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Archive for the ‘Fears’ Category

Question mark

There are questions in life that you will be hard pressed to ever find an answer to that will be definitive and beyond dispute.

One of the questions to which I am referring is actually not about life but rather it is death. Death, the 5 letter word that has so many different meanings, fears, unknowns and questions attached to it.

Death is something that is dealt with differently by each and every person. It is dependent on your religious beliefs, your upbringing, your life experiences and whether or not you believe that there is more to the world than what we can see, hear or feel.

For me death and the questions surrounding it have followed me around most of my adult life. I don’t know for sure when my questions and fears started. I do know that aside from one friend of my parents who passed away when I was a teen, I did not come into contact with death of people I knew or loved until I was in my twenties.

I do however quite vividly remember a bible class in tenth grade about heaven and hell. The explanation we were given then about hell has stuck with me since then. I was taught that hell is basically the soul’s yearning to rejoin God, but the more sins you have the farther away your soul is from God for a period of time until you have paid your dues so to say. The teacher likened it to an avid baseball fan who really wants to sit right behind home plate during a game but instead is stuck in the last row of seats high up in the bleachers.

For some reason that description has scared me more than fiery pits.

Embrace Death

Over the years I have had many sleepless nights worrying about death. Almost to the point of panic attacks at night when all is quiet and I am trying to fall asleep. Thankfully I think I have put most of that to rest.

I have spent countless hours discussing death, learning about death and learning how to accept and cope with death. I have also been present at numerous deaths. Over the years there have been times when I felt that people were waiting for my shift at the ER to come and pass away. Something that in some ways pleased me but also scared me at the same time. I felt that the people’s souls who passed away wanted me to be there for their loved ones at that particular moment. It’s odd to describe, but that’s what I felt.

I know that I have a purpose here in this world. I know that I have things to accomplish and things my soul has come here to learn. I believe one of the things I have come to do either for myself or maybe to also help others with is to learn about death, how to cope with it and to search for answers about what there is after our body is no longer.

My problem is that I am a very concrete person. I need proof. I need unequivocal proof. But maybe that is meant to be part of my journey as well. To learn to feel things and believe what I know in my heart is true, whether I can explain it or not.

I believe in reincarnation. Some in my religion believe in reincarnation, while others do not. That is also something that took me a long time to come to grips with. The not knowing for sure if I was going against my religion by believing in things my heart was telling me was true. Even writing about it now on a blog where I know people who know me will read it made me hesitate a minute. Not because I think I am wrong in what I believe, but rather because do I want to possibly be looked upon as someone who has lost my mind. I haven’t, so I am writing this.

Maybe some of my fear of death comes from the way I have died in previous lives. I was told that in one of my previous lives about 100 years or so ago I died from cold exposure. Not an easy death. Maybe that is part of my issue in this life trying to understand and embrace the fact that life is but a short blip in our total existence.

I do have to say that knowing that I have previously died horribly and look I am here again has given me some strength. It’s kind of like, hey I’ve done it before, it can’t be that bad. Wierd I guess, but still it does give me a small measure of comfort.

So what do I believe? Believe but can’t prove. I believe that our life here on earth is only a small tiny part of our total existence. I believe that hell is our reviewing of our life after we die and seeing and understanding all the hurt we have caused other people.

I believe that how we view death and the after life will have a lot of impact on our soul right after we pass away. About how confused we are or how comfortably we glide into our new existence.

I mostly believe that we are here on this earth to accomplish things our soul planned for us to do. If you take the time to listen to your body and your soul, you will be put on the path that your soul planned for you to take. We just need to listen and to use the gifts we were given. We need to never give up hope because everything we do our soul learns from and we take with us.

Image:

QUESTION MARK
© Marco Bellucci | Flickr Creative Commons

EMBRACE DEATH
© Oisin Mulvihill | Flickr Creative Commons

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This blog post was written for writing workshop #19 run by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak. I chose the third prompt: Write a story or a poem or something descriptive to try and share your view of what happens when we die.

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Don't Panic Badge
(Photo courtesy of Jim Linwood )

We have all had those moments in life when we have been gripped by sheer panic. Something happens that is unexpected and we just lose it. Sometimes our panic is triggered by something very serious like a death or injury of a family member or friend. However there are times when even something relatively minor can just break you. It depends on the person and circumstances I guess.

