I cried in the doctor’s office today.
I have been wheezing and coughing and dealing with stomach cramps for the past few days and, with the sound advice of my husband, decided to contact my GP. Their office has been amazing when it comes to making last-minute appointments and giving me the time I need when I am there. They are friendly and helpful and treat me like a person. I am really grateful to be connected to their clinic!
That is a rabbit trail that, although lovely, is not the point of this post. Back to the story at hand…
After my doctor heard my side of the week and did her own analysis, she told me she wanted to run a test for the Flu. Not anything crazy, just a cotton swab and a few minutes of waiting for results. A quick painless test and ten minutes of talking to Ben while we try to decipher medical posters on the wall. No big deal.
Right? No big deal?
I started crying the minute my nurse walked into the room. Ben jumped up and grabbed my hand and my sweet medical team member pulled out a tissue. “Oh no! It’s alright!” She told me. “I promise this won’t hurt much it will be over very soon.” After a few minutes of tears paired with coughing and “I’m so sorry”s, I was finally breathing well enough to let her stick the swab up my nose.
After the nurse stepped out with my mucus sample and my husband gave me a hug and I coughed up some more phlegm I had to ask myself the question:
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!
The past few years I have had intense anxiety attached to anything and everything related to my health. I have ugly cried before every procedure and in multiple medical visits. I had a full-blown panic attack on the ER gurney while they were trying to find a vein for a blood draw. I shed hot, silent tears on the ride home after I was deemed unwell enough for cardiac rehab. I put off taking a new medication for days because I had (perhaps unwisely) further researched some of the potential side effects. As someone who has always been a bit of a worry-wart, my heart issues have accelerated that anxiety and created a whole new stress-filled beast!
I have heard that dealing with chronic illness is often connected with developing or worsening anxiety. People with physical health issues (and those caring for them) are more aware of what is happening in their body and can feel completely out-of-control in regards to status and symptoms. Being sick is terribly stressful.
My medical team knows that I am dealing with anxiety and they have worked well with me in moments of fears and worry. A few times they have been willing to give me a moment to emote without them present and a few times they have been able to come up with a different way of getting data. Every once in a while there is nothing any of us can do except move forward. No one has ever made fun of me for weeping as they wheel me to the cath lab. They, perhaps more than anyone else, understand how difficult this is. After all, they are the ones prescribing the scary procedures and bringing the stressful news!
. . .
. . .
With the help of my amazing therapist and loving support system, I have been able to recognize what is triggering my worry and stress in certain situations. Sometimes clarity comes days or months later. Sometimes I only find certain pieces of truth. Sometimes, like today, I am able to speak it in the moment.
“I am angry.” I told my husband, still holding my hand. “I am angry that I feel sick most days. And I realize it is not my fault. I feel helpless and that makes me sad and worried and angry. If I have the flu, it is just one more thing I have to try to work through on top of everything else.”
And you know what? I stopped crying. For a few moments I was able to identify my emotions, put into words what was bothering me, and breathe.
I don’t have the flu. (Unfortunately, I have a kidney infection and the start of bronchitis–which might be worse.) But I do have anxiety. And I have people who are helping me move forward in all of it.
Happy Mental Health Awareness Month. May we all move forward together.