If you suffer from a chronic illness or even an incurable disease as I do, one of your worst nightmares has probably become true. It will not only bring suffering and pain, but also death anxiety. Some fears are healthy, others unhealthy. They might concern the evitable or the inevitable. I would like to take a closer look at our fears.
“Something could happen”
In my eyes, this fear is unhealthy. It is true that something could always happen to me. I guess I am not fearing unspecific catastrophes any less than other people do. However, my thoughts are not focusing on potential threats all the time.
I must make some compromises in life because of my chronic diseases. Many things are evitable and I take them into account. I know my disease will get worse eventually. I feel obliged to seek the joy of the moment, as I do not want to run away from life as such.
“I might not have enough time”
I consider this fear unhealthy, because it is very vague. You never know how much time you really have. “Enough” is also difficult to define. I wouldn’t expect the worst; I am too optimistic or maybe even realistic. When I was diagnosed my greatest fear was not being able to be there for my children when they were growing up. “Enough” would have been to stay alive for seeing them go off to college or even marry.
I still do not know how much time I have left. I am far more worried about the question how long I will be able to truly live my life the way I want to. I am compromising already – and there will be more confinements. One day, there will be enough constraints to reduce my life to something I cannot identify with anymore. This is what I am dreading.
I help myself by preparing: Instead of taking thousands of preventive health measures, I prepare by making good use of the quality time I still have.
“I might die”
I might not only die, I certainly will. I believe that it is an extremely healthy fear. It forces me to act in a reasonable and responsible way. It makes me cherish my time on earth. I think, by living the kind of life I really want to I will manage to have what is commonly called “a good death”.
So instead of falling into despair, I set out the conditions for the inevitable end. I have written a patient decree and a testament. I have read books about dying and keep myself informed about the latest trends in palliative care. I do not care about my funeral, though. I am not very sentimental about what happens after my death. Yet, death is too important for me to just let it happen to me.
Until now my way of coping has been quite successful. Death might still be too far away – I don’t know. I will keep you informed about future failures. Right now, my strategy is to plan for the worst (instead of expecting it) and to hope for the best.