Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to Conquer Fear

I've kind of been holding out on you guys. My hip saga has continued and I actually have scheduled the surgery. I thought the best way to update you might be to use my situation to help you think about any scary situations you may be facing. It's the season to think about scary things, right? And we're all in this life together.

We all have times when we’re worried about things. Hell, we all have times when we are downright afraid. Fear is the great enthusiasm destroyer. If we want to burn with passion, we have to conquer fear. But how?

I’m going to use the hip surgery as an example. You can substitute whatever you are afraid of (asking for a raise, confronting a problem employee, a health issue, a financial issue, a relationship issue – whatever it is that’s stealing your joy).

As you guys know, I have severe arthritis in my right hip. It’s gotten to the point that it’s bad enough to keep me from doing the things I want to do. We’re not talking things like running; we’re talking things like walking down the streets of Chicago pain free. I was limping on my way to the Chocolate Tour!

They surgery is at least two nights in the hospital and weeks of recovery. It scares me. Let me mention here that it doesn’t matter what other people think – if something scares you, it scares you. And you have to deal with it.

Okay, here we go.

1.) Admit it and understand it. We’re supposed to be tough in America. It’s hard to admit that you’re scared. It makes other people nervous and uncomfortable. I’m not saying you have to rent a billboard, but you do have to admit it to yourself. Once you admit it, you have to really understand it. Okay – here’s what I’m afraid of. I’ve never spent a night in the hospital before – it scares me. I’ll be completely at the mercy of strangers. I’ll be knocked out and in pain – utterly vulnerable. Also, I’m going through this alone. I’m not married, am not dating anyone, have no kids, my Mom passed away, and my father isn’t coming within 100 miles of a hospital during flu season. And let’s face it, surgery is dangerous, something could go wrong. I could die.

Who would carry on my chocolate blog?

2.) Knowledge is power. Okay, let’s be honest here. What I’m scared of is the unknown. I don’t know what the heck is going to happen and it is terrifying. So I have talked with people who have had hip surgery – the consensus is that the only thing they regret is not having it sooner. I went to a pre-operative class. I’ve been asking all kinds of questions and reading everything I can find. The more I know about it, the less afraid I am. I realize a lot of people have done this. I feel a small bit of control.

3.) Slap yourself and get rational. Yeah, yeah, it’s sad that I’m alone. I wish I had a husband or boyfriend to be by my side and hold my hand. But the reality is that the last two guys I dated would probably be spending more time trying to hook up with the nurses than comforting me. And I love my friends to death, but I’d really rather see them when we can celebrate my recovery than when I’m high on drugs and look like the angel of death. It will be best for me if I AM alone during this so I can rest and get the hell out of the hospital! Also my surgeon did a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. I’ll be at Duke Hospital. I’ll be in good hands. And if I die? Well, what will I care? I’ll be dead! At least I’ll know I had one hell of a life!

4.) See the sliver lining. I’ll be pain free – can there be a better goal? Also they just called today and asked if I’d be part of a clinical study about the biomechanics of hip replacement. I’ll get to go to the College of Sports Medicine at Duke and see how I’m doing before (with the old hip) and after (with the new hip). I’ll contribute to science! How cool! I’ll have great new stories for my speeches. And I’m going to start telling people I’m bionic. Or at least I’m made of titanium like the Terminator.

5.) Pay attention to the alternative. If you let your fear rule you, what will the consequences be? I could cancel the surgery. They gave me a cortisone shot and the pain has really decreased. Maybe I could make it another 6 months or a year. Yeah, maybe so. But I’ll never be younger and stronger than I am now. And if I back down now, I might even be more scared next time. And do I want to keep living in pain? I don’t want to plan another big trip because I’m afraid I’d be overseas and the pain would come back. The hell with that! One of the things my surgeon said was that if you are making life choices based on your hip pain, it’s time to get a new hip. How long will you let fear steal your joy?

6.) It will make you stronger. Nietzsche was right on this one. If I make it through this – one of my greatest fears has been facing a health crisis alone – I can make it through anything. I will no longer feel that I have to have a man to lean on. I will know that I, myself, can get through anything that life can throw at me and I will NEVER let myself down. Think about your fear – if you can get through it, won’t you be stronger? Won’t you grow and discover who you really are?

