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July 28, 2022

Feeling Afraid of Something? How to “Paint a New Picture of Yourself.”

It was a summer day with a playful breeze and clear blue sky.

A perfect day for a ride on the bike path by the river. My husband was waiting for me to join him.

He waited. And, waited some more.

I stood by my bike and couldn’t move. It was as if I was paralyzed. The thought of lifting my leg over the bar and getting onto the bike seat filled me with dread. I had fallen a couple of times attempting to get on my new electric bike, and I was sure this would happen again. All I could imagine was my foot hitting the bike seat and me going down with a heavy bike on top of me.

I froze. I caught the tears in my throat as I tried to breathe. I looked at him with a sense of failure, and the words fell from my mouth. “I can’t do it.”

He got off his bike and came over to my side. He encouraged me to take a deep breath, and he kept waiting. No judgment, no scolding, or shaming. He held my bike steady and coached me to lift my leg over the bar. I was able to move with his encouragement and successfully sat on my bike. A few more deep breaths, and I started pedalling. I gained confidence as we rode along the flat trail, and I began to enjoy the wind in my face and the beautiful scenery.

Since then, I have had many questions arise around that experience. What was really happening that day? Who had I become as I stood and cried and felt stuck? Was it possible that my thoughts could be so powerful that my body refused to move? I usually welcomed a challenge and enjoyed pushing my body to try new activities. This was so “not me”!

As I wrote in my journal and debriefed with my husband, I gained some insight into what was occurring for me that day.

A few weeks earlier, I had received the results from hormone testing that my Naturopath ordered. I had been feeling sluggish and noticed a lack of joy and desire in my life. The tests showed that I had low testosterone and this was causing my symptoms. She reassured me that supplements and weight training would raise my levels with time. It was not a life sentence.

However, here’s the thing. When I heard the report of my low hormone levels, I was shocked. I immediately envisioned myself as decrepit, weak, dried out, and broken. My picture of myself was one of an old woman whose enjoyment in life was over. It all happened in a flash, and I struggled to focus on the rest of the call. I felt stuck, discouraged, and resentful. I was in the midst of an identity crisis.

I skidded down into a messy whirlpool of emotions. I was sad, mad, and upset at what aging held for me. I realized I must grieve the losses I was facing. Dealing with loss cannot be hurried, and I resisted my temptation to “cheer up” and get on with life. I did not rush through this stage. It was too soon to focus on being positive and thankful for all the other blessings in my life.

I explored what was underneath my unexpected reaction to the test results. I came to realize that I was facing fear. Fear of getting old. Fear of immobility and lack of fun in my life. Fear of dying.

With this insight, I began to have compassion for myself. Of course, it was normal for me to be upset if I was facing my future with these thoughts uppermost in my mind.

Here is what happened next.

I accepted the reality of my health status. I focused on what the facts were and did research on what I could do to help myself. Putting my energy on what I had control over rather than on my worries, has always been a game changer for me. I moved from being a victim to feeling empowered.

I remembered times in the past when life was dark and hopeless for me. I celebrated how I had come through challenges then, and I gained confidence that I could do so again.

I asked for help and received with an open heart. My husband encouraged me to join a gym that focused on members who had medical issues, and I am learning the foundational exercises to prepare me for weight training. I am enjoying the positive reinforcement from the trainers and already feel stronger.

I got a new electric bike that is a “step-through” model. With no bar across the top, I no longer fear falling when I get on my bike. I stopped shaming myself for needing this type of bike, and I am smiling as I feel the wind in my face and take in the beauty of wildflowers along the trails. I especially enjoy the name of my new bike: Freedom!

I am painting a new picture of myself.

I am strong and I am able to learn new things at this stage of life. Being strong includes asking for help and knowing my limits.

I choose not to compare myself with others. Instead, I listen to my body and do what is best for me.

I am learning to be patient as I heal. I pay attention to each step of the way and pat myself on the back for each success, no matter how small.

I am aware of my thoughts and the power that they have on me. I focus on possibility rather than fearing the unknown.

Gratitude shifts my perspective. I am thankful for my body that heals itself and can renew and rejuvenate as I treat it kindly.

I am a woman whose life is filled with play and pleasure. Bike riding, exercising, and walking in Mother Nature are part of my routine. Swimming with my grandchildren and celebrating family birthdays continue to bring me joy.

I am an example of a woman who has travelled through the dark path of fear and come into the light of vitality and thriving in life.

Here is my invitation to you.

Get curious about what you may be missing because you are fearful of trying something new. Ask for support. See yourself as able to overcome fear and come through to enjoy the pleasure of a new activity or a project completed.

The rewards are abundant when your are willing to “paint a new picture of yourself.”

~

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