Thursday, February 18, 2016

Doctor Anxiety

With the amount of time that I spend going to therapy, getting blood drawn, taking meds, and talking about my health in general, you'd think that doctors visits and anything medical/health related would be a snap. And in theory, it is. I don't mind the actual appointments themselves. I have no shame about gowns with awkward openings, or being touched and prodded and poked (professionally). Needles don't bother me, nor does the sight of blood. I helped aspirate my own knee when I was 16. I don't mind CAT/MRI machines. I have had my GI system examined from every angle. It's not the actual tests that bother me - though that colonoscopy prep wasn't fun. It's the idea of doctors and tests that bother me, my therapy visits being an exception. Let me explain.

First off, my family are no strangers to health issues, numerous of which are genetic. On several occasions family members have gone in for routine visits and told they have stage 3 or 4 cancer. Crohns, colitis, and colon cancer are not strangers to our family. Neither are heart conditions. Or endometriosis. Two years ago when I was having dizzy spells I got examined/tested at length for MS and ALS, along with TIAs, which have taken lives in my family. And I realize all of this should make me more willing to go to the doctor. But this shit is scary. And you know what's also scary? The waiting period before you actually go, and the waiting period for the results. Because that leaves a lot of time for imagination, and my imagination likes to work overtime as it is.

For those that suffer from anxiety, you know what I'm talking about. Here's how it plays out in my head: I have this doctor appointment for something routine - doctor, dentist, OBGYN, routine visit, or something that doesn't seem earth shattering. I'm going to totally fine. But what if I go and they find some life- threatening illness. Oh no, what if it's this or that (insert scary illness here)? What will I do? My insurance wouldn't cover that! How will that affect the rest of my life? What will I do, I can't afford that! I'm going to die alone and miserable. Or worse, I'm going to live a long but ill life, alone, and in the debt of insurance and medical bills. This is literally what goes through my head for a routine physical. You should have seen me with the CAT scans of my head, or god forbid the pregnancy test they insist on giving you at the OBGYN every single time, even those times that you assure them it would have to be the second coming of Christ if you were somehow pregnant.

To clarify, I'm not a hypochondriac. I don't run to the doctor or ER for every little thing - far from it (because clearly I do not love going to either unless it's absolutely necessary). Nor am I the type of person that needs to be waited on hand and foot the minute I get a cold. In fact, routinely I'll casually mention, "oh, I have a migraine/sinus infection", or "oh yeah that time when I had encephalitis..." and people look at me like I have two heads. But it's anxiety. It's anxiety because I don't like the unknown even if I feel like it is known. I don't even like the suggestion of the unknown. Because even when I'm 99.9999% positive of the result -i.e. the immaculate conception pregnancy tests described above - I sit there driving myself crazy about what could possibly go wrong, even if it's something that has nothing to do with my original visit/test/etc (I'm not sure what else they'd find on the pregnancy test beside pregnancy, but you get the idea).

Partly, I think for those of us with anxiety and mental health conditions, we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Our lives are never free of anxiety, depression, hypomania, or symptoms of these. They're never going well for that long, as is the nature of mood cycling. You may be "up" for a bit, but you know the crash is coming. That makes it tough to enjoy the up at times, especially if you're rapid cycling and know it isn't bound to last all that long. And such it is when it comes to the rest of life. When things seem to be going well, no matter how hard you've worked or how much you feel, or others tell you, that you deserve to be happy, you're waiting for something to jump out from some dark hidden corner where you aren't looking and ruin it. Thus, in our mind, a well visit checkup to a doctor, or a dentist, or someone else we (should) routinely see turns into an impending avalanche in our heads for no reason other than the fact that we suffer from anxiety. Because if nothing else is going wrong, this must be it, just waiting for us, when we least expect it.

I don't know if others have this fear, or if it's just me. I find it ironic that the physical tests themselves don't bother me. And I think if I could go in at the moment, get any tests right then, and get the results immediately, I'd be a little better. Not great, but at least it wouldn't stretch the process of waiting out impossibly long. But knowing some sort of appointment weeks or months from now, and then you have to do all these tests and exams, and then you have to wait x number of days/weeks/hopefully not months because then someone's not doing their job for the results is torture. Because waiting means uncertainty, even when you feel certain. And anxiety and depression and uncertainty don't mix.

No comments:

Post a Comment