Fear and Other Uninvited Guests

42f411c8-6c4c-4666-85b5-f534e71e3e63A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in the Saturday night session of Stake Conference, enjoying some quiet time away from the kiddies, when my husband’s phone vibrated. “It’s home,” he said, and slipped outside to take the call. We’d left our thirteen-year-old son in charge of himself and our ten-year-old daughter and our daughter’s friend, with instructions to call my husband’s cell phone if, heaven forbid, an emergency arose. The three kids were heading outside to play soccer in the twilight as we’d driven away and I was a little nervous about leaving them playing in the yard; so, while my husband was out in the hall on the phone, I felt a prickle of fear. Had the dog run away again? Had someone fallen out of a tree? I pictured skinned knees and bloody noses and broken arms. But then my husband didn’t come back, and, as the conference speaker droned on, I jumped from picturing possible mishaps to outright disasters. Had the call been so urgent that my husband had flung himself in the car and driven home? Was the house on fire? Had my daughter or her friend drowned in the river? I could almost hear the terrifying wail of sirens approaching my house as I worked myself up into full-blown panic mode. Finally, just as I was about to jump up and run out of the room myself, the speaker ended his talk and my husband slid quietly back into his seat.

“Where were you?” I hissed.

“I didn’t want to interrupt the speaker,” my husband said, “so I’ve been waiting out in the hall until the end of his talk.”

Turns out that the emergency was that my son wanted to watch Bolt but didn’t know where the DVD was. It took twenty minutes for my heart rate to return to normal.

Apparently, my son and I have different definitions of “emergency.” But there’s a bigger problem here: for as long as I can remember, no matter what the situation, I’ve always imagined the worst. Consider this entry from my diary, written in 1974, when I was thirteen: “They say we’re heading for another Depression this year. Also, World War III is going to start this year, so it looks like bad times ahead. The end is near, and we’re preparing.” (Sounds like some newspaper headlines I’ve read lately.) I think it’s safe to say that I was an anxious child and teenager. And then when I became a mother, and I was responsible for adorable new little people whose fates I couldn’t always control, fear became my constant companion.

I’ve tried to get a handle on this. Counseling has helped. Reading self-help books sometimes helps; Fear and Other Uninvited Guests is actually the title of a book I bought several years ago, by Harriet Lerner, in my quest to be less anxiety-ridden. Prayer and scripture study and drinking deeply from the counsel of current prophets help a lot. But sometimes–more often than I want to admit–when fear knocks at my door, I not only grudgingly let him in, I often invite him in, provide him with a cozy guest room and clean towels, offer him a cup of herbal tea while we sit down to chat.

Lately, with so much bad news encircling us, with a failing economy and natural disasters and wars all over the world and now a potential swine flu pandemic (seriously? swine flu?), not to mention the personal challenges each of us is facing, fear has taken up permanent residence in my house. And it’s becoming more difficult to replace fear with faith, as President Monson counseled in General Conference a few weeks ago. So, here’s what I want to know: Is fear one of your uninvited guests? If so, what do you think would help you be less afraid? If you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t struggle with fear, what helps you not be fearful? What valuable lessons did you learn in your youth about overcoming fear? And how can we help our children be less fearful, especially in these challenging times? Please share your thoughts, including favorite scriptures/counsel.

About Melissa M

(Advisory Board) grew up in Australia and California and now lives in Provo, Utah with her husband, four children, and their dog, Daisy. She served a mission in Peru and has a BA and MA in English from BYU. She loves reading, writing, and quiet afternoons. She does not love grocery shopping. Now that two of her children attend BYU and her youngest children are in high school and junior high, she is trying to adjust to this "emptying nest" stage and still wondering how it snuck up on her so fast.

47 thoughts on “Fear and Other Uninvited Guests

  1. I tend toward fear – I just learned a new way to handle it. Fear can only be created in our minds. It’s Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real. Replacing “I’m afraid…” with “I scare myself by thinking…” the fear is disabled. It really works. For example: “I’m afraid my kids will catch swine flu and die.” think “I scare myself by thinking my kids will catch swine flu and die.” This is from “A Healthy Dose of Motivation”

  2. I laughed at the description of you becoming more and more wound up with each passing moment in Stake Conference (sorry) only because that is exactly what I do to myself. The power went out in the middle of the night, and I lay in bed thinking of all the possible scenarios of why it would happen… I finally decided the cat must have crawled behind the wall, tripped on some wires and electrocuted himself, causing the power to go out. I won’t even tell you what horrible scenarios I create for my children; I have to keep the mantra in my head: Where faith resides, there can be no fear. It helps. Doesn’t always happen initially, but prayer and remembering faith are my first aid kit for that unwelcome guest (who shows up often). My brother has given me the middle name of 9-1-1 and the first name of Manic Panic. I feel your pain.

