Blog: What the Nepal Earthquake Taught Me About Fear

Crowdfunding promo SQThe Be Awesome Blog has spent many a paragraph exploring the role of fear in our lives. Critical friend to the Dream Team, Dr. Simon Lawry shares his recent personal experiences around fear following the tragic events of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake.

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My fiancé was in Nepal for a work trip when the Earthquake struck. She was sitting in a café in Kathmandu when the carnage unleashed. I was sitting in a movie theatre in Carlton, Melbourne with my phone off, which she knew. Two hours after it happened I walked out of the theatre and turned my phone back on to a message that said the following:

There’s been several after shocks. We’re all in the streets. This is new for Nepal so no one knows what to do or expect. Julia is with sunny, she’s ok.

I’m scared and I miss you xxxxx

Immediately my mind starts racing, I try and call her, and can’t get through. I feel the panic start to grip and I don’t know what to do. I leave my friend and start walking home so that I can keep trying her. As I cross the street, my phone rings, and it’s her, thank god. I’m scared, and I don’t know what to say, I ask her if she’s ok, and she starts to cry. I have tears streaming down my face. I feel so far away, so powerless to support her. She was safe and she was unhurt.

“For now” the fear said in the back of my mind.

The next 24 hours were a blur. I became a bit of a robot in order to get through. There was no point in me collapsing into a heap, as I couldn’t help anyone in that space. I was afraid, I was uncertain. But I did what I could. I kept in touch with Eleisha via text, tried to keep up with the latest developments online, kept friends and family up to date, and even tried to get in touch with politicians to find out what Australia was doing. At several points I felt all of the fear and anxiety wash over me, but I stuffed it back down.

Photo Credit: simcsea via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: simcsea via Compfight cc

A little over 24 hours after the earthquake struck, we managed to get her on a plane out of there. It’s a bit of a miracle we managed it, and massive thanks to Singapore Airlines for helping us rebook the flights no questions asked. I got a text from her saying “and we’re up!” The plane had taken off. At this point I just flopped on the couch and lay there, relieved.

And through the relief, my fear clawed it’s way back in. ‘But what if she’s traumitised? What do we do then? PTSD? Survivor Guilt?’

And that’s when things changed for me. In that moment, I took a deep breath and looked my fear square in the face and said “We will deal with that if it comes up.” My fear stopped in it’s tracks. I’ve never said that to it before, and in a second it fell away and disappeared.

Now, I’ve experienced a lot of fear in my life. I’m only realising now how much fear has controlled me.

But what is fear?

Fear, is perceived future pain.  It’s something that you think is going to happen that is going to hurt you, or be difficult or challenging. And the most important thing about that is that it’s perceived. I didn’t know that Eleisha would come back traumatised. I just perceived that it might happen and that that would be terrible. Turns out she isn’t. She’s a resilient cookie.

This has led me to think a lot about fear. I have lived in fear most of my life. Fear is an evolutionary tool that has helped us survive, so I don’t expect it to go away. It is part of who we are as humans. What I’m experiencing though, is a change in how I deal with fear. I am transitioning to a world where I live with fear.

It’s a matter of control. Will I let this fear I have, that is based on a possible outcome, that I more than likely have an irrational relationship with, control me? Will I let it dictate how I feel? How I live my life? What I chose to do? How I chose to love?

When we take back control, and breath into our fears, we are open to peace. The peace to chose our own path. A line from Drive, by Incubus , sums it up beautifully.

“Lately, I’m beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found”

What fears have you been letting take the wheel and steer?

Click here to donate to the Red Cross Nepal Region Earthquake Appeal.


Simon

Dr. Simon Lawry uses design and psychology to make a difference in the world. He strives to help individuals and businesses build understanding of themselves and others. He is driven by a strong personal value to understand and has a passion for helping people.

Simon is VP of Customer at Gooroo.io and formerly Design and Research Lead at Huddle, where he curated knowledge and acted as an enabler of growth. Completing his PhD in design, Simon created a method that helps designers identify user familiarity so that this can be integrated into the design process. He has a deep understanding in cognitive psychology which enables him to draw insights into human behaviour and motivations. In his personal life he is a personal coach, plays with arduino and loves creating new things.

Get in touch with Simon.

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