The secret to becoming unafraid of fear, or how Type 2 changed my life, twice!

Sure, I know about diabetes, it has something to do with your sugar level, so you should avoid eating anything sweet. Beyond that, I didn’t realize how much it could change your life.

 

Actually, it has changed my life, twice.

 

The first time was when my father was diagnosed back in the 1950′s, the dark ages of treating and understanding this condition. At my tender age of 18 months, he found out he had Type 2. 5 heart attacks later, the last one ended his life 10 years after being diagnosed. I was just 12 years old when my father died at 56.

 

That was the first time it changed my life.

 

The second was when I received the same diagnosis in 2009.

 

I was gravely disappointed, but not surprised. Given my family history, I’d carried an awareness from when I was young of the possibility that diabetes could burst forth from my genetic pool.

 

Yet, once it’s no longer abstract, managing it to avoid complications astounded me. I was stunned to realize how elementary my knowledge was. Granted, much more is known about it today than in my father’s lifetime.

 

For historical interest, back then I recall there being only one chocolate bar for diabetics, tasteless and virtually inedible. My father was advised to avoid salt, making for bland meals. His doctor didn’t think it was a problem for him to continue to smoke. He ate pretty much what he wanted and took insulin to control it.

 

Reflecting back, I have to admit fear kept me from understanding diabetes. If Type 2 brushed by me, my internal response would be a contraction of fear, and a helpless, internal fluttering of hands. Hearing stories of do’s and don’ts around food left me convinced I’d never be able to change the way I ate. Making dietary changes is extraordinary hard if you didn’t want to. And the mere thought of becoming dependent on insulin horrified me.

 

Busy pulling back from fear, I overlooked the fact that when something takes root in your body, you can either deal with it, or not. If it’s in your body, there’s no where to run. Whereever you go, there you are, body included!

 

Sure, I could choose the path many do, avoidance and denial, but that doesn’t work for me. I prefer to live with seeing things clearly, exactly as they are. It takes less energy and its simple truth is clean-this is how things are!

 

A helpful guiding principal for sustaining this perception is a zen saying, “This being the case, how do we proceed?” I like its succinct, no b-s approach. No wallowing, hiding out in fantasy, avoidance or attempted existence in a parallel universe.

 

When younger, I’d have avoided dealing with something this big. Not in a rebellious way, but in a non-trusting way-I didn’t trust I had the ability to deal effectively with something so huge. And if it was related to food, forget it! Such an attitude often exists in the minds of would-be dieters, discouraged by their mental attitude before they begin.

 

So how you relate to any experience, internal or external, is crucial. All suffering is in the mind. Physical pain is in the body, but your attitude towards it depends whether you suffer or not. A mind that is reactive and fearful is intense, now that’s suffering! Addressing this mental state eases your discomfort.

The take-away tip here is to understand the nature of fear. When fear is present, our tendency is to avert our gaze, look away literally or metaphorically. And everything – from your vascular system through to your external life, shrinks, contracts, shrivels up.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer expansion, not constriction!

 

Try it… think of something frightening, and see how difficult it is to stay with the thought. Choose the situation that triggers the fear wisely. Start small to build courage and confidence.

 

So what to do?

 

This is for everyone who’s been stopped doing anything through fear…

 

Here’s the how-to…

 

Go Towards Fear…

Let your attention turn towards the fear, not away from it! OK, I know it’s a radical, even counter-intuitive way to respond. Notice what happens if you keep your attention on fear, pain or anything that we don’t want to be happening.

 

Meditation for Dealing with Fear

 

Sit comfortably in a familiar, safe, calm environment. Let your mind rest gently on your breath, noticing the ‘in’ breath, the ‘out’ breath.

There’s nowhere to go, and nothing to do.

Don’t try to control the breath. Let the body do the breathing, just be an observer following alongside. Some find it helpful to silently, internally note ‘in’, ‘out’ as a means of focusing the mind. Should something else, a thought, physical sensation or emotion become more dominant, briefly acknowledge then release it, returning to the breath.

 

Follow your breath for a few minutes.

 

Now allow the frightening object or circumstance to float into your mind.

 

Being the curious observer, what do you notice? There’s no right or wrong answer, simply notice whatever is happening, without judging.

