Dear Sean


I am really afraid of this virus that I basically haven’t even slept at night for weeks. No matter how much I try to stop thinking about it, it’s all I think about, and I am always worried about stuff. My mother died last year, and I am living with my grandma.



What I’m about to say is going to make no sense, so bear with me. If you can hang in there until the end of this column, you’ll win a free toaster oven.

Think about it like this:

Pretend that you have a rabid squirrel living inside your head. Got it? Good.

This squirrel is your brain. This is not an analogy. Modern science has actually proven that human nervous systems are all controlled by small crazed furry rodents who behave as though they are on their fifth cup of coffee.

Your personal squirrel is CRAZY! He’s always running in circles. He’s never at ease.

But hey, don’t get mad at the squirrel. You need him. This squirrel (your brain) looks out for you. He’s making sure you eat, sleep, do your homework, wear clean underpants, etc. He just gets stuck on some issues.

Speaking of which. My mother was very hung up on the issue of clean underpants. It was as though she thought government employees were going to emerge from the shadows and perform randomized underwear checks. And if I was not wearing clean underpants I would be dragged outside and flogged with rubber hoses.

So before I go on, are you following me? I am saying:

1. Your brain is a squirrel.
2. My mother is obsessed with clean underpants.

This little squirrel will eat you alive. Not on purpose, he just gets so scared that he can’t help it. He probably sits around up there all day, slogging gallons of Mountain Dew so he can keep you awake at night.

Luckily, there is a tried and true way to deal with the squirrel. It is not easy, but it is straightforward. Here it is:

Tire that little squirrel’s butt out.

How do you do this? By letting him go buck wild. Don’t even try to stop him. Just let him run around and scream at the top of his lungs, let him shout, let him keep you up all night with fear.

Whatever you do, don’t try to stop him. Trust me on this, you don’t want to give this squirrel a chance to catch his breath, you want him to get so tuckered out being afraid that he falls asleep.

Here’s the screwy thing about fear. When you’re scared, everyone keeps telling you, “Don’t be afraid.” They say this if it is a groundbreaking psychological concept. As though you’re going to respond, “HEY! Why didn’t I think of that?! I feel better!”

Don’t be ridiculous. Anyone who has ever been scared knows that the more you try NOT to be afraid, the worse it gets. It’s the same with other crummy emotions.

You try not to be ticked off; you get even madder. You try not to be sad; you end up calling in sick to work and watching “Steel Magnolias” in your PJs all week.

Try to not be afraid? Yeah, right.

When I was a kid, I was afraid all the time. My family went through hard times and our lives were a roller coaster ride. I can remember lying in bed at night wishing that these heavy anxious feelings in my chest would go away.

I had so many questions. Would we have enough money to survive? Why did my father commit suicide? What was happening to my family? Would I make it to adulthood? Were government employees observing my underwear sanitation habits? If so, did they in fact possess rubber hoses?

I was the most scared kid you ever met. I’m not a skittish guy by nature. You probably aren’t either. But life kicks us in the teeth, and it makes you that way. Pretty soon, you’re curled into a ball begging for life to take it easy on you. That’s how reality works sometimes.

Well, I’d like to tell you about a friend I once had. I’ll call him Todd. I learned something important from Todd. This guy had gone through some major stuff, a lot more traumatic than anything I ever went through. His biological parents died in a bloody way. When he was younger he had foster parents who abused him until the court finally removed him.

I will never forget when he was leaving for a new foster home. Todd had all his things packed with him. Todd didn’t even seem worried. I of course was crying. I asked Todd if he was scared.

“Well, not really,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because after you’re afraid long enough, you get so tired of being afraid, that you aren’t anymore.”

The county van took him away and I never forgot what he said.

I wish I had something more helpful to tell you. But I’m no expert. In fact, all I am is a painfully average guy. Fear screwed up a big part of my life. And I am sorry to say that fear will probably mess up pieces of your life, too.

