Sunday, March 9, 2014

Overcoming fear

Tomorrow is the start of a new adventure - Clinical Pastoral Education at Evergreen Health in Kirkland.  I've worked as a hospice chaplain for almost a year and a half now and  I see the need for more education, more self-awareness, and more diversity, all of which I know I will encounter in the next 12 weeks.  My major concern right now is getting to the hospital from my daughter's house in Snohomish.  You see, I have a fear of heights and freeway overpasses.  You might think, what's the big deal?  But if you are one of the countless people who walk around with any sort of anxiety issue, you know this is no small matter.

Over 10 years ago I hit my head and suffered major inner ear damage which brought on long term vertigo.  Tasks I had taken for granted suddenly turned into impossibilities.  Driving was at the top of the list.  For weeks I refused to drive but I had responsibilities and finally got behind the wheel.  I was beyond terrified as I feared losing control of my car.  At one point while crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge I experienced my first panic attack.  My breathing became shallow, my heart rate raised and I involuntarily removed my foot from the gas pedal and came to a stop.  I would not recommend doing this.  It makes other drivers extremely irritated. 

After that incident I began limiting my life.  I came up with all sorts of rules about what I could not do.  No driving on bridges, no driving over water, no driving at night, no driving in the rain.  The list was endless. 

But my doctor told me that my inner ear would eventually compensate for the damage from the fall.  It would take years but he was right.  Unfortunately my brain didn't get the message regarding all my rules.  I accepted the fears as reality.

Over the last two years I've made remarkable progress thanks to my spiritual director.  I now drive on freeways, drive at night in rain and can cross a bridge, as long as it's on the water.  However, two fears remain that I have not faced yet.  Heights and overpasses. 

So what does this have to do with CPE?  Well, the easiest route to take is over a very tall freeway overpass that connects the 522 to the 405. Am I going to tackle it on my first day?  No, as I have other fears to contend with such as the fear of sleeping in and being late.  So I am leaving earlier and taking another route.  But in the midst of all this I have come up with some strategies to use when I decide to take the quickest route. 

I found this quote that says "The only thing standing between where you are and where you want to be is your fear."  I replaced "fear" with the "fear of overpasses" as I need to literally cross that bridge to get to the hospital!  So I decided to do The Work on my fears.

Here's words to say as I approach my fear (bridge): 
I look forward to crossing this overpass.  Each time will be easier than the last.
I am thankful that my body wants to protect me from harm.  It's doing it's job, but I'm not in Danger, I'm in Discomfort!
I know that this panic attack will end.

Here's to overcoming this fear which will allow me to concentrate on my yet undiscovered fears of CPE!!!