  3. Jenny, I believe you and I are kindred spirits! I think part of my problem is my overactive imagination–which is great when you’re trying to be a writer, but not so great when it’s midnight and your husband isn’t home from his business trip yet (or the power goes out in the middle of the night–love the electrocuted cat theory).
    Lanette, thank you for that tip! I am going to try it.How did you know that I’ve been thinking that exact thing–”I’m afraid my kids will catch swine flu and die”? You must be psychic!

  4. I’m not a fearful person, but my husband is Mr. Anxiety. (Klonopin, anyone?) I assume the best in a situation, and usually that’s what happens. I was just born that way, I guess.

    I do like to hypothesize about preparedness and everything associated with the end of the world, pandemics and other fun topics. I feel like if I imagine a situation, then I can better prepare for it. It becomes less scary to me that way.

    Mostly I just look at the scary state of things these days and look at it as the Lord trying to give everybody a big fat wake-up call to get their lives in order. So the question in, do I buckle down and study my scriptures more intently? Do I make prayer a much bigger part of my life? Do I try to make my behavior as Christ-like as possible?

    When it comes down to it, that’s what really matters. Being spiritually sound is the thing that is important whether faced with unemployment, a pandemic or an unrighteous spouse.

    The Holy Ghost is the thing that combats fear. So the more fearful a person, the more necessary the companionship of the Holy Ghost becomes. Maybe. Just a thought.

  5. fact is, bad stuff IS going to happen to all of us, eventually. but what was it president hinckly said? something like “nothing was ever so bad that complaining about it didn’t make it worse?” i’d add that worrying about it makes it worse.

    i’m a flight attendant. it’s actually one of the safest jobs out there. being in a plane is infinitely less risky than being in a car. but i deal with customers all the time who are truly freaked out by flying. my thoughts on the matter are this: my life won’t be one minute longer or shorter than god intends it to be. and i can spend my life worrying about what might happen, and then if it never does, i’ve spent a life worrying. or i can not worry and the bad thing might actually happen. if so, i’ll still just have to deal with it when it does. so why worry? it’s actually a cleverly disguised form of pride i think. something to do with control, and thinking we can manage things. it takes faith and trust in god out of our lives in some measure, and ignores the mandate “peace, be still.”

    bad stuff will happen. it’s all part of the plan. like Elder Worthlin counseled, “Come What May And Love It”. You WILL make it through anything that life throws at you if you lean on God. He’s promised us that. Batter up! :-)

  6. In this time of economic uncertainty and political turmoil, I often find myself getting angry and afraid.

    It helps to remember, though, that life is not like a cliff-hanger movie: we already know the ending. We know that evil and pain and death lose. We know that God and good and righteousness win. We know that our families are forever and that the Atonement makes up for our imperfections.

    “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” (1 John 4:18, Moroni 8:16)

  7. I have a tendency towards fear and I am working on keeping my fear level down. Prayer definitely helps along with speaking with my much more rational husband about my concerns. I think that in the attempt to be prepared it is easy to become paranoid.
    The hard part is when fear does creep in, keeping it from taking up a permanent residence in our home and in the hearts of our children. Let’s do our best not to let our children inherit all our worst nightmares. And while we gather our supplies and ready ourselves for whatever may come, let us remember that the opposite of fear is faith.

  8. I’ve found that the Holy Ghost brings peace in the midst of bad news, and that fear is not the indicator that there is something I necessarily need to worry about. Promptings tell what I need to DO. I think fear paralyzes us and makes us feel that there is nothing we can do. I think the Lord tells us when we need to be concerned about something and gives us things we can do to address those concerns. It’s pretty infrequent that the Holy Ghost will tell us, “Danger! Get out of here.” And even in that situation where there is danger present, we’re still told what we need to do.

