I have realized something since entering the healthcare field. If we let it, fear can eat us alive and completely alter any progress we have made in our life.
We all have our fears. Most of us are afraid of things like spiders, dark alleys, parking garages at night, etc. These are somewhat rational fears and most of us can control them or avoid them so they don’t interfere with our daily lives. However, lately I have seen a new kind of fear. It’s a fear that is so intertwined with anxiety, physical symptoms start to occur. It’s quite possibly the most mind boggling thing I’ve had to deal with.
I have many patients who go home alone. My job is to get people to go home as independently as possible. I will work with them, counsel them and flat out torture them to get them to the point where I know they will be able to do anything at home by themselves. What’s hard for me to control is my patient’s anxiety about going home and the fear they have about being able to accomplish daily tasks. It doesn’t matter how many times I assure them, give them compensatory techniques, or practice with them, there is still fear and fear trumps all.
Lately, I have seen many of my patients regress due to this overwhelming sense of anxiety about leaving. Fear can literally show physical symptoms. People will lose movement they once had, strong muscles will turn weak, pain will be magnified times 100 and the mind will get confused and loopy. Medication hasn’t changed, symptoms haven’t changed and a diagnosis remains the same. It’s all the mind convincing someone that they won’t be okay and they’re not ready. For someone who is truly fascinated with how our bodies work….it’s truly an interesting thing to witness.
So how do I possibly go face to face with someone else’s fear every day? I only have so much armor to fight this overwhelming force of anxiety. I invest so much time and energy into my patients. Most nights I wake up in the middle of the night trying to figure out new ways to help them, new treatments to give, and researching new exercises. I celebrate their progress like they were my own children and feel their setbacks as deeply as they do. Sometimes this can affect my personal life making me exhausted and cranky but I have always told myself I don’t want to lose that ability to truly relate to my patients. I never want to stop feeling empathy for them, or being able to relate. I think this makes me a good therapist because I can plan my treatments as if I were them instead of just another person trying to do their job and go home. (However, I’m still hoping to find a balance to all of this so that I’ll get more sleep)
I wish I could say I have found the magic solution to all of this, but I haven’t. Besides taking someones hand and telling them that I believe in them and know they can overcome their fear, nothing else seems to be working. However, I’m going to keep trucking and plowing through. My torture therapy will only continue and I will push them the same, if not harder. Sometimes conquering fear is the hardest job we will have to do and I want to be at the finish line waiting when my patient’s finally decide to just let go and jump over the edge. That will be a truly great moment!!
Don’t be a victim of Fear’s ugly hand…..fight back!