Thoughts in the night
I’m not sure why I feel the need to write tonight, but it seems that there are a few things I need to get off my chest.
Fear of dying is one of those things that’s weighing heavy on me. 15 days ago I convinced myself that lining up for an AstraZeneca vaccination would be a smart decision. My teenage son works at a large supermarket that is plagued by continued outbreaks, and since he still lives with us (well, ok, he eats dinner with us every night and that’s about the entire extend of our contact), it seemed smart to grab the opportunity and get vaccinated earlier than if I had waited for my Pfizer or Moderna turn. Only a week after getting the jab, the Canadian authority for vaccine safety issued a statement that basically threw overboard all of the things doctors and health officials had told us. Instead, they said that it would be wise to wait for a Pfizer/Moderna shot and forgo the AstraZeneca vaccine whenever possible.
Excuse me??? For months you have blasted us from morning ’til night with the message not to go “vaccine shopping” and that “the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you”, and now this? My already sky-high anxiety about possible side effects to AstraZeneca took off for Mars. Two days later, I got a migraine attack (my migraines always manifest a couple of days after the stressor has occurred). Of course, getting a migraine and the associated visual disturbances did nothing to ease my worries, if anything, it aggravated them.
Psychosomatic symptoms are a funny thing. My hyperactive brain interprets the smallest signals my body sends by going into imaginative overdrive: a stomach ache turns into a gastric ulcer, a sore arm is bone cancer, and a bit of tension headache turns into vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or, in laymen’s terms, a blood clot in the brain. The funny thing about this system is that my mind, the reasoning part of my brain, is limping far behind in the messaging that is going on between my body and my subconscious, and my subconscious’s replies to my body. Once my subconscious mind picks up the slightest hint that there is something in my body that doesn’t “feel right”, it emphasizes that part that isn’t feeling right, and turns on the ghetto blasters of symptoms, so that my conscious mind isn’t going to miss it. Because who wouldn’t want to think that a slight discomfort above my left eyebrow isn’t anything but serious? Let’s face it — when there is a 0.001% chance of something going wrong, it will go wrong. Like everything in life always went wrong for me. Right?
My conscious mind, the “reasoning” part of my brain, has now no other choice than to confirm that indeed, there are issues in my body, and that little twinge that my riled up subconscious picked up on its radar spells Problems with a capital P: P for “Plan your funeral”.
Never in my 53 years of existence has my mind ever told me that things are going to be ok. My mind has me dying from cancer, kidney failure, ALS, Kreutzfeld-Jacob disease and flesh eating bacterias on a daily basis. In my head I never die from a car accident, a bear attack, an axe murderer or a falling piano. Which, all things considered, may be just as likely as the other deaths my brain is projecting for me.
So why is it that my head is fixating on the 0.001% bad instead of the 99.999% good?
I believe the connection may lay with my self esteem. When you grow up thinking that you’re dumb and ugly, you grow up believing that you’re not worth anything, and most certainly you don’t deserve anything good happening to you. If something good happens to you, it was merely by accident, but not because you deserved it. And any happiness you experience is certainly short lived, as the bad luck is just around the corner to set things straight again. No good stuff for you, missy! We just messed up in the distribution line, whatever we doled out for you will be taken back in no time. A great marriage? It won’t last. A healthy, beautiful child? Don’t get too attached. Friends who love you? They’re just being nice. It will all adjust itself sooner or later, and things will be as they should be: you, miserable. Just like you deserve to be.
When I mentioned my blood clot fears to the pharmacist who gave me the shot, he replied, “No, madam, do not think like that! When you visualize bad things, they will come true!”
“If that was true, I would have died from cancer 20 years ago. No, I don’t think it works that way.”
Funny how I can stay positive in certain moments. Also funny how when friends come to me with their worries, in my head, everything always turns out well.
“No, your cat isn’t lost. You’ll see he’ll be back in no time.”
“It will be benign! I just know it!!”
“You are going to pass with flying colours! Don’t fret!”
And I’m not just saying that. I actually mean it. I am convinced that everything will turn out for the best — for others. Where am I when I need such a pep talk?
53 years of life, countless self help books and hours on the couch with a counsellor have not cured me, but they have made me learn how it works. And while I still cannot control the urge to catastrophize, I now understand why it happens. And my conscious mind can sit my unconscious mind down and tell her, “Hey, listen. I know you’re scared. But look at the odds. It’s really not very likely at all. And even if it was to happen, what good will it do stressing about it all this time? So what if only have days to life? Do you want to live them in fear and panic, or do you want to live your life with joy, to the fullest, and savour every minute of it?”
Last but not least, finding out about Jesus and the Gospel is what made the biggest difference in how I live my life now. My life is on a path that has been predetermined for me before I was born. This life here on Earth has a beginning, a middle, and an end. An end I cannot predict, change, see, guesstimate, wish differently, or pray away. I can pack myself in bubble wrap, avoid highways like the plague, wash my hands 50 times a day, and yet I can still die from something I could have never seen coming, just like that. Yes, we don’t want to be stupid about it. Like going biking without a helmet or never brushing your teeth. God gave us a brain for a reason. He gave some people a hyperactive imagination, to keep ourselves extra safe. So yes, we should read about the side effects, and if we experience really bad symptoms, we should go and check with our doctor. But we should also not let fear rule our lives.
Finding out about Jesus made me also understand that I am loved, and worthy of all the good things that God has put in my life. And when bad things happen it doesn’t mean that I deserve them. Those bad things are part of life, they are part of living here on Earth, and they’re an opportunity to work my way through what it means to be human and a child of God. I am slowly giving up on trying to influence things I cannot change. I have started the work of living through them, accepting them with grace and dignity, and keeping it together for the ones that live with and around me. But the struggle is real. Whenever my subconscious mind tells me that things are going to end badly, and to prepare for the worst possible outcome, my conscious mind doesn’t always have an immediate rebuttal. But it happens more and more that I find the strength to respond with kindness, and with what I have learned from being a follower of Jesus:
I Am Loved. I Am Worthy. And I Am Not In Control.
Nothing has ever comforted me as much as knowing that. My subconscious mind can rant and rave, but even she has to come to grips with the fact that with worrying about it I cannot change the outcome of the things that worry me so much. And that shuts her up. At least for a little while. Thank you, Jesus! :)
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