  9. This was HILARIOUS, Melissa–and beautifully written! Your humor and hindsight invite your readers to put their fears in perspective.
    For me, I feel like fear stems from my obsession to force and control the uncontrollable–husband, kids, weather, neighbors, parents, friends, health, jobs, time–you get the idea. And unfortunately, fear and anger seem to be siblings that use MY guest room and long overstay their welcome (and make off with the towels).
    Peace comes to me when I loosen my clenched fingers from things I can’t control, and focus on what I can. Mosiah 4:30 teaches us what we do have control over: “your thoughts, your words, and your deeds”.
    The war against free will and control is as old as time. Sometimes I have to remind myself which side I’m on; and that true faith means knowing and trusting in a Father who loves me and will make all things work together for my good.

  10. Interesting topic (see name!)!
    I have struggled with fear a lot, especially over the past 3+ years as I’ve watched one child struggle with depression, and had one child leaving the nest (the unknown is a breeding ground for imagination!).
    Just recently I had the most amazing experience with that chest-crushing, anxiety-boiling fear.
    Our son was almost ready to leave the MTC. I woke up a morning with my mind filling with “What if’s” and my anxiety growing to the point of physical pain. I realized I could do nothing about any of the things I was worrying about, and so I asked Heavenly Father to please take this anxiety from me.
    The results were instantaneous! I tried to bring the feeling back by re-thinking the thoughts, thinking this might be a fluke, but no fear came!!!
    I realized two things then:
    1) I created most of my fear myself.
    2) Heavenly Father could take it from me, if I would turn it over to Him.
    As far as Swine Flu, we have been taught how to prepare over the past 30+ years (food storage), and recently we have been told what we need to do to prevent (hand washing, etc.). If we are doing both of those, we can ask God to take away that fear if it arises.
    Even if we or our family got sick, Heavenly Father is there! The Savior knows our infirmities. The power of the priesthood is real, and we can call upon its blessings. What a glorious thing to know!!!

  11. I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life. The way have learned to handle most worry is by telling myself that the bad things that will happen to me will be the things I DON’T worry about, not the things I DO. The more I worry about something, the less likely it is to happen. If something IS going to happen, chances are high that it will be something that never ever occurred to me ahead of time.

    I know the Lord is keenly aware of me and the way my mind works. I know that if He had a message He really wanted communicated to me, He would do it in a way that I could KNOW it was from Him and not the product of my own mind. I remind myself of this over and over when I’m trying to figure out if a particular thought is a message from the Holy Ghost or just my own anxiety. Once in RS we were discussing telling the difference between a prompting from God and just our own minds. Someone, who obviously didn’t struggle with anxiety, said that it shouldn’t matter, you should just follow it anyway because why take your chances. Well, if I followed every thought of “hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t go to Salt Lake today because I might get in a car accident” or “hmmm, maybe I need to go back to the house and make sure I turned off the stove” I wouldn’t have a life! I would be completely debilitated, I would never go anywhere or do anything! Every single time I get in my car to travel the 30 minutes to Salt Lake City, I have the thought, “maybe I shouldn’t go today. Maybe the spirit is telling me I’m going to be in an accident.” Every. Single. Time!

    We flew to DC a few years ago, and even though I knew it was totally irrational, I still worried about being hijacked by terrorists. I told myself that terrorists wouldn’t actually hijack a plane headed for DC, they would hijack and plane going somewhere entirely different and the divert it to crash into a government building in DC. I had all kinds of crazy reasons to justify why I would be perfectly safe flying on this plane. And eventually I told myself that if we died, it was our time to go, and our whole family would die together, and we would only be scared for a few minutes. Agh! Of course the flight was entirely uneventful.

  12. Such excellent comments, everyone!
    Jennie, I can tell that you have a sunny and optimistic personality–what a blessing to be able to look on the bright side–I need to cultivate that trait more. And yes, I believe that the more we seek for the Holy Ghost, the less fearful we will be.
    Blue, that sounds like something Pres. Hinckley would have said–how I miss him! It is so true that worry makes things worse. Also, thanks for the reference to that great talk by Elder Wirthlin–such a great talk.
    Lindsay–what a great reminder that we do know that things will ultimately work out. And I love that scripture.
    Charlotte, thank goodness that you and I have been blessed with rational, non-worrying husbands to counterbalance the anxiety we both often feel. Thank you for your wise response. Your big sister is proud of you.
    HeidiAnn, thank you for the reminder that we need to listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I often need to remind myself that fear does not always equal reality.
    And Merry Michelle, I am so with you on the connection between the desire to control and fear. Learning to let go and to trust is a key, for me, to overcoming fear.

