I am not a worrier by heart – I typically go along my day without fretting about things or obsessing about what might or might not happen. I have never felt the need to worry, although like everyone, I occasionally do have immediate concerns about normal things – worries about the kids, money or about a friend.
Since my husband’s brain injury entered the picture, and I had that knock on the door that alerted me that my life would change forever, I have had worries – sometimes such big worries that they take over my entire being.
At first I did not recognize what the panic attacks were – my heart racing, intense emotions swirling around me so fast that I almost couldn’t identify them – I had no idea what was happening to me. Unfortunately for me, the first one happened while driving my car. Thankfully I was able to pull over until my breathing settled down. The other panic attacks were easily labeled for me, but I could not always identify what I was so worried about – it is hard to not be worried when you aren’t sure what is causing you to be so freaked out!
Luckily for me, we have a family therapist that helped me to walk through those moments of extreme fear and worry, and to label them for what they are – an fight or flight reflex that is triggered internally that we have hardwired in our system to save us from predators, except when it happens now, there is no lion chasing after you. It is a reflex that for me occurred with high emotion associated with sympathetic emotions for other people, that usually brought my own hard worries to the surface.
Over time I continued to have intense worries, usually about things that are most likely not going to happen. I have worries about a gunman shooting my kids at school, a car sliding out of control and hitting a child at the bus stop, a fire in my house and I can’t find everyone to get them out – I haven no control over these things, but the worry that they can cause for me is very intense. But I have learned to deal with these sudden fears that come up from nowhere, and to let myself work through them, instead of allowing them to take over and paralyze my day.
There is a meditative practice of letting intrusive thoughts drift by like clouds. Meditation is hard, and often you can become “interrupted” by thoughts while trying to focus on the breathing. One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received during meditation was to let those intrusive thoughts come in – don’t try to fight them. The more you fight them the harder they fight back to bother you – instead, let them come in and drift by you like a cloud. Acknowledge that they are there, but do not give them more than a passing glance as they go by.
By allowing their presence, but do not letting them take over, I have been able to let those thoughts come into my life, but they no longer take over moments in my life. I will admit it is much harder to get rid of those scary thoughts in the middle of the night, but even then, letting them pass by is my best defense.
I know many of you follow us have your own worries; I know you have your own struggles and your own problems. My advice for the day is to not let them rule your life – worry can take over if you let it. We all have worries, big and small, real or not, and sometimes we just have to know that they will come, but they will not take over.
I work very hard at not letting those worries take over – life is too short to let the things that I cannot control, or the things that swirl around me, take the happiness that is right in front of me.