This was a question my therapist asked me last week, and it has been circling in my thoughts for an answer ever since.
I’ve been seeing the same therapist monthly since my diagnosis almost two years ago. I have mixed feelings about therapy. I know therapy is good for me, in that is a safe place that allows me to feel free to complain, vent, laugh, cry and unearth emotions I’ve tried to keep hidden: and talking aloud often helps me realize a new insight, primarily because of the compassionate prompting, “Tell me more.”
Still, I really don’t look forward to these sessions. I know this seems a contradiction, but it is my reality—similar to understanding how one can agree to undergo a painful surgery in order to relieve chronic pain. I know I need to vent in order to reduce my anxiety, anger, and frustrations, even though speaking my truth aloud can, in and of itself, be painful.
Last week I did a lot of speaking my truth as I talked about my fears. “I’m afraid of what I’m going to become…how blank will I end up to be? How long will I be able to be trusted to be alone? When will I become more of a burden to Keith than I already am? What if I get mean?!”
Randy, my gentle and wise therapist, listened quietly until I voiced my last question about getting mean. “I don’t think that is ever going to happen to you” he said softly. “That’s not in your personality. Not in your genes. I’m sure you don’t have to worry about that.”
“Okay maybe not getting mean,” I said quickly and dismissively. “But what about all the other things that could happen?”
And that’s when Randy asked why I hadn’t written about my fears in my blog posts.
I had to pause for a few seconds before answering. Why hadn’t I written about my fears?
I’ve wanted my blog posts to be honest accounts of what I experience so that others might not feel so alone. And I wanted to write to take away some of the stigma of memory and cognitive decline. But I have indeed avoided writing about anything I thought might be depressing or cause fear.
But Randy’s question caused me to realize my avoiding these topics means I haven’t been entirely honest in my writing: because I do indeed have fears.
I fear what Keith may have to contend with as I get worse. I fear for the loss of my dignity, personality, and sanity. I fear the unknown future and how soon it may arrive. And at times I question, why me?…which is usually followed by a spell of feeling sorry for myself, thinking life is unfair, and feeling sad.
However, just as Randy confirmed, it is not in my nature to be to be mean, it is also not in my nature to be either a dour pessimist or naïve optimist…or at least, not to stay in either of those spaces for long. Instead I like to think of myself as a resilient realist and remind myself of some of the phrases I offered to the children as they were growing up…especially as they were in their teens:
“Remember you can hold more than one emotion at a time. You can feel both fear and courage at the same time, as well as acceptance and loss. It is okay to feel sad. Have empathy for yourself. Be gentle with yourself and accept your feelings as normal human reactions. And try to remember nothing stays the same for very long and this, too, shall pass.”
I love the wisdom of the phrase, “If you can name your fear you can gain power over it.” As well as, “Find your courage and seek to uncover meaning in your hard experience.”
These are the phrases and the self talk I return to time and time again when fear creeps in…yet until now, I’ve avoided writing about these fears in my blog posts.
People often say, “You are so brave to be so open about what you are experiencing.” But writing my journey doesn’t feel like bravery to me; rather, it is how I cope. It is how I find my courage, mitigate my fear and restore balance.
So now I’ve written about my fears. Hopefully I haven’t raised any new fears in any of you, my readers, but have rather validated and normalized what I suspect are similar anxieties we all share. However, I am curious to hear from you regarding this post. Please, if you feel so inclined, let me know your thoughts and reactions. If you want to do so privately you may use the contact form on this page.
Thanks for listening.