By Jackie Jennings-Bates
The most fearful night of my life was spent on the border of Morocco and Algeria.
My husband, Mark, was in an off-road motorbike tour, and I was driving the back-up vehicle. We were completely off grid, ready for a night camping in the desert , but just before the end of the day, he took an almighty tumble from a dune and broke his collarbone. Luckily, not his neck!
The terrain and the map had us in safe Morocco, but the GPS and the only person we met that day had us in Algeria. It is not a good border to mess with.
While we were making a sling for Mark’s shoulder, we looked behind us and see a dense, black cloud — a sand storm was heading our way.
Yes, just like in the movies.
We rushed everything, threw up some tents and settled in. It was the most incredible force, like a whiteout, but more painful. Sandblasting is not meant for skin.
Mark couldn't crawl into our good tent, so we borrowed his brother's pop-up Wal-Mart tent. The storm flattened it on our faces; we could hardly breathe, but at least we didn't blow away.
We settled down for a long night — Mark, in lots of discomfort, and me with my rampant imagination.
There were so many strange sounds (like helicopters, flash floods, vicious animals etc.); sleep was completely elusive. The stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, were doing their job.
So what is fear. What was I afraid of? How did I deal with it?
Fear is a biochemical response as well as an emotional response that alerts us to the presence of danger or the threat of harm, whether that danger is physical or psychological.
Our nervous system automatically responds, sending out hormones, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. The danger doesn't have to be real, it can be imagined. In my case, I think it was both.
We had a medical and a meteorological situation. We didn't have helicopters or flash floods.
We couldn't alter our location, so we had to live with that uncertainty.
How to deal with it? The common expression is to face your fears. This seems to be a useful answer if you want to overcome them. You can ignore them, but then they don't go away and can grow bigger.
For my night in Morocco, I just tried to get through it.
- We put on iTunes.
- We talked it through.
- We tried to breathe and relax our muscles.
- We tried to think rational thoughts instead of letting our imaginations run wild.
- We tried to mitigate the problems by administering the best First Aid procedures possible (being trained was very helpful and is a good idea for facing fears).
- We tried to make a plan for the morning.
I focus on the moment. You can only do one thing at a time, so do the best you can with that one thing. I also try to reason that panicking is not helpful, although sometimes it feels tempting.
Then, we remembered that the worst holiday disasters make the best stories later, and tried to see the humour.
The joy always comes in the morning.
The sun came up, we were all still in one piece and no one was there to arrest us. We wedged Mark in the back-up vehicle, promptly got stuck in the mud about 10 minutes later and a whole village appeared from nowhere to dig us out and make us breakfast.
All fears washed away and our love of Morocco complete.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.