Fear is a liar
by Dr. Dave Currie with Dana Dumerton Currie
Many people are immobilized with some form of incessant worry, heightened anxiety or foreboding dread. Fear can be debilitating, devastating and destructive. Some of the angst we face is born out of difficult, real life situations.
Worry can paralyze our ability to think and act wisely. Unhealthy, imbalanced thoughts can cause negative feelings. Fear, that drives a deep-seated uneasiness and apprehension, can monopolize our emotions and cause us to take poor action, based on what may or may not be true. Fear is a liar! It convinces you into thinking that something is true that isn’t.
Dana Currie is the wife of my youngest son, Mitchell, and mother to their three young girls. She graciously agreed to join me in giving some very helpful perspective on overcoming fear.
Dana is, by nature, a high-achiever. She has always pushed herself to be her best; the captain of the National Championship Trinity Western Women’s soccer team or earning a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership.
Outwardly, Dana was successful in her life endeavours, inside was a different story. She had a long-standing push for perfection. She had a great fear of not doing something right, of not keeping it all together and of letting others down. She had a strong desire to be ‘in control’, since her take-charge personality could lessen the chances of any kind of failure. You might say that Dana had a predisposition to fear. Maybe you do too.
Understanding the compounding effect of fear
How does fear work in a person? Obsessive, negative thoughts haunt the mind even though in reality, they may not be based on a healthy perspective. Unchecked, these fixated, harmful assessments fuel one’s inner fears like gas to a burning match.
These wild thoughts, like an abandoned campfire, smolder and burn within, and soon re-ignite setting our world ablaze like a horrific forest fire. This inferno inside is started with stinking thinking (non-truth) that leads to reeling feelings (unhealthy emotions) and then on to reaction actions (unwise courses of action). At the root of anxiety, there is a huge truth battle.
Feelings are often not based on truth.
Dana’s anxiety morphed into a difficult season of Post-Partum Depression with the birth of their second child. A host of unrealistic thoughts plunged her into a real place of fear. She had this deep, inner push to be the perfect mom, to not make mistakes. The fear to not screw up haunted her.
Carrying a baby is a big deal on a woman’s body and mind. Then the delivery itself beats her up in so many ways. As beautiful as birth is, it massively depletes a mother’s physical and emotional reserves. Then going home with what seems, at first, like a high-maintenance baby. Stress is normal in these circumstances.
Fear really shook Dana up. It immobilized her as it crossed the line from just worry to severe anxiety. She says, “Fear seemed so real – the fight or flight so strong! Body reacting – mind is racing. I couldn’t do normal life. I felt sick all the time. I was avoiding people. Sometimes I didn’t even want family around. I had trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and a pervading sadness. There was a lot of crying. I felt alone. I’d look out and see everyone having fun and I felt trapped by the thought that I’d never be able to do that again. It made me feel I needed to face this cascading anxiety alone.”
Negative possibilites seemed so real. Dana was overwhelmed by thoughts of making a mistake. “What if I never hear her crying? What if I sleep through it? What if she doesn’t feed well? What if she won’t stop crying? She is so helpless and so desperately needs me. What if she gets sick or suddenly dies in her crib?” Cascading fears, driven by the pressure to be the best mother possible, were huge.
Her fear was based on a false belief that with the new baby, no matter how well she had done with her first child, she is now not in control, she’ll fail as a mom. With the weight of this worry, panic attacks would set in. Dana says, “The panic attacks were the worst. The whole world was spinning. My perspective was really skewed. My thoughts were racing uncontrollably. I felt physically hot – like the world was closing in on me. It felt like my head was going to explode.”
Best ways to overcome fear – whatever its source
What are the best ways to handle anxiety, worry and depression and other emotional and mental challenges related to fear? Here are some ways that Dana and I feel are helpful. Consider employing them in your own journey.
Embrace anchoring truth
Life is about embracing truth as deeply and consistently as you can. Paul says it clearly in Philippians 4:8, “ … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” We need to correct ‘stinking thinking’ and have our feelings and actions align. One of the most helpful and practical steps toward embracing anchoring truth is to take time to write out a set of Truth Cards. Key statements of truth designed to anchor you in hard or confusing times. They are principles, reminders and perspectives that are intended to hold you in the hard times. Many of them will be a reflection of God’s Word. Trust His anchoring truth in the dark moments. Here are a few examples I shared with Dana:
Truth 1: Rest in Mitch’s love. He chose you. You are quality. He would not make a bad choice about his life partner. That’s you! You are his match. Rest in knowing you are valued and you are chosen.
Truth 2: You are a good mother. Deeply loving, fully intentional, constantly guiding, teaching values, modelling God’s love. Some things can slide some days and it’s not the end of the world or a sign you are a bad parent.
Truth 3: The Lord said: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). God has a plan for you. He set you apart for a reason: wife, mother, teacher, friend.
Truth 4: “What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it” (Matthew 10:29). If God cares about these birds, guess what? He is all over the pressures you face without and within. God knows every single thing that you are facing and God cares very deeply about all that is important to you! Go to Him. Rest in His awareness and His comfort for you!
Find trustworthy voices
Don’t suffer alone. Find people who will speak truth to you. Close friends, caring family members, counsellors and pastors are great sources of support. You’ll need to talk out your feelings and worries. Don’t hesitate to get a referral from your doctor for a psychiatrist who may guide you to the right meds if needed. The right medication can really settle you down and stop the ruminating negative thoughts that dominate your day. All-consuming fears are kept at bay while you work through your issues. Remember though that meds alone are not the answer.
It was during this hard season that Dana and I started our walks. Wednesday mornings, Donalyn, my wife, and I would swing by their home. She would watch the girls while Dana and I would go for an hour walk. I had no agenda but to listen and encourage. Dana says, “you committed to being beside me through the hard time. This weekly commitment anchored me. I could be away from the kids knowing they were safe with mom. There was something therapeutic about walking and talking. The movement was good. The hot drink helped me feel alive and I was going to be okay. I would be encouraged – loved and cared for – and you prayed for me every single time on our driveway. You put your hand on me when you prayed. You hugged me. The walks were a gift.”
Stay healthy to think clearly
Start with a check-up with your doctor. Get some exercise even if it’s getting outside for a walk and some fresh air. A regular fitness plan would be better. Be sure you are eating healthy and sleeping enough.
Deepen reliance on god
For Dana, prayer and journaling kept her grounded. Quiet times with God is a must. Be sure to be in the Bible everyday. Get refreshed by regaining perspective. Journal your journey – your ups and downs. Whatever way you can, let God’s truth become your anchoring truth.
It was an honour for me to walk with Dana through this time, to see her push through and to witness her deep growth because of it all. Dana says. “I learned my anchoring truth is that God is never the author of fear – ‘His perfect love casts out all fear’ (1 John 4:18). God is enough. Seek Him.”
Tell us about your journey You can reach me through our website – DoingFamilyRight.com