Over the last four months, fear has taught me some truths.
Truth #1: Fear is real. Fear is simply a threat to something you care deeply about. It’s a natural and very human reaction that elicits your emotions. It can dominate your thoughts, affect your mental capacity as well as your emotional and physical state.
Truth #2: Fear is real, but it is also a liar. Fear tells whispers in your ear, “You can’t.” Don’t listen; that is a lie.
Truth #3: Fear plays the role you allow it to play in your life.
Beginning on Oct. 10, 2015, life threw our family a curve ball; one that brought about medical conditions that caused severe and continuing headaches, extreme fatigue, numbness in my body and a poor quality of life. We thought it was as simple as degenerative disc disease. I did in fact have that, but I learned that was very manageable.
What was not manageable was what I later learned that I had: sleep apnea and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). My condition causes me to quit breathing about 15 times an hour and wake up, on average, 41 times an hour.
I began to have extremely restless nights getting very little sleep that was non-restorative. My muscles were not getting the oxygen they needed and were fatigued to the point where this avid exerciser had to forego anything physical. Just walking up the stairs took a lot of energy.
During my initial sleep study, I unfortunately had technicians who lacked a servant’s heart (in addition to poor bedside manner). During my sleep study, I was supposed to wear a CPAP machine, which is basically a machine, with a mask attached that blows air into your nose or mouth so that your airway doesn’t become obstructed. Long story short, the experience was horrible (one the business later apologized for).
Fear entered my life. And over the course of several weeks, it consumed me.
How long can I go on living extremely fatigued?
How long can I continue with this headache?
Am I going to get extremely sick because my body cannot get the rest it needs and fight off sickness?
What kind of mother am I right now?
Will my husband lose me?
Will my son have to be raised without me?
What will my husband say to my son when he asks “Where’s Mommy?”
With all this said, it’s important to know that sleep apnea is a treatable condition. Unfortunately, CPAP therapy can take weeks to adjust to, accept emotionally, and beat mentally.
I eventually got a second sleep study and was able to wear the CPAP so the neurologist got the information they needed to give me my own machine.
Though a hurdle was jumped, the fear remained. For many, definitely for me, the CPAP wasn’t something I adjusted to easily.
There were emotional breakdowns due to fear. What if I can’t do this? I am failing.
There were tears due to fatigue.
There were nights that fear said, “You can’t do this.” You’re not who you thought you were. You don’t get the life you wanted.”
Honestly, this is when fear consumed me.
But it was also at this point, that I stopped it. I put fear in its place. I had to, because living the life I was choosing to live left me drained in every way possible.
You see, thoughts of that machine and my life expectancy and condition consumed me. Despite that, I kept working full time. And, I attempted to continue to be the mother my son deserved. I continued to try to keep a functioning home. But, what was in my thoughts despite the fact that I kept putting one foot in front of the other was fear.
I knew it had to stop. So, I stopped it.
I quit thinking about it. I put what little energy I had into things I cared about. Impacting others through coaching. Beginning my reading again. Spending time with my husband, not thinking or talking about my condition. Being mentally present when interacting with my son.
Then, at night when it was time to sleep, I just put the machine on, laid down and didn’t allow fear to say, “You can’t.” I tried to make that the only time I thought about the machine.
I put fear in it’s rightful place in my life.
Is it still there, at times? Sure, I’m human.
But, when it pops up, I put it away. Because it’s a lie. Because if I allow it to, it consumes me.
I am now learning to sleep with the CPAP and beginning to get my energy back. It is still going to be a process and there will still be ups and downs, but fear no longer determines my path. I do.
As I walked into work each day, the kids in our school were learning about courage. One classroom had this posted outside their room: “Courage is the ability to persevere through any emotion.” There’s no promises of this being easy. But the chance is there and the path lies in our ability to choose. Choose the role fear plays your life.
The last four months of my life have been the hardest I’ve ever lived. But, it has provided lessons that I have never experienced to this depth. I am grateful for the experience. I am stronger because of it.