Living with fear – by Helen May


In my last blog, I wrote about some of the risks I have taken in my life and how I believe calculated risks are important. I may have come across rather blasé about the risks: that I just shrug my shoulders and get on with it; that I enjoy taking risks; and I don’t worry about them. This is not true. I spend a lot of my life worrying and being afraid. Not to the extent that I am paralysed with fear and that it stops me living or moving forward. But it is always there.

To give you an example, I am often afraid when I climb. Most of my climbing is indoors in a climbing gym (which was once a church). This feels like a relatively safe environment compared to being outdoors in the wind and rain where there are not many other people around, where no one has planned the climbing route to ensure there are safe places to stop to clip into the rocks. Although, I still get scared in an indoor climbing gym. I may be protected from the elements and surrounded by people who can call an ambulance at seconds notice, but that doesn’t stop my knees from shaking as I cling to a tiny hold with two fingers (or one if I am unlucky) of my left hand as I lean backwards and stretch on my tip-toes to reach the next hold for my right hand, as I feel the strength in my left arm starting to fade.

If I miss the next hold, I will probably fall about a metre and miss the floor by two or three metres. I will be shaken but I will be lowered down to the ground, laugh with my climbing buddies and not notice any bruises as I take the rope to support them on their next climb.

Other times, my fear affects me in a different way: when I am invited to an interview for a new job, I worry whether I will be able to answer all their questions, whether my CV has mis-led them and they are expecting more from me than I can do; whether my diabetes will behave itself or whether I will have to ask for a break as I test and top up with dextrose. And if any of these things happen I will … look stupid. As I write it down, I do not understand why I am so worried to fail, but it is enough to keep me awake the night before.

With these two examples, I deal with fear physically (shaking) or mentally (not sleeping). There is a third way: ignorance. I ignore the problem; I think it will not happen to me; I believe it is only likely to happen to people who make silly decisions; or lose control; or are just unluckier than I am.

Sometimes, I wonder whether this last option is something I do with diabetes. I tell myself I will not suffer from any complications because I walk an average of over 7,000 steps a day (according to the exercise tracker I have been wearing on my wrist for the past month) and often further, I don’t drink alcohol every night, I eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day and don’t eat red meat. I approximate carbs every meal. I take blood glucose readings every day and worry if the reading is more than 7mmol/l. So I will not suffer from any diabetes complications – that happens to other people.

Or perhaps, the reason I ignore the risk is because the fear will be too much. Or perhaps I don’t totally ignore it: I do as much as I can without the fear taking over my life.

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