Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Is it ok to be scared?

Of course it's ok to be scared.

Life is a great adventure, but it's understandable to feel apprehensive about pain, other symptoms, disease progression and even death.

The problems really arise when the fear and apprehension become so all-encompassing that they eclipse all other feelings. Every day can hold so many fearful opportunities, and life loses some of its sparkle when we lose sight of the reasons it is worth living.

 I know that I will probably die younger than most of my friends. I don't want to miss out on anything, but by focusing on my grief at having a shortened life expectancy, rather than on the opportunities in each day, that's exactly what I'm doing.

One of the ways that allows me to enjoy each day is to control my symptoms. By taking control of monitoring my conditions (even when this involves tedious blood testing or time-consuming calculations of fluid balance) and taking the right doses of the right medications at the right time, I am giving my body the best possible chance to perform when I want to do fun stuff.

Part of this relates to acceptance - acceptance is not just recognising the name and impact of your condition. On the other hand, it is also not about making illness (or recovery) the whole focus of your life. There has to be a balance between living with the condition and living despite the condition.

Fear is one of those things that can seriously get in the way of living a productive life despite illness.

For me, the first step is to recognise the things that make me anxious - there are almost always ways to get around these things, whether it's ringing ahead to a restaurant to discuss appropriate food choices to avoid anxiety on facing the menu, working with therapists to increase strength and range of movement, or discussing better pain management strategies with your Dream Team.

I'm scared of having long-term lines (IV and a feeding tube) - the responsibility of possible infection, the cosmetic implications (not that I've ever been a bikini girl!), the pain associated with insertion, and all the kit that I'll have to learn to use at home. I'm also scared that I can't deny the effects that this illness is having on my body - no more pretending that I'm perfectly healthy!

Thankfully, I don't have much of a choice in the matter of the tubes, so I'm just going to have to bite the bullet, put on my Big Girl Panties and deal with it. Focusing on the positives is going to be my strategy of choice - I'll be able to spend less time in hospital for a start! Obviously (because I love lists) I also have a list of fun things that I'd like to do once I have some calories inside me, and therefore some energy!

Am I still scared?

Yes, of course I am. Having a list of fun things to do and lots of lovely people to share these activities doesn't take away the reality of daily symptoms and possible future declines. What it does do, however, is remind me that however dark it may seem under my own personal grey cloud, if I make enough of an effort, there's always a silver lining to be found.

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