This past week was a big one for me. I had a scope on my stomach last Thursday afternoon. When I first asked my doctor to refer me to a specialist I was convinced I’d be told I had cancer. I’ve had stomach pain since last Spring, and stomach acid pills haven’t given me much relief. I’ve had ultrasounds, x-rays, everything all come back clear. But my anxiety told me the scope would find something BAD. Then that would be it – no more being in my cousin’s wedding, no more trip to Montreal to see Sam Roberts, no more enjoying my thirtieth birthday party in March. It was all going to come tumbling down in dramatic fashion.
But I held strong. I had some minor anxiety when I was first given my appointment. But I worked through it. I reminded myself about all the benign conditions that are associated with the pain I’ve been having. I refocused my attention on work. Slowly, the anxiety faded. Even when the day came I was managing my anxiety quite well. I expected to be crying, and be a total mess. Usually I walk into tests with this horrible sense of dread. I can’t sit still. I can’t stop thinking about all the things I will miss out on. I feel like running, screaming and staying put all at the same time. But this time was different. This time I was just nervous about the procedure itself, which felt normal. Most people get scared of medical procedures, even people who don’t normally suffer from any health anxiety. Instead of fretting, I was joking with the nurses, I even tolerated multiple needles as they struggled to find a vein to put my IV into. I was more worried I’d say something stupid while drugged up! (According to the doctor, I only muttered something about the TTC). I actually felt pretty positive about the whole thing.
When I came to I was given the good news – my stomach pain is nothing serious. No cancer. No tumours. Just gastritis. I was given a different prescription and sent on my way. There is literally nothing left for me to fear in my body. In the last several years I’ve had just about everything checked, except my brain. I now have every reason to reassure myself that I am OK. That is going to be a big help going forward in my fight against my disorder. (And please note, I do think you should always go to the doctor if you have a symptom that is concerning you, even though sometimes going to the doctor can be just as scary as not knowing the answer.)
I want to go back to how I felt before the procedure though. This new sense of strength was a different experience for me. I think a number of factors came into play, and all of them extend to the importance of seeking help. Number one, I had so many people supporting me and reassuring me. Everyone knows my symptoms are real, and we were all looking forward to getting an answer. Being public about my anxiety has helped me so much. I don’t feel alone in these battles anymore. Second, the anti-depressants are working their magic. I truly feel they helped keep me level headed, and helped quiet those obsessive thoughts. I almost found myself getting bored of worrying about the procedure, or thinking about it. I still looked up the procedure, but I didn’t get scared about what I saw. It didn’t make me feel worse. I can’t deny the medication played a role in any of this. And again, the first two support systems wouldn’t have happened if I continued to keep my disorder to myself. But by speaking up, I have created this incredible strength. The more people you have in your army, the easier the battle becomes. Third, I have spent the last week getting back in touch with music and finding new bands to listen to.
Finding something you can be passionate about is key to breaking down your anxiety. Music for me is one of those things. It’s an incredibly important aspect of my life. Just scroll back through my old posts and you’ll see that last year I saw over 30 bands. I listen to an immense amount of music. Music is a fantastic way to distract your brain from those “what if” thoughts. Instead of brooding in my apartment, I’ll throw on some upbeat music and dance around like a maniac. By the time I am done I have forgotten what I was worrying about. Or I spend hours looking up new bands online, sampling their music and looking to see when they’ll be on tour. Doing that sure beats looking up horrible illnesses I could possibly have. I love discovering new artists. I also love to rediscover older albums that I haven’t listened to in years. It’s hard to describe in full detail just how much I love music. It breathes life into me. That is really the simplest way to put it.
So this past week I was diving into new music, but also digging into the past. My parents were holding one of their trademark “Countdown” parties this past weekend. It’s a night where they get as many of their friends as possible to fill out a ballot ranking their favourite artists, albums, songs, etc and after compiling the votes they throw a huge party. This was the first time since 2003 they’ve held it, so they decided to allow people to vote on their favourite music since that year. I decided to fill out a ballot and found myself completely overwhelmed. How was I ever going to decide on 30 songs that have spoken to me since I started university?! Deciding on albums was actually easy, but songs was tough. But if anything, this exercise reminded how important music is in my recovery. I was reminded of songs I love to sing along to, dance to, rock out to, relax to, and even cry to. Sometimes you can’t always express what you’re feeling, but a song will. Music is often my best form of therapy. You need to get in touch with those things in your life that help give it purpose, and give yourself something to look forward to. Something that gets your creativity flowing. Something that distracts you from the “what if” scenarios in your life.
For me it’s music, but for you it might be something else. In that vein, my next entry will be focused on my Winter 2015 selections. I am going to lay out what bands have been filling my ears lately, who I’ve seen in concert already, and just other musings on the state of music during this dreary time of year.
Thanks again for reading, and as always feel free to follow me on Twitter for more random musings.