“Hello…….Is there anyone there?”
Bettina is calling from upstairs and looking over the banister. Our home can be noisy and the atmosphere is always filled with laughter and chatter 99.9% of the time – there are, after all, four adults living together in Bettina’s house. This evening, our house is unusually quiet, two of the adults are somewhere else in the country. Joyce rushes to reassure Bettina – “it is OK, Mum is here” – once again we are reminded of Bettina’s greatest fear, which is to be left on her own.
Supposing you had just arrived on earth for the first time, how would you feel? You see people looking at you and they are trying to communicate with you but you are not sure what they are communicating. You hear noises that hurt your ears and when people give you eye contact, it feels like a burning inside of you. You think about telling those around you how you are feeling but you are not sure how to do it and will they understand anyway?
Now imagine all these sensations happen to you all at the same time, every minute of your day and each day with no end in sight. Bettina copes with Autism and a learning disability and with her inherent courage she faces down her fears every day. After all what is courage without fear?
Fear: Distress or alarm caused by impending danger or pain. An awareness of dread. Terrifying.
Courage: The ability to face danger or pain without fear. Bravery.
“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.” Arthur Koestler
For me, I did not understand real fear and what it meant to be afraid, until I had witnessed seeing Bettina having her first seizure. It was unexpected as she was yet to have her epilepsy diagnosed. I had supported many people with seizures prior to Bettina’s but the shock and fear I felt when I witnessed this is something that has stayed with me, even after 15 years since it first happened.
I share with you the stories from ‘Being Bettina’s Dad’ series on my blog and in my monthly Leadership Pack to inspire readers to look at the world a little differently and help people on their leadership journey and, most importantly, to learn as I do from Bettina.
Bettina teaches her family and friends so much about life and what is courage without fear is a good example for me. I personally do not worry about feeling fear but what worries me is how I will perform and respond to fear on each occasion (will I let people down?). So it is helpful for me to revisit Bettina’s code and coping mechanisms:
From Fear to Courage – Bettina’s code
- Bettina conquers almost any fear by making a conscious decision to do so
- Bettina recognises if she gives into fear, she will always be frightened
- Once she has made up her mind, this diminishes her fear
- Bettina knows she is not able rid herself of her fears, so she chooses to harness and master them instead
- Bettina faces her fears by surrounding herself with those she loves and trusts, as she faces her danger
- With each distress or alarm Bettina feels, she conquers her perceived pain and acknowledges her success by giving a thumbs up and saying “you did it” then she moves on to her next challenge
Bettina’s coping mechanisms:
- Bettina does not allow herself to stay in a fearful state, she immediately plunges straight back into action (it is that kind of courage that her family admire in Bettina so much)
- Bettina keeps her focus and concentration on the main prize – everything else is a distraction
- She repeats a mantra to her herself. She does this often and I believe it helps her concentrate and keep focused
- Bettina brings all her thoughts to bear on the activity, fixing her attention and efforts on her task, not allowing anything to distract her until she has fulfilled her objective
Bettina can often be frightened, but this does not stop her from living her courageous life. Go Bettina!
“Hello…….Is there anyone there?”
We are Bettina and we always will be.