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Finding My Way Through the Fears of Chronic Illness

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Hello Fear: I See You There

Fear can be the driver in any scenario or it can be a motivator to work through it to reach a new level. I have recently noticed fear as a bedfellow and I am not liking its presence with me at all. For many months – 18 months to be exact (that’s more than 500 days and counting) – I have staved off fear in almost all its forms. Dealing with my CSF leak has been a challenge. I had managed to work my way through fear for the most part. Noticing its presence and using strategies to look it in the eye and then stretch myself further. I was able to move above it most of the time.

My Many Forms of Fear

I’ve had fear in the form of doubt:

Doubt that doctors would believe me. I navigated my way through fear and educated myself so I could state my case. I calmed myself so I would be able to speak my truth. I opened my heart up to doubt so I could fully express myself. This allowed doctors to see in me a voice that could be telling them the truth. It seemed to work.


I’ve had fear in the form of insecurity:

Insecurity there would be a treatment and I would get better. I trudged through this form of fear so I could prove to myself that positive action means positive outcomes. Insecurity would gnaw at my mind and I recognized that I was allowing thoughts of an unknown future to take over. My secure self took the reigns and settled my heart to live in the present. Now is the only thing I can be sure of. There is no promise of tomorrow, so how could I know what would happen? This makes it easier to navigate the insecure feeling and help me walk my way through fear once again.

I’ve had fear in the form of sadness:

I could practice yoga, go for hikes, spend time at the cottage, canoe, swim, live…all that was gone. I recognized that sadness of fear that my life would be “over.” I changed that outcome by learning to celebrate all the things in my life that I had. I have nature, flowers, walks in my garden, photographs, quiet, fur-babies, a loving caring partner, simpler pleasures but so many pleasures abounded. I let that sadness go. That form of fear was not welcome.

I’ve had fear in the form of worthlessness:

I felt I could not give. I had no meaning and no purpose. I had no value to offer. I was lifeless, alone, in bed, not working. This was a super tough form of fear for me because I had been taught to value work. Value “doing.” Value “busyness.” I made a decision to do what I could. I reached out to others like me. I invested the energy I did have into something that was a bit bigger than me and found a way to feel I was contributing. It restored my meaning. It matters to me that I can help, even in the tiniest way.

I’ve also had fear of hopelessness:

This is the hardest and most private of all my fears. This one is the one that takes me to task. It tricks me into thinking I will never see a light. It tries to fool me into thinking the light I do see is just a reflection of what is shining from behind me. This fear, the fear of losing hope, is the hardest one for me yet. I have to move through it so I carve a path for next time it visits. I need to fabricate the proper tools to get myself above it. I am not so much making my way through the tunnel of fear, as I am finding a route that takes me above the clouds so I can see the path beyond it. The tunnel is too dark for me.

Working Through the Fear From Lack of Hope

I used all my strategies I have been writing about all these months. I went back to my own blog posts: How to Kick Start Your Day, Lessons From My Garden and Getting Past ‘What Used To Be’ and still, nothing helped.  I was finally at a point of overwhelm. Mentally I was able to logically see my resources were many but spiritually I was no longer getting relief. Go out to the garden and see beauty because it means I know roughness. Take pictures to capture one millisecond in time (this always reminds me that life changes in micro-movements) because then I appreciate every second. Reach out to others to let them know I am vulnerable because it means my heart is open. Make a path forward that sits well in my heart because then I will not fear. Be willing to let it all go and trust my one most valuable mantra, ‘This too shall pass,” because good and bad come and go and it is not a reflection of myself but merely a measure of my experiences.

Moving Forward Through Fear

These past six weeks or so have been particularly hard for me as I navigate our Canadian health care system. I am grateful to all the very compassionate and caring doctors out there who try to manage a sluggish and awkward behemoth that prevents them from seeming human. It’s a struggle for all of us and I am doing my best to hang on. I am having dark days. Days when nothing seems to console me and a fear that grows too big to handle at times. I am slowly making my way through fear and getting glimpses again of light, and clouds, and hope.

The Road Ahead

I made a plan forward. It always feels better to have a plan. Even a mediocre plan can feel liberating. It opens my heart up to possibility. It restores my sense of balance. I can breathe and see the clouds again. I’m better at fear when I have a plan. I have to let it all go before that can happen and then somehow the plan emerges.

That’s the key:

Be with the fear. Let it all go. Give it all over to the Universe. Be willing to let everything fall by the wayside. And then the plan emerges.

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is often said to me.

But I like…”Hope for everything, let it all go, be open and willing and it will all come together.” I have made it through 100 percent of my bad days and I am still here.

And that just has to be something wonderful.

This post originally appeared on My Something Wonderful.

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Thinkstock photo via redtea.

Originally published: September 28, 2017
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