If there is one thing a person with cancer becomes familiar with, it’s fear.
And fear is an asshole.
Also, fear likes hostages.
Anxiety and panic is your imagination held hostage by fear. Once fear gets a hold of your imagination, it’ll tie it up and make it watch scary movies.
We won’t be able to help but hear our imagination screaming back there in the dark. We’ll creep over to see what’s going on and, peeking around the corner, we’ll see the scary movies playing and realise with horror, “Oh, God, that’s me up there!”
The scary movies fear plays to our imagination are all about us and cancer. And because we like and trust our imagination so much, and because it’s clearly captive to the fear, we accept those things in the scary movies as true, and real, and actually going to happen to us.
I’m going to die. I need to plan my funeral. They’re going to cut me open. No point buying new shoes. I won’t see my kids grow up. It’s all through me, I just know it. Mum won’t cope. I’m not strong. I’m not strong enough. I’m not strong at all. I’m really, really going to die.
I’ve heard it called catastrophising – great word.
Catastrophising is your own fear taking out an insurance policy against you, pretty much. It really is a total asshole.
This is how we end up with panic attacks. Whilst we’re busy using all our resources to stay peaceful and calm on the outside (which feels awfully like real, authentic , peace and calm) using all the strategies which always worked for us whenever things were scary or unpredictable before such as toughing it out, sarcasm or plain old denial, our subconscious mind launches a subversive break-out trying to get us to listen to asshole fear. And when your subconscious starts breaking out, you’ll feel it.
Listen to me! Can’t you see what’s happening? We’re being killed with scary thoughts! I will make your heart speed up and trick you into thinking you’re having a heart attack! I’ll play movies of death and pain in your head until you listen, dammit!
A panic attack is your subconscious trying to keep you alive by making you think you’re about to die.
Fight or flight. And away you go.
Now, as a person given to anxiety attacks, I’m not going to offer you any trite cures or remedies for fear, panic or anxiety, because that would be patronising. What I am going to do is tell you the truth.
Truth is fuel for the creative imagination, which, by the way, you need to go and rescue from fear, right now.
Oh yes, you can. Fear is afraid of the truth. Just take the truth with you, and you’ll be fine.
“Telling yourself the truth” isn’t the same thing as “positive thinking”. Telling yourself the truth means acknowledging fears and concerns without judging them as good or bad, and treating all your emotions with insight, kindness and compassion.
Truth-telling is you punching fear in the head. Your imagination is tied up in the dark, remember? You need to get that imagination back.
You’re going need it help you engineer your hope.
Now, hope engineering is about learning to live from your imagination (with all its powers now used for good and not evil, because you rescued it from asshole fear, remember) and from not your memory, your history or any of those nasty old scary movies about things that haven’t even happened yet, and probably never will. Remember – fear can only steal back your imagination if it finds it lying around not being used. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get busy using that fabulous imagination to see a future for you and the people you love based on the truth, and not on any dumb old movies.
What is the truth?
Here’s a few truths I have handy, just to get you started.
You’re doing great, you know.
You’re not to blame for all of this.
You’re amazing. Even without all your guns blazing, you really are amazing.
You’re beloved, and lovely, and loveable.
You’re forgiven. Yes, you are.
You can forgive. It’s in you.
You’re not too much. You never were.
You’re significant. Your thoughts, dreams and ideas are significant. What matters to you really does matter in the real world.
You’re wise. You know what to do. You can trust yourself.
You didn’t let anyone down.
This isn’t a punishment.
It’s not too late. It’s never too late.
It may never happen.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Your intuition is good. Use it.
There are places in this world cancer cannot reach, and many of those are in you.
Sometimes you have to be your own hero.
Letting go isn’t a weakness, and dying isn’t a failure.
I believe in you.
Try these truths on for size, and see if any of them open you up inside. Find the ones that do, and feed them to your imagination. There you go - li’l baby bit of hope is being born, right now.
Now you try it.
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