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How do I deal with my fear?
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Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
How do I deal with my fear? on 08/08/2013 21:46:15 MDT Print View

I wasn't paranoid or scared about taking my kids hiking until I had my third son. How do you get past a fear that paralyzes you mentally? Maybe I am asking the wrong people, but I need to get past it.

The background:
Our 3rd son turned 18 months old today. He has severe (life-threatening) food allergies and has been in the ER twice for anaphylaxis. I have to carry a full med kit for him, wherever we go, including Epi-Pens (which I had to use during the second time). If I go places with my husband I am OK. We do hike with the baby, but stick to shorter trails (also because our 3.5 year old can do about 3 or 3.5 miles and then peters out). (I don't talk about this much in hiking forums or on my Trailcooking blog, but I do on my personal blog)

But I cannot find the ability to overcome my fear of being alone with all 3 boys on the trail. I don't know what I would do if he a reaction while hiking - and I was the only adult. Once you use an Epi-Pen, you have to get to at least an EMT asap, in case they need more - or need more medical help (his last ER visit he had to have steroid shots after all his meds - that was when we found out he was allergic to tree nuts...oh joy). With just him I could run, with a 3 YO along? It can't. If something happened on a family hike, I know Kirk would run with baby.

While Alistaire has had extensive allergy testing (life-threatening to peanuts, tree nuts and eggs, severely allergic to gluten/wheat and all dairy) we don't know where he sits for stings. I have been careful to keep him away from yellow jackets/wasps/bees.

I have removed from our lives/home/backpacks/van anything that could cause an issue in theory. Yet I live in fear of him grabbing a peanut candy on the trail or having to be THAT parent who nearly strip searches backpacks of friends for anything that could cause issues.

Anyone else with kids with TN/Peanut allergies? How do you get over the fear? I feel blue at times. I backpacked with my oldest son so many nights I can't put a count on it (he is nearly 16 now). Yet, I cannot imagine even car camping with Alistaire :-( It is that overwhelming and radically changed our entire family's lives. (It is the hiking that is the only issue for me - as long as I am reasonably near civilization I am OK)

Todd T
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Teach him to police his own food on 08/08/2013 22:40:39 MDT Print View

My son has nut allergies, though his reactions aren't quite as severe as your son's. It only took a couple of exposures when he was young for him to realize they weren't any fun. From the time he found out it was nuts that caused the bad stuff, he was more careful about what he ate than we were. We never really had to worry much about it. He's 20 now.

At 18 mos, your boy will need to be watched closely for a while yet, but make sure he learns what to watch for and associates it with any bad experiences he's had. It's easier to relax when you know he knows what not to eat.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Desensitize Sarah. Train the kids. on 08/09/2013 00:16:31 MDT Print View

Any phobia can be minimized and often eliminated through repeated exposure in calm, relaxed settings. You are okay in the city. Great. Go to a county park, or whatever is the edge of your comfort zone. Repeat and repeat while doing whatever calms you (music, exercise, playing with the kids, whatever) until that slight level of exposure to your trigger gets boring. Then slightly increase the exposure, stay calm, wash, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat. Small steps. Repeated exposures to your triggers (by which I mean Sarah's fear, not tree nuts!).

Recognize the various irrationalities. Dad running with the kid doesn't solve all problems. Sarah being with three kids doesn't preclude running with the kid (16 year olds can run, 16 year olds can babysit a 3 year old). Practice not YOUR response, but YOUR FAMILY'S response to an incident like you would practice CPR - carefully, calmly, reviewing your collective performance afterwards. Maybe take a bit more gear to bivouac the other kids during an evacuation, but practice that scenario as well. I hated blood and gore until I knew enough first aid to know how to respond and had practiced enough to be desensitized to my fear/anxiety.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/09/2013 02:06:12 MDT Print View

Sarah, I don't know if what I say is any help at all, and I don't have experience with kids possibly being in danger. I do have two experiences, one long-term, the other one of the biggest events of my life, that might touch upon what you're asking about.

