Tag Archive: fear


New Year, New Fears

Forgive me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.  It has been 6 months since my last confession, and now it’s a new year.

To backtrack, in 2012 I lived through a go-kart race, a German roach infestation and plenty of slippery sneaky silverfish.  I climbed a rock wall on the top deck of a cruise ship and rang the bell.  I lived through a colonoscopy and an MRI, each of which made me face my fears of losing my lunch.

I took leaps to put myself out there as a professional writer, allowed people to read some of my short stories and even gained paying clients.  I got a new job and watched my husband do the same.  I hired a dog walker, something I was afraid to do because, well, it seems weird to have my key floating out there in the ether with someone I’ve only met once.  Okay, and because I’m a nervous dog mommy, but our dog walker is awesome about checking in.

It was a long year…a year in which I found it difficult to keep up with this blog while completing freelance work and fighting the frustration of long commutes compiled with the exhaustion of having an autoimmune disease.

Now, in 2013, I face another fear.

Last week my doctor informed me that the safest treatment option for my—emphasis on my personal plight since I know others have found success with other options—Crohn’s disease right now is to start a drug called Cimzia, which is an injectable immunosuppressant.  I know what you’re thinking.  Something that suppresses your immune system is safe?  Why an injection and not a pill?  You never seem stomach-sick—why do you need to be on medication at all?  And, can’t you treat it herbally?

For the first question, I’m up to date on my vaccinations—TDAP, flu shot, pneumonia, etc.  So I’m told that if I am feeling unwell I should see a doctor to make sure I don’t have any infections that my body might have trouble fighting.  Sure, I might become a hypochondriac at first if people are sniffling around me, but I’m hoping this won’t be an issue, and hundreds if not thousands of other Crohn’s patients have found success with immunosuppressants.

For the second question, my disease has not progressed to a point where I’m in constant pain, can’t work, or feel the need to complain.  I am fully functional and often find that overeating or certain foods at certain times of the day cause me distress.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I suffer that are inexplicable.  It’s just that I choose not to share the gory details, because the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are frankly pretty embarrassing.  When my colon is inflamed, noises occur.  Frequent trips to the bathroom happen.  There’s so much more, but it can be TMI, so if you have specific questions, feel free to ask me off the blog.

To address the third question, the injection is the best option for me right now because the drug is safest for someone who wants to become pregnant.  Am I trying to get pregnant right now?  No.  Am I going to tell you when I’m trying?  No.  So don’t ask.  Apparently the drug stops before going into the placenta.  With other immunosuppressants, the drugs reach the baby and the small risk is that the baby will be born immunosuppressed and need to wait on getting crucial vaccines.  I’d rather not worry about that…I’ll be worried enough about having a newborn as it is!

And lastly, sure, I could probably go see a homeopath and attempt a bunch of herbal remedies and diets—possibly with little to no success.  Unfortunately, I am running out of time to do something with trial and error.  My MRI showed that the Crohn’s is spreading to different areas in my system.  While I don’t necessarily FEEL worse, this can be dangerous.  Serious issues can include blockages, surgeries and colostomies.  I don’t want any of this.  So the Cimzia is preventative and may help me feel better in a way that I can’t imagine right now because I’ve lived with undiagnosed Crohn’s probably for at least a decade…I’m used to having a bloated belly, sores in my mouth, night sweats and a host of other symptoms that go along with my particular case of Crohn’s disease.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m not afraid of needles.  I often watch as the needle goes in for routine blood tests.  But there’s something about knowing that I have to put the needle in my own skin that is giving me the willies.  I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong.  That I’ll either waste this incredibly expensive medication somehow, or that I’ll give myself an infection.  That it will hurt.  That I’ll have terrible side effects.  Or, worst of all, that it won’t work.

On top of this, I’ll be taking a drug called 6mp, often given to leukemia patients, which is supposed to help me not become resistant to the Cimzia.  It’s got a host of side effects of its own.  Because it can cause liver damage and mess with your platelets, I have to have frequent blood tests too.  2013 is therefore looking like a whole lot more poking and prodding than I’m used to.

I am inspired by a lyric in the Broadway musical Newsies (those of you who know me well, please do not roll your eyes at my obsession with those adorably capped dancers!):  “Courage does not erase our fears, courage is when we face our fears.”

I think it’s important to keep this in mind.  If I ever go zip lining again, I’m still going to be nervous.  Even after holding giant insects and arthropods in the palm of my hand, I’m going to be terrified when I see grasshoppers in my house.  And I’m never just going to be okay with throwing up.