In my 19 years of parenting I have had quite a few of these moments. Some warranted and some not. (Though who am I to say something is unwarranted if that’s what the moment did to me.)

I have had two children with episodes of convulsions. That has to be one of the scariest things a parent can go through. Even with my ER nursing experience, I still think that is one of the worst experiences I ever had. My first experience with any type of convulsion was with my 2nd child. He was a year and a half, running a fever and I sent him into the shower with my husband. The next thing I knew my husband was screaming and holding a stiff convulsing child. I lost it. I was sure he was a goner. And that was even though I knew that convulsions themselves are rarely fatal. Go tell that to anyone watching their kid convulse. Reason does not work at that moment.

My second convulsion experience was even worse. My little one was playing near the steps inside our house. The steps are part of our living room and she often sits on them to play. She had been running fever for a day, but was already feeling better.

All of a sudden we heard a big thunking sound and my eldest was the first to realize what had happened and that something was not right with her. She had fallen backwards on her head and had started convulsing. I was not sure whether the convulsions were what caused the fall, or if she fell and the head injury caused the convulsions. I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the spot.

Luckily I was home with all of the kids. I sent the oldest one running to the neighbor two houses down. (He is an anesthesiologist. I deal with his emergencies and he deals with mine because we both lose it when it comes to our own kids. Funny how that is.) I had the second oldest stay with the two younger ones, and I scooped up my daughter and with every last bit of energy in my body I ran out the door with her in the direction of my neighbor’s house. That should show you how panicked I was because if I was thinking about any kind of neck or head injury, as an ER nurse I should know better than to move her at all. That short walk to my neighbor was one of the longest I have ever had. It was winter, everyone’s windows were closed and no one heard my yelling pleas of help me, someone help me.

My neighbor met me halfway down his stairs and I passed my daughter over to him and almost collapsed myself. I thought she was either going to be dead or brain injured and never the same. Those next two minutes had to have been the longest in my life until they sent someone out to get me and tell me it was okay, she was okay.

I must be getting older and my memory must be fading, because I know all of my kids at one point or another induced panic in me. Maybe it is just the baby of the family thing, but it seems that my littlest daughter is the one who panics me the most these days. Kind of funny considering that my oldest is in the army.

Or maybe it is that my youngest is just the most confident and a bit too independent. Like the time she decided to go home on her own from synagogue on Shabbat when we turned our backs for a minute. We then spent 30 minutes in panic searching for her. Good thing we live in a community where the roads are closed off on the Sabbath, but that didn’t help our panic at the time. We found her safe and sound but with a few more grey hairs on our heads. (By the way, there is no need to call social services, honestly there isn’t.)

There are times when we are stressed about something and we work ourselves into a panic. There are other times when panic is visceral and takes over your body and there is not much to do except wait a few minutes and then consciously will yourself to calm down.

Either way, the only thing we can do when we panic is to remember we are human and not to be too hard on ourselves. Once the initial panic passes, we just need to collect ourselves and decide how we continue from there. Sometimes easier said than done, but we are only human after all.
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This blog post was written for writing workshop #17 run by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak. I chose the second prompt: Has there ever been a time you felt panic start to take you over?

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Age of Conversation 2 : 2008
(Photo courtesy of Ryan Rasmussen)

How many times have we hesitated about having a conversation or doing something with someone because we dreaded what might happen, what their reaction might be? We humans have this thing we do where we project our worries and insecurities on someone else.

If we are worried about someone’s reaction to something we have to say to them, we imagine the conversation. What we would say, what they would say back, what we would reply….In short we have a whole conversation in our heads with someone who we really have no right to speak for.

I would say that 9 out of 10 times, what we think a person thinks, is really not what they are thinking. (Try saying that tongue twister out loud 10 ten times.)

And even if it is, isn’t it better to just go and get the conversation over with instead of stalling and agonizing over it. What is the worst case scenario? That the person really doesn’t like you or thinks you are an idiot or whatever it may be? Big deal. You can then deal with it and move on.

