Paralyzing Fear

Do you know why lions roar? lion-roar

It is to paralyze their prey so the prey can’t run away.  Whenever I was afraid of something, some difficulty, relationship, anything – I’d run. Then, when I suffered a double-brainstem stroke I, like the lion’s prey, was paralyzed. I was unable to move a muscle – trapped and paralyzed in my body. For the first time in my life, I had to face my fear head on.

Those were lonely, dark days for me, only this time, it wasn’t fear that paralyzed me; it was the paralysis that caused the fear – intense fear!

Fear of being alone, fear of dying, and fear of living, fear of just about everything. Every waking moment was spent in fear of the unknown and uncertainty. I was alone in the dark; alone with my thoughts.

Over two decades has passed since my stroke; yet, the experience remains vivid in my memory. I never want to lose sight of how far I have come. I want to remember every step of the journey especially when I am helping someone else with theirs. That was a big part of why I wrote my book Paralyzed but not Powerless. The initial title was Kate’s Journey. I wanted people to know that recovery is a journey and they do not have to travel it alone.

Instead of running away from my fear, I had to face it. The best way I know how to do that was to transform fear into faith.  Faith that I would somehow heal – and return to the land of the living.  I had to breathe in God and breathe out fear.

I know it sounds cliché, but the acronym that helps me the most, is knowing that fear is simply False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R). Today, I have learned to transform fear into faith that whatever needs to be done, I can do – but not alone.  I need professionals, experts, God and friends, and so do you.

Another major fear was returning to school. It was monumental. Just like my stroke recovery, returning to school as a disabled woman has involved many, many baby steps and many helping hands along the way. I had a lot of old tapes playing in my head, particularly the background noise of self-doubt. I was not good enough, I was not smart enough – I was simply not enough – to pursue a professional career in the helping profession.

Then I read my own book again.  The theme?  Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want; on what you have, not on what you don’t; on what you can do, not what you can’t.

So, off I went to college. I applied myself with the same discipline and determination that it took for me to recover from impossible odds. Despite often feeling overwhelmed, and paralyzed with fear at the daunting task of earning a bachelor’s degree then on to a master’s degree, I remember what it took to overcome the paralysis of fear and the fear of paralysis. I had to focus on what I want, what I have, and what I can do – and who there was around me who would help. Countless helping hands helped me recover in order to live, countless helping hands helped me go back to school, and find new purpose in life.

Instead of allowing adversity to pull me down; I used it to elevate me and move me forward and help others. I could not have done this without you, my professional and personal friends and family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have been a part of helping me along my journey.

And remember, when you feel stuck and paralyzed with fear, think of my story, and take some  small action that will move you forward.  Focus on what you have and what you can do – and do it. Move from fear and paralysis, to action and recovery.