  13. Faith Not Fear (and I should adopt your “name” as my mantra)–my oldest son is seventeen and I not looking forward to the day that he enters the M.T.C.–I’m sure I will have an anxiety attack that morning as well. But what a great story! There have been times when I’ve been extremely fearful about something and have needed deliverance, and I’ve had that fear taken from me, so I know that prayer helps immensely.
    And eljee, you hit on a key point for those of us who suffer with anxiety: it’s difficult to tell if something is a prompting or just an irrational, fearful thought. You’re right–if we followed every little thought that pops into our minds, we’d never go anywhere. I’m still working on trying to tell the difference.

  14. Whenever my husband is traveling for business, I spend every night in bed planning out how I’ll get on with my life because I’m just certain he’s died in a fiery plane crash/been kidnapped by terrorists/ held hostage for his American money/etc. etc. etc.

    I plan out how I’ll tell the kids, what I’ll have to do to survive the first few weeks, then the next twenty years. I end up sobbing myself into fitful sleep.

    And there was a cougar sighted in our neighborhood last weekend, and I’ve been in tears over imagining all the ‘what-ifs’.

    Staying really close to the Spirit is the only thing that keeps me calm. The scriptures and being on my knees keep me sane, I swear.

  15. I’ve always tended to be fearful, definitely arising out of a need to control. The good news is that this fear has lessened greatly as the years have passed. Why? Because every time “something awful” actually has happened to me, I have been less afraid of having “something awful” happen again. It’s sort of like…well, I got through “x” so I guess I can get through “y” or “z” too. I guess you could say that I’ve been desensitized to my own needless fears by reality.

    Another analogy: When you have a new car with no dents or scratches, you are hyper-vigilant, parking it far away from other cars in the parking lot, etc. You want to keep that car in pristine condition. Then, once the first dent it made, you relax. That’s been sort of true for me in my life. Once the first real dents, deep ones, were made in my life, I lost a lot of the fear and anxiety I once had. Now I’m like the bunny in the Velveteen Rabbit. A bit the worse for wear but still kickin’!

  16. .

    My parents had to give us explicit understanding of the meaning of ‘emergency’ — so strict that we did not call them when our television spontaneously combusted. We figured that since the fire didn’t spread, it didn’t count as an emergency.

  17. I’m a worrier too, but I prefer to refer to it as creative thinking. ;)

    But I have a new favorite saying from Colleen Menlove, “Worries are Lies.” Shall we tattoo that across our eyelids?

  18. Sometimes a bit of perspective can help–I’ve been taking a class on Renaissance poetry from England and it’s interesting to see how much fear and anxiety people had four hundred years ago. We read a great poem by John Donne where he talks about how everything is ‘in doubt’ and everyone feels alone in the world. I know for me it helps to step back and remember that we live in a fallen world and that things will always be difficult.

    Like several people have said already, I think a lot of my fear comes from a desire to control others. When I pray for humility and perspective, I’m able to let go and let other people handle their own lives. And, like Sue, I’ve found that reality is often not as bad as my fears. Yes, things get pretty bad, but I an survive and learn and grow.

  19. My favorite scripture when fear starts to take over my thought processes:

    “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 1 Tim 1:17

  20. I am afraid I have more questions than answers to contribute here; like how do we keep from passing these fears along to our children? To be sure, my sisters and I grew up in a fear based household. Though I have never wanted it to be the case, I know I have passed those fears on to my children, though hopefully to a lesser degree. My only hope is that as I learn to overcome my anxiety that I can help my kids get there as well. (And a lot sooner.) I think, for me, the key thing to remember is what a wise sister of mine keeps trying to drill into my head: God is not the author of fear, Satan is. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy, not anxious and afraid on a daily basis. As we learn to surrender to his will, and trust that he knows and loves us and desires our ultimate happiness, maybe, just maybe we can let go of some of our fears.