First, my insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetes. For me there is always the fear of getting a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) attack while hiking. Twice now I almost died due to not paying proper attention and taking too much insulin, one of those times I realized I had run out of food and had nothing to bring my blood sugar back up. Luckily I was coherent enough to dig out my garbage bag and scape together all the scraps and leftover sauces and creams to get enough food to stabilize my blood sugar. But I only just made it off the mountain.

The fear of that happening again is with me every time I head out. What I try to do now is carefully prepare everything that I need way beforehand, and to keep an emergency food bag permanently in my standing hiking box. I also try to go over, in my head, everything I did wrong then, and how to minimize it, and keeping in my that if I stay alert there is no reason why the emergency should come up. It doesn't always work, though, and sometimes the fear is great enough that I, too, can't get myself to move, especially when I haven't hiked in a while. For me part of what helps me get past my fear is just stepping out there and moving. Things have a way of settling down once you get started.

The other experience is of being here in Tokyo two years ago during the three giant disasters. After the initial giant earthquake, we had big earthquakes everyday, all day, for six months afterwards. I never got used to them, and to this day I'm terrified of being in a tiny enclosed space with the door closed. But one thing I did learn was that with time I was able to "catch" myself whenever another earthquake occurred (we still get earthquakes of course), and to anticipate my own reactions and the way the tremors would follow through. I've prepared my apartment for immediate escape with emergency kit if need be, so I always stand up, grab my essentials like wallet, keys,, diabetes kit, and glasses, turn off any electrical or gas device, open the doors, including the front door, and wait. During the waiting period I consciously look inward and try to calm myself down, control my breathing. A hanging plant in the living room swings at the slightest tremor so I watch that for any further shaking. If the tremors grow bigger, I find cover under the lintel of my bathroom, until the tremors stop, and then grab my emergency kit and head outside away from walls and houses. If the tremors subside I just take a deep breath and return to whatever I was doing.

The thing is you can control your fear if you mentally turn straight toward it and accept that you are feeling it. There will always be things to threaten you and your loved ones. It's part of being alive. Home just seems like a safer place, until an earthquake or tornado or fire hits it. So if there is a way to keep your child safe, perhaps there is a way to face the fear? I know how much you want to go hiking with him.

Or perhaps just face the reality of his condition (part of what having a chronic disease is about) and stay away from those places that might cause harm, until he is old enough to realize the danger and take care of himself. Perhaps your wanting to go hiking with him is the problem and not the allergies themselves? I know it's a hard decision, especially when you love hiking.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
Allergies on 08/09/2013 09:00:51 MDT Print View

My brother and I both have severe allergies to peanuts and all tree nuts, and I'm very allergic to lots of legumes and seeds. It's scary stuff. I've never had to inject myself or go to the hospital for a reaction, but my brother nearly died just from sitting in the corner while some kids were making peanut butter pinecone bird feeders (just the number of molecules in the air was enough).

Obviously, your son is still young enough that he can't take responsibility for what he eats and touches. It won't be long, though, before that will change. Severe reactions are horrible—as a kid, they make a lasting impression! I wasn't very old before I started being VERY cautious of touching or taking food from ANYONE, even close family members, unless I knew they understood my allergies and, again pretty young, even then I would always verify food labels for myself.

I don't have any advice to offer re: the fear and paralyzing effects. I don't have children and so won't venture to imagine what that must feel like. But know that it won't be long before your son will be old enough to do a lot more watching out for himself. And I also remind myself that I'm very careful about what food I bring with me, and the chances of somehow accidentally coming in contact with or ingesting stuff I'm allergic to in the backcountry is a lot lower than the civilized world of offices, schools, stores, and on and on.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/09/2013 17:48:54 MDT Print View

In your case Sarah, if it were me, I would not hike without your significant other until the child is older (if he is on the hike). You could get wilderness first aid training to give more confidence in handling a situation on the trail. Also look into any special course on handling anaphylaxis while away from home. As a last resort you might look into behavioral modification techniques for phobias as David mentioned.

You have my sympathies Sarah.

Edited by jshann on 08/09/2013 17:57:25 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/09/2013 22:45:13 MDT Print View

I should have added that I am getting out on adult only hikes with friends. Not often, but I get out. I also got out backpacking recently with no kids. That helped a LOT. I know that as the years go, I will get more comfortable - as he gets older and whatnot. And my "me" hikes help me out, I come back refreshed and able to deal with life.

