It’s amazing the way fear can make your mind go blank. The strange sensation it produces in your guts—as if your abdominal cavity has been hollowed out, and your organs replaced with ice-cold lead. Fear can erase all sense of humour and throttle hope. When it lingers, it can destroy every last thing you once loved about your life.
There are people who will tell you that you are in control of your emotions; that you can only be made afraid or angry or hurt with your permission. I call bullshit—because if emotions responded that way to logic and reasoning and determination, they wouldn’t be called feelings.
I got bad news on Tuesday, and I was afraid. I would challenge anyone who received the news I did not to feel fear. My friends and family are afraid for me. It’s understandable; the news was nothing short of fucking scary.
But. Even if I can’t stop myself from being afraid, that’s not the important part. What really matters is what I do with that fear, whether or not I let it dictate my actions and control my life.
And that, I will not do.
I sat there in the doctor’s office, and I acknowledged the fact that I was scared. That there was, in fact, something to be afraid of. I let myself be afraid.
And then I let it go.
I signed the waiver and walked into the treatment room, and I went through with what needed to be done. It was awful, and I have to go through it another nine times. Now, instead of just fear and uncertainty, I also feel dread—because I know exactly how awful it is. Panic attacks and pain and annoyance and tiredness are in my future for the next three months.
But I will do that which is necessary, and I will do it without bowing to the mind-numbing fear that consumed me when I got the news. I will deal with the treatment, and I will put forth even more effort, and I will find a way to do the seemingly-impossible.
I still have my moments of fear, but I am more determined than I am afraid. I refuse to contemplate the worst-case scenario—I know what it is, and that’s enough. I don’t need to dwell on it and give in to the ugly cocktail of emotions that entails. Doing that won’t help me right now. In point of fact, given that my condition is worsened by stress, doing that will probably only make things worse.
Instead, I will search for ways to lessen my stress. I will have to pass off certain responsibilities to others. I will have to prioritize my own health and sleep, something with which I don’t have a good track record. I will have to work even harder to correct my bad habits, a process that I luckily already have a two-month head-start on. I will have to get creative about potential solutions, and try to exercise good judgement when things are uncertain and not second-guess myself into insanity.
But I will also appreciate what I have, and what I stand to lose. I will do my damnedest not to forfeit my sense of humour to this. I will have to lean on others, and do so gracefully instead of berating myself for it.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
—William Ernest Henry, “Invictus” (emphasis is mine)
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