Learning NOT to be Afraid

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React with Calm

Last night Frederick, Maryland, experienced a violent thunderstorm. As I remove my cochlear implant at night to sleep, you might wonder how I came to this knowledge? Well… I’m deaf, but I’m not blind. Our bedroom was lit up with light again and again with what seemed like only seconds between strikes. I reached over and tapped my husband and mumbled out, “Lightning”. I think he said something in response, but in the dark I could only guess that it was something along the lines of “no kidding?”

Chloe, my assistance dog, sleeps in her bed right next to me. She acts as my alarm clock in the morning (although there are days I wish she had a snooze button), so her proximity is key. During the storm, I could see from the light bursting into the room that she was asleep on her bed. Not only was she ASLEEP, but she was laying on her back belly up. This is her “I’m very, very relaxed” position. The storm was so violent, the hair on my arm was standing straight up, and eventually our power was knocked out. Chloe slept through it all.

Many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms. I did not know Chloe when she was a puppy but from what I know of Fidos For Freedom, they make certain their puppy raisers know how to use calming signals to help dogs feel more relaxed in stressful situations. Dogs are many times conditioned to be afraid of thunderstorms. Sure, they have terrific hearing and startle at the sound of thunder. However saying, “poor dear” and babying them when they appear afraid will only condition them to continue to feel fear.

Arachnophobia

I have been afraid of spiders as long as I can remember. I have some “stories” to tell, but it would take several boring posts to relay them all. I can’t leave out the one when I almost jumped out of a moving vehicle 7 months pregnant because a spider was crawling up the windshield! Or the time I walked through a spider web and went screaming into the woods only to careen into a tall oak? Yup… I have plenty of spider stories. A post where I discuss it further can be found here.

I have learned in my 43-years of “living”, that if I try to react in a calm way towards things that frighten me, I will be much better off. About a year ago, I caught sight of a spider flying through the air from the top of our old refrigerator to land in the laundry room sink. I screamed one short squeal, and then stood and pointed. My two teens and husband came running to see what had caused me to scream. All I could do was point to the sink. My husband peered into the sink while I attempted to keep my bladder from emptying. As I still was unable to do anything more than point, he turned on the faucet. A silver-dollar-sized, black hairy spider came crawling up out of the drain.

Holy, 8-legged FREAK, Batman!” yelled my husband who watched a lot of old superhero t.v. shows.

Over time, I have learned to react with CALM so that I will not be so afraid (and eliminate the possibility of injury). I can’t go to Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and enter their “creepy crawlies” building to oooh and ahhh over spiders big enough to suck the brains out of your head. However, I can now look at a spider and scoop him up and toss him outside, or find an old shoe if the pathway to the door seems like a “galaxy far, far away”. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, and I am far less arachnophobic now compared to where I was.

Why Learn?

Life is short. There are a number of very scary things in life. Where I have the will and the power to do so, I have chosen to be more calm and face my fears.

I don’t fear death. I am secure in where I’ll be one second after my last breath.

I don’t fear deafness and disability. I have found support, help and satisfaction in my life.

I don’t fear growing older. The longer I live, the better I like myself.

I don’t fear financial security. God has seen my family and I through tough times already.

I don’t fear spiders. Unless they are on my person.

I don’t fear thunderstorms. I’m “belly up” in blissful ignorance of a storm overhead.

Don’t let fear shorten your life. It will if you let it.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

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2 thoughts on “Learning NOT to be Afraid

  1. Denise, you write the most wonderful posts! I, too, don’t like spiders but LOVE thunderstorms. However, my dog, Riga, does not. I should learn to calm her when she is afraid!

    And, like you, I don’t mind my age….I like “me,” too! And would not go back to my 20’s or 30’s!

    Take care and be blessed!

  2. Ditto to what Laurie wrote! I just love your blog. Gerry and I envision another dog sometime in our future, and we would love to know how to teach it to be like Chloe in thunderstorms. Can you share more?

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