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How Gazing at the Stars Echoed Life With a Chronic Illness

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A couple of weeks ago my husband told me he wanted to go to Everglades National Park at the end of the month. I said, “Sure I have always wanted to go there.” Then he added, “…and we need to go at 3:00 a.m. so I can take photos of the Milky Way.”

My response: “What?! You want to go out in total darkness to a place that is infested with alligators and poisonous snakes?!”

Yep, of course he does. He is obsessed with photography.

Fear immediately came over by entire body. What could happen out there, especially with no one else around? Doesn’t the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” live out there? What would I do if my husband got bit by a poisonous snake? How would I help him? My head was spinning with all sorts of scenarios.

Finally, I decided it may not be like that at all. We have been to many nature preservation areas and other national parks. We never see wildlife except for birds and squirrels. So I thought, “Let’s do some research and go check things out during the day to see how it is.”

Well, like most parks there are marked trails with boardwalks so it is mostly safe as long as you stay in the designated areas. We prepared by wearing proper clothing to shield us from the giant mosquitoes and deer flies. We took a first aid kit and we scouted the area during the day so we would know what to expect. We found what areas we wanted to go (and where we did not want to go) and set out a plan. When we went out at 3:00 a.m., it wasn’t so scary. The experience was beautiful and peaceful. Being out in nature under the starlit sky was amazing!

I have been in fear for most of my life. Fear of making wrong decisions, fear of the failing, and fear of the future. The terror of the Everglades at night appears to be a legitimate reason for concern. But after assessing the situation I decided to face my fear of the darkness, and I am so glad I did because I experienced an incredible event with my husband. If I had succumbed to panic I would not have had the opportunity to see the beauty of the Milky Way. Maybe the reason I overcame this anxiety was because I have had several events in the last several years where I had to overcome obstacles. Again, I have defeated fear. It is a wonderful feeling to actually participate in life rather than sit on the sidelines filled with distress. I am finally able to move past apprehension and embrace new encounters.

While gazing at the stars I realized that this experience echoes that of living with chronic illness. When first diagnosed with a new illness, one ponders what will happen in the future. How will daily activities be accomplished? How will this affect quality of life? These are legitimate fears. But first, don’t panic, and then set up a plan. Do research on the disease, talk with others who have the illness in an online support group, discuss with the doctor the available treatment options, and attend education classes about the condition if available. Once the scouting is done the illness becomes more manageable and hopefully not as scary. There will always be low points, but with knowledge and a developed plan for dealing with the bad days, the instances will be less stressful. Management will create a more consistent living pattern which will result is more frequent good days. By moving past fear of the illness, establishing a treatment strategy and accepting the situation, the future will shine as bright as the stars in the sky!

Follow this journey on I Got M.A.D.

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Thinkstock image By: den-belitsky

Originally published: June 16, 2017
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