Thursday, March 12, 2015


Death is part of life and facing death is very much a part of Survivor Jewelry. 

When facing a traumatic diagnosis, there is great anxiety about dying. No matter what survival percentage you are looking at, when those numbers are about you, the ones not in your favor loom very large. 

So, even if you head into battle with a positive mindset, there will be moments when you visit the scariest percentages and sit down with the worst case scenarios. Some of these moments will be born of your own fear and other times they will be given to you by someone who loves you and is afraid for you.

Death anxiety can add a great deal of stress, pain, and worry to a situation already wrought with enough of all three. It can take away from your healing because it changes your focus at a time you need your strength. It can literally blindside you and leave you paralyzed with morbid thoughts. 

During my fight, I have had many conversations with people heroically caught in the whirlwind of this crippling anxiety. I dealt with a lot of friends and family sharing in my own battle who crumbled beneath the weight of what could happen. I spent a lot of time trying to alleviate other people's anxieties while trying to keep a brave face about my own.

If you try to run from the fear, it will only sneak up on you. If you try to exist in denial about it, it will catch you off guard and knock you down. But how you navigate your way through it is vital and very personal to your journey of survival.

Find what works for you and try to find ways to turn the table on the anxiety. Be creative and inventive if you have to. Allow yourself time to cry and time to forge ahead.

For me, I had "AnxieTeas", private, unshared time, where I would allow myself to both breakdown momentarily and formulate a positive plan of action for worst case scenarios. Quiet time, often with actual tea, but usually coffee or a coke, where I could steal a moment to be alone to just feel and think. 

With my brain surgery, there was the threat not only of death, but of severe mental and physical damage. Strokes, memory loss, nerve damage, losing the ability to walk/talk and more. The list of outcomes felt endless. I would often cry, panic, and get very angry, other times I would find myself laughing manically because it all felt so surreal. But, I usually came of out these teas with some little plan.

Someone very close to me became crippled by the worry I would not remember him at all, which then became a true worry of mine. So after an actual tea with him, I had one of these solo teas. During which I came up with the idea to create flashcards with the names and pictures of important people that I loved, in case I did forget. 

The cards existence became about doing something positive for myself and others that both respectfully acknowledged that fear and formulated a plan to against it. (In fact, those flashcards went to the hospital with me, but luckily I came through surgery with my memory intact.) 

After that, the teas became something cathartic for me about cause and effect. 

I worried my life would be in utter disarray, so I cleaned and organized my house, to the extreme. Should some of the worst cases happen, everything would be easily located, accessed, or packed. 

A Southern hostess to a fault, I was afraid of not being able to take care of the people coming to take care of me, so I created maps of everything around me should I be unable to tell people where the grocery store or gas station was. 

I got new sheets for company, stocked up on firewood, and a dear friend gave me a Kuerig machine so I could make coffee for myself and everyone visiting without much effort for mess. (That gadget was a godsend.)

 I made a will, I let people know my living will wishes. I made sure to eat all my favorite foods and tell people I loved them. 

I made Team t-shirts with little pink brains on them, so everyone could feel part of a rally towards something positive. 

I focused on making sure every private meltdown caused something positive to be built from it and shared. It was during one of these teas, I created what turned out for me to be one of the most important rules to my breathing brave. 

I decided, if I wasn't crying, no one else could cry in front of me. Before that, it had gotten to be overwhelming to keep consoling people who were bursting into tears, while I was fighting to keep my world together. So, respectfully I allowed everyone else to be emotional and worried, afraid and sad, but if they felt a good old fashioned cry coming on, when I wasn't crying myself, they got "sent to the hall". 

As shocking as it seems, it actually became something which lightened the mood and gave us all a reason to laugh and be silly, because no one wanted to be the one "sent to the hall". It also gave a special tenderness to the moments when everyone was crying together.

In the end, you have to find a way to live with your fears and death anxiety in whatever way works for you. If it helps you to have everyone cry in a big group huddle, then grab the tissues and hug it out. 

We all have worst case scenarios. We all hope for the best. Just try to remember to do everything you can about the things you have control over and not allow yourself to be swallowed by that which you have no control over.

What helped you? Share it, because it might be just the trick someone else needs to get through it themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share Your Story. Voice Your Support.