"I Think I Understand"-Joni Mitchell Offers Insight to Coping with Fear

March 15, 2014

Today, in Atlanta, it is Spring.

(Daffodils from our garden)

Last Sunday, in Atlanta, it was Spring and I sang a song by Joni Mitchell and I was welcomed as I joined my new church. Like I imagine the bright yellow flowers do, my heart sang jubilantly.  I had originally chosen the song, because it fit the Scripture passages we were using that day so well, but I realized later that it also fit my feelings of trepidation and fear of making such a commitment perfectly:

Daylight falls upon the path
The forest falls behind
Today I am not prey to dark uncertainty
The shadow trembles in its path
I've robbed its blackness blind
And tasted sunlight as my fear came clear to me

I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand

Now the way leads to the hills
Above the steeple's chime
Below the sleepy rooftops round the harbor
It's there I'll take my thirsty fill
Of friendship over wine
Forgetting fear but never disregarding her

Oh, I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand

Sometimes voices in the night
Will call me back again
Back along the pathway of a troubled mind
When forests rise to block the light
That keep a traveler sane
I'll challenge them with flashes from a brighter time

Oh, I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand

Here is a video of me singing the song: (It's basically just audio, no picture.)
The song also speaks to me right now, as I fearfully face my disability hearing on Friday. I am trying not to be fearful and not to let the fear overcome me and so turn into depression, but it is hard. I write posts on how "disability is natural" and the stigmatization of disability in our society; I talk about mental illness recovery empowerment every Tuesday during my In Our Own Voice (IOOV) presentation and I am the first to offer open-minded encouragement to others when it comes to hardship and fighting invisible illness stigma and yet I cannot escape our bootstrap culture and I am trying to make peace with the fact that I live in a culture that equates invisible illness disability with laziness and exaggeration and that this is not the truth.

  It is not my truth.

Every time I do an IOOV presentation, I tell people that, "mental illness is a part of me, but it does not define me." I think I need to write this down on a card and keep it in my purse.

 Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome do not define me either.

I bring a lot of value to this world, irregardless of how much money I make and it is time for me to claim that truth not just aloud, but internally by repeating it over and over in my mind until I truly believe what I say.

Another way that the song speaks to me is that while it is about fear, it is also about coping skills-the singer makes a resolution to challenge her fear by reminding herself of better times.  I equate this to reminding herself that, "this too shall pass."  In other words, good times will come again.  Choosing to remember the good times, instead of dwelling on the bad times are an excellent way to help bring about more gladness.  It certainly is hard to choose dwelling on goodness when depression and fear start making home in our brains, but goodness,gratitude and self-love are powerful medicine.  Right now, I can remember the joyous moment last week when I joined my church and I can revel in the joyful Spring weather that is coming more and more often here in Georgia.

Other Coping Skills That I Am Currently Using:

  • Mindfully Drinking Tea
  • Mindfully Cooking
  • Eating Healthy Meals
  • Getting Extra Rest
  • Being with Friends
  • Using My Light Box
  • Reading Outside
  • Reading Inspirational Books
  • Journaling
  • Being Gentle with Myself
  • Watching Lighthearted Shows/Comedies
  • Distracting Myself on Facebook
  • Cuddling with My Cat
  • Talking About My Feelings
  • Continuing to Rejoice over Small Gratitudes
  • Purposely Doing Activities With The Intention of Making Myself Feel Good
I do not always have a choice over whether I am depressed or not-a few weeks ago I was depressed because of a medication change and that was a depression due mostly to my chemical imbalance at the time.  However, I continued to use my coping skills as a way to keep the depression from spiraling out of control and so I was able to stick out a medication change depression at home when in the past I might have had to be hospitalized.  Today, I will probably not be able to completely stave off my depression and anxiety due to my fear, but I can choose whether to listen and dwell in the fear or to distract myself when it comes until it passes. 
Disability does not define me-I am my own person, regardless of the hearing outcome. 
 I am a person of value, even if I do not add monetary value to the system. 
 My "wilderland" of fear will be my stepping stones to a new awareness as I practice calming my fear with self-love.

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