In my last blog, we started to take a look at ways that women can find help for themselves during painful medical procedures. My tips were centered around choosing a provider, going at your own pace, and advocating for yourself. Need a refresher, check out the blog here. For this blog, I’d like to focus on noticing emotions you may experience during the, “waiting” period of procedures and quick tips on how to respond.
In The Waiting
If you are someone who is currently going through a medical procedure, you are likely acquainted with waiting. They even have a room for it when you get to the office that the procedure will occur in – the “waiting room.” You’re waiting to see the doctor, waiting to schedule a procedure, waiting for the results of the procedure, waiting to hear the doctor’s recommendations. You are in a constant place of waiting. All his waiting, can cause a great deal of worry, sadness, fatigue and fear. Let’s first look at these feelings in greater detail and then in my next blog, I will share about the ways to Thrive in the Waiting.
When thinking about worry, I often define it as our thoughts and feelings related to a future event. Worry may even be fueled by your past experiences with other doctors or procedures. This past or future orientation keeps you ungrounded and unsettled in our present moments. When worried, you have a difficult time concentrating; you are restless, and you may be reading WebMD to make sense of the symptoms and potential treatment options.
When you worry, there’s an inward clock counting down the days, hours, and minutes until you reach the point that you were waiting for. Worry can be consuming and highlights the lack of control that you have over your body. There’s something really humbling and strange in recognizing that even with your best efforts, you cannot speed up time.
One tip I’d like to share now if you are experiencing worry or pressure is to seek relaxation, space and mindfulness practices that can keep you present and engaged in what you are currently doing.
Next is the “cousin” of worry: sadness. When feelings of overwhelm become unmanageable, it can shift into feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. This is sadness. Moments when the “cloud” is following you around, you’re tearful, or irritable, can all be a sign that you are feeling sad.
Here is a quick tip on how to combat sadness: Look for moments of joy. You may feel sad, but are there activities or people that you talk to that bring you joy? Maybe it’s holding a baby, snuggling in your bed, or watching funny Instagram videos. Search for Joy. Read this article to learn more about searching for joy.
Fear (of pain)
Fear is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat. Are you feeling worried? Check (make check off box image). Is there potential harm or pain that could result from this procedure? Check. If you said yes to both of these statements, then you may be in the company of fear.
One of the best ways to combat fear, is with, “what you know is true.” In the psychology world, we call this doing some reality testing. For example, if you have concerns about how a procedure will affect you physically or emotionally, it’s okay to ask. Maybe the questions look like these: Will I be able to go back to work after this? What is the recovery time like? Based on what you know about my situation, what is the percentage of it working out? What medication would you likely prescribe for me afterwards?
If you have previous experience with this procedure, you are one step ahead than the rest. Reflect on your past experience and consider what you might need this time around to minimize the pain or distress that could come.
Worry, sadness, and fear of pain together gives way to fatigue. Literally, you may be tired from hormones that you are taking, the time certain procedures have to be conducted, multiple doctor’s appointments, and lack of sleep from worry. I often express with my clients in reflecting how much energy it takes for them to “hold it together (and this is true even if you don’t feel like you are 😉 ).” And my guess is, you are also trying. Your efforts, big and small, while it may seem that they have gone unnoticed, they are not unnoticed. I would encourage you to try out counseling.
Counseling is a space where you can acknowledge your vulnerability, find rest, and do some reality testing. In addition, I’d love to meet with you to notice your feelings together, take stock of how you’ve been coping with those feelings, and point you to resources that can also help.
Written by therapist Pamela Larkin
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