As for my teen....while he is a good kid, intelligent and all, he is a highly-functiong Autistic/Aspergers. He follows orders well and is a great hiking partner, but is brittle under stress (when I had to go to the hospital in Feb of 2012 to have my 3rd son, he was at school and was so fearful that he had to spend his day with his 504 handler.) He doesn't do well in panic times. He did not come to the hospital with us before the birth of each brother, it was too much for him to handle - he was in near panic I wouldn't come back. He takes great care of his little brothers - to the point of being a second Mom at times I swear, but isn't capable of administering emergency meds to his brother - the stress would be too much. He lives in his own world, which is OK 99.99 of the time.

And yes, more training is high on my list. I do though have to laugh a hollow laugh when I realize just how much in meds I carry - no UL for!!

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/10/2013 10:09:33 MDT Print View

What seems to me to be the real questions, Sarah, is not how do you deal with your fear but whether it is a rational or an irrational fear. A rational fear keeps you from doing something that is too dangerous to attempt, while an irrational fear keeps you from doing something that you can safely do. You have a complex situation here, with the allergic infant and the special needs teen. If this fear is irrational you can deal with it by having a well thought out plan to execute in the case of an allergic reaction emergency. I would suggest that you enlist the help of someone who knows you and your children well, and can be an objective counselor, in forming such a plan. You may find that you can't come up with a plan that seems safe and reliable to both you and the objective person. To me that would mean you are dealing with a rational fear, and you may not be able to take the baby out as you would like to do without an unacceptable risk. But if you can form a plan, then knowing that you are prepared should help to calm your fears.

And even if you find that you just can't find a way to safely take the kids out by yourself, that may change as your kids all grow, so you'd want to keep looking for ways to make it work based on the changing situation.

Best of luck.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/10/2013 11:19:53 MDT Print View

I think your fear is reasonable. I don't see a good answer to hiking with all your kids right now. In time you'll have a better grasp of managing your child's issues and he will be able to participate in the process.

In the meantime I would rotate baby duties with your husband and try to get as much balance in your life as you can. I'm sure your eldest could help with the middle son while you tend to the youngest in an emergency.

Perhaps there is a support group that you can participate in? You might check with Seattle Children's Hospital to see what resources they have. It will get better, but it's hard with a toddler. Breathe!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/10/2013 15:23:56 MDT Print View

Hi Sarah

Of course, the flip side is that maybe the fear is beneficial. Maybe your fear in this case is really quite rational. Maybe it is telling you that you are going to have to take extra care of this lad for a while.

So maybe you should do a little 'time-share' over walking trips with husband and others for a couple of years. You can still go walking; you just have to adapt a bit. Accept it, go with the flow, etc etc.

Best wishes with bringing them up.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/10/2013 20:11:52 MDT Print View

Dale, I will look into that. The Seattle Children's is a wonderful place (in the most horrid of ways). Alistaire saw them for a heart murmur at 6 months and a CTScan awhile back. Thankfully both issues were ones that didn't lead to worst things - but we found the hospital to be a wonderful place. Really caring staff! I am considering going to a blogger conference for food allergies this fall as well (yes, this actually!). I figure the networking with other moms will be priceless.

Today my good friend Ladyblade came over (she is one of my long time hiking partners) and our backpacking trip this weekend got called off due to the lighting in the Cascades - but we had a great time shopping for new trail food items and then made jam. Fun indeed! Which when i thought about it, she doesn't like the risk of lighting, so it helped me look at my fears - in a good way.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
when you make jam on 08/10/2013 20:18:12 MDT Print View

when you make jam, do you sccop the foam off?

That seems like a waste of time. The foam is just as good as the rest of the jam. Why do people do that?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: when you make jam on 08/10/2013 21:04:38 MDT Print View

Lol...not me! I work it in. Wasted flavor otherwise ;-) I am sure it isn't pretty as jam from a store but is beyond good. We made gingered peach jam today. 25 pounds of peaches from Eastern Washington, picked yesterday - I had to get moving!