  21. Okay, I’m realizing that it is going to be hard to keep up with all of your comments! But you’re all making such good ones. Justine–I think I’ve found in you another kindred spirit. If only I could harness all of my creative fearful thinking late at night into writing a brilliant novel.
    Sue, you are so right in saying that once we face actual crises, it makes us much less fearful of the “what ifs.”
    Th–yes, we definitely need to define “emergency” in our house, but I hope my children would call me if the TV exploded.
    Michelle L., you’ve provided me with another great mantra.
    FoxyJ, thank you for reminding me that perspective helps. And I would love to be in a class on Renaissance poetry!
    And Sharlee, I love that scripture. Interesting the connection between not being fearful and having a sound mind.

  22. And Shellie P., your sister does indeed sound wise! She needs to live by her own counsel.:-) But you are so right–God is not the author of fear and wants us to be happy. Learning to trust in Him is key.
    Okay, now I’ve got to get out of my pjs and take my dog for a walk, but I’ll be back. Thank you all for your comments!

  23. Oh how I needed this today. Being 32 weeks pregnant and hearing about all the negatives in the news in the mornings does not help my anxiety level.

    It was so nice to hear others relate – it actually helps calm my fears more knowing that others feel and do the same exact things.
    I hate struggling with this – I dont know why it always seems to happen this way – but it usually hits me when I am tired and praying at night and fears and thoughts race through my head. I tend to not want to finish my prayer, or keep trying to gain spirituality or wisdom. I give up and go to bed, usually tearful and exhausted. I dont know why when I pray, I get overwhelmed and get the feeling of fear and it’s usually involving death. I’m obviously doing something wrong, but it’s so hard to overcome. I’m sure hormones have alot to do with this, but I am so tired of blaming everything on pregnancy!

  24. I worry more than I should
    I make up horrible scenarios and it never turns out as bad as what I think up
    I don’t know if it’s faith or denial that keeps me from worrying all day about stuff. Probably denial. I’m working on the faith part.

  25. Blue- I really like what you said.

    Getting away from worry and fear is something I have worked at my entire life, it brings me happiness, peace and joy to let it go. Still working at it though.

    As a young mother I learned to discern promptings of the Spirit from irrational fear/worry by taking a moment to calm myself. To close my eyes and take a deep breath. In and out. Feel peace. Now, do I still feel that it is a rational concern? If there is time, I would reason it out in my mind, ask a trusted companion’s opinion and then let it rest. If it is still a concern 24 hours later, when I am calm and well rested, then it is worth pursuing in some fashion.

    As I have used this technique over the years it has gotten easier. Letting go of fear and worry is a choice. At first it may be difficult and not seem like a choice but it is refusing to be comforted; refusing to let the Holy Ghost have an effect on your spirit.

    There are people I have a very difficult time being around because they are anxiety generators. Life is hard enough without making it harder on yourself and those around you. Let go and let God.

  26. I do exactly the same thing. In fact, as I was reading your post, I realized that I would have had the same line of thinking as you. I “catastrophize” and imagine the worst-case scenario in every situation. I see it as a coping mechanism. I imagine the worst possible thing that could happen, then I think about how I would cope with it. Then, when the worst DOESN’T happen, I’m pleasantly surprised. In my mind, I’m also prepared in case something bad really does happen.

    The problem is, that’s ALWAYS my reaction. I wish I could let myself think, “There’s probably nothing wrong…” and be ok with that. I’ve appreciated everyone’s comments!

  27. Hey Girls – didn’t know about slice of life – Hi!

    I actually think that thinking the worst can be a good tool. I can figure out a “somewhat” plan – and whatever does happen usually looks good after what I thot. (My husband worries about and speaks it, constantly politics and economics. I scrimp where I can and try to find a new place every week. (this week i learned how to cut my own hair off the internet – kinda)
    But I have a strong survival feeling and that gets me thru a lot!

