Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I said I'd write more about fear

Well, I said I’d write something more about fear, and I’m going to. Heaven knows, I’m an expert on it. And I’ve had a lot of practice with it in the last few weeks.

First of all, I’ve got something wrong with my left foot. It’s been bothering me for a few months, and usually in the middle of the night, or when I’m not near a phone. When I am near a phone and the doctor’s office is open, it’s not bothering me and I don’t think to call. That was my story, and I was sticking to it.

Finally, it got too bad to ignore, and I knew I was being an idiot. So in the middle of the night, I e-mailed two people, detailed the symptoms and the fears. The fears are from my expert medical diagnostic skills – it was Parkinson’s, MS, diabetic neuropathy, or residual damage from when a beer truck ran over my foot on March 1st, 1993. Go ahead and laugh: it really WAS a beer delivery truck. He pinned the foot under the front driver’s-side tyre, and I fell under the cab, tearing up some ligaments on the outside of the ankle. (Someone asked me once what made it important that it was a beer truck, and not full of milk – it’s VERY important!!! This is funnier.) I promised to make the doctor’s appointment the following day, and I did – it was a week away. Having “confessed” my fears, I then prayed for God to relieve me of them. And I was not afraid between telling on myself, and the appointment.

The nurse practitioner did some tests. The high-tech neuropathy test – you close your eyes, and he pokes the bottom of your foot with the cut end of a short piece of fishing line, and you say “Yes” every time you feel it. Pressing on some things in the back of my knee, and on my foot, to see if they hurt. I am TERRIBLY ticklish, and the test was agony, but it didn’t hurt. Stand on my tiptoes. I can do that. Rock back on my heels and lift my toes. I can’t do that; I can with the right foot, but not the left. And I asked, as I always do – Did I feel it every time you touched the bottom of my foot? Yes. He said, I definitely do NOT have diabetic neuropathy. And he’s ordered some tests – I’m having an EMG early in September.

I barely got out of there and home before I flooded the place. Called one of my confessors, and blurted out, “It’s not neuropathy!” He said, “What is it then?” and I said, “I don’t know and I don’t care. They’re not gonna cut off my feet!” Holy cow, who knew THAT was there? I honestly had not felt fear all the time I waited for the doctor’s appointment, but the minute he said not neuropathy, I realized I’d held deep terror. Way down where it’s barely verbal, neuropathy to me means, “They’re gonna cut off my feet.” I am not at all afraid of whatever comes next.

Then there are the other people. My friends in their late 80’s. She’s ready to move into a retirement home, and he’s not. She asked for moral support. What I want for them is peaceful transitions. What I want for me is not to have whatever changes are coming. They have my moral support, and practical support too. and not least of the practical support is prayer.

Someone else I love has been having a lot of medical tests in the last week. One in particular was frightening me to the point that I cried every time I talked about it. And I DID talk about it – the things I’m afraid of are like mushrooms – they grow in the dark. I guess I didn’t talk specifically enough to the person who was having the tests – I totally misunderstood what they were looking for, and I was needlessly afraid.

But I was not constantly afraid. I would talk to someone out loud, and say, I know that fear is based in the future, and the future is imaginary. Roland told me in the spring that when I’m in the valley of the shadow of death, I need to remember – I’m in the SHADOW, not the reality. When I was afraid I’d ask God to relieve me of the fear, and then I’d go do something, like scrub the kitchen cupboard doors, to keep me stuck right in the here and now, and not let my brain wander around in the imaginary future.

The other thing I could do is remind myself that the condition I feared either already did or didn’t exist. If it did, it could get better or worse. If it didn’t, it could start to exist, or it could not. And even if it did exist, and even if it was getting worse right now, that didn’t mean that in six months, it would be what I feared right now. There are an infinite number of possibilities. The internal medicine specialist I saw for the first time last December, because my family doctor was retiring after being my doctor for over 25 years, said, “You’re hardly diabetic at all any more.” Everything changes all the time, and it’s only in my mind that things always only get worse. The fear went away, and it came back, and I’d pray again, and it would come back at longer intervals, and with less force. We get stronger with exercise.

These look overwhelming, because you’re reading them all at once. I’ve been living them serially, over a few weeks. Nothing here is unusual or makes me special; this is life. The answer is always the same – talk to people and pray. I have this feeling that most religions expect that we will gather together to pray and worship, at least some of the time. Jesus said, “Whenever two or more are gathered in His name …” The synagogue across the road requires ten men for a minyan. Muslims gather to pray at specific times each day. Even AA says the only things you need for a meeting are two drunks, a pot of coffee, and a resentment, and they always pray at the start and end of the meeting. The answer is to join together and turn to God and ask for help. It doesn’t even matter what name you call God. It works out – God is so good.


FranIAm said...

Oh Kate... Oh Kate.

I am speechless.

Kate Morningstar said...

Thank you, Fran. I lived my life crippled by fear until the last few years. I can't do anything about the fact that I still get scared of things. (Actually, I get scared by fewer things, but the intensity's still there -- progress.) But, I don't have to ACT out of fear, or live in it. The hard part is remembering what the other options are -- writing them down helps.

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