But while I was once a Cowardly Lion shamefully holding my tail, I have since earned my badge of courage.  Do I run and hide from my fears?  No, not unless someone’s threatening to tickle my feet, or I’m in any real danger.  I may pout, cry, whimper, and attempt to gain the sympathy of others when facing my fears, but I do just that, head-on, like the newsies.

In 2013, I dare you to do the same.

Perhaps a Little TMI

I’ve grown.  You only need to look at the events of the past week to see how.

First, let’s start with my mild emetophobia (fear of throwing up).  The last time I violently emptied the contents of my stomach was at 15 years old after getting food poisoning from a bad burger at my high school.  I was so viciously ill – not to mention seriously grossed out about the epically foul patty – that I didn’t touch ground beef at all until about 2005.  And for whatever reason, the powers that be smiled down on me and decided I’d had enough and I didn’t toss my cookies ever again…until Tuesday. 

Normally, Mr. Upchuck is preceded by minutes or even hours of nausea and sweating, and for me, thick swallowing, crying, digging toes into the carpet, whining, panicking, palpitations and praying that either it will happen RIGHT NOW or never.  Bless those powers that be though for making this unpleasant event occur without warning.  Granted, this created a much bigger mess that I was then forced to clean while my insides continued to clean out with the help of 4 liters of sodium bicarbonate prescribed so that I could endure what is known in the gastrointestinal world as a “double whammy” — an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  Fun stuff, let me tell ya.  But hey.  At least I wasn’t sitting in a puddle of fear waiting for the inevitable.

Anyways, sparing you all the gory details, is it pathetic that I’m actually proud of myself for making it through?  I threw up, so what?  It happened and now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.  I had a good streak going there for 16 years…maybe I can go another 16.

Secondly, I had to undergo the afore-mentioned invasive procedures as part of routine maintenance for a suspected mild case of Crohn’s Disease.  If you’re not really sure what it is, don’t worry.  I’m not 100% sure either, except that it involves swelling in the colon and can cause narrowing of the intestines and can be really painful, embarrassing and make you feel very abnormal in the abdominal region.  I’ve probably been living with this (or IBS or IBD or all three, or colitis or a number of other issues) for years but this time around we’re hoping for a definitive diagnosis. 

I’d previously had two colonoscopies and one endoscopy as well as an MRI, several blood tests, and even a test in which I had to drink something weird and blow into a machine every fifteen minutes.  So this wasn’t all that scary for me…except the part where I had to drink the massive jug of metallic salty-tasting solution designed to shrink your stomach to the size of a pea, give you a supreme case of the shivers and keep you on the toilet till midnight.  I was so dang nervous about drinking that stuff because it makes me gag and dry heave…but not at all concerned about getting knocked out or about what they might find.  I’m mostly okay with needles, so the IV was a cinch (except for the part where they couldn’t find a vein, but what else is new).  Nope, it was the drinking that I was afraid of…that and the fact that during my last colonoscopy 4 or so years ago, I just so happened to wake up during the procedure.  (shiver)  But I requested that my doctor give me extra anesthesia this time so I was out like a light, and even once I woke I continued to act so drugged that I asked Greg the same question no less than four times in the space of about ten minutes.  Hilarity! 

So, for drinking MOST of the 4-liter jug of sodium bicarbonate and living through the yucky gastrointestinal procedures, I must pat myself on the back again.  I faced these challenges with dignity, tissues jammed up my nostrils so I couldn’t taste the putrid liquid, and my favorite fuzzy bathrobe, and only whimpered and moaned a few hundred times.  I was a champ.

Now, while awaiting my -oscopies, the hospital was running seriously behind.  I was told to check in at 9:30 am, so we left the house at 8 (hey, rush hour traffic on LA’s infamous 405 South is nothing to scoff at), got to the hospital by 9 and proceeded to wait…and wait…and wait some more.  I was not called back till about noon, when my initial appointment was scheduled for 10:30 am.  I had hoped to be leaving the hospital for home by noon.  So besides proving that waiting is the worst part of any medical test, a new fear sprouted in my mind.  Our dog Brody was at home alone with full run of the living room, dining area and kitchen for the longest time since he’d eaten an eighth of his weight in dog food just two weeks after he was adopted.  Since the incident that dragged us to the animal emergency room on Valentine’s Day 2010, Brody had been crated.  And my four or five replacement pairs of shoes had been happy.

However, lately we’ve been leaving Brody for up to 3 or 4 hours uncrated as an experiment.  With nothing out of place, we figured leaving him for the morning would be fine.  What we didn’t expect was that we’d be getting home 6 hours later. 

