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How Facing Fears is Helping Me Heal

I haven't ever broken a bone, so I don't know what it is like to rehabilitate my mobility or muscles after a break. While I did have to rebuild my stamina in my body, after an invasion of three microbial bacteria from tick-borne illnesses, what has been equally as challenging was rehabilitating my mental well-being of finding peace again, especially in nature.

When I first stepped foot in my future house in Ely, Minnesota (about 10 to 20 miles south of the Canadian border), this past winter, I had an overwhelming sense that the place would help me to heal my state of mind and recover my body's stamina. This was significant since I was moving from the Twin Cities, an area I had lived most of my life.

Before moving north, I had someone close to me ask how in the world I could possibly move to a wooded place that’s closer to the ticks that made me sick. My reply was that I didn’t want fear to hold me back from living my life. That and sharing the fact that I wouldn’t be inclined to go off the beaten path in the woods any time again soon.

I had done a lot of work prior to my move to get to a more comfortable state with the outdoors. Where once nature was my source of recharging, it had turned into a place I not only feared but loathed. I no longer loath it now; I have more respect for its power – both in danger and beauty. While I’ve had moments of awe, I do have some more healing to do to get back to it being my source of recharging.

It occurred to me, after a month of being in my new home, that the healing I have experienced thus far hasn’t at all been a gentle ride. It's been an intense method of exposure therapy. I laughed to myself the other day because I initially assumed healing would be easy, like spending time at a spa. Nope!

I'd thought I'd begin healing by seeing the beauty that nature provides (surrounding my home and while out exploring), which is something that sparked my initial journey of loving nature and finding empowerment in its tenacity. But oh, no. This past month I have been face-to-face with my bug phobia. Specifically, spiders, which ironically, I fear more than the ticks that made me ill (both I’ve learned are in the arachnid family and are not considered insects, which is a whole rabbit hole of research I don’t need to get into right now). It doesn't logically make sense to me to fear spiders, but it has always been that way for me.

After taking possession of a home that was primarily used as an Airbnb, I quickly realized how much TLC the place needed, including getting rid of the (dead and alive) spiders, wasps, and beetles that had called this place home longer than me.

I guess it helps to be thrown into something to get desensitized. I can't say my phobias have gone away, but they have lessened a little. In addition, I have a better understanding of my comfort level from the trauma I went through after quickly pulling a deer tick off my 10-month-old puppy recently without hesitation. I understand the significance of this, especially since the horrific incident of ticks involved dozens of them covering my body almost two years ago. This post-hiking experience led to me contracting Lyme, anaplasmosis, and bartonella, resulting in a lengthy debilitating illness and recovery.

As someone with a bug phobia, it was something made of my deepest nightmare that has taken a lot of inner work, counseling, and healing with time to get to where I am today. So, while I don't know what it means to mend from a broken bone, I do know what it takes to rehabilitate my mental well-being. And for me, it involved moving north to a place that’s quieter; a place that has natural beauty; and a place that’s allowing me to still shake out some fears by facing them head on. And while my healing journey is not complete, I know that by making choices to live my life, instead of hiding from it based on fears, makes me so proud of myself because that is how I’m evolving and growing to be a stronger me.

I wanted to share this personal story with you because I want to show up for myself, for you and for others. I want you and others to see that fear doesn't always win, and that you can be stronger than the phobias or the traumas that sometimes holds you back. And as someone who preaches the importance of self-care and empowerment, I don't always feel like I am at my strongest to do so. But I am always focused on working to become a stronger me. That focus and determination makes me overflow with the urge to help others along their journey too. So, if my story helps you be inspired to become a stronger you, then, my nightmarish experiences have been worth it all.

In the meantime, I have some exploring in nature to do, which is helping me heal my mental well-being and find beauty and peace once more.

May you be bigger than your fears, even if it means taking one little step at a time.

Kelly Stone Cramer

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