Sunday, July 31, 2011

Letting Go of Our Fears

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7
I am a worrier. I've said it before, and doubtless, I will say it again. That's why I have committed this verse to memory so that when troubles in life begin to overwhelm me, I can take comfort knowing that God offers peace if we but ask Him for it.

Right now I find myself saying this verse to myself a lot because in a little over six weeks, I will be undergoing surgery to have my thyroid removed. Ever since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism during my first pregnancy, I have taken medication to help my thyroid function properly. Still, even with medication, I developed some nodules on the lobes of my thyroid, one of which I had biopsied last year. The result was indeterminate. Translation: there is a 30% chance of malignancy. That's a pretty small risk, I know, but the doctor advised me {i.e. scared me} that my thyroid needs to be removed to minimize any risk of cancer developing.

That was last July. Now, a year later and after much procrastination, delaying, and avoiding, I have finally agreed to the thyroidectomy that my doctor had originally recommended. Needless to say, I have been facing a little--no, a lot of--anxiety.

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."
Psalm 9:9-10

Apparently having your thyroid removed is pretty common, but that does very little to minimize my worries. In the book I have been reading, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Dr. Meg Meeker spends a chapter addressing fears {because, apparently, we moms have a lot of anxiety} and presents three ways to deal directly with our fears. While Meeker does not take a faith-based approach to letting go of fears, she does make some excellent psychological, yet practical, suggestions that I am employing, along with time in prayer and meditation.

1. Clarify the fear. What am I really worried about?
Well, besides not having a thyroid to regulate my metabolism, among other things, there's...
  • Surgery and the risk of complications that inevitably arise when anesthesia is used.
  • Possible permanent loss of my voice.
  • How surgery will affect my still nursing baby.
  • Recovering and taking care of my family.
  • The oh-so-lovely scar that I will have and the inevitable self-consciousness that will accompany it.
  • My quality of life after my thyroid is removed since I will have to take a synthetic hormone for the rest of my life.
  • Worst case scenario: a slip of the scalpel and a severed carotid artery {translation: possible loss of life}. I'm not trying to be dramatic, just presenting every fear that has entered my mind.
"He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."
Psalm 91:4
2. Start facing your demons: Confide in those closest to you.
Talk about what you are confronting and ask for help. This is the really hard part for me because I am very good at avoidance: I don't like to talk or even think about what I'm afraid of, in hopes that it will just disappear. But, Meeker says, if we talk about what worries us and imagine the worst case scenario, then we take control of the fear and diffuse its power to control us.

My husband is the only one with whom I have shared my fears about this upcoming surgery. I don't like people to worry about me. But I agree that talking about what you're going through definitely alleviates some of your anxieties about it, especially when you confide in loving, supportive, and encouraging people. My plan this week is to tackle head on what is really bothering me, what is creating that knot in my stomach, and to work on untying it for good. Of course that will mean sharing my fears with others.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song."
Psalm 28:7
3. Desensitize, step-by-step.
Basically, Meeker says, you need to face your fear over and over so that you are "forced to live through a series of 'what-ifs' regarding [your] anxiety" (192). She says you need to declare war on your fears.

For me, that means mentally preparing myself for the events leading up to and following the surgery including possible problems that may arise. I need to make plans for who will keep my children during and after the surgery; I need to prepare some meals for afterwards when I don't feel like cooking; I need to pump and freeze some milk for the baby; etc. Basically, I need to have a plan in place and to begin implementing it.

Just by writing this down, I feel empowered. By being proactive instead of avoiding the inevitable yet still worrying about it, I am gaining some control over what I thought I had no control over, and that comes as a relief to me.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

Beyond Meeker's 3 Steps...
While Meeker makes some great suggestions for dealing with fears, as a Christian, I know that ultimately only God is in control of the events in my life. No matter how much I clarify and talk about my fears and make plans to overcome them, I must submit my will to my Father. He has a perfect plan. Nothing that I do will change that plan. Still, by taking steps to address my fears and face them head-on, I know many of my anxieties will be minimized.

My daily prayer is for God's will to be done no matter what and for courage and perseverance to get me through it.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Proverbs 19:21
What are you worrying about today? I want to encourage you to take it to the Lord in prayer.
This post is linked to A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.

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