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On the edge of the rabbit hole

Let me start with this: There are good days. There are days when his blood glucose numbers are steady, medications are keeping the other diseases in check and he sleeps through the night. He is himself, smiling and laughing. The good days definitely outnumber the bad days.

But the bad days…the bad days are hard. There is only so much he can control. And I see it in his face: the exhaustion, the exasperation, the frustration. I let him rest. I watch closely to make sure he doesn’t get worse. I wait.

Sometimes, it’s just a bad day. Other times, it can be a bad week. I sit at the edge of the rabbit hole of fear and anxiety. I peer in. Do I let myself fall? Do I allow Fear to pull me under?

It has taken me a long time to say these words:

Yes. Fall. Let Fear surround you. Fall into the what ifs and the worst case scenarios. Fall deep and hard. Play out each scenario to the tiniest detail. Review it and fall deeper. Fall…

Why? Why would I let myself be enveloped by Fear? Why would I think about things that haven’t yet happened? Why think about the negative? Why not focus on the positive?

Because I’ve almost lost him. Five times. Five times in the past two and half years. The worst case scenarios have almost become my reality.

Almost… when he was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and his saline levels continued to drop…almost…when he had a rapid blood sugar drop and blacked out while driving…almost…when he forgot to take his medication and a simple fever turned into an ER trip…almost..when he was a thousand miles away with low blood sugar for five hours and I couldn’t reach him, couldn’t wake him…almost…when he had mono and his body was struggling to fight…almost…

When I am in that worst-case moment, I cannot allow myself to fall. I know that the decisions I make are keeping him alive and I better not lose myself. Turn off the emotions. Clear my mind of the what if scenarios and focus. Keep my head clear and make the decisions. Watch. Wait. Pray.

And then, he recovers. He smiles and laughs. And so do I. We put that bad day behind us and keep moving through life. I don’t let my emotions show. I hold steady so that he holds steady. He’s recovered. Moved on.

But, where he actually moves on, I am only acting. Away from him, I try to breathe. Now, on the other side, when I know he is safe I allow myself to feel. Feel the emotions and allow myself to view what happened, now from a safe distance. I allow the tears to flow.

It can take me days, sometimes weeks, to absorb all that has happened. Sometimes I can recover. And sometimes, it’s too much. The tears flow but I feel no relief. I feel empty. The rabbit hole appears and I am on its edge. It’s waiting, in case I need to fall. And I do. I fall in.

I think about what happened and what could have happened. I examine the details. I go through every tunnel, every alternative, every ending. It consumes me. It’s exhausting. I allow Fear to sit beside me. I welcome Fear, because for so long I have pushed it aside and I know I need to feel it. It’s the only way to get Fear to subside, and to take its power away. Recognize it. Feel it. Become overwhelmed by it.

Falling isn’t bad. Falling isn’t weakness.

Falling allows you to empty your mind of the worst case scenarios. Falling turns our worst fears into experiences. Falling gives you permission to feel the worst feelings.

Fall. Let Fear surround you. Fall deep and hard. Review the tiniest of details, then fall deeper. Fall…but always be sure you can climb out.

Falling helps you heal.

Falling allows you to manage the Fear.

Falling turns into gratitude.

Start climbing out. The tears stop flowing. Deep breaths fill my lungs with strength. I made it through. Gratitude. He is still here. He made it through. He is okay. We are ok.

I climb out. I refocus on my current surroundings. I recognize where my journey into the rabbit hole took me, and I give myself time to come back to reality. I’m exhausted. The hollow part of my chest slowly refills. I did it. I went down into the deep end of my emotions and I made it back up. The rabbit hole strengthened me. Gratitude. More deep breaths. I rest. I eat some chocolate.

I’m sharing this with you because right now life is hard. COVID, civil unrest, worldwide uncertainty, extreme political division, and such noise. It’s deafening, isn’t it? I think many of us are on the edge of a rabbit hole, filled with fear and anxiety.

So, what do you do? Do you ignore fear and anxiety? Do you raise your voice to be louder than the noise? Do you ignore your surroundings and only focus on the positives? Does it work for you? Or do you still feel empty and uncertain?

Do you ever think about falling? Do you ever run through the worst-case scenarios in your life? Do you ever allow yourself to feel all of your emotions, even the scary ones?

It has taken time and therapy for me to learn how to fall, how to recognize Fear and the anxieties it brings me. I still have to practice climbing out of the rabbit hole, but it’s worth it for me. By confronting my Fear, I find I have more control over my emotions. I am able to move on. I am able to make the most of those good days, to smile and to laugh. And when a bad day comes, I know I can make it through because I’ve done it before. And if it’s too hard, that’s ok too. I know the rabbit hole is there if I need it, to help me quiet my Fears, find my strength and be grateful for the life we have.


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