Fear is real. Those who live with a chronic illness may deal with it on a daily basis. It robs you of the joy of in your journey, the thrill of tomorrow, the delight of your day. It steals your contentment, empties you of enjoying the now, replaces wonder with worry.
What do you do when the worry ogre comes to call? When fear capsizes its ship in your harbor and leaves you to deal with the wreckage? How do you handle fear?
I’ve been enjoying Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. He pinpoints fears relating to finances, children, violence and more, but as I read, I don’t read about fears dealing with chronic illnesses. I doubt that I will and yet, isn’t tackling the fear of unemployment, our children’s safety, chronic illnesses, etc. all dealt with in basically the same way?
Fear is a feeling or emotion about a perceived threat – real or imagined. It’s the condition of being afraid. It is a feeling of dread and hopelessness. It is assuming something terrible is going to come out of a situation. Having Parkinson’s Disease or another chronic disease or illness can make you feel like that: afraid, threatened, hopeless, and more.
We fear losing our ability to talk coherently. To sing or dance. To write, read, paint, draw. We fear the inability to hold our children or grandchildren, to hug our spouse. We fear having to depend on others for helping with everyday tasks we ideally should be able to do until we die. We fear there will be no cure.
Fear can engulf us. Maybe for a moment, an afternoon, a week, a year. It can grab us and refuse to let go. But it doesn’t have to control us.
Courage is the opposite of fear. Courage embraces bravery. It kicks fear in the guts and dares to live. It has the audacity to stand and fight when fear breaths down its neck. Courage grabs the overflowing fountain of fear and flings it into the darkness from where it originated.
Courage faces chronic diseases, terminal diseases and refuses to stand down. It may sit in a wheel chair, lean on a walker, take the arm of one more steady, but it will not crumble. Courage, like fear, is a state of mind that, instead of cowering to what-ifs, lives the here and now. It experiences the ups and downs of the day to day game of life and plays again tomorrow regardless of the rules. Courage allows the players to win. Fear keeps them on the benches.
I have seen and met countless people with chronic illnesses. I have looked into their eyes and have seen courage. I have heard their stories of fear and rejoiced in their victories over it. I have watched them struggle with the reality life has dealt them and laugh at it out loud.
Do they have a secret that allows them immunity over the fear factor of PD? No, but they have chosen to replace fear with the quality of being courageous. Courage is what heroes are made of. Courage breeds hope for a better world. It expects better things to come and looks forward with an optimistic outlook for a better day – a day without walkers or wheelchairs or the worry of what’s to come.
I have seen courage on the faces of those with PD and other chronic illnesses and those who care for them. It may be mixed with weariness and weakness but it is there. It has said “I refuse to give up.” It allows the broken and battered to fight to the end.
To all those who may sit or stand, walk or run, move or remain immobile, I applaud you. Though fear has come and threatened to claim your spirit, you have remained immovable and have been an inspiration to many.
When the fear ogre comes to steal your courage, know that you have a band of others who stand on that front line with you and stand (or sit) ready to fight, ready to win on your behalf.
So don’t give up. You are not alone. At this moment you may feel as if the load you carry is intolerable and you wonder if you can make it another day with pain, stiffness, immobility and more, grasping for your attention – remember to embrace the courage within you and grab hold of the hope that it offers. Stand strong with an optimistic attitude that something better is coming. And don’t forget – you are somebody’s hero.
“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” – Dorothy Thompson