How I’m learning to stop letting fear hold me back
Since I was about 8 years old, my favorite Bible verse has been Isaiah 41:10:
While I’ve grown to the love the entire verse for different reasons, the first part of that verse — “So not fear, for I am with you” — has always been my absolute favorite part. I have been afraid so many times in my life. I was first afraid of the dark hallway in my house as a child and said this verse to myself as I walked through it. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve been in all sorts of situations that have made me afraid and clung to that verse during those difficult times.
And that’s why when I realized a couple of weeks ago that I was living in fear, I was taken aback. I’m not saying that thanks to this verse that I never am afraid, because I totally am. But I didn’t realize I had let a new fear creep in and really affect my life. In fact, it was verging on becoming a full-blown phobia. I have been afraid (nearly terrified!) to physically do anything out of the ordinary. Jump on a trampoline with my kids? Nope. Run after them in a game of chase? Nope. Do jumping jacks in the the living room with them (why does that one come up so often?!)? Nope. I don’t want to get hurt.
Here’s the thing, my fear is founded. I have health struggles. I have spent the past 11 months feeling the best I’ve felt in years. I’ve had some relief from my bladder condition, interstitial cystitis (IC), as long as I maintain my IC friendly diet, take my meds and don’t lift heavy things. My fibromyalgia has been its own sort of bear. It’s been manageable but difficult. It affects my daily life. But overall for the past 11 months, I have been able to live like a “normal” person about 85 percent of the time.
So why am I scared? I am scared for that to stop. And it’s been holding me back. Yes, I am scared to try eating new foods at new restaurants because what if it sets off a bladder flare that lasts for days or months? Yes, I am scared to jump on a trampoline with my kids because what if it causes prolapse issues, flares my bladder or flares my fibro or all of the above? Yes, I am scared to try helping my child go across the monkey bars because what if I again end up not being able to use my arms for a week and have to sleep in the recliner in pain for days like that one time I did so?
Some of that fear is normal and founded. It’s sort of like we have a fear of putting our hands in an open flame, because we know it will hurt us. That fear keeps us safe. But what happens when that fear gets out of control? What happens when it grows to the point that you stop living life? That’s where the trouble happens.
I have spent these past 11 months struggling with that balance. Should I dare go on a roller coaster and risk hurting my entire body? Should I dare go swimming in the hotel pool with my kids and risk the chlorine causing an IC flare? Should I do go down the slide at the playground when my son asks me to because I might bump something and hurt myself? Those are all issues I faced in the last 11 months and so many others. Finding the balance of healthy fear is challenging when you have chronic pain conditions. Making them worse is the last thing you want to do. I worry if I go on the roller coaster that I won’t be able to enjoy the rest of the time at the amusement park with my kids. I worry that if I go swimming that I’ll end up in an IC flare that means I won’t be up to walking through the zoo with my kids the next day. I worry that if I go down the slide and hurt my body that I won’t be able to make dinner and take care of my kids that evening.
These worries and fears aren’t out of left field. But they are also slowly robbing me of my life. Life is about risk. Sometimes I have to be willing to take risks. And each person’s risk-taking looks different. While my risk right now is doing something that may cause me more pain, your risk right now may be doing something that sends you out of your comfort zone in new ways. It all comes down to fear. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid the consequences will be more than we can handle.
But, if we go back to my favorite verse, we find that no matter what happens when we take a risk that God is right there with us. We don’t have to fear for He is not only with us, but He promises to hold us in His hand. We don’t need to take unnecessary risks. However, sometimes we DO need to just let go and trust that even if the risk ends badly, God will be there to catch us.
You know what? I did go on that roller coaster. And I learned that I can’t handle them as well as I used to, but I also learned that it didn’t ruin my trip or my time with my kids. I was still able to go through the amusement park with them and make good memories. And I opted to swim with them on the last night before heading home so that if I did go into a flare from the chlorine it wouldn’t affect our plans. But I didn’t even flare that time. And, most recently, I opted to go down the slide at the playground. Yes, it hurt my arm, but only for a short while and not even enough to stop me from playing or stop me from then climbing up the floating steps after my son who thought it was absolutely fabulous that mommy was willing to do those things with him.
Life is full of choices and risks. I am choosing this year to let some of my fears for risk-taking go. I am choosing to say yes even when I am worried it might hurt — physically or emotionally. I am choosing to remember that no matter what I decide, God is right there with me upholding me with His righteous right hand. I don’t have to live my life in fear — and neither do you!