Let it. Because it will not win. It cannot win. One day, I promise, if you can just hold on, that squirrel will run out of gas. And it will be a brand new world for you.

Ask me how I know this.

Okay, here’s your free toaster oven.


  1. KiKi - April 9, 2020 7:51 am

    Dear Sean, why do you have me laughing out loud so hard one day reading about music and church denominations and the next day I’m in tears reading about fear. It feels like a rollercoaster at times. Don’t stop. I absolutely love it!

  2. Jasm Elliot - April 9, 2020 8:43 am

    Thanks. Good writing and it brought a smile to my face. I have been dealing with this squirrel too. Jasm

  3. Ann - April 9, 2020 11:45 am

    It is a squirrelly world right now for many but your wonderfully real life columns/blogs make it more hopeful and brighter knowing we are not alone….you bring sadness, joy, hope and a lot of laughter….many thanks for sharing your thoughts in so many different ways….God bless you

  4. Elizabeth - April 9, 2020 11:47 am

    Pretty amazing advice. Wow! Great job. I never thought about a squirrels for brains! And he’s right TWELVE-IN-SARASOTA. Just hang in there.

  5. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 9, 2020 11:54 am

    I am afraid that I am beginning to get addicted to your writing, Sean of the Afraid.

  6. Robin - April 9, 2020 11:59 am

    I have a monkey instead of a squirrel , he’s just as bad! Maybe I’ll throw him a banana tree tonight to slow him down.
    Great words for a young man rightfully scared, we all are. Thanks for your wisdom!


  7. Donna - April 9, 2020 1:11 pm

    That’s the TRUTH about fear.

  8. Fred Lennon - April 9, 2020 2:43 pm

    Funny!!! But I wonder if the “toaster oven” part resonates with someone too young to know what Savings and Loans were and how they gave them away for new accounts or big deposits? There could be a generational gap. She might be sitting there sayin “Huh?”

  9. Tammy S. - April 9, 2020 3:01 pm

    Another great one, Sean. And Twelve-in-Sarasota, you are not alone. Even when we might feel alone, we are never alone. Thinking about you and your grandmom, and praying for you both, and our world. BIG hugs!

  10. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 9, 2020 3:26 pm

    Good advice. I would also have that squirrel turn off the TV news, put down the newspaper, and get down on his little knees and say a prayer. This virus is bad but so are other viruses/diseases, especially for those with compromised immune systems. We will make it through this.

  11. Linda Moon - April 9, 2020 4:34 pm

    I learned two important facts from you today: #1 and #2. Psychological concepts can cost upward to about $872.48 per hour. Your free advice about our squirrelly brains made me feel better, Sean. I understand your many questions. I’m especially glad you made it to adulthood and that my inbox time or book-signing-time or podcasts or live shows from you cost less than $872.48! You are welcome to join my squirrels any time!!

  12. Robert Chiles - April 9, 2020 5:20 pm


  13. Mary T - April 9, 2020 6:04 pm

    I was so afraid as a child that I don’t think I even had a childhood! When I was 15 I realized that all the stuff I had worried about, never happened. My adult life has been pretty much worry free. I get concerned about things, but worry is a useless emotion. Twelve probably needs to talk to a trusted adult. I wish I had.

  14. Linda - April 10, 2020 12:18 am

    Thank you, Sean!! Having a bit of trouble dealing with my meth-addicted squirrel right now.

  15. Brenda - April 10, 2020 12:20 am

    The next time I get a migraine I’m going to think about that squirrel running out of gas and hopefully soon. LOL

  16. Lisa Palmer - May 22, 2020 1:12 am

    I am a worrier by nature too. So I started doing this: try to think of what the squirrels were keeping you up at night about exactly one month ago, six months ago, one year ago. I bet you can’t remember. If you do remember, did any of that actually happen? Was it as bad as you thought it might be? Did you survive? That usually helps me wear out that squirrel so he will shut up.


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