Fear of Loss

by Bill Brenner on December 20, 2009

There was a time when fear of loss would cripple my mental capacities. I got over it — mostly.

It’s 6:30 Sunday morning as I write this, and a snowstorm is exploding outside my living room window. Sean and Duncan are already playing games on the family laptop.

I’m enjoying the precious present moment, more so since I can remember when my mind used to spin so fast with worry that I would barely recognize the wonderful things in front of me. Including my kids.

In fact, I was often looking at the miracle in front of me and, instead of enjoying it, would work myself into an anxiety attack. Because there was always the chance I could lose it all. Fear of loss.

A word about Sean and Duncan: Sean is an 8-year-old third-grader, one of the smartest kids in his class. Duncan is a 6-year-old kindergartner, equally smart but with more of a romantic streak. He gets crushes on the little girls in his class on a regular basis. They get their brains and their looks from their mom.

They constantly dazzle me with their razor-sharp wit and their kindness toward others. They can pray the Rosary from memory better than many adults. They love unconditionally.

Before I found a treatment program for OCD, I was in constant fear of losing them and their mom to imagined illnesses and other calamities. In 2005, long before the current H1N1 pandemic, when a much more deadly flu virus was killing people in Asia and health officials were worrying that that might blossom into a pandemic as lethal as the 1918-19 Spanish Flu, I worried around the clock that these precious children might someday be stricken with it. I searched five pages of Google search results every morning to get the latest news of every new death.

Looking back, it all seems incredibly stupid. But it also makes perfect sense.

Since OCD is essentially a disease of worry in overdrive, my mind was doomed to always be seeking out something new to worry about. Since I’ve watched a brother and two best friends die, fear of loss was destined to poison my mental juices.

I also used to worry relentlessly about impending snowstorms and hurricanes for the disruptions they might cause.

Then there was the fear of loss in work form, where I’d constantly worry that if I didn’t slave away 80 hours a week at work, I just might fall out of favor with the bosses.

Whenever I had to get on a plane for business travel, I worried that maybe — just maybe — the plane might blow up in flight.

Then I found my faith and found treatment. It was along time coming, but it came.

Don’t get me wrong. I still worry about my wife and kids all the time. When a former colleague recently lost her only child in a motorcycle crash, a fresh wave of worry flooded in.

But I don’t spin mental webs about things that MIGHT happen like I used to. I hardly spin those webs at all today. I know bad things can still happen. But I’ve learned that there’s no fruit in fearing things that are completely beyond my control. All I can do is be the best husband and dad I can possibly be, keeping everyone safe and healthy and giving them all the love I have to offer.

Instead of dreading the snow, I’m enjoying it, even though I have to shovel out the car in an hour because I’m on schedule to do the readings at the 9:30 Mass. Instead of dreading the next business trip, I find myself looking for all the cool, historic places to check out at my next destination. I’ll work hard while there, but I always build in a few hours to take a look at the things I don’t get to see everyday.

It’s a beautiful gift.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill December 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Very nicely said and so totally appropriate for those of us who are “paid professional paranoids” it’s great perspective you’ve shared!

Thanks!

JJT December 21, 2009 at 5:57 am

Bill,

I have been trying to find the right word to say about your blog entries – I felt like saying I “enjoy” them just doesn’t work, since you outline some serious challenges along the way.

But, I guess I can say I enjoy them after all since I am quite happy to see you have been triumphant in overcoming and/or managing obstacles to the extent that you can help others through your writing.

I also enjoy seeing your tweets about your boys’ sayings and doings – usually around the same time of day I am in the moment with my own kids.

Have a very Merry Christmas –

.JT.

How To Stop Anxiety March 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm

We planned to tell you hello. We happen to be dropping by the website.

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