Have you ever woken up stupidly early with The Fear press-ing down on your chest? A mixture of suffocating anxiety and nameless doom that involves you lying there, frozen in terror, while mentally running through every aspect of your life and FRETTING ABOUT IT?

After I lost my job in 2005 I used to wake up with The Fear every morning. Like a malign alarm clock it would jolt me awake around 4am and with ruthless efficiency fill my head with all my failures. My career. My money situation. My poor parenting skills. All the stupid, embarrassing things I’d ever done. Oh and all those things I felt guilty about too.

Eventually with the support of friends and partner and some counselling and lots of talking it through I managed to drive The Fear from my morning head and get on with my life. But during the Menopause it came back. This was worse in a way, because I couldn’t blame a tangible root cause. It was a bleak-ness and dread that I couldn’t pin down. This time I took up running and found it a big help, I guess because it’s meditative, but also all those endorphins.

“Every morning my old friend The Fear was waiting for me, nagging me, nudging me, reminding me of all the reasons why my plans were doomed to failure.”

But The Fear came back with a vengeance a couple of years ago. Only this time it had an urgency about it. At the time my head was a busy place. Having come to the conclusion that work and family just weren’t enough for me, that I needed A Project to keep my soul happy, I’d started pulling ideas to-gether and researching them. As the ideas turned into a plan and the plan turned into Audrey and goals were set, my mind was full to bursting with thoughts and questions. There was so much to do, and I threw myself into it. But every morning my old friend The Fear was waiting for me, nagging me, nudg-ing me, reminding me of all the reasons why my plans were doomed to failure. You’re not as good as you think you are. You’re too old to do something new. You’ll only make a fool of yourself. Are you biting off more than you can chew?

By this point I was heartily sick of The Fear. ‘Not this time, pal” I thought, bounding out of bed. I’d just heard about how pour-ing your morning thoughts out onto paper, stream-of-consciousness style, can help still an anxious mind and I put it to the test. Every morning over the ensuing six months I wrote three A-sides of A4, purging myself of ‘what ifs’ and “if only’s. And it totally worked.

What’s more, buried in those pages were all manner of treas-ures. Rereading my Morning Pages, as this practice is known (conceived by creativity guru Julia Cameron), is to rediscover the ramblings of a furtive mind trying to grasp for sense amid a hundred warring thoughts. I’ve unearthed loads of ideas that have ended up as future plans and Audrey articles. Stuff that gets right to the heart of what it’s like to challenge your demons and take on a scary new challenge. It’s a total win-win.

So next time you get The Fear, write it out of your life.

Words: Marina Gask

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