had a bit of a worry a while ago, where I was suffering from abdominal pain. It wasn’t severe enough to cause me major problems, but it was localised and around where my appendix should be. I was scared it might be appendicitis. No… that’s not right. I was terrified it might be appendicitis.
I know a lot of people who suffer from constant pain, or who have conditions that mean they need to carefully watch everything they do, and I felt like shit for being so scared of appendicitis. Dealing with it is a fairly standard operation. There’s no reason to be scared of it. Hell, I’m not scared of needles, or injuries, and if I cut myself while crafting my response tends to be “well that was dumb” and going to fetch a first-aid kit. So given all of this, why was I so scared? And did it mean that I was weak? Or a scaredy-cat? This bothered me for quite a while. It bothered me even more than the pain.
Eventually I decided I had to go to the doctor with it, and he ruled out some other possibilities, and gave me an injection that would rule out the last reasonable alternative. He sent me home saying that if I still hurt in the morning it was probably appendicitis and I was to go to A&E, but if the pain eased overnight due to the injection then it was something else, and I’d be okay to just sit it out.
I had a bit of an anxious night trying to figure out if the pain was easing or if I was just making it seem that way with wishful thinking. And I kept coming back to the fact that I *really* didn’t want to go in to hospital.
And then it hit me:
I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO GO INTO HOSPITAL.
Not “I was scared that the operation would hurt”
Not “I was scared I’d die”
Not “I was scared there’d be complications”
It was the hospital I was scared of.
So I spent a while trying to figure out why.
And eventually I realised. It wasn’t actually the hospital I was scared of either. It was the people.
I was scared of the nurses, and the reception staff, and the other patients, and the people there with them, and the doctors… most of all, I was scared of the fact that I’d have to deal with almost all of the above list in the one visit!
And all-in-all that didn’t help me with my terror. I don’t know how I could make that any better. It was just something I’d have to deal with. But I’ll tell you what it did help with: My guilt.
I’d felt shit because I was scared of something I “shouldn’t” be scared of, and the reason I “shouldn’t” be scared of it wasn’t that society said so, but that my mind said so. I “shouldn’t” be scared of simple medical procedures because I’m not scared of medical procedures. I never have been. So why now?
Finding out that it was the people I was scared of was a huge help with that because I know I’m anxious around crowds and strangers. It’s something I’ve dealt with before. It’s something I can face, even through the terror.
So sometimes it’s worth not hiding from your fear, or pushing it aside, or pretending it doesn’t exist. Sometimes it’s worth trying to figure out what it is you’re scared of. Perhaps it’s not what you think it is!
(The following morning the pain faded.)