I have felt
completely paralyzed by fear.

I couldn’t move
because I felt whatever may be
outside my room
could harm me.
I laid still for a long time
I couldn’t sleep
I couldn’t turn off
the lingering doubt
that something outside my room
wanted to hurt me.

I listened to every sound
every car that went by
every voice of people walking by my window
I listened to pipes in the building
to the creaks of the wood
to doors opening and closing
to muffled conversation
I felt the urge to cry
but I was too afraid
to make any noise.

There was no one outside my room.
No one outside my apartment
ever openly attacked me
still I felt paralyzed by fear.

I felt the psychological strain
weighing down on my physical body
it was draining my will
to take another breath,
I wondered if this was how
it would feel to simply pass away?

I kept breathing
rationalizing the noises outside my apartment
from the police sirens
to what I hoped were firecrackers
I laid still
and found comfort in the four walls
the ceiling and the floor that enveloped me.
I am claustrophobic
and I conquered my fear
by envisioning my mind in a box
I put up walls around my mind
and thought in that box
my thoughts would be safe.

I didn’t move my body
all I wanted to secure was my mind.
Eventually the anxiety would decrease
my fear was only perceivable
in my tense muscles,
so I would relax my body
and finally move my body an inch.

That first movement
is always the hardest
its neither an accomplishment nor a defeat
its simply an acceptance:

Yes I have been paralyzed by fear
and I have learned
to deal with it.

-Vanessa Hernandez

poem audio recording

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