Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Am I Afraid Of? Mostly Everything!

I used to be scared almost every minute of every day of my life.

My psychologist would link that quality to her diagnosis of high-functioning Aspergers.  I am somewhat afraid of people, as I don't understand their basic social cues.  As a result, I have a tendency to take every joke as complete seriousness.  Most would think that this issue would be easier to overcome than most of my chronic illness problems (pain, the unknown, being a guinea-pig for medication).

The thing is, it took me a long time to get diagnosed with anything.  Every aspect of every illness seemed to compound, creating this world where everything appeared to be a threat.  People of authority and the general public told me I was crazy.  I fought against this label,  as I still don't believe it is a correct title in regards to ANY MENTAL ILLNESS.  Eventually, I won (but there are still people who would disagree...).

Now I start the healing process.

After 22 years of seeing black, I am, slowly but surely, turning the world into color.

My Advice:
  1. Admit that you need help.  People will be there to help you, but you have to be willing to fight for your mental health and physical health, instead of for your ego.
  2. Read self-help material.  Some of it is actually quite brilliant, and the rest of it will just keep your mind wrapped around not being angry.
  3. Accept your new state.  Learn that it's all about living your best life.  There will always be limitations, but learn what you love and run with it (or hobble in most of our cases...haha).
  4. Know that this process is going to take a long time.  No change this drastic will ever happen overnight.  The key is, every time you fall down, pick yourself back up and dust yourself off.
  5. Make sure to keep the people in your life that make you feel better about yourself, and learn to let go of those who don't.
  6. Take care of you to the best of your ability.  The better you feel the more you can give to others.
  7. Learn that no one is to blame for the situation. Blame and guilt are wasted emotions.  I am still working on this one, but at least my mind started to wrap around it.
  8. Life is different when you remove the mantra of hating yourself.  I used to think that I caused the illnesses, but in all actuality this is hugely unlikely.  Forgiveness, and eventually love, are key.
  9. Have as much fun if you can.  Life is short, but it is worth the effort.
I just started this process about a year and a half ago.  The changes I have made are monumental though.  My fear is receding.  Even if my body may not be okay, I think my mind will eventually get there :).

(Image from WeHeartIt)

What are your fears in regards to chronic illness?  What are you doing to combat them?  Any strategies I should be trying on for size?



Amy Kiel said...

I love it! A brilliant post and excellent tips. You are on a brave journey. I feel like we are on a similar path!
I would love it if you would read my most recent post: Facing Faults and Fears on my blog: Una Vita Bella (
I'm so glad I caught this post, and your blog. See you on Twitter!
<3 Amy @Abeeliever

Diana Lee said...

I don't know if that's Aspberger's or not, but I used to, too. Couldn't sleep at night, couldn't focus, constantly thinking about what could/would go wrong and that I wouldn't be able to deal if it did.

I think the thing that really helped me have been therapy, mindfulness and practicing not worrying. When I had to stop working that was my worst nightmare. Lost my career, lost a $40k salary. I was terrified. But I survived. I hated it, but I had a safety net and support. No one called me a loser or thought I'd done something to deserve. For years I thought both things. Slowly I've been able to work through those thoughts. So now I think if I could get through that I can get through anything. And if people who love me didn't abandon me then, they won't abandon me in the future.

The one thing I've still got hanging out there is what if I can't have a kid because of all this. I don't know how to deal with that and feel like I can't. It scares me and makes me feel like my life wouldn't be worth living. The hope that I'll be able to keeps me going. If I lose that I'm afraid of what I'll do to cope.

Really great post, Annie!

Lauren Elyse said...

Excellent post.

My biggest fear right now is needing to take time off work, or, worse, not being able to work at all. I work on the computer all day and the joints most affected for me are in my fingers. It's not a good combination.

I'm scared that to take care of myself properly, it means finding a way for someone else to take care of my family. I'm the caretaker - I'm not good at being cared for by someone else.

Toni said...

Another brilliant post Annie. Everything you've set out to work on I agree with and just realizing that these are good to work on is half the battle.

My recurring fear is that my husband will need me as his caregiver and I won't be able to do it. If he were hospitalized, for example, I couldn't stay by his bedside all day or even be pro-active with his doctors for very long.

I deal with it by just recognizing that this is a recurring fear and that it's not fruitful to "take it up" in my mind because first, it may not even happen, and second, if it does, we'll find some way to cope.

I like to call it "my old friend, the hospital scare." Just writing about it, I can feel that fear arising. But I know it will pass.

elisabeth said...

My fears are pretty common- that my health will prevent me from being able to continue working, that I won't be able to start a family. But mostly, lately I've been scared out of my noggin that my illness is going to seriously threaten my life. Right now I am at high risk, so I am taking little steps to do my best and live my best, but it scares me constantly that I'm not doing enough, not making enough improvements. It is hard to find a healthy emotional place, to let go of stress and worry which are not helping my health any (and if fact increaing my risk). This is a fairly new development- I'll let you know what techniques work for me, and that you for sharing yours! *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Annie ~ You have Aspergers? My 18 year old daughter has Aspergers too. I'd say a moderate dose. She is not ready to talk to a professional about it for help developing her social skills, etc. And I continue to allow her to progress at her own rate. She is studying Graphic Design in college. She and her sister are the Lights of my life!

I already think you are amazing and now you have a special place in my heart, Annie.

Your post is so great!


Emily said...

Loved this post - really great tips.

For some reason I tend more towards anger than fear. But in the worst of the pain, I found myself sometimes despairing. I couldn't do this one more time, one more minute, etc. Something that really helped me overcome that was this simple idea/mantra: I've been through this before, and I got through it. I'll get through this too.

It also made me realize how strong I am, and feel more powerful.

Anonymous said...

Fear will be gone, if you only fear to the only one Allah. Do read Quran and read about Islam, you will see the inner power in you and you will also have the courage to fight if u do prayers 5 times a day.

your well wisher

Carrie said...

Annie dear, thank you so much for talking about this! For me -- and I know others too -- it really helps when someone has the courage to talk about it and let you know you're not alone.

Today I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. It sounds funny saying it, but at the same time, I've been living with it since I was a child. And I have a new therapist, and we talked about some things and I've had some realizations...

Mainly, I'm afraid that my illness will kill me or that I'll worry myself to death worrying about worrying and my illness. I mean, that's my biggest fear. Because if I die young, I can't do all the things I want to do in life. I've always accepted that I'm not as physically able as a lot of people, but I do have certain goals that are important for me to achieve. Not to mention, I'm not ready to die -- I'm young.

And one of the biggest treatments for PTSD is talking about it. So, that's what I'm going to start doing. I know I'm strong. I've come through all sorts of things. It's time to start having faith in myself. And that's one thing I need to do to move towards getting better.

Again, thank you so much for your post and your thoughts. Much love!


Selena said...

When I read this post, I could just feel the strength, courage and great attitude you exude. It was truly exhilarating! You go girl! :-) Great advice from someone who really knows what she is talking about.