Marisette Edwards-van Linden van den Heuvell

Fear kills

My mantra is, “What I need will come to me when I need it.” This is the phrase I use to calm myself when I feel anxious or when it seems things are going wrong.

I often feel a crisis of confidence regarding ‘Tiger in the Dark’. It is such a personal story and I wonder if anything in it could be of interest or help to others. As I wait for publishers to respond to my submittals, these doubts are difficult to dispel. The mantra is repeated often.

In such a mood I was walking through the parking lot at work yesterday. One of my colleagues was walking along behind me coughing. I turned and wondered aloud at him whether he was going to die coughing or I should call 911. Being Russian, he shot back that dying would be an interesting experience. I questioned how interesting it could be if he couldn’t return to tell of it, and he responded that I was assuming that there was a difference between “there” and “here”. From there the subjects remained on the dark side, including the struggle between speaking up and keeping quiet when we disagreed with management decisions. I stated that I picked my battles based on how important they were to me. I then mentioned I had other irons in the fire, and from his reaction it looked like he thought I was changing jobs, so I quickly corrected his assumption by telling him that I was writing a book. I usually keep that quiet so my nerves got jangly in anticipation of telling him more.

Of course the next question was wondering what it was about? I told him that it was about my cancer at the age of 25 while I was pregnant. He responded with dismay and wanted to know what kind it was. He recognized sarcoma as one of the really bad ones. I agreed and said, “I really don’t know why I’m alive.” Then he told me that fear kills. He illustrated the statement by describing a couple of friends who died while waiting for surgery. In his assessment they got themselves so worked up with anxiety that they died from fear. Another acquaintance of his was a survivor of World War II. He had been a bomb defuser, a job that “only allows one mistake”. This man never got worked up over anything, nor did he back down from any challenge, and when questioned about it he said, “What is there to be afraid of?”

I related the title of my book and the reason behind it (see Why ‘Tiger in the Dark’?). He told me of a story of conquering fear that I want to follow up on: Alain Bombard intentionally set off alone in a zodiac named l’Heretique to simulate shipwreck and prove that survival was possible surrounded by salt water and sea life. It seems to me that Bombard truly lived my mantra.

At this point I shared the doubts I had been feeling and my collegue was completely encouraging. Of course my story would help others. It would help dispel the fear that could kill them. Bringing a frightening thing out in the open, exposing it to light, those are the the things that reduce fear and open the path to survival.

Once again, what I needed came to me when I needed it.

[The English title of Bombard’s book is The Voyage of the Heretique, or The Bombard Story (not sure if these are two titles for the same book, or two books). I found an interesting overview of the story here: Drinking Seawater – The Story of Lindemann and Bombard.]

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