“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Frank Herbert, Dune
I grew up knowing Frank’s Herbert’s quote. But it never became truly meaningful on a personal level until I became disabled. Not for the disability aspect, but for the continuous high pain levels and total lack of information about what was going on. To feel so much unbearable pain and find that even doctors could not understand what was going on, that causes distress, it causes fear. Fear of this being forever. Fear of there being no end.
But Frank Herbert also used the well-known adage ‘This too shall pass’. And so it does. Although sometimes I just allow the time to pass through me and beyond. Just for a while. So that I can run on neutral for a short time, to get me through the worst moments. We can’t do so for long, and it doesn’t fix the problem at hand. But if we can switch off for a few hours here and there, or sometimes just for a moment, it is helpful to give our minds and bodies a rest from all that adrenaline and tension.
My well-read copy of ‘Dune’
We cannot sidestep our fears, they will lurk and lurk. Nothing is achieved by worrying, but sometimes we just cannot avoid it. And, as tough as it is to do so, training our minds to step away from the worrying is so very important. Facing our fears and working through them can boot those worries into something we know. That we’ve already dealt with. So their reappearance is familiar because we’ve already taught them a lesson before and we know we can do it again! Yes, they rear their ugly heads from time to time, but we know them, we’ve already worked through the fear, and we made it to the other side. Otherwise we might have missed out on life. On moments that can be glorious. A moment in the sunshine. A message from a friend. A really good cup of tea!
I have found ways which work for me. I am the queen of distraction techniques that work for me! We each know ourselves best, and I’ve got really good at turning my brain round to look at something else. Not to ignore the real issues, but because I’ve already turned them over every which way, I know them as well as I know myself. So I just do not need to spend time watching the sad re-run! The best techniques are the ones that make me feel empowered, useful or creative. So I research information on my conditions to better understand them, (and to better explain it to the doctors, of course!), and I tell other people what I’ve found and write this blog just in case anyone out there finds it useful/amusing/distracting, too!
Nowadays, the bad times are when new negative information throws me into a phase of assimilation to try to regain my, already hard-won, equilibrium. If the circumstances are severe enough to outweigh my coping resources, then I will falter just like anyone else. That’s when I resort to really immersive but utterly unproductive distraction! It takes something really emotionally traumatic for me to have to resort to this, so it’s a very rare event. But when necessary, I do this so that I can break down the overall fear into more sizeable chunks, otherwise I just can’t think straight as my thoughts tend to spiral round in an endless circular fashion.
My ultimate survival tactics!
During one of these times I ‘discovered’ my boyfriend’s Playstation! It was the only thing that helped to shout over the worst of the pain and distress because it commanded my immediate and continuous attention. Yes, my real world was falling apart, but that dude with the big gun was trying to kill me and I needed somewhere good to hide and to find some more ammo’! Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so I became an avid gamer for a few months. I broke down the task of facing my fears into little chunks. And I came through it rather like an over-emotional plane in really scary turbulence, but I did come out the other side! The events that caused me such pain still rear their heads on a daily basis, but I know them, I have already faced them. They are my sadness. But I do remain.
After this time has passed and my brain has stopped the emotional uber-chemicals phase, I can step back from the situation a little. Employ my academic tendencies to assess in a less emotional manner, and then decide what to do next. After the fear has gone, there really is just me. Only I remain. And it’s my life, my body. Also my physical pain, my own disrupting symptoms, and only I can deal with them. There is no point in waiting for others to help me. I haven’t met a doctor, yet, who is trained to treat my dysautonomia. So I have to pick myself up, dust myself down and continue to find ways to help myself.
We all have our bumpy roads to travel. And no-one can be strong all of the time. But it can sometimes be surprising just how strong we can be when the circumstances demand it. We should give ourselves more credit.
The ‘me’ that remains after the fear has passed is always stronger.