  28. Plain Jame, I feel your pain! Pregnancy was always a time of heightened anxiety for me–I’m sure a lot of it has to do with hormones, but I also think there is so much more at stake when you’re pregnant, so naturally you will worry more. Here’s a true story (and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but here goes): when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with my first child–and I have to say that was the most anxiety-ridden pregnancy for me, because learning to trust that my body knew what it was doing was so difficult–my husband and I went to Disneyland with the YM/YW in our ward, and there was this one ride we went on called “Captain EO” (don’t know if I’m spelling it right)–it had really loud Michael Jackson playing in it, so loudly that I could feel it vibrating through my stomach. Later, as I was studying my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book–which I obsessed over–I read that the baby’s hearing was developing that very week that we went to Disneyland, and I was sure that my baby would be deaf. I even called the OB/GYN’s office and talked to the nurse about it (can you imagine the laughter that ensued in that office after I hung up?). I worried about EVERYTHING (and then worried that my baby was being negatively affected by my worrying!). I’m so glad I’m not pregnant now.:-)

  29. Oh, and also, Plain Jame, the experiences you describe as you’re trying to pray sound very typical of someone who is suffering with anxiety. It’s very difficult to get answers to prayer when your mind is racing with worry. I’d try to let yourself off the hook–acknowledge that you are just experiencing anxiety right now and focus on getting rest–it doesn’t mean that you stop praying, but that you stop expecting yourself to “feel” a certain way when you pray. Ask the Lord to bless you with peace in other ways–during the day, at random moments, when you’re feeling more still and focused on something other than anxiety. Be patient with yourself, and realize that your feelings aren’t a reflection of reality, but merely a symptom of a disorder.
    And, if you find that you are still plagued by anxiety after you have your baby and it becomes debilitating, I’d seek some help from your doctor–medication can be very helpful!

  30. This theme of coping with fears seems to be going around today! Just got an e-mail from a friend with a quote from LEFT TO TELL: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculée Ilibagiza.
    For anyone who might not know her story, she hid in a bathroom with 7 other women for 91 days while war and death raged outside. The enemy had invaded the building she was in, and she could hear them searching & calling her name. She shares a vision she had of the Savior being with her:
    “Then Jesus spoke [to me]: “Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculée, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone. Trust in me, and know that I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear. Trust in me, and I will save you. I shall put my cross upon the door, and they will not reach you. Trust in me, and you shall live.”
    …For the first and last time while I was in the bathroom, I shouted at my companions: “We’re safe! Trust me… everything is going to be okay!”

  31. Faith not Fear, that book is so powerful, I recommend it without reservation. It’s really tough to read and realize that really happened, but her story of faith is so powerful. She truly did overcome real fear, even when she was in the middle of it. What a great example!

  32. Fear has followed me round like my shadow always right there with me. Being raised in a home where the fear of bill collectors knocking at the door and having no electricity or water once again was constant. Seeing my Mother never happy because of the task of raising seven children and trying to make the food go round.No wonder fear was accepted as my constant compaion.
    In the passing years all the fears of a young Mother raising five children came very natural.Then one day on a daily calander I read “My life has been full of terrible misfortune most of which never happened” This quotation I remind myself of constantly when my faithful friend sneaks back to follow me.
    This quotation and the the kind words of our Savior ” Fear not I am with you “and the constant reminder that
    our Father in heaven loves us and is mindful of everything that is happening gives me comfort.
    Now as old age approaches and I find myself with new fears. I believe that fearis a natural part of our
    mortal life . We will have it in our lives as long as we exist,and maybe the reason its there so that we can grow in faith.

  33. I absolutely love that book “Left to Tell.” I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a banquet last summer at BYU and hear Immaculee tell her story herself–that entire ballroom was transfixed! Such a powerful story and a must read, and a great example of how to overcome fear. Thank you for reminding me of that book, “Faith not Fear” and Justine.
    All of your comments have been so good, ladies! Mormonhermitmom, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little denial once in awhile.
    Jendoop–excellent suggestions for discerning between promptings and fearful thoughts.
    Andrea R and traci, there is some comfort that comes from being pleasantly surprised when the imagined disaster doesn’t occur.
    And Diann M, I love the calender quote you mentioned. That describes my life perfectly!

