Monday, April 19, 2010

Dealing With The Fear

For those of us with digestive motility disorders, there is always an underlying fear that seems to echo in our minds. That fear can manifest itself for many different reasons and in various intensities as a result of our daily struggle with illness. Although some of us are able to place the fearful voice and thoughts into an area that stays dimly or moderately lit until either a potential volatile situation occurs or a crisis abounds, for others, the fear can result in a daily mental and physical paralysis. This can give rise to anxiety which can be difficult to control.

Because of the unpredictable nature of many motility disorders, it can be hard to escape that underlying fear and anxiety that so many patients experience. There are endless "what ifs" that can go through a patient's mind as he/she struggles to deal with his/her illness

What if the symptoms happen in public? What if others don't understand? What if I take a bite of food and the symptoms become exacerbated? What if I go to the doctor and am not believed? What if the physician dismisses me as a patient because my symptoms are too complex or there are no treatments available? What if I have to take medical tests? What if I have to take a prep for those tests? What if I have to go to the hospital? What if no one understands? What if I get the flu? What if I get other illnesses or diseases? What if we run out of money or lose a job? What if my spouse leaves me? What if my family abandons me? What if I disappoint others? What if I lose my independence? What if no one will help me? What if I can't go to school? What if I can't date because of my illness? What if I tell someone about my motility disorder? What if no one believes me? What will my future be like? What if a new symptom occurs? What if my child has difficulties in school? What if I can't find a doctor who is knowledgeable? What if I am left alone to deal with this ... without any help? What if I die? These are just some of the "what ifs" that can plague the suffering patient.

With every new symptom that emerges, with every period of exacerbation, with every crisis that occurs, the litany of "what ifs," fears and anxiety can resonate into the mind, body and spirit of the motility patient.

Getting past the fears and anxieties can be an arduous task. I have personally found that trying to remain busy, helping others, having a supportive husband and family, having a team of understanding physicians, music, laughter, my dogs, and having tremendous prayerful faith, all factor into my ability to cope with the fears. Do I still get fearful? Of course. With every bite of food I consume, with every period of exacerbation, with every new symptom, and in public settings when without warning, the symptoms shout reminders of just how ill I am, the fearful voice in my mind can crescendo into a boisterous sound.

But, I would rather spend my days living my life by making a difference than to live my life riddled in constant fear and anxiety that would prevent me from living my purpose in life. If I can overcome the fears and anxieties it becomes a victory and helps to give me strength. This is not always possible, but certainly something that I strive for each and every day. As the motility disorders progress and as new and very concerning symptoms and diseases make their presence, it becomes more challenging to do. It is comforting to know that I am not alone and that there is a treasured comradeship between all of us with motility disorders that remains embedded in my heart.

I understand there are so many others that are not as fortunate as I. To have so much love and support in my life is something that I am so very grateful for. There are many that become alone, isolated and live in a prison of depression as they struggle with all that encompasses living with digestive motility disorders on a daily basis. My heart goes out to each and every person.

If you suffer from fears and anxieties that are out of control or greatly impact the quality of your life, it is important to seek help. Talk to your physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or minister. Contact the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders, Inc. (AGMD), attend our support group meetings and/or join our Online Community. Remember, there is help available and people who do understand.

At the young age of 26, when I first became ill, many of these fears and anxieties were totally new to me. Now, after all these years, I brace myself for the unexpected, try to prepare as much as possible, take risks when feasible or necessary, push myself when possible, acquiesce when necessary, remain in prayerful hope, and embrace each moment of my life as a precious gift.