I've lived with a crippling fear of sickness for the past 4 years.
Livie died 4 years ago this week, from a common cold. Her body just couldn't handle it. Since then, I've struggled daily with an incapacitating fear of sickness. If I hear that a friend's kid is sick, even if they live in another state, I'm triggered -- the rest of the day my body and mind are in a state of panic and I can hardly see what is in front of me, even when everything in front of me is okay.
I've lived with this fear -- or more accurately, this response to fear -- for 4 years. It's been so hard.
When the Coronavirus stuff started in China, I couldn't sleep. When it hit the US, I couldn't even think straight.
It doesn't matter what my mind knows; my body is the one responding, and I haven't found any way to control that... and I think that might be very good.
The news of friends' sick kids is a trigger. Only a trigger. The loaded gun is an existing fear, inside of me.
So there is a trigger.
There is fear itself.
But there is also my response to it.
The trigger is not evil, and it's not controllable. Friends' kids get sick. My kids get sick. Kids get sick! It's life, and I have no more ability to control it than I have the ability to control the waves of the ocean. Waves come. Waves go. Like it or not.
For a while I thought Fear was evil.
But that can't be completely true. Fear keeps us safe from some real threats. So is Fear trying to kill me or is it trying to protect me? Fear's intent may not be all evil. And, in a similar way, I have not been able to control Fear. More waves, which come and go without any regard for me and what I think.
Over the past 4 years I have learned that my battle has to do with my response to Fear. What can I do? I can hide -- pretend I'm not afraid, drink, eat, watch movies. I can run -- get busy with work, be important, create solvable problems and then solve them and then check them off a list. I can get angry. I can complain. In other words, when it comes to my response to Fear, I VERY MUCH DO have control. So, I have spent the past 4 years exploring my response to Fear.
Here are some things I've learned:
- My feelings of fear are legitimate. Trying to pretend they don't exist or aren't valid has not helped. In fact, it's made things much worse.
- My feelings of fear are new and old. When I feel crippled by Fear, it is almost always connected to unprocessed parts of my past. My body doesn't respect a timeline. If I haven't digested a feeling from 30 years ago, it is still waiting to be digested. It is still valid, no matter what I tell myself. It adds up, and these triggers bring up new and old fear, all mixed together. And that is good, because I need to digest it all, eventually. Something here is working for my good and for my health and growth.
- Fighting fear tends to draw me closer to the reality of the very thing I'm afraid of.
- My fear of "the thing" is almost always worse than the thing itself (I say that with full authority).
- Fighting fear and eliminating triggers does not help me.
The worst thing we can do right now is to try to control the triggers or the fear itself. They're waves of the ocean. Life. We're wearing ourselves out for nothing. And if we keep fighting in this way, we will drown.
Possibly the very best thing we can do right now is to learn to be with. We have been triggered. The fear is welling up in us. We are afraid. Can we be with these feelings -- the new as well as the very old? There are parts of us that have been crying out for attention, and this is an opportunity for deep healing, if we can have courage to be with the waves of life as they come and go. It's scary as hell. I'm terrified. But life is here, in the middle of this, and I believe deep healing is here too, but only in the midst of this; it is not waiting on the "other side."