The Fallible Caregiver Series: Sick of Feeling Afraid (Part 3)
I woke up this morning feeling fear. That’s pretty typical for me.
I’m worried about taxes coming up, about the credit card bill we haven’t paid for almost three months, about having enough to pay all our other bills in two days, and about the five-hour drive to Portland coming up where Rebekah is going to get targeted brain radiation. It’s snowing heavily here right now. Our car tires are bald, the car also likes to just shut off mid-drive for some reason, and will the radiation work this time on her?
Over the last 10 years, as I dive deep within myself and seek to find the root cause of my struggles that like to manifest themselves in ugly ways, I see fear as the core root. I live with the constant underlying anxiety that everything will fall apart again… sooner than later.
However, I have learned some mental martial arts moves that do help me kick fear and terror out of my house. Oh, they always come running back and I fight them back again. But these moves do work, and I want to share them with you now.
Being a helpful caregiver
First, Step Into It. This is in relation to when my wife comes face-to-face with cold reality and the terror of her diagnosis sets in. When the tears come, and the deepest human pain emerges in front of me. I think these situations quickly overwhelm most men because these types of emotions are outside the bounds of our caveman toolbox.
My first instinct in these situations is to run. To hide. To let her get through it and then I will come back. The stubborn problem is twofold, though: I really love this girl and I don’t want to be a caveman. I want to be a man. Thus, in these very uncomfortable moments, I step into it with her. I deny myself the weak and shallow surface emotions to run, and I enter into her pain with her. I stay. I lean in. I hold her hand.
I ask her a question and then I shut up. I avoid cliches and lame cheerleader rah rahs. I don’t tell her how to feel; rather, I let her struggle to bleed out what she is feeling. The hidden blessing here is how doing this brings us closer together. It fosters a deeper bond between us, and it really does help her find strength, knowing she’s not alone.
That’s one of the most powerful acts we can do as caregivers.
Second, Take Action. Action cures fear. Procrastination strengthens fear. Og Mandino says, "My procrastination which has held me back was born of fear and now I recognize this secret mined from the depths of all courageous hearts. Now I know that to conquer fear I must always act without hesitation and the flutters in my heart will vanish." 1
Likewise, in The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz says, "Action cures fear. Isolate your fear and then take constructive action. Inaction—doing nothing about a situation—strengthens fear and destroys confidence."2
The longer we put off doing something we know we need to do, the more afraid of that issue we become. I have a saying I use on myself that says Move, Push, Advance. It’s plastered on sticky notes through my house and office. Just move! Forward motion creates a psychological trick on our minds.
When we act confidently, we start thinking confidently. Even if we feel deep fear toward something, if we move toward it and take action, confident feelings will follow.
How to stay connected
Third, Stay Connected. Fear often grows and festers in isolation. We need other people. We need other perspectives. A branch broken off will soon wither. A roundabout way to temper fear is to stay connected to other people.
Rebekah and I are both introverts and prefer isolation, but we also realize how we soon start folding in on ourselves, losing perspective and then start losing our courage.
So we force ourselves to take positive action toward family, friends, church, and our weekly home church group. Also, serving and helping other people helps us stay out of our own heads.
Fourth, Trust God. We all live with many issues and concerns beyond our control. Much of our fear and anxiety comes from and lives on because of all the “What if…” scenarios we imagine.
For Rebekah and me, having a relationship with God brings us transcendent peace. That is a peace that comes from knowing an all-powerful, all-loving God is in complete control of our futures. We trust an unknown future to a known God.
For us, peace comes when we finally abandon the outcomes to Him.
Do you find it easy to advocate for yourself?