At 52, I Learned What Real Fear Is

I thought I knew what fear was. Turns out I didn’t know the difference between a common, garden-variety fear and a real nightmare until I was 52 years old. That’s when my wife Martha was told she “may” have Alzheimer’s disease. I say “may” because this disease can only be diagnosed by autopsy. So there we were, as I describe in my forthcoming book A Path Revealed—looking into an unknown future with no solutions. 

I thought nothing else could shock me after that news. But I was wrong. Almost two years later I was forced to take Martha’s car keys away. As she stormed upstairs crying, I cried to myself, I didn’t just take her keys away—I cut her heart out. 

I learned soon enough that a life crisis, like an earthquake, can bring shock upon shock of fear. And that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to prepare for them. Another aftershock occurred one morning two years after the key incident. 

I was fixing breakfast when I heard a thud! overhead. I rushed up the steps to find Martha in a full seizure, her body stiff and shaking, and her face frozen like that in the painting The Scream. This was the first time I’d seen anyone, let alone my wife, overcome by a seizure.   

Maybe you too have awakened from a nightmare only to discover that it was not a nightmare at all—it was real. If you have, then we have something in common. 

You may already have learned what I’m still learning about fear and anxiety. Do I fight fear? Or do I give in to it? Or do I just ignore it? None of these options worked for me. If I fought fear, I lost. And if I gave in to fear, or ignored it, I also lost.

I talk more about learning to confront this kind of fear here.  

How have you learned to deal with anxiety and fear? If you’d like to share, please do so at #APathRevealed. Or email me at (Subject line: My Story).

Thanks, Carlen

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