Fear. A daunting word but also, as my amazing therapist #breathebalancebeactivatedemily has taught me during my stroke rehabilitation, an acronym - False Expectations Appearing Real.
We think of the worst thing that can happen as a result of us choosing a course of action, we convince ourselves that it will happen and the resulting brain-freeze, something to which strokies are particularly prone, stops us doing something which may, in the long term, benefit us.
Warriors shouldn't fall prey to it, of course. We should be strong-willed enough to tell fear where to get off. But that's sometimes easier said than done, as I discovered this week. Emily had me balancing on a log in the park we use for our sessions. It wasn't more than two feet off the floor at most, so I was in no danger of crashing to the ground and breaking anything, whether it be my glasses or any bones.
But as soon as I tried to take one step forward, to leave the ‘safety’ of the ground and climb on to the log without using my hands to steady myself, I froze. My mind froze, my limbs froze; I simply could not move. Fear started to tell my brain that I WOULD fall off, that I WOULD land in a crumpled heap on the floor and break something, that the worst WOULD happen.
As I stood contemplating that step up on to that log, I found myself comparing my situation with that of a would-be naturist preparing to shed their swimming costume. To me, it’s a meaningless act, once I first performed over 25 years ago and have done thousands of times since without the world ending. Yet to that would-be naturist, it could be hell on earth about to be unleashed.
As naturists know, it’s perhaps the biggest reason/excuse why people won’t take the plunge into social nudity. I’ve heard them all over the years: “Someone I know might see me”; “I might get aroused and get an erection”; “My body’s not good enough to be unveiled in public”; “I’ve had major surgery and people might talk about it.”
All utter rubbish, of course (when I do talks about naturism, I often recall the German lady Mrs W and I saw walking proudly along a beach in Formentera, hand in hand with her husband and totally relaxed about her huge mastectomy scar) but there’s no doubt it’s a major reason why people won’t at least try social nudity.
Fear, then, can be completely irrational. My particular type of stroke affects the cerebellum, the area right at the back of the brain. It’s left me with severe balance issues, meaning that I’m even less steady on my feet than I was before my stroke - and I wasn’t great then.
Sometimes, I use a walking stick if I’m feeling particularly unsure but if I’ve chosen to go without one, I can sometimes walk as if I’ve had rather too many to drink - which isn’t a good look at 10am.
I’ve been trying to overcome this fear since January 2015 when I first met Emily. On occasions (usually when I don’t think too hard about it), I beat it; on other occasions, such as this week, it beats me.
It's not dis-similar to a football player (usually one dressed in England white, of course) faced with a penalty in a shoot-out. Fear talks them out of believing that they will convert it. That's why the mental side of sport, of stroke-rehabilitation, of life, is so important.
I'm learning the tools to help with this, such as meditation and mindfulness, but it's a long, slow, process. Sometimes even The Warrior falters, as I have this week, but with #breathebalancebeactivatedemily's continued help and support, I WILL get there.