All signs point to Brody having slept all day, so feeling oddly confident, I suggested leaving Brody uncrated for seven hours while we were both at work on Friday.  This was completely out of character.  For the past two years, I’ve been the worrywort.  I always knew that at some point I’d be ready to leave him out of his “house” (partially because he was destroying every last towel we put in there) but I didn’t know I’d be ready now. 

So that’s the third thing I’m proud of this week.  Plus, I’m very proud of Brody for being a good boy and not touching a thing!  My shoes and I profoundly thank him.

As a side note, I apologize for being a bit too busy these days to write or to accomplish any crazy fears, but as you can see, I’m still working on my anxieties…even the little ones.  So I hope you’ll continue to support me on my journey!

Going Over the Edge

This past weekend, my friends, the Spidermen, rappelled down the side of a 16-story hotel after raising over $1,000 each for Special Olympics.  In my eyes, these guys are heroes.  They faced several challenges and fears throughout the course of their multi-week journey to solicit donations, ignore nay-sayers and put their trust in strangers as they accomplished something very few can say they’re brave enough to do.  Thanks again to all who donated to my friends.  I hope you’ll enjoy today’s guest post about the experience, written by none other than my very good friend, Kim Rily.

Facing Fears

The first time I ever did a ropes course, I was a pre-teen. The height involved in climbing up a steeply-angled felled tree caused me to hyperventilate. I made it about two-thirds of the way up the tree and quit, climbing down, embarrassed and defeated. The next summer I went to the same camp, I attempted the ropes course again, and completed the whole thing successfully, but at the end – a quick descent via a zipline, I once again was in tears, panicked, and nearly pulled the camp counselor off the platform in the trees. (Luckily, he was attached safely to the tree, just as I was attached safely to the ropes.) A couple years later, I went again to the same camp, and had a new theory. Completely cheat on the ropes course and let this giant harness catch you and do all the work for you. Now, when I went to step from one 2×4 to another that was too far away, I put my weight into my harness and swung across. When I had to balance on a beam and I didn’t think I could do it, I put the weight on the harness and went hand over hand underneath it. The change here was that I trusted the harness and the ropes.

And like that, I was not scared anymore. You just have to trust your equipment.

When Jenny (the owner of this blog) went zip-lining, I wanted to go with her to show her how fun the whole thing could be. I had a brief moment of “yikes” when my instincts told me I was too high. But I loved seeing my shadow fly over the canyon hundreds of feet below me, like Peter Pan’s shadow flying over London.

So when my husband pointed out to me and our friends this project–Over the Edge, a company that does different fund-raisers for various non-profit organizations by rappelling down buildings–I was not scared. I pictured myself climbing down a glass skyscraper a la Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment. It sounded so fun and to me, the hardest part was going to be the fundraising. But I don’t want money to be a force that stops me in life. I figured between friends, family and co-workers, in addition to several businesses I work with, I could raise the requisite $1,000 to participate. And with a quick talk with my husband, we decided to go for it, and do it together!

After announcing our decision, it appeared that my fears were not the only ones we’d have to overcome. A few days later, I got a letter from my parents asking me not to do it. I had two little ones at home to think of, and I didn’t want to leave them motherless, did I? (You know, in the case that I fell to my death.) They offered me a large sum of money to try and persuade me. They tried to give me their fear, something that can be infectious, if you let it. I went back and forth for about 2 seconds and tried to persuade them that there was nothing to fear, but I was amazed at my own strength when I was able to say “No, thanks” and end the conversation.

I figured this was a company who did this routinely, who did it to raise money for good causes, and neither the company nor the non-profit group wanted any deaths linked with their names. I never felt like I was in danger, but the idea came in my head several days before that “Maybe you should get that will in order. Just in case.” But no, I figured, if I felt like I was doing something dangerous, I would just not do it.

Kim and Mitch wave from the roof

And as the days pressed on, I got more excited. Saturday morning, an hour before climbing down a building, I paced as we waited for the proper equipment to wear. I went to the bathroom multiple times—a sure sign that I was just a bit nervous. And as we went up in the elevator to the seventh floor for a practice run (from the roof of the 7th floor down to the 5th or 6th) I felt like I was an astronaut, headed up to the rocket, ready to be launched. I was happy; I was excited; I was proud.

