again, for as long as I want to keep writing. And you know what? It's infinitely better than being stuck in a fog of fear.
If you're in a similar situation, find places to submit your work to - and submit them. It might cost you a bit of money through printouts, postage and entry fees, but the cost of staying scared is far greater.