Thursday, June 21, 2012

National Migraine Awareness Month #21: Living With Anticipatory Fear

For the 21st prompt of the National Migraine Awareness Month Blogging Challenge, we are asked to identify our biggest Migraine related fear and how we cope with it.

There are a number of fears that come along with having chronic, intractable Migraines.

  • Will I have enough money to pay my bills?
  • What does my financial future hold?
  • Will they ever come up with an effective treatment for my Migraines and pain?
  • Will I ever get back to the career I love?
  • Will my life ever be normal again?

If I were to be at my most honest and most transparent with you, I have to admit that the question that plagues me the most is "If nothing changes, what will my life be like ten years from now?"  It is so easy to get caught up in anticipatory fear - imagining the worse.  There are times when I look forward and all I see is an old, lonely, financially unstable woman worn out by the struggle of just making it day to day besieged by pain and anxiety.

Yet, the one thing that I have learned the most from my journey with chronic Migraines is that anticipatory fear or living with life's "what-ifs" is a futile and self-defeating behavior.  As one who has a lot of time to think, I find that thinking about my health and my future is one of the most unproductive things I can do.  It is when I focus on these things that my mind goes in a million different directions, and I drive myself crazy by thinking of all the things that could go wrong or that I miss or regret.

While I have always had a propensity for engaging in anticipatory fear, it has been magnified and put under a microscope over the last five years.  Many of the things I have always dreaded are now my daily reality.  Oddly enough, I am deeply grateful for this because what I have seen when I really look at my tendency to worry about the future and borrow trouble from tomorrow is that I rob today of any joy and peace that it could possibly have by doing so.  AND, on top of that, fear and worry have absolutely no ability to change anything!!

It has caused me to ask significant, life changing questions of myself.  

  • Would I exchange a life of joy and peace for a pain free life?  
  • Would I exchange financial security for reliance upon my Lord and Savior?  
  • Would I give up finding my identity in the uncompromising love of God in order to find it in my career?  
  • Whose image of me do I hold of greatest esteem - that of family, friends and colleagues or that of my Heavenly Father?  

In an ideal world, I wouldn't have to make those choices; however, I cannot change the fact I currently have chronic, intractable Migraines and that those questions are no longer rhetorical.  I have a choice, and it is not an easy one.  It is a choice that I have to make again and again, moment by moment.  I can allow Migraines to rob my life of all current and future hope, peace and joy, or I can strive with all of my might to live in the present, focusing on that which is positive rather than on that which produces fear and anxiety.  Where do I want to put my efforts - in worry or in trying to overcome worry?

My current aspiration is to make Philippians 4:8 the sieve through which I view everything that happens to me.  I constantly remind myself - "Finally, Cyndi, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." 

I am not a Pollyanna.  I am by nature - a worrier.  I have always looked at the glass half empty rather than half full.  However, my life with chronic pain has convinced me that if I focus on fear and pain, there is absolutely no hope for the future.  So with gritted teeth and determined mind, I thank God for what He is allowing me to experience, for out of it I am finally learning to not let fear control my life.  At this time, when it makes more sense than ever before to be living with anticipatory fear, I am finally learning to live in the moment and to do so with a heart full of hope.

I do not know what my future holds.  I could extrapolate and project what it might hold based upon what I experience today.  However, if I even believe a minute portion of the promises that I find in Scripture; if I have even a glimmer of a belief that God is in control, I will continue to hold tightly to the truth that God has a future and a hope for me (Jeremiah 29:11).  And most importantly, I will continue to believe that this future and hope are possible in any situation - even chronic pain.  So I will constantly remind myself to hang my belief system regarding my life on what is written in Scripture rather than on my faulty, worry-ladened, doom-ridden natural inclinations.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by

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