Fear. It creeps up on me, seemingly without warning. Sometimes I get hit with it while brushing my teeth or waiting with my son, Nic, for his school bus or when I am walking to my studio. Like a person suddenly appearing in front of me, it startles me every time.
There are phrases using fear as an acronym, such as: F*ck Everything And Run, or False Evidence Appearing Real, or Failure Expected And Received, or Frantic Effort to Appear Real. I like some of those, but the thing that I’ve found helps the most is to admit I’m feeling fearful out loud. To “out” it. To not allow it to sit, twisting and turning in my gut, while pretending it isn’t there. Pretending it isn’t there rarely helps. On the other hand, allowing myself to go into intricate detail about it often makes it worse, like feeding a dragon, or adding fuel to a fire, (pick a cliche) so it seems there’s a balance needed. Feeling the fear, acknowledging it, and then trying to trudge along anyway, or do as my favorite saying regarding fear – feel the fear and do it anyway. The “it” is often a moving target, particularly as this morning’s fear is all around future thinking involving Emma.
Which leads me to the two most detrimental things that lead me to despair faster than anything else when it comes to my daughter – future thinking and comparing her to others. Compare and despair, they say. Deadly. It is deadly and it doesn’t matter whether I am comparing her to another autistic child or a neuro-typical, it is deadly. I try to cut that one off at the pass. If I see it coming I try to turn my back. ”Don’t go there,” I tell myself. Sometimes it’s impossible, large gatherings with other children are the worst and sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. Sometimes I have to sit and hope it just washes over me and leaves. I hope there will only be a few waves of it. I hope I’ll be able to stay upright. I hope that I’ll be strong enough not to cave under the weight.
That’s the thing about fear, it can be so all encompassing, so random, so… sprawling.
Make a list. This is an action step I take when I feel as though I can’t breathe. Make a list. Prioritize. What needs to be done? This past month I have not been as diligent with Emma’s “study room” and she has not been progressing as rapidly as she had been, so I’ll need to figure out how to manage my time better to get back to that. Emma’s literacy program is one that continues to fill me with hope and gives me energy. Seeing her progress with her reading and writing has been the single most helpful thing in keeping the fear at bay. When Emma was stalled out, not moving forward, those were the darkest times. As long as she continues to progress, her self-portrait, her letter, her writing about going to the zoo, are examples and the things I cling to like so many scraps of wood in the middle of an ocean of fear. Just keep my head above the water, just hold on, keep treading, keep breathing, it will be okay. It will be okay.
Make a list. Check.
Don’t pretend I’m not feeling the fear. Out it. Check.
Feel it. Check.
Keep moving forward. Check.
I know these things won’t remove the fear, I know they won’t completely eradicate it, but they are the things I know to do that will help, even if not in this next moment, but in the next few hours, the next few days, the fear will dissipate. It always does. Take a deep breath.
FEAR = Feel Everything And Remain
To read my most recent Huffington Post, click ‘here.’
To read my guest post on Special Needs.com, click ‘here‘