For someone who suffers from anxiety and can’t take medications for it, this last week was a long week, an extraordinary test of the coping strategies I’ve been employing since 2020. My cancer scare was thankfully no more than that, instead a mere hint of what an actual diagnosis would be like. It was also a reminder of when they biopsied my lungs in 2010 (also in May).
My focus, though, for the purposes of this blog post, is how I made it through the week with no support and without coming apart.
My April mammogram was literally delayed mere hours before it was to occur. Instead, it happened on May 17th. I always schedule it. If I instead took advantage of their walk-in service it’d never happen. Having a breast squeezed as flat as a beavertail is never an experience I’m anxious to repeat.
On the 18th, last Wednesday, they called. They’d discovered something. Probably not a mass, but, well, something. In other words, we don’t know what it is, but don’t want you to panic.
Worse, they couldn’t get me in again until the 24th.
A week for me to unravel. A week for my imagination to conjure images of drastic surgeries, chemo, and death. A week to dwell on the fact I’m finally doing what I love (writing) and am close to publishing.
It could’ve gone the way of a meltdown, but it didn’t.
The Critical First Steps
First of all, I didn’t overreact to my reaction.
It took a bit for the news to sink in. In the meantime, I returned to editing Protecting the Pneuma Key and creating its novel scan. That evening, though, the tears came.
In the past, my reaction who’ve been to fight the emotions. Instead, I let myself have the cry, let it all out, let it flow through.
Central to doing so was self-talk. I’ve finally trained myself to recognize negative self-talk. Instead, I reminded myself of all I’d lose if I let a downward spiral begin.
- “Anxiety and depression do not serve you, it’ll be the other way around.”
- “What would Don tell you?” (He was the one outstanding counselor I ever had.)
- “Remain in the Now, not the past, not the future.” The Now meant what’s important to me, meaning writing and editing.
What I did allow were productive emotions, like bolstering my willfulness through the week in preparation for the big day. After all, I didn’t stand up for myself in 2009 and am now missing 33% of my lung capacity forever. Those doctors refused to consider their diagnosis was wrong (it was) and sent me to the psychiatrist who drugged me into oblivion.
That meant being kind to myself rather than the opposite, which is the fastest way to depression. Better to acknowledge the negative and let it pass through, then reward myself in a positive way.
In other words, productive rewards. A little extra social media? Fine. Excessive amounts? No. That’d mean I wasn’t working on what was important to me, which would spiral into depression. Likewise, binge eating would lead to depression in that’d be unhealthy. Weight gain would be a greater load for my damaged lungs to power.
In my case, though, there was the opposite problem. Not eating. I had to force down what little I consumed, which made it more important for it to be healthy. There was, though, chocolate … always chocolate.
There was also walking whenever I could, along with meditation and yoga every day. I also lost myself in my writing and indulged extra reading. There was, too, a little more video than normal.
How Did I Do?
It worked, not perfectly, but well enough.
By the last night, I’d reached the point where I just wanted it to be over, which I view as a positive. I even slept relatively well. The first signs of anxiety shakes started a couple of hours before the appointment. I’d allowed for that, applying makeup long before so I wouldn’t have eyeliner all over my face.
I recognize that some of my issues stem from the Wyoming doctors destroying my trust. Fortunately, the technician was friendly and let me wait in the room while she consulted with the doctor right away.
Me? I adopted a meditation pose on the chair and focused on my breathing. That’s all the more important when I have to wear a mask. My damaged lungs have to work harder and faintness is the result if I’m not careful.
Ten minutes later, she returned with the doctor (also friendly) and I was given a clean bill of breast health. Whew!
The experience was also a reminder to have checked what you’re supposed to have checked.
In the end, there’s a happy ending, my writing continues, I’m proud of my mental health management, and oh so grateful. My annual exam on the 26th remains, but I’m feeling confident!