Chances are, once you recall the frightening situation, you’ll notice the fear present.

 

Let your mind approach the fear, investigate it with curiosity. Where is it in your body? What physical sensations do you feel? Is it difficult to stay with it? Is your mind jumping to new thoughts? Gently, kindly, bring your attention back to the fear every time it leaves.

You’re not examining it to see what’s wrong, nor are you analying it. You’re just practicing being a dispassionate observer, curious, interested in the exploration and what might be discovered by investigating the fear.

 

Stop if it feels overwhelming, but stay with it as long as you’re able. When you’re ready, open your eyes and return your attention to the room. Take a moment to ponder your experience.

 

You may by now have discovered this for yourself through the exercise you’ve just done..

 

There’s a curious truth regarding fear, avoid it and it grows larger in the mind. Look at it, examine it, and it shrinks!

 

Writing about your fear can help detach from it too. Leave a comment about what helps you deal with your fears.

 

Filed under: Mindfulness

Comments

  1. Having MS brings the same conflicting emotions. It might be interesting to you to check my website for my new effort to explain this idea of APPRECIATING LIFE AS IT IS in the Dzogchen tradition rather than the Zen, but it is the same wisdom applied to practical experience. I agree that living life is a much better approach for me than tying to find somewhere safe to hide, when that place can only be found thru experiencing life, not running away from it. Kudos to you in fnding a path that supports you on all levels physical and more deeply.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your comments Barbara. Details may be specific to our individual circumstances, but the overall approach is pervasive to all situations.

  2. Sharon Jacobs says:

    FEAR , FEAR AND MORE FEAR was my feeling when I was
    DX’S with diabetes. My body/mind froze with emotion.
    Education is the key to breaking free from Fear.
    40 years later, I am living the best life with a dreadful
    disease.

    • admin says:

      40 years!! You’re clearly doing something right Sharon. It’s a triumph to move from terror to managing this condition. I’m glad you ‘defrosted’ and was able to move on.
      Take care of yourself, you’re worth it.

  3. Pramod Vora says:

    Hi Josie,
    Reducing carbs and exercise will be helpful initially.
    I would recommend you to also pay attention to and correct your body’s nutritional profile for a more lasting and permanent solution to Type 2 Diabetes.
    Please refer my discussion on Reversing Type 2 Diabetes on LinkedIn and Facebook for more information. Would be happy to share more information and support you in your endeavor.
    Blessings,
    Pramod Vora
    spaceage2008@space-age.com

    • admin says:

      Hi Pramod,
      I couldn’t agree more with your points! I eat very low carb, exercise daily (thankfully that habit was already in place the last 25 years, so it was one less change to have to address!), and so far have sustained – within non-diabetic levels – my A1c and BG’s. And with fear as my friend, will continue to do so. The alternative is unacceptable! Thanks for your offer of support, I’m sure we’ll continue to be in touch.

  4. Beatrice Duran says:

    I have had diabetes for 28 years and until the last 5 years I did a good job at keeping it well controlled. I had several crisises occur in my life and depression set in and diabetes gave me a way to act out my suicidial ideation, not immediately however passively, when the feeling of wanting to die set in I ate irresponsibilly thinking in the back of my mind that I was accomplishing my mission.
    I finally realized that I have to taking injectables is not a “bad ” thing along with orals and am doing all I can to get my A1C down.. so far from 9.7 to 7.7.
    I am better now, not sure if the diabetes drives the depression or if the depression drives the diabetes, but my what a deadly combination!
    Thank you for the meditation tool as I plan to use it as I have made a conscious decision to control my diabetes. Joining this group helps me every day as I read about this deadly disease and how many others positively deal with the insidiousness of living with Type II diabetes.

    • admin says:

      Beatrice, depression and diabetes do go hand in hand often. Beyond any other reason, the degree of self management needed, with no vacation or letting it go for a while, is really intense. To make as many of those smart requirements a routine, rather than the result of an individual decision at the time, is wise. With routines, we tend not to question them, but just do it, and therefore the desired behavior feels less like a constriction, more like, well, this is what I do, like brushing my teeth.
      Good for you in choosing a path of management and wellness. Remember, Type 2 won’t kill you, only the complications will, so tight control is the answer for now.

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