How to Overcome Apprehension and Fears

On Monday, August 18 I go back to the doctor and learn whether my torn Achilles has healed and if I can get my cast off and begin the process of walking again. I've been injured since June 26 and I'm at that period of time in which I simply have to wait and see. I'm afraid and apprehensive because I don't know what will happen when I see the doctor on Monday. So, to help me, I'm going to share how I'm going to overcome my fears.

Fear and Paralyzation

I think we've all been there: We have a big event or situation coming up and we need to decide on how to handle the problem. Do we freak out and spiral down making the situation worse or be constructive and positive? It's tough dealing with the unknown and facing fears. I've been honest about my journey toward healing over this past summer and want to continue being transparent with these harder challenges.

To start off, I want to share a moment that took place earlier this week to shows me at my worst. On Tuesday of this week, we had lots of rain. It's been one of the heaviest amounts of rain we've had since I've had my cast on. I went to work, thought I had my trash bag with me (to cover my cast so that it didn't get wet) and when I went to leave work I couldn't find the trash bag in backpack. I searched around and, instead of getting upset, I looked down at my work trashcan and went to pull out the bag there. I thought it would make more sense to use something to cover my foot and cast than to have nothing. The bag in the the small trash can would have worked fine, but I got lucky and had thrown out a small plastic bag earlier in the day.

I wrapped the bag around my leg, locked it on with a rubberband, and went on my merry way. I took my time outside. I held the knee crutch with my left hand and an umbrella with my right. It was raining hard, but I was able to navigate through puddles and a heavy downpour without any problems. I made it to my car, came home and all worked out fine. I was pretty pleased with myself. I had made it without falling.

Before dinner, I went to put away a DVD that a coworker had lent to me and went into the backroom from the kitchen and my world fell apart. In walking from the kitchen to the backroom, I took a step down with the knee crutch and there must have been some water there. My knee crutch slipped out from under me, my injured foot hit the step coming down and I fell hard on my left arm and right knee. My glasses fell off and that was that. I cried out because hitting my toes against the step (and bending them back in the cast) hurt and my wife came running to help me.

She tried to pull me up and asked how she could help and I didn't know. I needed time to process what hurt and what didn't. I just stayed on the floor for a minute and then rolled over. I had fallen hard. My left arm hurt as did my knee. I looked at my toes and saw no damage there. Thankfully, I didn't fall putting weight on my injured ankle. From what I could tell, I didn't cause any more damage. I was banged up and exhausted from working all day and trudging around on a knee crutch.

I slid myself (on my butt) through the kitchen to get away from the hardwood flooring and then got back up on my knee crutch and went upstairs to change. I was afraid, hurt and tired. I fell hard and was lucky I hadn't hurt myself badly. I could have done a number of things:

  • Lashed out at someone for leaving the floor wet.
  • Stayed on the floor and just given up for the day.
  • Blame the world, God, the universe for how sucky my luck has been.
  • Become fearful and pull back.

But in the end, I dusted myself off, stood up and locked myself back into my knee crutch.

Surrendering and Moving on

For me this summer, I've been dealing with loss of mobility, pain and injury. Maybe for you it's school, work, starting a novel, dealing with some insane obstacle that you just don't know how you're going to overcome because it's so damn BIG. It doesn't matter. One step, one second, one moment in time is the process that I've found helps me move forward.

I can't find the quote right now from Brené Brown but in one of her books she mentions that for those who have gone through dysfunctional upbringings it's common for our first thought to be a negative one when thinking of the future:

"I'm not going to get what I want because I don't deserve it."

It's as though we're preparing in advance for the fall. I grew up in a dysfunctional family environment and it's common for me to fight against those negative thoughts. It's easier for me to believe that I'll not have a good thing happen to me because I know how to prepare and deal with negativity. I prepare in advance for the let down because I was so often let down in my family life and I internalized that.

But what happens if I were to surrender and let go and believe in myself? It's hard to accept the good because doors open, opportunities arise and then I become accountable for my own actions. It doesn't truly matter on Monday if the doctor says I can get out of the cast or not. In the end, I'm still me. I might be temporarily disabled longer or even it were a more serious issue, how I deal with adversity is reflected in my actions.

Apprehension, fear and despair can drag me down (if I let it). This summer has been extremely challenging for me and I admit that it sucked. (There I said it.) But I have learned much about myself and also have seen that it is not easy to get around with a disability. People view and treat you differently and there is an ongoing struggle on dealing with frustration, depression and fear. When your body hurts and you need to move to get from point A to point B, it's easy to give up and have others do things for you.

The challenge is learning how to find the balance between maintaining your independence and asking for help.

I learned a few things these last few weeks. They're pretty simple, but I'll share them all the same:

  • Let go. (You can't control everything. Slippery spots exist on the floor of life.)
  • Admit you're angry or pissed off or frustrated.
  • Go back to letting go. (Rinse and repeat these first two steps but then REALLY let it go.)
  • Assess what you want and can do.
  • Make it happen. (Baby step by baby step.)
  • Ask for help, share your story, be kind to yourself and others.

None of this is rocket science, but putting it all into practice is another story. I expect that I'll keep working at all of this for a long, long time. Practice makes perfect.

The Big Day

So what will Monday bring at the doctor's? I don't know. I'll be honest in that I have been preparing myself for bad news. I keep struggling with trying to remain positive. But I also don't wish to give myself false hope. I'm intuned with my body and I don't think my Achilles has healed all the way. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know yet. I'm hoping and wishing that it has (and I've also asked people to send positive karma my way and have been thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts, eating better, resting, etc.), but I just don't know.

If I have to be in the cast longer or if there are other complications (maybe that require surgery), I am working on preparing myself for those possibilities. And if I am told that I can walk again, then I have a long road ahead still: Brace and physical therapy.

I'm apprehensive about Monday. I'm worried and anxious, but I also know that whatever the outcome is, I'll still be me. I'll still be a father, a husband a writer working on his next novel. I will do my best to face my fear and let it wash over me and then move on. Because I must.

I appreciate the time you have taken going through these posts. They're self-righteous in ways because they're personal for me, but I hope that some of what I shared could be of help to others. We're all in this together. Stuck on a blue marble going around the sun. Why not do something to help each other?

Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.