I’ve been working in the field of chronic and life-threatening illness for over twenty years. Sitting in an amazing number of support group meeting rooms I’ve been witness to stories about how the participants came to know of their diagnosis. The stories all included a common component, the moment they knew something was amiss worry set in and accompanied them along the path to diagnosis.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been having a number of pulmonary symptoms. My breathing has been labored and simple exertion has sent me running for my inhaler. The inhaler is supposed to be used as a rescue measure; I needed a lot of rescuing. This problem breathing sent me to the doctor and on the odyssey began.
While telling the doctor my story he decided to do an EKG. Prior to entering the doctor’s office, I never considered the notion that it could be my heart. I felt my blood pressure rise. I wasn’t concerned with the test; it was more the element of surprise that created this sense of panic. The test was easy and fortunately it didn’t show any abnormalities. Then came the next surprise, he was sending me for a nuclear stress test.
Along with the test for these problems I was due for a colonoscopy, the joys of reaching fifty (actually I’m a couple of years late). I was given the laundry list of prep for the test and then set off to the GI department. The doctor came in and explained the procedure and then asked if I had any questions. I explained that I was a medical social worker and knew the process. I also told him that I couldn’t change the results of the test as I was laying on the gurney. I would await the results of the test and at that point in time I would take whatever actions were necessary.
I was telling my mother this story and she said, “I bet your doctor wished he had a hundred patients like you.” I had a calm and recognition that at the time of the test I couldn’t change the results. My body would do or done whatever it was going to do and the only “control” I would have would be how I handle the findings/results.
So why did the initial tests cause worry and the colonoscopy didn’t result in the same angst? The EKG was a surprise. I wasn’t surprised by the pulmonary tests, but the cardiac tests caught me off guard. The same with the colonoscopy; it was scheduled and I prepped for it so I was prepared for the test itself, the results remain to be determined.
It doesn’t matter how prepared we are, there are things we will worry about. Worry tends to be a useful emotion because it never changes the outcome. The only thing worry does it raise blood pressure, make us anxious, and propel our mind into a spiral of “what ifs” that ends in creating worse case scenarios.
We’re not immune to worry. How we handle the worry is the only control we can ever possess. Understanding what our worry triggers are can help as we move through life. It allows us better understand our psyche. We become more aware of our fragility and that is a scary process. There is a difference between fragility and vulnerability (something to be explored down the road). Fragility leaves us exposed to what we perceive as harmful to the body, mind, or spirit.
What do you tend to worry about? How do you handle that worry?
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