Strength in the Midst of Fear

I love it when God repeats a message because I know he’s preparing me or showing me a way. The other day at church my pastor talked about Jacobs son Joseph and the obstacles and trials he faced on his road to becoming what God designed him to be.

When Pastor Tim asked the congregation their favorite movie, that they can watch over and over, lots of people mentioned Lord of the Rings. Then when he asked why this movie is loved by so many people, I said “because we want to see the process of someone going through a challenge, and how they persevere and eventual triumph” (maybe not that eloquently but basically the same thing).

The next day I was listening to a meditation on the daily calm and the topic was on the hero’s journey. How every successful story starts with the main character having good times, then something tragic happens to them or someone they love. This is when they have to make the decision to go on a quest or adventure which will cause great struggle or pain. At the pinnacle of this story the character has to make a life altering decision, they could push through or give up. When they push through they make it to the other side, achieving their goal and there’s a happy ending. We all love a good happy ending.

All Disney stories use this method, along with, Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, pretty much any adventure movie you can think of. We love these stories because we can usually relate to them. We relate to the struggle, to working so hard, getting frustrated and wanting to give up. We root for them to push past their fear and pain to obtain their goals. But for some reason, in our own lives we are sometimes afraid to do the same.

I wonder what it is that causes us to be such wimps? Other cultures come to America and they work hard, never give up and achieve great things. They go around and call us lazy. But are we really lazy? We have no problem working hard for others, make other people and corporations millions and billions a year. But when it comes to our own happiness and dreams, we put them on the shelf and say “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be”. We live lives of complacency and fear. We are afraid of change, afraid to grow, afraid of pain, afraid of struggle, even afraid of being afraid. We have 1 million excuses as to why we CAN’T do something. How did we become such whiny little babies?

This is not to say that we can’t have moments of complaining or feeling sorry for ourselves. I think that is perfectly normal. The opposite of complaining is stuffing down your feelings and pretending everything is ok. This behavior is just as destructive as being a habitual complainer. I think where your power comes into play is allowing yourself to be mad, sad, scared or frustrated but then taking action to change the situation in any way you can.

Ever since I was a little kid, I had this fire deep inside me that just knew I could obtain whatever I wanted. I also hated being afraid and got frustrated when fear took control over me. Now that’s not to say that I got everything I wanted or was never afraid. I still won’t watch horror movies and I like to sleep with a night light, but I’m also an empath and can see and sense things so there’s probably a good and logical reason for that.

I remember when I was little living in our home in Paterson, NJ, there was an apartment upstairs from our house that my parents rented out. From the back of the house there were stairs leading up to the second floor porch. I’m afraid of heights, so much so that when I was young my whole body will shake uncontrollably. I decided at some point that being debilitatingly afraid of heights no longer served me. I decided I was going to conquer those stairs. Every so often, I would take a few steps up the staircase and once it became too much I would stop. With each step, I grasped onto the railing as if my life depending on it. Some days I even just scooted step by step on my butt because my legs were shaking too badly. Eventually I made it all the way up to the top of the second floor back porch. Then the next goal was to stand up and look out the porch window. I don’t remember how long it took, maybe the summer, but I did it. I did it and I was so proud of myself. I felt like if I could achieve that, I could achieve anything.

In my life I’ve had so many great examples of me pushing past fear, I’m sure you do as well. But I also have plenty of examples of where fear totally took over my life and cause me to be stuck in an unhappy situation. For example, I currently have major panic attacks that causes me to no longer be able to drive on a highway. I never had panic attacks and anxiety until my mom passed away 15 years ago. It first started out very innocuous, with a strange sensation of the car tugging. Each year I noticed becoming more and more anxious while driving on the highway. Eventually, I stopped taking major interstates and just went on smaller highways. Then those highways became too much, to the point where I stopped taking highways all together. The last time I drove on a highway was probably 11 years ago when I was on my way home from work (which is only a 25 minute drive). While on the highway, I started to disassociate and felt a tingling sensation in my head along with sweat and I saw stars. Immediately after that I started to black out. Luckily I was able to pull over onto the shoulder before that happened. It freaked me out so bad, I was afraid I was going to kill myself or someone else.

Since that day, I only drive back roads to where I need to go. It’s limited me so much and I hate it but the fear of blacking out on the highway is too great to risk it. Being a person who used to drive everywhere and who loved to take a 5 hour road trip for the weekend, it’s been a hard adjustment. The one bright side is that I’ve kept the panic from getting worse. At one point I was too afraid to drive on any multilane roads and bridges but I refused to lose my ability to drive all together. There are still some bridges I avoid if I can but I’ve learned some key breathing techniques to help me be able to drive the majority of the time. The worse drive for me is driving to a location I’ve never been to before. This is because I don’t know what the roads are like and even though I can avoid highways on google maps, it doesn’t know about the bridges and other multilane roads that my mind won’t allow me to traverse.

