Fighting Fear

Part of learning to pace myself is learning to tell the difference between a real problem and an imaginary one. It’s not as obvious as it sounds. The problems chronic illnesses cause have more permutations than a Rubik’s Cube. It is easy to be swept away by fear.

Fear of the unknown has survival benefits. It keeps us from going into a cave that might have a wild animal inside. If you came home and found the lock broken off your front door, you would be afraid a burglar was inside the house. Fear of the unknown keeps us from harm.

Our doctors gave us information about our illnesses. Fact sheets written in plain language explaining what our condition is, and what to expect, are helpful. They also unlock the door to worry and panic. I don’t know about you, but my mind starts trying to solve future health problems in advance. I don’t like surprises. If someone held a surprise party in my honor, I would leave. Yes, I was the child who was terrified of the toy jack-in-the-box. I like to know what is coming so I can plan for it. This makes living with chronic illness hard, because I want to know what to expect, only I can’t. Since I can’t know what to expect, I create contingency plans that have contingency plans.

If problem A happens, I’ll do action B. If action B fails, I will do action C. If action C fails, I will do…

I will do this all night long.

Problem solving in advance can be useful if I’m trying to figure out what to do if my insulin pump malfunctions. Most of the time, it’s not helpful. It’s just spinning in endless circles. Shrinking my perspective has helped me stop spinning around as much. Instead of trying to figure out how to cope with problems that might happen in five years, I’m learning how to focus on problems that might happen today.

Today my insulin pump might run out of insulin. My set might need changing. My pump battery might run out. To deal with these problems, I have insulin in the fridge, sets in the closet, and a spare battery in my purse. I’m ready for those challenges. I have Smarties candy in my purse in case of low blood sugar. As far as diabetes is concerned, those are the problems I am most likely to have today.

Today it is unlikely that I will lose my sight, lose feeling in my feet, lose my hearing, or have any other major diabetes complication. I am ready to deal with the problems that might happen today. I can leave future problems in the future.

Living with chronic illness is a day-to-day challenge for me. I have learned that worrying about what might happen, and trying to solve these problems ahead of time, just makes me crazy. Fear stalks me. Of course it does. The only thing I can do to combat my fear is dealing with today’s problems. I’m learning to acknowledge my fears, but not turn up the volume on them. Fear of the unknown doesn’t deserve my entire attention. Living my life, enjoying my friends and family, this deserves attention. I'm too busy living life today to be afraid of tomorrow.

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