Sunday, 6 March 2011

Suppositious Fears

Aside from depression, high up in the ratings of forms of mental illness are anxiety, stress and phobias. I'm not sure if they can be separated from depression or vice versa (will leave you to ponder that one). At the root of all of these is fear.

In order to become fearful we imagine and are not dealing in facts. "Really, but what about when you've been through a traumatic event?" I've heard some say. Even when fear is based on a horrendous past experience it is our imagination that is carrying that memory forward into the here and now. Fears are more commonly be based on the unknown though..

Recently I've been experiencing ups and downs due to just such fears. I'm thinking of moving house to another part of the country. To me it makes sense as a means of establishing a lifestyle I've always dreamed of and this might be my only chance of making it happen, but then the demon fears started. What if there are no jobs there? What if the people are horrible? What if it doesn't have the outlets I enjoy doing. A location in the countryside may be great, but if it doesn't come with other things is it worth it? What if I find I get stuck in limbo between moving out of my current home and not able to move into a new one?

Added to which there are fears about a family member who has been extremely ill. Fears of plummeting into a recurring depression at the thought of losing another family member along with fears for them.

In both cases I need to deal in facts, not assumptions. One of the thoughts I have about moving is that it could allow me to become a carer for any family member if they become terminally ill, but before I can leap ahead with that one I need facts about their illness and not least to know if they would want me to be their carer. It's an anxious time but there is no point crossing bridges before we come to them, because by worrying and making assumptions we often find we put ourselves through hell for no reason. I certainly have as close friends and family will testify.

This applies to all our worries and fears. We are all prone to worrying; it seems to be part and parcel of being human. We can find ourselves worrying about our job security, or finding a job or the stress of an increased workload when others have been made redundant and their work has to be taken on by those who remain. We could be worrying about our personal relationships, what others think about us, how we come across or how others that we care for are behaving.

There is nothing wrong in asking and by doing so we get a better idea of where we stand and consequently become better equipped to plan ahead based on what we know rather than what we are guessing at.

I've never been one to fear going out, but I've met many who have been; sometimes due to fear of others and sometimes due to fear of what might happen. To understand fear, we have to acknowledge when it is out of proportion and gone way beyond 'normal limits' of just understandable and natural anxiety. It would be less 'normal' not to be anxious when confronted with major life changing events or decisions regardless of whether they are self inflicted or not.

The first step toward confronting fear is to acknowledge that it is there. Listing facts and compiling evidence to counter that fear will start to make in roads, but I acknowledge it can be a long hard battle to get things back in proportion and is especially difficult if there is a traumatic event associated with that fear. As with all forms of mental illness we have to want to overcome the illness above all else. We have to try to visualize a day and a life without these impediments that can so cruelly hold us back.

Not only do I advocate not crossing bridges before I come to them, but I also recommend seeing things in terms of a journey divided up into manageable stages. For example I have now resolved that if the results state that we have another terminal illness in my family then and only then will I start to think about 'how long' and 'what can be done' to minimize suffering while increasing quality of life for as long as possible according to that person's wishes.

The prospect of death does highlight the need in all of us capitalize on what is good and precious to us in the here and now and for the future. How sad it is that we waste so much of our lives in worrying about what might never happen. For me that has become a major key to combating fear for by focusing on what is still good, pleasurable and possible I regain hope and that fear diminishes to a more manageable size. That, if you like, no matter what, I can still enjoy the sunshine of a spring day and flowers coming into bloom.

I consider myself lucky to have learnt that and blessed that I am determined and tenacious enough not to let fears become barriers to all I want to achieve for long. My dearest hope is that others become as determined in fighting their demons too.

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