I think my anxiety and panic was at it’s peak while I was with my kids’ father going through kidney failure. I knew pretty early on that we weren’t compatible but I stayed out of fear and loyalty (there was also a ton of gaslighting going on in the relationship). I also was diagnosed with kidney disease after the birth of my daughter (who is now 7). After my mom died, I was so afraid of falling into the same trap of neglecting my goals and dreams to take care of others. My brother has autism and my mom basically stayed with my dad because she was afraid to leave and be a single mom with a special needs child. She spent her life filled with sadness and regret. She love us deeply but knew she was capable of so much more. She felt like every time she tried to do something, she would hit insurmountable obstacles that would dead end her dreams.

I don’t know if it was that deep fear that manifested my journey or if that was just my path anyway. After 9-10 years of being in the relationship with G, I realized I was indeed repeating that same pattern. I was sacrificing my happiness and dreams to be with a person who didn’t even like me. I remember one day asking him if he thought we were soulmates and he quickly and clearly said “No”. Why was I with and being loyal to someone who spent no time with me, put me down every chance he got, made me feel like I was always the problem and didn’t think we were soulmates. It’s kinda silly seeing that now, how could I think someone who treated me like that would think we were soulmates. In my defense, I thought he was behaving that way because he lost both his parents to cancer within the first 3 years of our relationship. He was very kind and supportive and loving before that. So I wanted to support him and be there for him while he healed from their passing. Not realizing that he had no intention on healing or getting help but enjoyed wallowing in self pity, blaming others for his misfortune and burned every bridge he had with friends and family. But once I realized that he didn’t see m as his soulmate, it was the light under my ass I needed to know I was spending energy and love and patience on someone who was just there for convenience and now because they actually cared and loved me. Even knowing this it still took another 3 years to get the strength and courage to leave. At that point I was 40 lbs underweight, kidney function at 10% and just struggling to stay alive. Funny thing is my loss of weight had nothing to do with the kidney disease and everything to do with being with a person who slowly tore me down emotionally.

Jan 2020 and July 2022

Once I gather enough strength to fight for my life and my happiness things quickly began to change for the better. I met the love of my life and my soulmate, Mark. I still can’t believe he saw something in me in 2020 while I was so underweight and sickly. I was so afraid to share with him the fact that I was in end stage renal failure but I felt the tug to be totally honest. I’m so glad I did because this crazy person who only knew me for a few short months, decided he was going to get tested to see if he was a match. This stranger was willing to donate his kidney to me while the father of my children whom I had dated for 13 years, never offered. Low and behold he was a match! I was originally working with Penn Medicine in Philly but they didn’t want him to donate to me, but do an advance donation. That process made no sense to me because if we were a match why would I gamble a perfectly good kidney. I wasn’t on dialysis and didn’t want to do dialysis. I actually kept stalling and my nephrologist kept looking at me and said when you feel like you are too sick we can start the process. My good friend, who battled kidney disease for decades until she lost her battle in July, gave me the best advice based on her circumstances. Her advice may not be good for everyone but it worked for me, I didn’t get the surgery for dialysis and I didn’t agree to the advance donation. Instead because I started a new job in December 2020, I was now eligible to have the surgery closer to home with a hospital that didn’t participate in that program, We had our surgeries July 28 2021 and it’s been over a year and my numbers are perfect. By following my dreams and happiness, not only was I able to meet, fall in love and get married to an amazing man but also able to divert dialysis and get a kidney transplant.

After transplant surgery and our wedding day

So I guess you can say that was my hero’s journey, my Disney princess story. I had a nice and relatively easy life then tragedy (my mother’s sudden death), spiraling me into the abyss of darkness. Wandering the dessert for 13 years before I got enough courage to pull myself out of the abyss and fight for my life and happiness. I then found my prince and we got married and lived happily ever after….at least that’s how the movie version would end. But as we all know, life isn’t that easy.

So the reason why my pastor’s teaching and the calm app’s message struck me so much is because my 11 year old son was just diagnosed with autism. Something I had felt he had since he was little, because my brother has autism I knew some of the signs. I would always call my son (Kymani) my brother (Chey) and vise versa. His dad refused to get him tested and since it hadn’t really affected his schooling I just went with the flow. The last few years with all the changes with the pandemic and our family life, his triggers have been off the chain and has severely affecting his time in school. Having him diagnosed is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because now I know what I’ve felt this whole time was right. A curse because I know how much my mom struggled getting my brother the help he needed to be successful. I’ve already talked about my fear of walking in my mom’s shoes so that’s always in the back of my head. The great thing is that I have an amazing support system in my husband and I know that we will be able to take this hero’s journey together. Knowing that gives me great comfort. As the quote at the beginning of this blog says ” Obstacles don’t block the path, they are the path”. I believe everything happens in divine timing and I’m much better prepared for this quest than I would have been 2 years ago, so LET”S GO, We GOT THIS!

3 responses to “Strength in the Midst of Fear”

  1. Loved the story! Hearing you climb the stairs, sometimes even on your butt, was inspiring. Courageous young child! And courageous woman…


  2. Beautiful story! Loved how this was written! A lot of valid comparisons and realities. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the comment 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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