Monday, January 3, 2011

Fear vs Faith

“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul” ~ G.K. Chesterton

…or at least some drastic changes to this old soul are in order for me in 2011.

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear? So much so that it insidiously becomes a shadowy presence beneath your waking, breathing everyday life?

It felt like fear flew out of an azure blue sky and sunk it’s talons deep into my mind and body over two decades ago. It has not let go. Even though I have fought it hard.

Have you ever had your life change overnight? Like a runaway train slam into you? I never knew it was possible until it happened to me.

I was an energetic, enthusiastic 25-year-old who was thriving in my university film & television courses, enjoying my jobs in two campus libraries and loving my church involvement. Things were opening up for me – jobs in the Vancouver film industry, fabulous friendships, new spiritual insights. Life was exciting!

In a day I went from full tilt to flat in bed. I literally didn’t know what hit me. I went from getting far too little sleep, to being unable to lift my head off the pillow. I loved my film work and was willing to take on any project no matter how rushed my schedule was ― now I could barely walk to the bathroom, dizziness, nausea and a skyrocketing heart rate forcing me to stumble back to bed soaked in sweat.

What happened? A car accident would be understandable. A case of the Ebola virus could at least be diagnosed. But day after day, my energy seeped invisibly out of every pore in my body. Fear quickly filled its placen. When lights and sounds overwhelmed me, panic attacks hit. When doctors found the beginnings of MS and paralysis, wave after wave of fear coursed through my body.

Six years and 40 doctors later, I finally got some answers. A very severe case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I was bed ridden for years. There was no understanding of the disease in the mid to late 1980s, no cure, no idea what to do. But the panic attacks that accompanied my weakened state had already taught me how fear could devastate my body. And it did. Over and over again.

You can read a detailed version of my story here:

So much more is known and understood now and I have an exceptional doctor here in Calgary. I am doing much better, most days. But as I recently tried to update my personal story, the fear returned.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he already understood this well. He not only entered politics during the depths of the Great Depression, he did it paralyzed from the waist down due to Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Fearing fear itself is the worst kind of terror. So what could be the cure?
I don’t give in easily. My motto echoes Bruce Cockburn’s lyrics, “kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight,” so I fought back. Though I denied fear’s hold on me, it returned, digging in deeper. When I pushed it to the sidelines, it never failed to flaunt it’s presence in my face.  I even battled it with stubbornness, pushing myself beyond my physical limits ― just to have it thumb it’s nose at me as I lay crashed in bed. Drugs dull the knife edge and allow me to imagine those talons loosening their grip, but this only lasts a few hours. And I will not succumb to addiction.

What can release the grip of fear on my life? What had I not tried?

Over Christmas I had the privilege of hearing my niece speak at a church service. She and her husband are involved with YWAM and just back from Australia with their 16-month old son. She told the congregation how fear had gripped her when her newborn son was found to have a serious heart problem. She could not hold him or comfort him the way she wanted to. He underwent surgery before he was two weeks old. It was terrifying and she had nightmares for months. She lost her trust in God to protect him and it affected everything. As she talked about her journey ― what helped her trust again and relinquish her fears, I realized I needed to re-think this area of my life as well. It was time to pick up the sword again.

It took me until New Year’s Day to realize that sword was love. Can love cast out fear?

I’ll be back on Thursday with my plan for this year and my story of a lifelong friend that can take love the distance. This friendship may just be the determining factor in helping me face this hurdle and go the distance.


  1. Fear has been my constant companion for most of my life - but I never realized how much until the last few years. It has been so much a part of our generational line that it seemed 'normal'. Sometimes it feels like I feel it more these days... but I think it's just that I'm becoming more aware of it. That awareness brings a desire to do something about it. I don't want to be captive to it any longer. Life is short - too short and too good to let it slip away through the fingers of fear. But maybe our battle with it - the process of our coming into alignment with Love - is a part of what develops our character and grows us up.

  2. Joy - you are so right, life is too precious to let it slip through the fingers of fear. I think that becoming aware of our fears is step one - then aligning ourselves with Love is next. It's not an easy process and yes, it develops our character and grows us up. It's crazy that we are in the process of "growing up" our whole life and even then it's still not complete :)