Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Remember the Worst

I've been through worse. I've survived worse. 
I can survive this too.
I chant to myself, reminding myself, preparing myself.

I underwent a biopsy of a section of my last stoma site, now a scar, that never healed. It would become irritated and blister, a painful blister until it was made to burst. This cycle would continue on a weekly basis for 15 years until I decided to address it with a doctor. Although believed to be benign, the doctor wanted to complete a biopsy just to be safe while removing the sore simultaneously.

I dreaded the procedure. Actually, I dreaded the lidocaine shot. Not only can it burn but the level of pain would depend upon where the needle was placed - something I was afraid to ask about beforehand. My anxiety built and as the needle was placed inside the sore twice, I couldn't help but scream in pain before bursting into tears. The rest of the procedure was completed without incidence. And now, I'm left with the irritating pain that remains after the lidocaine has worn off.

I've survived worse than a shot in a sore on my scar. I've survived being sliced open without anesthesia, my intestine twisted around itself and surrounding organs, insertion of ng and rectal tubes, and the Essure procedure. And yet, in that moment those past survival achievements mean nothing. They don't help reduce my pain in the moment.

So how are these achievements helpful at all?

Remembering the worst helps in our mental preparations for what's to come next.

We survived worse so we can survive less.
If you're like me, mental preparation is a requirement for most medical procedures. Even lab draws require some mental preparation on my part. I have to coax myself into the right state of mind, inducing a bit of calmness into my highly anxious and fearful mind. I anticipate the pain before the pain begins and if I allow myself, I'll physically feel that pain without any actual physical prompting.

At times I require more than coaxing but also convincing of myself to go through with a procedure.

When asked if I would still have gone through this recent biopsy if I had realized the level of pain I would experience, I wasn't sure how to answer. I'm not sure if it would be worth it to me to go through this again. After all, the blistering sore was more of a nuisance than anything. It was never infected and posed no danger, just a reoccurring irritation of fluid build up. Now as the pain begins to subside with healing, I'm glad I had it done but would I really go through it again? I'm not sure I would. I like to avoid pain when I can. And it honestly hurt more than I first thought it would when I decided to have the sore removed. It was only during the approaching time to the biopsy that I started to fear and imagine what the pain level would be. Not only was it just a nuisance than any real issue, but as I wait for my new incision to heal I'm increasingly paranoid about the section of skin that was stitched to the incision section. This junction caused a new bump, very similar to the unhealing sore I just had removed. I worry that this will just create another unhealing sore or worse - a bump that will be more irritated than what was there before. Now I'm overanxious for the removal of the stitches to be removed so I'll be able to find out what this new scar will become. Would I go through this again to fix a new problem? Not likely. I would, however, regret my initial decision if my fears are confirmed about this possible new irritated sore spot.
I debated the idea of receiving iron infusions simply because it involved an IV. I desperately wanted my hemoglobin to reach a normal level - I was so exhausted I was ready for an IV. But after that first round, would I really want to continue with the infusions? So far, I'm willing to undergo the infusions in an effort to obtain a stabilized hemoglobin. And now I'm anxious to discover how the combination of infusions and ferrous gluconate (instead of ferrous sulfate) will affect the stability of my hemoglobin. And honestly, the first infusion of a round is the worse. After going back to receive an IV after several months without any it causes the anticipation to build, increasing the fear of the dreaded IV. Yet, the second infusion of the round is by far easier than the first. I survived the first one, I can survive the second one. There's less time for anticipation and fear to build between the first and second.

Regardless the various reasons we may hold onto remembering the worst, it remains to be helpful as we prepare ourselves for another medical battle - small or large. It reminds us of our strength and resiliency. Without these two characteristics, we become hard pressed for taking to the battle again. With these two characteristics though, we are fierce and unrelenting even we don't realize it. So stay strong, don't shy away from what you've survived. It will help you fight another day.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Focusing Our Efforts

I've been working hard on preparing my new home for moving in and I've noticed several changes - not only physically but emotionally. There's a strong, established connection between behavior, thoughts, and mood - when we change one, we change them all.
I had been experiencing an emotional funk as I was battling my excitement for a new home and grieving my divorce simultaneously. With my new home, I was able to distract myself from my grief and instead focus on my future. And it worked. In spite of a 9.4 hemoglobin, I was able to physically work on my home 14 hour days on the weekends and 4 hours during the week after work. I was pumped with adrenaline, I felt better physically, I was motivated and filled with excitement for the possibilities unfolding before me. And yet just four months ago, with a hemoglobin of 9.2 I was falling asleep at work. And it all changed because I focused my efforts on preparing my new home.

We feel better, physically and emotionally, when we keep active. Whether it's exercise, projects, or socializing our bodies and mind need activity. Remaining stagnant is harmful to our well-being. It is common for depression to take root when we are listless in our activity. Without action, we become bored and isolated, we focus our thoughts on our frustrations and our sorrows. We allow ourselves to become fixated on what bothers us, what's wrong rather than what we can do and enjoy.

The key becomes balance, as it is with so many things in life. Striking balance between activity and inactivity can be difficult at times when we are highly motivated and on a euphoric high of feeling well. We are prone to overdoing ourselves at this point and risk our own health. My family and friends cautioned me as I quickly began to overexert myself in my efforts. I slowed down, started taking breaks and eating regularly again.

Burn out is another side effect of overexerting ourselves. When we start to push ourselves, it is easy to push ourselves too far, too hard, too fast until our motivation and adrenaline fizzle out. We must learn how to pace ourselves in our efforts so that we may take care of ourselves while enjoying the fruits of our endeavors.

Find the courage, the motivation to discontinue inaction and instead focus our efforts and we will find ourselves more fulfilled than when we were listless. Our well-being will be most appreciative of our conscious decision for activity.