I watched the gentleman in front of me do his practice run. (The Chief of Police of Long Beach, he had extra cameras and media with him.) And then the guide looked in my direction and said, “Who’s next?” I had told my husband that I wanted to go first. I didn’t really like stepping up to the edge of the balcony overlooking the lower portion of roof (about 15-20 feet difference.) There was an A-frame to hold on to, and I forgot for a second that this harness will hold your weight.  As soon as I felt that harness do its job, I was not afraid at all. I climbed down in a few seconds and waited for my husband to do the same. (I did look down to see if my kids and friends were outside yet. I didn’t want them to miss us!) Luckily, I saw Jenny and heard my daughter playing with her toy by the pool far, far below.

Then we were led to the top-top of the building. The 16th floor. We walked past heating ducts and water pipes, employee break rooms, etc, and finally out onto the roof. Signs pointed “This way” and “Almost there!” This was it. We were going to climb down a fracking building! The Chief of Police was making his way down and it was our turn next.

So, we checked our names off a list and went over to the edge of the building where ropes were set up with large metal contraptions. There were three steps leading up next to a railing—the only thing separating me from a long way down. The young man (probably in his early to mid 20s) who hooked me up said, “Okay, get on the top step.” And a small voice in the pit of my stomach said, “But I don’t want to.” I got on the second step, and then took one more 3-inch step up to the top step. He hooked up the back-up brake first and then hooked up the regular levered handle that I would squeeze in order to lower myself down slowly. And he looked at me and said, “Okay, swing your leg over.”

Stepping "over the edge"

This was the moment of truth. I’ve done ropes courses before. I’d conquered the fear of falling as a teen because I knew the ropes would hold me. Just minutes before, I’d done a practice run. Over the summer I did zip-lining twice. (Hell, I’ve even gone sky-diving years ago.) Was I still afraid of heights?

Then I saw my husband, both feet over the railing, standing on the ledge of the building—on the opposite side from me. I took a few seconds to look at my ropes, make sure they were secure and attached to me as well as something else. Then I joined him. I put one leg over, then another, until we were both on the outside of a building! I looked down to the platform below me. I could hear my 5 year-old daughter shouting “Go Mommy and Daddy!” over and over again. My eyes locked with my husband’s and there it was: “Let’s do this thing.”

So, we went down the building, side by side. The ropes were so taught, that although my feet were touching the glass windows, my heels couldn’t go all the way to the glass. I let out some more slack and kept my legs at a more perpendicular angle to walk down the building. More and more, foot by foot, I went down. My husband was a little bit faster than I was. (It turns out his harness was a little too tight for comfort.) And to keep from freaking out that my heels wouldn’t touch the building, I decided I would just push off a bit more on my toes, hopping away from the building. It was fun, but I didn’t want it to be over too soon. I tried looking into the rooms we were walking down. Most had their curtains shut and I could see nothing. Other times, I could see theLong Beachharbor reflected in the glass, so it looked like I was floating in air. And when I reached a ledge that I could put my feet on, I knew we were getting to the end. I didn’t want to stop! But, slowly, I made my way down a bit more. I wanted to enjoy every minute, but Mitch was in a bit of pain, and we wanted to do this together. Until the last floor, we were side by side. I told him to go ahead and touch down to take his weight off his ribs. (He was in an accident and had broken or bruised a rib earlier in the year.) And then I touched down to the blue-carpeted metal platform, and that was it! Adventure over. I had done it! I had not fallen to my death. (See, Mom and Dad?)

Tag-team rappelling

My brother, who was there and waiting at the bottom with my kids and friends, pulled out the cell and called our parents on the opposite side of the country to let them know I’d survived. “I want to do it again!” I shouted over his shoulder, hoping they’d hear.

I walked down. My kids hugged me. I picked up my son who did not think “it was good” when I asked him. Of course, he’s two, and his favorite word is ‘no’, so who knows if that was what he really thought.  I had a little bit of an adrenaline buzz going, but really, what I wanted to do was run back to that elevator, up to the 16th floor and do it all over again.

Over the course of six months, I’ve had people offer me a large sum of money to not rappel down the Long Beach Hyatt because of their fear. I’ve had people ask me, “Are you crazy?” I’ve had people joke, “They call it rappelling because it’s supposed to repel you from doing it!” I’ve had a co-worker say, “The only way you’d get me to do that is if you put my son’s life at stake.”

Disproving fear as inconsequential and making myself feel brave and adventurous?

My friends, the Spidermen, dressed as Jedis

Sounds good to me!

 

Read Kim’s blog at www.fivemillioncanproject.blogspot.com

 

I have NEVER liked going fast.