For the past few weeks I have been agonizing over how to tell my boss that I think I have had enough of working in the ER and I want to find a different position in another ward. Part of my hesitation was also that I knew I wanted out of where I am but I was not sure where I wanted to go. The insecurity of making a decision to end one thing without a clear direction of what you want in the short term is tough.

If I am being completely truthful, I probably want a job in another field or career, but for now it is just one day at a time. I have an idea of where I want my life to head, but I still do need a paying job at this moment, and at this point my nursing career is probably the best one I can find. So I am staying a nurse, for the time being.

Ideally at this stage, I would like to find a position in one of the hospital clinics with no shifts or Friday work. (Here Fridays are like Sundays.) I had spoken to the head nurse of Oncology to see what was available and there is a position for me if I want it and the hospital management approve my transfer. I was told that it was best for me to go and observe the work day for at least a few hours to see whether the type of work appeals to me.

I didn’t want to do that without cluing my boss in because I didn’t want her hearing about it and thinking I had gone behind her back. So I sweated it out. How am I going to tell her? What happens if I don’t end up transferring out of the ER? Am I going to pay for it and get stuck with shifts I don’t want as backlash from wanting to leave? I finally just bit the bullet, called her and made an appointment to speak to her.

As usual, it turns out that all my worrying was for naught. While my boss can at times be unpredictable in her reactions (which is why I hesitated), she was as sweet as can be. She said she understood. She also said she would never try to forcefully keep someone who wanted a change.

So it seems that all my agonizing, worrying, planning and the simulated conversations I had run through in my head were a waste of time and energy and all unnecessary. I should have had this conversation weeks ago. Maybe it was my worry about disappointing someone or my concerns for my work status being compromised by a bad decision on my part. Or maybe what was really stopping me was the fact that change is hard. Starting in a new place from scratch after 15 years is not necessarily an easy position to be in.

What I have learned is that I should not hesitate and worry as much. My body and soul know when something is not right and I need a change. This whole conversation should have taken place weeks ago, because the problem was not with my boss, it was in my mind.

90/365 - Just feel better *EXPLORED!*
(Photo courtesy of Brandon P)

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Biggest fear.
(Photo courtesy of Christopher Matson )

At some point or another some form of fear is present in everyone’s life. We all have fears, some rational and some irrational.

Some people suffer from extreme phobias while others are almost never afraid. Some people have one specific fear that follows them throughout their life. Others have changing or alternating fears.

One thing is for certain. If you suffer from a certain fear, ignoring it won’t make it go away. You may be able to repress it for a while, but unless you confront your fear and deal with it, it will, without a doubt resurface. It may even resurface with a vengeance and be more debilitating.

I definitely don’t have all the answers but I do believe that the type of fear you suffer from and how you cope with it can help you gain a lot of insight about yourself. It is hard, but in order to learn something important about ourselves we have to learn how to get past the discomfort of thinking and dealing with the things we dread the most.

I have had quite a few fears over the years. The ones that I can say have truly been the most traumatic are the fear of death and the fear of dogs. Being afraid of dogs sounds a bit insignificant compared to a fear of death. (That is unless they are one and the same and you are afraid of meeting your death by a dog, which is not my case.) Yet before I learned to cope and deal with them, when I suffered from these fears they were both equally overpowering.

Warning Signs on the Road ahead!
(Photo courtesy of Thunderchild )

My fear of dogs used to be one accompanied by sheer terror. Maybe this fear of dogs stemmed from my mother abandoning me in my carriage as a baby to flee a dog herself. Or maybe it was just a behaviour I absorbed and learned from her own fear. Either way my reaction when faced with a dog was to run away and if I am honest to scream quite a bit too.

When I was in high school the school bus used to drop me off at the corner of my block. My house was not far from the stop, only four houses down. One evening as I was walking the “long” walk home from the corner in the dark I hear the jangle of a dog’s collar. I walked faster and the jangling got faster. I was petrified.

I got to the door of my house and started banging on the door like a madman. My mother seemed to be taking her time and in my panic I started knocking on one of the green glass panes next to the door.
Well I was so scared that my fist went right through the window and shattered glass flew everywhere. I finally got into the house and when I had calmed down, I realized that the jangling dog’s collar was in reality the zipper from my backpack. Pathetic!

