- The distressing emotion brought on by impending danger, pain, the unknown, hopelessness, etc.
We all experience it.
I always thought of myself as fearless when it came to change. Being an Air Force Brat, I expected change. I was raised knowing that “change is the only constant.” Thinking back, I realized it was only a facade.
I wear it well.
With each new move came the dread of leaving friends and having to make new ones, proving myself all over again. It always ended the same. I learned to harden myself so much that isolation seeped in.
Then there was all the school studies and boyfriend angst of my teenage years. The fear of failing still haunts me. The fear of my husband leaving me like all the other guys ever did lingers at the back of my mind, even after 24 years of marriage. I still have fear of failure with my job. Each new job, each new responsibility, the possibility of any change drives the fear forward and causes panic. I’m comfortable with my schedule, my commute, my job, my life. Anything that could ever cause an uproot to my comfort zone I fear. And I think that’s why I tend to not progress/excel in anything I do. Overcoming this fear is quite difficult.
But not as difficult as overcoming the fears that haunt my soul today.
What’s worse? The fear that comes along with caregiving. I struggle daily to beat the fear back into the corner, slashing and hacking away at the negative, the fears that try to sink me. I’ve expressed some of these fears with my husband only to find out that he has them, too. After joining some of the Veteran Caregivers support groups I’ve found that my fears are very common.
Will his pain ever subside? Will he ever get better? Will we ever have a normal life? Or is this the best it’s ever going to be? Every day I go to work, I leave my husband home alone. He takes care of our son, feeds him, gets him off to school, and greats him when he comes home. But those days when he hasn’t slept, or the pain is too great, or when he has trouble waking up, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that our son will be left alone, that I’ve left my husband alone in a time of need, that he needs my help, or the doctor’s, but as stubborn as he is won’t ask for it.
Or maybe today’s the day. He’s at a very high risk for stroke because of the sheer number of migraines he gets per month. Added on to that, he has an even higher risk because of the amount of medication he takes for his migraines. Then, there’s all the other medications he has to take for the rest of the pain. It’s all so very taxing on his body, not to mention his mental state.
And that’s another point, his mental state. Anyone who suffers chronic pain will go through bouts of depression. He’s been suffering 15 years now and we’ve gone through all the cycles. On top of that, he’s been diagnosed with PTSD. So, the fear of losing him to that battle is always with me.
I’ve always feared the medications he takes. They are some serious drugs with serious side effects and mixing them together, well, that’s caused us many a heartache, too. From hallucinations to catatonic, from wired to narcolepsy, from excited to rage. I cringe each time a new medication is introduced. The words, “Let’s try this” make me want to vomit and cover my ears and scream, “no no no no no no no no no.” We’ve heard it so many times over the years. And we’ve been traumatized with two near misses with a very deadly interaction called, “Serotonin Syndrome.” I wrote about it on my other blog a while back, the last time we experienced it. It’s definitely not pretty. I do hope you will read it, just to know the warning signs–especially if you take migraine medication (triptans) and any SSRI antidepressants or even the supplement melatonin. So, yeah. Any time there’s a change to medication I get very afraid.
Before we knew to look for side effects and drug interactions, his moods would swing drastically. There were times when the wind would blow the wrong direction and he’d rage out over it (not really, but it’s an example of how random his anger was over trivial things). It scared me because I didn’t know how to handle it. I always thought it was my fault and do my best to not provoke him. This always led to anxiety, acid stomach, and bouts of crying from me. I’m slowly overcoming this fear since we’ve learned to recognize it, understand why he experiences it, and actually manage to communicate better through it.
I think, right now, the worst fear is when he texts me “I’m in trouble.” He’s been getting worse over the last few years. Nothing we do has been any help in at least reducing the pain. And now, he’s coming off a heavy drug that’s very hard on his system. So when he tells me he’s in trouble, I panic. Does he need me to come home and help him? Do I need to take him to the ER? What if it’s worse than he’s letting on? What if I can’t get to him in time?
Then there’s the fear of financial drain. We go to the VA for some of his treatment, which incurs long travels and gas. But what the VA doesn’t provide, we have to use a civilian doctor, which is more often than not. Each year gets more expensive than the last. And we’ve already spent more in less than 3 months as we had in 9 months last year. Dear husband is weighing his treatment to our finances. Sure not having money scares me. But also watching his pain grow greater because we cannot afford to pay for his treatment scares me more.
Oh, and all those times when he has to drive himself to the doctor, especially the VA doctors that are so far away, it scares the hell out of me. Taking time off from my job just to take him to his appointments is scary enough. I don’t want to lose my job and then we would really be in a world of hurt financially. But every time he gets behind the wheel when he’s not been to sleep in 24 hours, or in so much pain, or just took some medication to dull the pain, scares me. He’s been doing it for at least the last ten years, he knows how the medication affects him. He knows when he needs to pull over. But still, it scares me. I wish I could quit my job and be a full-time caregiver but that’s not financially feasible.
And God forbid if I get sick, or hurt, and am out of work for an extended period of time. Who will take care of him? Our son? Me? What happens if I die? How would he survive when he’s told me oh so many times that if it weren’t for me and my love, he’d probably be dead by now.
There are too many fears that I face to go into each and every one of them, and they change with the situation. But you get the idea, right?
The truth of the matter is, regardless of our circumstances, we all have fears. Caregivers and non-caregivers alike. Just as those who suffer debilitating fear must confront that fear in order to get through the day, so must we admit our fears and meet them head on. If we ignore them, let them stew, the grow bigger, and quickly turn into out of control monsters. They smother us and drag us down until we can no longer surface and break through to the bright positive side of life. I know, I was there just recently, where I that’s all I heard. And I listened. I could not fight my way out and I saw no hope. I felt overwhelmed, selfish, guilty, angry, and alone. I was unworthy of anything good.
Ever since I had my epiphany to live life as positive as I could, I hated feeling this way. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to get out of the funk. I just couldn’t figure out how. It takes a lot of hard work to be positive. And I just didn’t have the energy. I needed some help and I was afraid to ask for it. No one would understand. Or so I thought.
I finally made an appointment with my doctor and he prescribed a mild anti-depressant which rebooted my brain. I started to think more clearly and I finally managed to find myself some like-minded people and I knew I wasn’t alone in all this. I began climbing up the well towards the light again.
Do I still have fears? Absolutely. Every day. Every situation. But I don’t let them rule me anymore. Some days are easier than others. Some situations, too. But it has to be a conscious effort to keep positive. It’s the only way to get through all of this.
I will leave you with one of the best quotes I’ve found about fear from the book Dune. It really is the mind killer.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. –Frank Herbert, Dune