I was slow to tie my shoelaces, forced to take home the static-ridden preschool class record and practice along with the loathsome bunny song.  I was slow to ride my bike, preferring training wheels until I learned how to balance in my basement at age 8.  I was slow to do my own hair, keeping my personal hairstylist (Mom) in business until I was much too old to be doing so.  I was slow to date, not really quite getting the hang of that whole scene until college.   I was (and for the most part still am) slow to adopt trends in fashion and pop culture.  And when it comes to game nights with friends, if it’s not a word game, my brain is abnormally slow at adopting the concepts and rules, such that sometimes I’m forced to sit out rather than make my friends explain it all again and again.

I suppose I’m not slow at EVERYTHING.  I am quick-witted; a rapid typist; a speedy sprinter; a quick learner (at least when it comes to things other than calculus, reading maps, and the afore-mentioned complex games). 

But when it comes to being inside a vehicle, I’m a steadfast supporter of “slow and steady wins the race” or, alternatively, “slow and steady keeps on breathing.”  Whenever I notice my own speedometer creep over 70 on the freeway, I instantly lay off the gas, preferring granny-like speeds of 60 to 65.  And when I’m a passenger and I notice the driver changing lanes too swiftly or getting too close to the car ahead, I involuntarily put my right hand to the door, as if I can pull a hand-brake.  It’s my own cautionary thing.  It’s more for my comfort than anything else, though sometimes I think that when the driver peripherally notices my hand move, they slow down. 

Roller coasters are my arch nemesis.  Most of my friends love them.  They live for places like Magic Mountain and Disneyland, while my favorite theme park ever was called Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.  (I’m so hardcore, I know.)  During a high school band trip, I visited this park and was delighted to find that its focus was not on thrill rides, but on history, games, shows and other entertainment.  They had great shopping and a slow coal mine ride that took us down into a real cave for a tour.  I didn’t feel like a wuss for not riding rides.  I was just like everyone else exploring the fun and the focus wasn’t on me and my fears.  It was nice for a change.

For the record, I have been on one roller coaster before.  It was at another rip-roarin’ popular theme park, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I was around 9 or 10 years old at the time, adorned with a pair of red plastic-framed glasses two sizes too big for my face.  I was average height and weight for my age.  And I was excited about the indoor ride I was about to go on.  Its name, I believe, was Blazing Fury.  I figured it was just a ride that moved you along in spurts past fun animatronic characters, Disney-style. 

When my dad, brother and I got on the metal ride, a single bar was pulled down that missed securing my body by at least 6 inches if not more.  But we didn’t worry.  This was just going to be like Small, Small World on wheels, but with Southern belles and fire. 

WRONG.  I don’t remember when we started going fast but it was up and down and all around as my body knocked around from side to side, back and forth.  I lost my glasses which meant I could barely see.  And I started crying and shaking.  When I got off that ride I could barely walk.  Luckily, the man sitting behind me had caught my glasses, otherwise I’d have spent the rest of my vacation squinting, or would have had to get new glasses in some po-dunk town like Sevierville, where my mom later ended up in a fly-swarmed clinic with chest pains.  (But that’s another story.) 

I will never forget that ride.  But it’s not just that old rickety ride, which by the looks of the website, has since been modernized.  It’s the log ride I went on during junior high with friends at Six Flags Great America.  As we sailed down the slope, I realized I couldn’t breathe.  I tried and tried and tried but it was like my lungs had both collapsed.  When we finally stopped moving, I gulped in air like I’d never taste it again.  It really scared me.

Here’s my feeling about speed:  if I need to close my eyes and squeeze my fists and keep my mouth shut so I can breathe, or alternatively let out a blood-curdling scream, I don’t generally find what I’m doing fun. 

Which is, I guess, why I am announcing my third feardom-fighting challenge.  Nope, it’s not a roller coaster.  I’m not ready to tackle that fear just yet, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

Instead, I’ll be fighting my fear of speed by competing against my friends in a 14-lap go-kart race on November 20th.  Okay, so it’s not a NASCAR experience.  But if you had been inside my body, feeling the sore arthritic finger pain that crippled me after I white-knuckled my way through my last go-kart riding experience, then you’d understand how big of a deal this is for me. 

So, wish me luck, and in the meantime, I’ll continue sharing my fears with you.  Because I think that in addition to helping myself, I’ve got a real chance to help others.  One of my friends recently told me she faced her fear of riding horses after reading my blog.  And I’ve looked at the search terms that have randomly led strangers to Scared Witless.  More than once I’ve seen the phrase “scared of ziplining.”  And whether those strangers went on to go ziplining or not, I hope I was able to make them feel a little less alone.