  34. With crazy hormonal levels, a new child, and familial stress, I was lucky enough to develop an anxiety disorder. Even though I live in a safe place, our house is secure and I try to exercise a lot of faith, sometimes the ONLY thing that can get past the “anything can happen to anyone” is to counter with “it didn’t happen last night, trust it won’t tonight”

  35. Melissa, in the spirit of your delightful honesty and because I now appear to be your absolutely fearless friend (in my old age), I will share part of my January 11, 1991 journal entry:
    The world is now sitting on edge. President Bush gave Iraq until Jan 15th to get out of Kuwait. If he doesn’t comply there will be a war. It’s hard to be optimistic about the future. There are too many dark clouds on the horizon. We’re in a recession which they predict will become a depression if war breaks out. They’re predicting runaway inflation if a war breaks out because gas prices will soar. War is on the horizon…

    Sound familiar? In the past I spent a lot of energy worrying about things that never happened.

  36. I learned the most about faith and fear when I got mono right at the beginning fo the school year, my first year teaching out of college. I kept praying to get get better- I couldn’t function at work, in my calling, each day I seemed to wake up sicker. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t swallow, I was miserable and so worried about how I could handle everything. one night I was reading in Mark, where it says “why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith” and I came to learn my lack of trust/faith was apparent. Now I have gotten better at identifying those anxious emotions adn actively trying to replace them with faith.

  37. Tay, I feel your pain–been there, done that. Anxiety is truly miserable. Repeating those little assurances to yourself, such as “it didn’t happen tonight, trust it won’t tonight,” can be very helpful. Another one to try: “How likely is it that X will happen?” Sometimes it also helps to give yourself a break from worrying, if you can, by giving yourself permission not to worry for 30 minutes, or an hour, or a day–plan on worrying tomorrow.
    Kathryn, your diary entry reminds me of mine! And I so admire you for the peaceful and assured way you now approach potentially worrisome situations. I want to be like you when I grow up.
    Leslie, what a difficult challenge to get mono just as you’re starting a new job! No wonder you were worried. I love the scripture you shared. There have been many times when I’ve been worried and have found solace in the scriptures; they definitely can help us have peace.

  38. Your post is SUCH a blessing to me! I totally have this problem and I was just crying to my Mom last night, “WHAT is WRONG with me!!?? Why can’t I be normal and not always think the worst when things happen that aren’t so wonderful.” The latest thing is another illness in our home. My 5 year old has been hit hard and it’s scared the beegeebers out of me (with the swine flu and her symptoms being the same)!

    I don’t feel as full of fear today and I know it has everything to do with the Grace of God. He’s taking the burden (as real or imaginary as it may be) and allowing me to feel more hope and faith as well as the Love I always feel for Him. It’s times like these that I more fully understand the idea of having a prayer in my heart the whole day long – you know, that idea. And maybe that’s why I have this OFA disorder (overwhelming fear & anxiety). It’s not a real disorder (as far as I know), but as far as I’m concerned, it should be! *sigh* So, I don’t have much good advice, except for the prayer and trying to release it to Father. I certainly know I’m not strong enough alone!

    THANK YOU for this post! It’s really meant a lot to me to read another Mama who has this OFA thing goin on and struggling to release fear and feel faith!!!! ^_^

  39. Justine, wasn’t that a great evening? I’d already read Immaculee’s book and was so thrilled to meet her. She just radiated such a beautiful spirit. I’ll always be grateful that I went to that dinner.
    Tori, I’m so glad you’ve found some comfort in this blog today. I know that having a prayer in your heart throughout the day can help relieve your burdens, and I’m glad you felt some relief today. I hated it when my little children would get sick–so many nights I lay awake, wondering if I should call the Dr. and hoping we could all just make it until the morning. It gets better, I promise. I hope your five-year-old gets feeling better soon!

  40. Melissa, here’s my problem with fear: I remember all the worst case scenarios, and they are still with me. For years I never trusted that anyone would want to be friends with me, because of some painful experiences in junior high. All the friend worst case scenarios were with me. I still hate driving on the freeway; I keep remembering the time I rolled a car in the middle of Kansas. Or the woman who rolled right through a stop sign and into my car. And now, having broken my leg in the slush, I am very seriously scared of slippery terrain.

    I’d like to have more faith, less fear. But it’s very hard for me to let go of trauma when faced with situations that could be similarly traumatic…

    I do okay with the “DH is half an hour late and what happened to him” type stuff; I know that it’s irrational a little better somehow. But real disasters I have a hard time letting go of.

  41. Ah yes, the real traumas can stay with us for years–it’s hard to let go of those experiences. I’m sorry you had those painful experiences in junior high–I wish we could all be more kind at that age.