Fear can make you stronger or bring you to your knees – you get to decide. Use these tips to help you through. You know what I’m going to say right before they put me under? “I’ll be back.” With the Austrian accent.


jeff said...

Denise, I think you should also admit to yourself how tough you are. I think you'll be oaky, too.

A friend of mine always said, when a phone conversation was about troubling or painful issues: "I'll be squeezing the phone tight for ya."

I believe all your readers and friends will be squeezing their keyboards tight, and hoping for a speedy recovery.


Denise Ryan said...

Aw Jeff, you are the best!!!! Thanks for making my day!!

KiddoKare1 said...

Oh man, I'm sorry you are still having trouble with your hip and glad you're having the surgery. I'll be praying for you and sending you tons of get well wishes.

d j / s p l i t said...


that was awesome, and very well said. I'm feelin' ya!


David R. Lindquist said...

Denise, I hear your every word and you are spot-on! I spent EIGHT days in the most expensive "hotel" in town, two of them in ICU. The one thing I can tell you is that there are a lot of people at those "hotels" who are very good at mending the psyche as well as the body. I know that your natural good cheer and humor will supercharge that psyche medicine and you'll enjoy those silver linings faster than you know. You will ROCK!

diane said...

Jeff is right. We're all here for you & damn it, we're expecting you back! and better than ever!! Besides, if you give us some kind of date, there might be care packages in it for ya ;)

Denise Ryan said...

You all are the BEST!!! David - holy smokes!!! You gotta tell me what the heck happened! But I'm so glad to hear good reviews!! I'll give you guys a date and details update soon. Diane - I have a bag of dark Reeses' cups with your name on it!! Do you like dark chocolate and mint too?

Thanks you all for all your support AND for reading this crazy blog!!! I love you!!!

diane said...

I love dark chocolate with just about anything! :) Besides, if I can go through a colonoscopy and an appendectomy within 8months, this should be easy for you. Just imagine my fun...

Steve Dawson said...

All the best for the surgery, Denise... we're all rooting for you here at Walkers Shortbread!

Steve Dawson

Denise Ryan said...

Hey Steve!! Thanks so much for the wishes and for the comment!! And I ADORE Walker's! I think I should stock up now for the surgery!!!

stampylisa said...

my friend Kristen had hip replacement last Jan and she also said she wished she hadn't waited. However, the hip she got is the newest shiniest titanium and she's doing fabulous ever since her rehab finished. If you want to talk with her, get in touch w/me

Kris, in New England said...

OK I'm new and late to this party (came here thru Sweet Tea and Livermush).

I had hip replacement surgery on Feburary 23, 2009. To correct Congenital Hip Dysplasia - so yes, I am a large dog.

I know you've talked to others who have had this surgery. But I am happy to be a fountain of information for you - I blogged about my entire experience from diagnosis to fully recovery and beyond.

It is here: My German Shepard Project. TONS of info about the recovery, P.T. and what life is like now.

Not much about the hospital chiefly because I don't remember it. Drugs will do that to you and that's an OK thing. It went by very quickly, I can say that. And like you, I had never been in the hospital before that.

And yes, you will be SO glad you had it done. The pain you hae now - and MAN do I know that pain only too well - will be gone. Poof!

Well, not quite "poof" but pretty damn close. Modern chemicals left me with ZERO surgical pain - which even 8 months later still wows me. I had serious muscle issues that made P.T a bit of a challenge but I was focused and determined for the best possible outcome.

And I have it - a beyond-normal life that no longer includes worries about "what can Kris do today".

There is a Contact Me link at the site - please feel free to email me with any questions.

Denise Ryan said...

Kris - thanks so much!!!! I'm going to check out the posting right now. I really, really apreciate you taking the time to write!!!

Denise Ryan said...

Stampylisa - thanks so much!! It's hard to believe how many of us are out there! It's kind of scary - we're half human/half titanium!! Thanks for the offer and for the cooment - and love, love, love the title of your blog!!