A few weeks ago, I went to the new cardiologist. I had been looking forward to seeing them since I was able to make the appointment. I had planned to make a day of it when I made the 2-hour drive to Burlington.
The plan consisted of a well-chosen audiobook and a stop at the book store. I had left early enough to have an hour at the minimum to spend time perusing books. I had decided to be very selective in what I might buy. I had a list of books I was looking for and felt open to serendipitous book finds. I was embracing the advice from the movie Blindside, “If you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you will not wear it when you get home.” Or something like that. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the store, I was filled with anxiety and couldn’t focus on finding a book. I left empty-handed. Not a bad thing, considering how many unread books I had at home waiting for me.
The closer I got to Burlington, the more my anxiety picked up. I had been having a low-grade attack for the majority of the day. I was going somewhere new and seeing someone I had never met before, two things that were almost a guarantee to set my anxiety off. I like things that I know about in advance. Though fun in some contexts, new adventures were not fun in this instance. I recently had an anxiety attack in a doctor’s office and did not want another experience.
The thing with having an anxiety attack is that it makes me feel very vulnerable. I feel trapped and unable to defend myself. The recent attack happened when the usual nurse wasn’t there. Though I am sure the new one is competent, she didn’t listen when I tried to explain how I needed things to work. For whatever reason, the blood pressure cuffs that they usually use don’t give an accurate reading. Mainly because they trigger my claustrophobia and raise my blood pressure as I fight off the feeling of being trapped. When I told her I needed the standard cuff, she ignored me and did what she wanted; then, she proceeded to do the rest of the things she needed to do without considering that I was saying anything. When the doctor came in, I was in tears and struggling not to bolt out the door and leave. After I had calmed enough, I explained what had happened. I was also able to get my questions answered.
The new place was good. The person getting the initial information listened to what I was saying about my anxiety and the triggers associated with going to the doctor’s office. However, I was in full anxiety attack by that time. So when the doctor came in, I was way past having a cognisant conversation. I panicked when he made a suggestion, and I was unsure when he asked questions. Here is the thing: I knew all the answers to his questions and was on board with some of his suggested things. So we left it at me wearing a monitor for two weeks and getting a baseline on my heart during my daily life.
When I panic, I seem to lose the ability to think, which is perfectly normal and perfectly understandable. However, it doesn’t make it easy for the person I am talking with at the time. By the time I left the appointment, I was embarrassed and felt like I had wasted everyone’s time.
One of the hardest things for me is that when I am in the midst of an attack, I can’t think straight. I also don’t ask the right questions. Or I don’t ask for clarification on some of the answers that I have gotten in the past. I have found that different people give me different answers to the same questions. When I don’t fully understand something, I have difficulty navigating the information. Yet my anxiety keeps me from asking the questions that would give me the clarity.
I usually think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. Yet, when I am in these situations, I know I come off confused. Because of this, the information I need is often not what the doctor tells me. I explained that I had been reading research articles about the issue and was aware of the differing opinions (I had practiced that for a good part of the trip). His explanations made a little more sense when he stopped trying to dumb them down for me.
The plan for the next appointment is to take someone with me as the “designated adult” that can ask the questions or make sure I understand what the doctor is saying to me. I wish I could be the person I am around people I know and when I am in safe spaces. Then I feel like people can see the rational and intelligent person I know that I am inside.