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When the Fear of Pain Does More Damage Than the Pain Itself

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I chose to work in my garden instead of doing dishes that morning. It was foggy so I could actually stay outside without sunscreen, a sun hat, long sleeves, etc. Trying to do some mindfulness while taking the leaves off a flower bed, my mind was flooded with a visualization of what was said at my Pain Management Group: “The fear of the pain is more debilitating than the pain itself.” Here are the thoughts that filled my mind and made things very clear on that foggy morning.

This past fall I rearranged my pain meds and other medications so I could actually plant bulbs in my garden for the first time in three years. I pushed myself and suffered for days after but I was so anxious to do it and then see them bloom in the spring. Having done the planting, I covered the flower beds with leaves. Now it was spring and some of the bulbs that hadn’t been moved by the squirrels had started to grow and poked through the leaves, too eager for the sun to wait.

While moving the leaves, I was shocked to see that the yellow crocuses had popped up but had grown underneath the leaves, thin and yellow stems with buds barely visible. The leaves from the fall then became symbolic of worry and fear in my mind. I had struggled to put the bulbs in the ground, worried it was too late in the season and that they wouldn’t sprout if the winter was too harsh so I put so many leaves to protect them that they ended up crushed. The yellow ones, the ones I was waiting for the most, were the ones that were the most damaged. I had been frustrated with the squirrel but the bulbs he moved still bloomed whereas the ones under the leaves struggled – a struggle I caused.


When I’m afraid of doing something and then don’t, especially when it’s something I really want to do, the weight of my worry, like the weight of the leaves, only causes me to miss out, like I’m missing out now seeing the yellow crocuses. Plus, it’s a lot more work getting rid of the extra leaves, or fear, than it would have been had I just put a normal amount of leaves, not over-thinking/worrying about the future.

Here’s an example of why this became quite real for me: comic-con. My family loves comic-con. We have even cosplayed. But I haven’t gone in years. I have been in pain, yes. But I’m too scared of the crowd bumping me, being stranded, not being able to sit down, not being able to turn back, not being able to rest properly and at its worst, worry about dragging my family away early because it was all too much for me. Their costumes have gotten better and better and I’ve missed it, left to be content with pictures and stories when they get home.

I realized one foggy morning that for years I have piled on the leaves, worrying about protecting myself and my pain from every situation. Yes, I was frustrated with the squirrels but that was an outside influence. It was my own fear and protectionism that did more damage to my life than the pain.

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Thinkstock photo via Jax71.

Originally published: May 30, 2017
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