BTW, this is me and my 3 boys from last month :-) The photo in my avatar is from the same place - when my oldest, Ford, was around 11.
 photo Bridge_zpsa44adb91.jpg

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/10/2013 23:51:27 MDT Print View

Which when i thought about it, she doesn't like the risk of lighting, so it helped me look at my fears - in a good way.

Now I'm very curious (just imagine a German Shepherd cocking his head with his tongue lolling out): Do you then NOT mind the risk of lightning?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 08/11/2013 20:31:27 MDT Print View

Oh I do! I guess I view it like bear attacks.....I weigh the risk versus hiking. But then I look at that and realize that maybe my other fears are somewhat irrational :-P

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
A thanks..... on 08/12/2013 21:11:05 MDT Print View

Kirk and I took the two youngest out on Sunday. It really helped me with some of my fears - since it was high bloom on the trail and lots of buzzy bees out. It was a good hike -
 photo a4eb4ead-c3d2-433b-bdaa-0f3bdf583558_zps2c88e383.jpg

At 18 months he is a big boy. He weighed in today at his checkup at 30 pounds and nearly 3 feet tall. Carrying him is not UL by any means....

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
It's not fear, it's good parenting! on 08/20/2013 23:03:04 MDT Print View


As I started to read your OP, I thought of your older son and his special needs. The situation, at this point in time, is that either you or your husband hiking alone with all 3 kids is not a good idea. The likelihood of a problem on the trail is too great.

Nut allergies in young children is nothing to take lightly. I won't go into the tragedies I have seen.

Good for you for approaching the situation with concern for the well being of your family.

In a few years it will probably all work out.

There is a huge difference between fear and responsible parenting. I am glad you actually realize the difference even though your title suggests different.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: It's not fear, it's good parenting! on 08/21/2013 21:52:11 MDT Print View

Nick, I'll say this: talking about my fears has been good. Kirk and I have hashed a lot out in the past few weeks and come to a realization. That until he is older we don't see backpacking as a family happening. Just so many risks.

But! It kind of turned on a light in our heads. We went bike riding on Sunday, it was so much fun. And more so, we can take all 3 boys, with the 2 youngest in trailers :-) We have one trailer and they fit in pretty tight but are happy enough together. There are so many rail to trails here - and most are close to hospitals or medical help. Some even have camping and go through state parks. We can do miles as a family and not be in fear. We can also carry a cooler, with Alistaire's foods and be able to shop at grocery stores. His diet is so limited and a lot of it is fresh foods that I cannot get in shelf-stable.

On my choosing of a pediatrician for my 2 youngest, I was very fortunate. He is proactive and has nut/PB allergies in his direct family. He has been an amazing doctor and never hesitates to have anything looked at and signing referrals. Alistaire has a hole in his heart as well, which was caught when he was little.

When we found out about the peanut allergies he talked in length about a child he nearly lost to allergies. The child went into anaphlaxipas in a car and the mother never gave a shot, even though she had them with her. She froze mentally and sat on the side of the highway, waiting for the paramedics to show up.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
panic vs. fear on 08/31/2013 14:20:08 MDT Print View

That example of the mother sitting there waiting for her child to die shows the necessity of thinking ahead, postulating worst-case scenario, and making a pro-active plan on how to deal with the problem. Having the equipment does you NO good if you don't have the knowledge to implement it. And planning goes a long way to dispelling panic. This is where mock scenarios are so important in training health care workers, and even if you don't have a full-scale "what do we do if Alistaire has an allergy attack" family scenario, just going through the mental "if-then" questions can make you feel more fully prepared.

That poor woman needed some training: what does an allergy attack look like in my child, what does epinephrine do, how do I give it, what other emergency steps do I need to take while waiting for help? Hopefully, her pediatrician family member helped her with those things after the fact, because when it happens again (and it will), what will she do the next time? And, those sorts of questions are what you and Kirk need to consider, and find answers for, to help you deal with the same issue with Alistaire.

