When Fear Appears – Part One

Campbell Wallace
Campbell Wallace

During an acute illness, we encounter the demon of fear. It is an insipid imp which effects the inner being and can cause far-reaching problems if it is not dealt with efficiently. Do not jump to conclusions; it is easy to believe being in a mental dip is a sign of weakness and is the reason for fear. This is far from accurate. Serious illness is a multifaceted situation. 1) Obviously, the body is in dis-ease. 2) There are uncertainties for the future. 3) The weeks ahead will be a round of tests and treatments. 4) Illness has negative financial implications. These are just four of the many aspects of the story. If you consider the whole situation it is easier to eliminate the areas which cannot be controlled and begin to focus on becoming well.

  1. Accept you are ill, forget the why and how, work for today and leave the future to be what it will be.
  2. The future is unknown. However the future is unknown to all humanity, your illness is where you are at. So this is why we stay with today.
  3. Get into the flow of it all. Speculation is one of the ‘imps’ greatest friends, deprive the imp of his pleasure.
  4. Batten down the hatches. Just for the moment keep your purse strings tight. Let everyone know you feel its circumspect to become careful with finance.

The first issue I will address is researching your sickness. By all means ask your health professionals about the diagnosis and treatment. Read all of the documentation given to you by your consultant or doctor. However be careful with the internet. Tapping those keys can and will cause anxieties worse than the disease. If you are of brave heart, dig in and print out the information learned. Print it, because will not be long before the many conflicting opinions and views you have read, will become a storm of fear. And once locked into the imagination, the imp will wave the fears like a protest banner at every opportunity. When the information is printed the ideas can be compared, and the investigator will see the conflicting information.

Well, meaning friends, love them for their kindness and support. Remember they live in houses, not pathology laboratories. Most work in average to goodness jobs, not in hospital consultant rooms. Few have spent eight years studying the symptoms of the disease. Support and friendship yes, diagnosis of life threatening disease, probably not. And, forget, and I mean forget the harbingers of doom, with stories of wrong leg amputations and blood dripping waiting room trolleys. It amazes me all the hours I’ve spent being looked after by the NHS I have never seen the Victorian blood baths. Everyone carries a camera in their pocket, why don’t we see these pictures? And on the odd occasion something remiss does happen, is it taken out of context.

Become focussed on realities; attention to supposition is like pouring petrol on your barbeque, it’s Russian roulette. Remember the little imp is ready and waiting to take on the job of undermining your well-being. Do not allow well-meaning people or digging into the mine of misinformation keep the wretch awake in the imagination. The imagination is a fertile ground for creativity, it will cultivate anything from light bulb moments of genius to dungeons of despair. Plant the seeds of goodness and watch the sunflowers grow. Seed the mind with brambles and it’s the devils own job to clear the illusion, it is your choice. Think about the idea of seeds, and remind yourself the disease is part of the story (let’s call it a story, a story about the illness sounds interesting). Consider you are central to the story, set the seed in your mind that you’ll only be growing the ‘right’ seeds and the name on the bag is fact and truth. When anxiety enters the imagination, and the imp is playing his games. Ask him about the reality, ask him about the facts, ask him about today, do not waste time asking the way to ‘What ifs’?’

While waiting for appointments, resist the temptation to think others are in a worse situation. You are in your story and you my friend is where the attention must be centred. And for those who read this and think otherwise, allow me to be blunt: No one who is within acute illness desires sympathy, a big smile, laughter, and happiness is our tonic. A sorry looking face across the room only compounds the situation. I am not commenting sympathy is not understood or acknowledged, however, while we are still breathing and in with a chance, a smile is preferred to a ‘You’re looking better’ because the phrase can be misinterpreted. Illness make the mind become distorted, and the little imp will say ‘I wonder if they are just saying that?’ Talk normally to friends and gently change the subject if they dwell too long on the situation.

Consultations can be stressful. Some patients think the surgeon is a little ‘cold’ or ‘distant’. Do not read this incorrectly, they see many patients in a day, and to become emotionally involved with each one would break them down. Remember they are human, so give them a chance, big smiles seem to be rewarded with the extra few minutes of explanation or reassurance. There is no point in getting uptight if you ask ‘What are my chances?’ and the reply is ‘The prognosis is good’ the answer takes many factors into account. I have a distinct feeling; no surgery is performed it there is no chance of survival. Allow the imp to sleep; ask clear questions and write the answers in a notebook, so as the information is not forgotten or distorted. Remember anxiety is the feeling of worry once you get into the habit of immediately addressing the feeling it will not take long before you become in control of it.

How do you deal with anxiety? I would guide you to begin to read novels, listen to music or do something different, for example by like me, take up writing. It is amazing how many of the happy times of your life will be recalled. Beware, it’s an addictive pass-time. In fact, the most important factor to help keep the imp asleep is to break usual habits and do something different in your routine. One last consideration your family loves you, talk with clarity about your feelings. We cannot be mind readers, allow loved one’s to know and understand your feeling. Free them from not knowing what to do or say about your illness.

More next week – Live live well – Keep the Imp asleep -Campbell

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