  42. I’ve been a world-class catastrophiser for years. I’ve even written essays about it! I’m better at avoiding it now though.

    How do I avoid it? By taking a deep breathe in, holding it, and letting it out. By shaking my hands to relax my fingers.

    Most of all, I have learnt that you won’t react the way you think, that the unexpected is what will hit you, and ultimately you are trusting in the wrong power – yourself – to save you and yours. You are thinking that YOU have the ability to be all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, and REALLY, not only are you wrong, but Someone else already has that job!

    Now, I try and PLAN (not worry/catastrophise) for events I can logically see as possible/probable or a good idea (i.e. teaching my boys emergency procedures), pay attention to any promptings I receive (I PRAY about them to make sure they are Him and not me!) and leave the rest to God.

    In the end, faith in His love and care is what gets you through whatever hits you.

  43. I’m jumping out of temporary lurkerdom (have had to simplify life a bit to try to get headaches under control, which means even reading less Segullah — ouch!) because this has been on my mind a lot lately, and I need to keep writing and talking about faith instead of fear, in hopes that I can actually get there. I just wrote about a postabout it, actually, which captures several quotes from Conference that helped me a bit. Too much to post here. :)

    I sometimes call this tendency toward imagining the worst ‘headline-itis.” And the panic I feel about the fact that I know I worry too much and might pass that tendency along to my children only makes it worse. I want them to have a better life than I have, with more faith and less fear.

    My thought on that is that I try to teach them truth, even if I haven’t figured it out in my own life. I know we are supposed to be examples, but I firmly believe that the power of truth in our children’s lives can transcend our weakness as parents, at least to some degree. I remember things that my parents taught with conviction and repetition, even if they didn’t always perfectly have life figured out.

    I keep reminding myself and them that God is in control, that all things are for our good, and that every breath is a gift. That faith and fear cannot coexist. That we do our best and let God take care of the rest. The problem, imo, is that I think the combination of our fallenness and our culture (a fix-it, no-pain culture) makes it hard to know when we have done enough.

    The more chaos there is around me, the more I know I am going to need to let go of my need to control and let Him do more of it. I just have to believe that He doesn’t want me huddled in a corner afraid and overwhelmed and constantly assuming that I can prevent all bad stuff, and/or that if it were to happen, it would somehow be my fault. I am grateful for prophets who keep me coming back to messages of faith, hope, and peace, in spite of the craziness of mortality and my own weakness in this area.

  44. I have loved so many of the comments that are included in this particular posting. Reading them has reminded me that only the Savior can fully appreciate what our individual experiences are. It is easy for any of us to dismiss someone else’s fears at times because we haven’t shared their past. But the Savior has. And only He can provide each of us with whatever it is we need to face a fear and overcome it.
    I too have been inspired by Immaculee’s story. Upon first hearing it I shared it with my daughters in hopes that they could see not only how blessed we are but that no matter what our challenge the Savior is with us…in our fiery furnace or… in our own little crowded hiding place.
    When I think of the world and how overwhelming it seems at times, I try to remember the words of Elisha in 2 Kings to his servant that “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Surely our Prophet today prays that our eyes will be opened like Elisha’s servant’s were and that we too will see the mountain full of chariots of fire. At times I think of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” and remember that we are a part of something so much greater than what appears to be reality to so many around us.
    When we look at any challenge through our gospel perspective we can trust that the Lord is ever with us and that all things really do work for our good… even those things that we would never choose to experience. Facing those moments is when I do best to remember that indeed “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

  45. Again, such good comments! Selwyn, I love your reminder that we what we really need to do is trust in God–a truth that has been emphasized over and over in the comments all of you have made, and something we each need to take to heart.
    m&m, welcome back! We’ve missed you! Thank you for posting the link to your post; I had read your post and I would have linked to it myself if I had more confidence in my technical skills. I love your idea that even though we might not have figured out how to overcome fear ourselves, we can still teach our children important truths as we are struggling to learn.
    And Kathleen, thank you for including that scripture in 2 Kings–which I think is so relevant to our day. My daughter loves “The Dark is Rising” but I haven’t read it–I’m going to go check it out.
    Really, all of you have fed my soul with your comments!

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