Moving Beyond the Fear Factor

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2010-08-07 09:50:04 -0500
Started 2010-08-01 11:34:12 -0500

I am a therapist and educator with a focus on helping patients and caregivers to cope with chronic and catastrophic medical conditions. One of the issues that my clients most often talk to me about is fear of what the future might hold.

Any medical diagnosis means change, such as changes in diet and lifestyle and new medications, and it is only human to want to hang on to what is comfortable and familiar. Change is scary as we begin to ask alll of those 'what if' questions. If you are feeling fearful and uncertain about the future, here are some ideas to consider.

Gather your fan club around you. One of the lessons of difficult times is to build a solid support system. Who are the people in your life who help you to bring out your best self, and who rely on you to do the same for them? Make sure you keep them close. Spending some time with your fans is a good way to help you keep your focus on what’s going well in your life right now.

Keep antidotes for negative self-talk handy. When you tell yourself how scary or bleak the future may be, you are training your mind to focus on the negative side. Chances are that your view of reality will match your expectations. But like any poison, negative self-talk will shrivel away when zapped with your most powerful antidote – positive self-talk to balance out the negative.

Remind yourself how you have met challenges in the past. Start your list of antidotes with your greatest successes. Don’t forget your key skills and personal qualities. Here’s one to add to the list: resilience. You have faced at least one life-altering challenge — your diagnosis — and moved forward with your life. So you know you have what it takes to meet the next challenge.

Partner with your healthcare team. Some days, it may feel liike your healthcare team is trying to make your life miserable with new restrictions on what you can't eat or do, or what you have to do that you don't want to do, along with medications that produce uncomfortable side effects, and then scolding you when you aren't compliant. But consider this: You and your healthcare team have the same goal: maintaining your optimal health as you cope with your diabetes. Work with your healthcare team as your partners. Ask questions. Let them know about concerns.

Get informed. The best way to counteract fear is with real information. When we don't have all the facts, it is human nature for our brains to fill in the gaps with stories and misinformation. This can lead to creating stories about the likelihood of the worst possible outcome that may or may not be real. So get as informed as possible about your diabetes, through reliable online resources and by talking with your healthcare professionals. Knowledge is power!

Speaking of power, also embrace your Higher Power. Believe in something beyond the bad news and the day-to-day setbacks. Your Higher Power can be found through a spiritual or religious practice, or it may be found in simply trusting in your own inner strength for strength and guidance.

Nothing is guaranteed, except this moment in time. Give up the struggle to be in control. You can’t go back and fix what you did or didn’t do in the past, you can’t control the future, and you certainly can’t control what anybody else is doing. But you can be certain about doing the best you can for yourself, and the people you care about, right now.

With all of these resources, how bad can things be? Take a deep breath and go with the flow.

8 replies

Lakeland 2010-08-01 19:11:50 -0500 Report

I really embrased the diabetes thing, I listened in classes & made an experiment out of it, testing often to see what foods did what to my body & how exercise would drop my numbers, how much drop I get from 1 walk vs 2 walks.

The higher power thing is a bit of a challenge for me, I truely believe in God & I believe in healing, I had encephleitis & mom was told I'd be a vegetable, I'm 42 now & I have issues with memory & pain, but In no way am I as bad as predicted. I'm married & own a business. So I've seen healing in my life, but now I'm struggling, it's been very hard to go to church & keep faith. Don't get me wrong I still believe in God, I feel like a hypocrite, something I believe in so strongly seem so far away for me.

I guess it's a pride thing, I like to walk in the things I believe in, but believing in healing & being sick is definatly a challenge.


Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-02 18:45:06 -0500 Report

Hi Diane. Sorry to hear that you are going through this struggle with pain. I have had clients go through similar experiences and they didn't get relief until they finally found a practitioner who had experience with their specific form of pain and knew what to do about it. So often it is a matter of connecting with the right person, and that can be a frustrating and scary process. It sounds like you are resourceful and have been investigating different options, including the teaching hospital. The Web can be a good resource. I recently had a client who found a specialist by going on discussion boards of individuals facing similar kinds of pain, and found someone who was able to recommend a physician. I would encourage not to give up, but to continue to explore information and ask for resources. I would also encourage you to consider talking with a mental health professional who works with individuals facing chronic conditions who might be able to help you with your emotional reactions to your pain, and offer you some strategies to cope with your pain. Your community may also have support groups of individuals facing pain, possibly through a local hospital. Thanks for reaching out. Don't go through this alone.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2010-08-01 16:58:24 -0500 Report

How timely. Faced the fear factor yesterday on several fronts. Thanks to support from my husband made it through. Also found a few new friends who helped without fully understanding the fear one health problem caused.
Too often I want to handle it all myself and resent the not being in control. The hardest part of Monday's surgery is the long recovery time. I will depend on someone to help me with some aspects of dressing every day. Been there and don't like it and don't want to be there again. Keep having to remind myself it is only for a few weeks to a couple months not for ever.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-02 18:49:36 -0500 Report

Thanks for taking the time to post. One of the scariest things about a medical diagnosis is the possibility of having to reach out to others for help. We all want to be in control and to be self-sufficient, and needing even a small amount of temporary help can make us feel like we are going to be helpless. That's scary. There is strength in recognizing the need for help, asking for it, and accepting it. It sounds like you also found a safe place to talk about your fear with friends who could offer you a listening ear. So you have taken two important steps toward facing, and conquering, the fear factor -- getting emotional support and accepting help. This is great news. There is nothing like having company as you travel the road toward recovery. Please keep me posted! And best wishes to you.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2010-08-07 09:38:51 -0500 Report

Surgery went great. So far reovery has been much better than I feared. Pain is a lot less. The incision was smaller than initially planned, due to a great GYN. So I am able to move on my own a lot better. The dressing problem is not as big of an issue as before all the surgeries. I was worried it would be back to square 1. But my talanted assistant, i.e.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2010-08-07 09:50:04 -0500 Report

my hubby is ready, willing, and able to help. I learned one of my major anxieties was having to spend time in a hosp. again. When I was rolled into my room after surgery, as soon as I saw the all too familar brown wall and leaf pattern on the curtain I went from calm to panic mode. It only took a few seconds to remind myself that this time was different from last time. I was startled by how I flashed back to the previous time I had been rolled into a similar room there. After that reaction was over everything else went smooth.

realsis77 2010-08-01 12:19:37 -0500 Report

I am newly diagnosed. I read your article and I really needed to hear those things today. I've been having trouble with denial espically at meal time. I realise this is only hurting myself! I'm greatful to have read the part about controling what I am doing. Your right there is no magic pill or cure its about us and how we choose to deal with our bodys! Thank you for the article. I will try to remind myself so I don't slip into denial so much! :)

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2010-08-02 18:52:05 -0500 Report

Hi, your post means a lot to me. It is great to know that I was able to give you a hand. Nobody changes overnight, it is one step at a time. And the small steps to move beyond denial and fear will add up to make a big difference in your life. Thanks so much! Please keep me posted!