Fast forward twenty years. The once broken window by the front door of my parents’ house still has a different colored glass and my older daughter has inherited (or learned) my fear of dogs. It was only when I realized and internalized that my own behavior was a big contributing factor in my daughter’s fear of dogs that I was able to will myself into dealing with it.

It has also helped that my brother in law has almost always had a dog and was devoted in his attempts to get us used to dogs. I can proudly say that both my daughter and I are dramatically improved. We are both able to be in the same room with dogs and not freak out. We are even able to pet dogs occasionally. All it took was really looking at why we were afraid, acknowledging it and just jumping in, being exposed to our source of the fear and trying to change the behavior. It was not overnight but it has changed.

death as type
(Photo courtesy of Gabi Agu )

My fear of death on the other hand has been a slower journey and like most people with this fear, I am not sure I will ever be 100% cured. It has been a journey spanning decades and one that has been spent searching for answers. It has involved learning about myself, about death about religion and about life. It has taken me to explore things in a way very different to the way I grew up. It has pushed me many times out of my comfort zone in order for me to explore new thoughts, ideas and ways of viewing things.

I find it very interesting that it seems that when I have a topic in my head that I am thinking or writing about, invariably another friend of mine will mention the same topic. I had written most of this post yesterday and when I logged on today, I noticed that two of my blogging friends have written posts today about death. (See Heather’s Post and Vicki’s Post) Obviously death and fear of death is not something I am facing alone.

I think part of my problem is that I am person who likes to be in control. (That sounds much better than calling myself a controlling person.) My world has always been tainted by a perception of the world as being black or white. I need to be certain of things. I need to know with certainty how things work and how they run.

It is kind of hard to be certain about what happens after death. Sure there have been many tales of near death or clinical death experiences and peoples’ tales of what they saw. I find them very enlightening, but God hasn’t told me yet for sure that those stories are true. So I can’t be sure they are correct.

Being a religious and believing person does help somewhat because I am sure there is an afterlife. On the other hand, I am sure that some of what I learned growing up about heaven and hell is at least partially responsible for my fear of death. Although I am sure there is an afterlife, as a person who likes to be in control and sure of her facts, that is still a bit vague for me.

Years ago there were times that my fear of death would “pop up” and cause me tremendous anxiety even to the point of insomnia and anxiety attacks. Thank goodness I have never really experienced a terrible panic attack, but I was close enough to know that it must be terrifying.

I have also come to realize that as I had kids and in a way had more to lose from dying, my fear got worse. The more you learn to love and accept love from those around you, it is harder to think about leaving them for something that is really an uncertainty.

I remember years ago the day my husband an I drew up our will (which by the way is something every parent should have). I have to say that it was one of the worst days of my life. I was meeting my husband by the lawyer’s office and the whole drive over there I was blubbering like a little baby. The crying and the emotions bought to the surface my own fears about my mortality. And of course death and what happens after death.

For me personally I have been helped by reading many books, consulting with a few Rabbis, talking about death and yes even speaking to mediums about it. Some of my greatest calm and understanding and even partial acceptance of death and the unknown has been born from this process.

As a nurse I have been present at many deaths. Years ago it was something that left me deeply saddened and uncomfortable, even when it was a person who had lived a long life. As the years have passed I started believing that there were times when people who were dying were waiting for my shift for a reason. Kind of a hard thing to explain, but there were quite a few deaths where I was sure that I was there for a reason. Whether it was for the family or for the patient himself. I am one of the few ER nurses who talks to patients who are unconscious and not “with it”. I sometimes get laughed at about it, sometimes praised for it. Either way, I believe the person’s soul can hear me and I aim to treat everyone with respect.

The more comfortable I have grown with acknowledging and accepting my fear of death, the easier it has been for me to accept death in general. Of course I am saddened and I cry and I miss people and feel their void in my life. That is a given. However along with that I am beginning to also come to peace with the fact that death is not the end and in the scheme of things it may only be a very small part of our total existence.

The thing to me that is most important is to acknowledge your feelings and your fears, whatever they may be. Don’t keep them to yourself. Discuss them with people you trust. Learn all you can about your fears and ways to deal with them and control them so that they don’t take over your life. By delving into your fears you are really just learning more about yourself.

So what fears trouble you or debilitate you the most and how have you dealt with them?

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