The Power of Fear

November 15, 2018

The Power of Fear

As a 15-year-old, I remember climbing the ladder of the Olympic diving platform at West Point that would take me 40 feet above the water. I was confident as I climbed those rungs. About three fourths the way to the top, however, my right leg began to bounce because of my nervousness. I remember my heart racing and fear beginning to take over. As I walked out towards the edge and looking over the pool below, both my mind and feet froze. I was unable to make myself jump. The lifeguard insisted that he would not let me go back down the steps and yet I could not make myself go forward to make that plunge. I stayed in that position for nearly an hour. Honestly, I don’t remember if I jumped off that day or not. It seems to me that I remember being humiliated about the thought of going back down. Fear has a way of stopping me in my tracks.

After the stroke, when I first entered the rehab hospital, I could not make my left leg move forward even though the therapist was behind holding me. My mind told me it was impossible to step forward and honestly, I believed what I was hearing. The thought of falling, even though someone was right there to catch me and possibility of pain, stopped any step toward progress. Eventually, I was fitted with a brace that kept my leg from hyperextending which had been the cause of at least three or four falls. The brace gave me the confidence to step forward without fear. Eventually, I was taking 30 to 40 steps in the hallway of Health South Rehabilitation Hospital in Tustin.

There came a day where we visited the house before coming home to make sure it was suitable and safe for me to be in. That day I could not bring myself to even step over the threshold. I am not sure if it was the cognitive reality of my brain connecting with my foot or my mind fearing the possibility of falling, but either way, I was unable to make that step on my own. Thankfully, within 24 hours, people from our church came over to build a ramp. That ramp bridged fear to possibility.

Three days ago I made the decision not to use the wheelchair in the house unless it was absolutely necessary. A day later I ditched the brace that has kept my foot at a 90° angle. Both of these decisions have involved overcoming the blockage that is inside my head. There have been times that I have needed to move and other times where I feel like I can’t take another step. When I cannot step forward it does not seem to be a physical issue; it is a mental one. The power of my mind often overcomes the power of my will. I find both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

So, where does that leave me? I am at a new threshold of my recovery. I have found myself frustrated that I am not further along than I thought I would be. I envisioned myself being able to hand out candy at Halloween and to be able to cook as usual for Thanksgiving. My loss of independence and dealing with irrational fear is beyond frustrating.

I’ve spent the entire fall season sidelined. I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is a week away. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful for an amazing community. I am thankful for Judy who has unselfishly taken care of me which is not an easy task. I am thankful for Jesus who walks with me through days of fear. I’m thankful for my recovery, albeit slow, and our church, family, and friends who have made sure we are taken care of.

My take away? God will be with me regardless of how scary things are. Taking a step off the diving board or taking one step at a time, I am not alone, and neither are you. There is someone there to keep us from falling.

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