Being scared is brave

Part 2 of How My Brain Tumor Will Change Your Life is about being scared.

The day I was diagnosed in January 2004, I thought I had an ear infection and an MRI was supposed to make sure it wasn't more serious.

Unfortunately, it was.

Sitting in the doctor's office with a specialist I'd never met, I tried to make sense of the images of my skull projected on a screen.

First thought:  my nose is crooked. I never knew that.

Next:  so this is what mortality feels like. At 28, it was the first time I realized that I would die someday, just like everyone else.

This was not one of those situations when I could make my fear go away. When I'd wake up from the nightmare safe and warm in my jammies.

It was then that I adopted the motto: I'm scared and doing it anyway.

Being scared has its advantages.

For one, when you admit the fear, it loses some of its hold on you. Much like as a child, when you turned on the light after imagining a giant monster living in your closet.

Second, any strong emotional reaction is a signal that what's happening is important to you. Knowing what you absolutely don't want means you know what you want more than anything. That can be a powerful motivator.

Here's what I mean:  from that moment in the doctor's office, I knew with all my heart that I didn't want that tumor. In turn, it meant that more than anything I wanted to be healthy. The first was my real fear, and the second became my sole focus.

Finally, no matter the situation, the most rewarding decision is often where I'm scared and moving forward in spite of that. Toward that thing that I really want. It's because it's quite possible that you will get what you want (which itself can be scary!) rather than settling for something less.

I bet you're scared of something right now. A decision you have to make, and the unknown of what could happen as a result. Some tips:

  • What do you really want? If you don't want this thing you're scared of, what do you want? I wanted to be healthy again.

  • Make your own mantra. Next, make the answer to that question your sole focus. I told everyone that I wanted to be healthy, and often they would reflect it back to me. The more I said it, the more we all believed that I would feel better. Say what you want, again and again, and get it.

  • Believe that it's possible. Heard of the saying, "Fake it until you make it"? I'm not above convincing yourself that what you want is possible, so long as you also recognize when it starts to happen. During my recovery I would notice when I stayed awake longer, or walk farther than I could the previous day. How is what you want already showing itself?

Admitting fear will not take away the decision you have to make, and it didn't make my tumor disappear. But, it will remove some of the sting.

As I wrote about before, when you're honest with yourself and others it makes it easier on everyone to focus on what you want, and not on avoiding the truth. You can waste a lot of energy ignoring what your fear is trying to tell you. And then you'll just be tired.

Instead, being scared is an opportunity to learn what's really important to you and to go get it. What would your life be like then?