Your fears will help you be prepared, and you have already started some planning that will make things manageable. Consider Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco for a family camping destination: all sorts of campsites, beach access, walking trails, bike trail on the Discovery Trail--and a hospital right there in Ilwaco!

just Justin Whitson
Re: How do I deal with my fear? on 09/01/2013 01:15:39 MDT Print View

I think this is a very deep and multi-faceted topic, which in my mind ultimately relates to belief systems and consciousness growth, but i will try not to dwell there too much for various reasons.

Anyways, this topic sort of hit home with me, as i drove my motorcycle to the beach today (a little over a hour and a half ride one way). I didn't have just one, but two harrowing experiences, but oddly elicited two different kinds of fear reactions. One body based, and one more belief system-theoretical based.

The first scenario was a car in front of me put it's blinkers on, and started to turn into the other lane and as it did so, i sped up, but right as i was getting to the space they were just at, they decided last moment to turn back into the lane nearly clipping me in the process. I was somewhat at fault as i had accelerated quite quickly and wasn't driving defensively enough.

Anyways, that was body fear, the adrenaline rush of "oh shite, oh shite, i'm about to crash" because when braking the bike, it started wobbling uncontrollably, almost losing steering control.

That was on the way to the beach (i got over that very quickly). The 2nd experience happened on the way back from the beach to home and about half way or so while on the highway, i went to downshift temporarily and noted with disbelief that my gear shifter was no where to be found, hmm that's odd, maybe my foot is just not well placed, look down, "umm, what is my gear shifter doing hanging down?!"

Immediately i start envisioning a horrible future wherein either 2 or 3 scenarios are likely. 1. i'll have to pull over, pay a crap load of money to get a tow and get home really late, 2. try to make it as far as i can and walk it the rest of the way home, 3. meanwhile possibly get into an accident with a compromised drive system.

Well, i took a few moments, some deep breaths, and sort of (metaphorically speaking) let go and gave it over to a higher power and prayed for help. I decided on option 2. and trying to get as close to my house as possible. Something told me to try to make it.

For this to be the case, I would have to experience no stop and go traffic on the highway, and once off the highway and the rest of the 3 or 4 miles to my house with some 4 traffic lights or so, not encounter a redlight, and pull onto my street, which happens to be a small, gravel road, gracefully and at higher than average speed. Part of me said, "dude, you're f*#&$!"

Much to my grateful surprise, i actually somehow made it fully home in the highest gear, and i didn't have to run a red light or once fully stop (though coming onto the gravel road and not stalling or losing control of the bike was a bit challenging).

Realistically, would it have been the end of the world if situation 1., 2., or even 3. had happened? No, mighty inconvenient and in the last, possibly quite painful (or death). But really, so what? Did i really need to get all stressed out like i briefly did, nope. And not because "it worked out" but because i could have handled the other situations in reality.

Fear, especially fear of the future and of things we can't control, really needs to be put in perspective sometimes. I've found that the more one has faith, and trusts that this universe is basically a good place designed to grow our souls through challenge, but rarely more than we can bear, one can more effectively weather life's storms, deal with fear, and on the occasion call for and receive help when it's actually needed. Well it's hard to not get all spiritual about a subject which is basically spiritual in essence.

Suffice it to say, not even death is really a big deal if you understand what it really means and entails. Speaking as someone who had someone very close to them and beloved, die while transitioning from childhood to adult hood. And someone who has come close to death themselves (not from these incidents, more serious ones).

With many events (even the difficult ones), there is a bigger Plan! But learning to more fully transform fear, that for most takes many lifetimes and lot's of experiences and even the more mature occasionally fall prey to that collective consciousness of the earth. And fear isn't always bad, sometimes it plays a helpful purpose. It becomes limiting when it becomes over prevalent, controlling, or cyclical in nature. An intuition or bad feeling to not board a certain plane or bus, or what not, fine, but starting to worry and fret about the prevalence of plane and bus accidents and limiting exposure based on that..unrealistic, limiting, and fear is controlling you.

Tuning into the bigger Love, naturally and innately dispels fear, they are like oil and water. This is why the man Yeshua Ben Yosef could knowingly go to his torture and murder, because he was so tuned into that bigger Love.