I recently underwent a routine, preventative medical procedure. Now that I am on the other side of it (and there were no problems found), I can breathe easier, I can think more clearly, and my mind is not occluded with worry. That was not my perceived reality during the week leading up to this experience. I thought several times of cancelling the whole thing. I agonized often about the preparation and whether I could do it. More often than not, the notions of complications seeped into my thoughts.
One important lesson I learned during this experience is that “routine” is subjective. While very common, this would be a “first” for me and felt anything BUT routine. It is an invasive procedure and although the doctor shared that there is minimal risk, my own research (perhaps way too much of my own research) alluded to severe complications if those minimal risks occur. Even the well-intentioned support of friends who have gone through the same process was of little comfort when contemplating the things that could happen … to ME!
As I have reflected on my experience, I have come to realize that all of the energy I expended on worrying and anticipating robbed me of a week’s worth of enjoying life. My preoccupation with “what-ifs” kept me from fully enjoying time with my husband and friends, interrupted restful sleep, and disturbed my mood. Everything my concerned friends and family shared about their experiences turned out to be pretty accurate. The day before really was the hard part, and it wasn’t all that difficult or unpleasant. I slept through the exam and awoke without complications.
I believe it is natural and normal to worry about the unknown, to anticipate some first experiences with trepidation and fear, especially when the experience involves something invasive into or against our bodies. Part of my fear leading up to this day was worrying about what would happen to my family should a complication occur that would render me physically dependent, or unable to work and contribute to our household. I became fearful about what my son would experience if something happened to me. As I told my husband, all my thinking and worrying was taking me deeper into the rabbit hole and I could not keep myself from sinking into it.
Through my experience, I have come to understand a few things more clearly:
- People are hesitant to talk about “what ifs” with medical procedures and diagnoses for fear the bad things may actually happen.
- Thinking and talking about things that might happen in the future can be daunting and anxiety-provoking.
- Without accurate information and open discussion, it becomes very easy to dive into the dark recesses of imagined (and feared) problems.
- Even with kind reassurances and information, people experience fear, worry and anxiety when an experience is new.
- Worry and trepidation cause a fretting state that chokes out the ability to spend quality time with those we love and/or enjoy favorite activities.
Talking about bad things does not make them occur. Open, engaging discussions might actually alleviate some of the worry that builds up when things are left unspoken. Although hearing from friends and relatives who had undergone what I was facing did not completely ease my angst, it did give me hope that I, too, would come out of it fine. But, if something bad did happen, I knew that I would be surrounded by love and support. Sometimes, just knowing that people have your back can weaken the fear of the unknown.
Caring Choices can help you and your family navigate the rabbit hole of fear, worry and trepidation by providing information and guiding support as you step through your personal care planning conversations.
(c) 2013 Caring Choices