I'm Not Afraid of You

12:17 PM

It's a little early to be thinking about 2017. But maybe because I'm so anxious for the disaster that is 2016 to be over, I've already started planning parts of next year.

Instead of a New Year's resolution, like many people make and often break, I create mantras for my year.

It's an idea I picked up in therapy for depression and anxiety a few years ago. When faced with a panic-inducing situation, my therapist recommended repeating a mantra to help me work through it.

Her suggestion was something like "This, too, shall pass." Mine ended up being "Will I die from this? No, I won't."

(It was a difficult year, okay?)

Likewise, I've crafted a few mantras over the years to help me set a tone or mindset for the new year, rather than a list of things I'd like to accomplish that I'll forget about and never do.

My junior year of college, my mantra was "Shameless," as in, "I'm going to do things without regard to what people think of me."

For 2016, it was "I will wear what I want." Pretty self-explanatory. The above picture is one of the products of that mantra.

This upcoming year, my mantra is "I'm not afraid of you." And I've already started to apply it.

When facing my second endometriosis surgery two weeks ago, I couldn't deny that I was scared. Not so much for the surgery itself, although anesthesia always freaks me out, but because I didn't know what it would hold for me.

Looking back, my first surgery was a cluster. By that, I mean I had a doctor so hellbent on proving that I didn't have endometriosis that I don't believe I received the care that I needed. I know I can't really say that he for sure didn't get everything out in my surgery that he could have. But it's a feeling both me and my husband, Andrew have had.

This time around, I found that my endometriosis has migrated to another organ, my bladder. And that was frustrating to hear but, ultimately, inevitable.

I was hesitant to even have this surgery done because, honestly, I was scared. I feared the IUD and pelvic floor injections that would be added to cutting and burning off endometriosis sites. I was afraid of a longer recovery and complications. I had it in my mind that my body would hate my IUD and that I'd be one of the horror stories in women's health magazines that read "WOMAN'S UTERUS TWISTS AROUND IUD AND NOW SHE IS JUST A HEAD SOMEHOW."


But for most of these scary things that I confront with my illness, I won't know if it will help me until I get over my fear of more pain and more problems and just try.

The same goes for my fear of offending or annoying my doctors. For the most part, I got over that fear pretty damn quick. Having a bad doctor and a delayed diagnosis will make you appreciate self-advocacy a lot more... 

But I still fear upsetting my physicians and other medical professionals with my insistence and stubbornness. I dread getting frustrated and tired over playing phone tag and begging for prior authorizations. I'm afraid of alienating people who are trying to help me when I say "no" to certain treatments or ask probing questions.

But why? Honestly, why? What can I expect from doing nothing at all, besides more nothing?

I essentially just wanted an excuse to use this gif...

If I can be candid, the past few months of my life have been consumed with fear and anger. These feelings turned to numbness when election results rolled in the night before my surgery. 

Deep down, I am still afraid. I'm afraid for my health care and any changes that could affect treatment for my chronic illness. I fear for my friends who have bigger fears, and I fear for how things around me will change. 

But most of all, I fear that I can't do anything about it.

And that's the purpose of my mantra: to force me to act in spite of my fear. Maybe a truer mantra would be "Okay, I really am afraid of you, but I can't just stand here paralyzed, so I'm going to do something about it." But that doesn't fit neatly at the top of my day planner...

I still think I have plenty of reasonable fears. Like "I don't want to go out tonight because I hurt, and I'm afraid of hurting further." Or "I don't want to drive three hours by myself because I'm afraid I'll fall asleep."

But I'm learning to categorize some of these thoughts as "danger." "I'm in danger of hurting myself further from this action because it's happened before, like, every single time" as opposed to "I'm afraid of hurting more down the road from a treatment I haven't tried yet that I know can be successful."

I'm self-aware enough to know the difference between one and the other. And I can no longer be prisoner to fears that keep me from doing things that will help me or that I want to do.

There have always been times I've feared how people will view me. I've feared losing friends or saying the wrong thing. I've feared feeling things I didn't want to feel or looking like an idiot. I've feared additional diagnoses and being told "Well, this is all we can do for you." But I'm turning all of my fears into action, advocacy and activism, as best as I possibly can.

This week, Andrew and I booked a summer vacation. I'm taking advantage of the able body I currently have and pushing aside my fears of wearing myself out or ending up in pain while hiking through national parks. I know that Future Tracy will thank me for casting aside these fears and allowing myself freedom beyond my body.

And soon, I will return to the gym for the first time since my surgery. I won't allow myself to be afraid to see how far I have to go in my recovery. Or afraid of how frustrated I'll be to see how much progress I lost. Or afraid of setting the elliptical to a lower speed and accepting that I have to start over.

This is a conversation I will have to have with myself every day for the rest of my life, probably. But for now, I will move forward, even if it's a slow crawl at the start.

I'm just a baby sloth, guys.

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