Feeling The Feelings And The Mind Rushing
Medical appointments and anxiety have come hand in hand for me since I can remember before appointments I feel really anxious, worried and sick. I’ve had a lot of medical appointments in my life some to do with my disability and others to do with my mental health. Throw in the pandemic and having to wear a mask and then see others with face masks is something I find really scary. I’m not the best with needles either.
Growing up I noticed I would have more hospital appointments than my peers. I’d have to leave school early for appointments. I still do now even as a college student. At school I than began to realise I needed aids like a splint on my leg whereas my peers didn’t have these. I would often have to explain to other kids what it was and why I wear one.
Even know I still explain to peers what my conditions are. When I was first put on medication for my mental health it was in liquid form. However this then changed to tablet form. I found this really scary thoughts would rush around my head.
What if I can’t swallow it?
What if it gets stuck?
Will it make me sick?
Now I find taking tablets ok most of the time but I still get these questions running through my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to incorporating medical appointments into my life as they still cause me stress in different ways but in a way it feels like a routine I just have to go with.
The past year however I have had my medical appointments on the phone and not in person due to the pandemic except for when I had my first vaccine for COVID. After my jab I had to lie down as the felt dizzy. Me and needles aren’t the best of friends.
As someone with anxiety I found doing appointments by phone call were actually better yes I still felt a bit anxious for the phone to ring. But I didn’t have to go through sitting in a waiting room waiting for my name to be called with about a million things going through my mind preparing myself into knowing I had to talk about things I’d rather not think about. I think it helped having appointments on the phone as I was in my safe place and I could do something straightway after my appointment like watch Netflix on the TV.
When I start to feel anxious before the appointment and in the waiting room my mum who takes me can see that I’m nervous. Sometimes I say that “ I can’t do it because my stomach is all in knots and I want it to be over before I even have to go”. This is when my mum will help me to do deep breathing and we do it together, I find doing it with someone else is very helpful as I feel not alone and that I’m not stupid for feeling this way and that’s completely normal and valid to feel how I feel.
One of the things I have to do now every week is a COVID test at college. I find these very worrying and scary to do and this can trigger my seizures. I think part of why I find it worrying is that you can’t read another persons face very well as the mask is preventing you from seeing things like a smile. The pandemic has made me realise how much as humans we gather information from each other just through facial expressions. I didn’t realise that a smile one small movement on your face could mean so much. That simple gesture conveys kindness and reassurance and a touch of empathy to another person. When seeing a needle is coming towards me and and I’m preparing for the sharp scratch it can be odd not to see a smile from the nurse or doctor who’s doing it not give that smile of reassurance that everything will be ok.
Doing Something Nice Afterwards
Before lockdown after appointments something my mum and I would do is to try and calm down my anxiety levels. By doing something completely different like going around looking at what yummy things we could buy in the supermarkets in the streets. It gave me a chance to clear my head and to breathe. Sometimes just taking a break feels like the right thing to do. As I feel if we just drove back home I may not want to have some chill time and end up doing more coursework or whatever I need to do.
Due to lockdown this way of helping myself calm down is not possible however we do different things for example before a phone call appointment we will organise something I want to do after the call for example taking my dog Mango on a walk or sitting down to watch a TV program. It’s all about doing the self care you can do at home from baking to having your favourite ice cream to making sure if you pamper yourself with a face mask and bubble bath.
If you feel anxious before appointments tell someone you trust, you don’t have to go through it alone!