I’ve dealt with anxiety pretty much ever since I can remember (which, at 52, is not as far back as it used to be but it’s still a very long time). Over the years, I’ve learned ways to cope and most people would probably never know I have anxiety, except for the fact that I’m very open about it and will talk about it when people would probably rather I just shut up.
But learning to cope doesn’t mean anxiety goes away. Ah, if only it were that simple! Learning to cope just means I don’t let anxiety rule my life…..although some days, it definitely rules my brain. The following ramble is an example……
For the past few years I’ve had a lot of trouble with my bladder. Some of that can be chalked up to being a woman and a lovely thing known as menopause (what a load of fun!) but some of it is related to other issues. My regular doctor and my gynecologist have been playing a guessing game the last few years while I’ve been reading loads of information on various things that can affect your bladder (I know way more things about bladders than I ever wanted to). Recently, I decided to go gluten free which has seemed to help more than anything I’ve done so far but this is all just background to get you to the anxiety part (not that anxiety hasn’t played a part in all of this, because, believe me, it has).
Back at the first of this year…….literally the very first day of the year, it felt like something dropped into my bladder. I’m used to having bladder infections but it’s never felt like something dropped into my bladder! At first I had some minor pain, like a regular UTI, so I had my doctor call me in some medicine. After a week or so of that, the pain was still there but not as bad, so I waited, thinking it would go away. Nope! I went to a local clinic (my regular doctor is 90 minutes away) and they said I had a bladder infection and treated me for one. That medicine also didn’t help so I made an appointment with my regular doctor. In the meantime, I was having some of the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life and I’m thinking, This is no bladder infection!
Fast forward through some regular doctor appointments, a gynecologist appointment, various medications (some which made me so sick I couldn’t function), and we get to my latest cause of major anxiety. My gynecologist concluded that at some point I’d had bladder stones so my regular doctor referred me to a urologist. My first trip to her, I had really worked myself up because I just knew she was going to do a cystoscopy to look into my bladder. I’ve had that done twice before, probably close to 30 years ago and it is one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever had done. Imagine my relief when it didn’t happen! She did some other tests, none nearly as invasive as a cystoscopy, gave me a journal to keep track of my bladder habits, and told me that next time she’d take a peek at my bladder. Well, crap.
The next few weeks the only thing on my mind was that procedure and how much pain it was going to cause. I think the pain overshadowed any thought of something actually being wrong. I mean, I have a pretty high pain tolerance but the thought of this was just something I was having a very hard time with and looking back I think the anxiety from that came out in lots of different ways (some of them ugly).
I was pretty wound up about that doctor visit when they called and postponed it because my urologist had to be in surgery that day. At this point, I’m thinking about calling the whole thing off. Just let my bladder fall out. I don’t care. Just don’t do the cystoscopy! I know, what a drama queen, right? Nope. Just my anxiety talking. She says some pretty stupid things sometimes. Also, by now, I’d been gluten free a couple of months and was feeling quite a bit better so why poke the bear when there’s no need??
Anyway, I didn’t call the whole thing off. As much as I didn’t want a cystoscopy, I also wanted one. HUH??? Yeah, you read that right. I wanted to know what was going on with my bladder. My gynecologist had told me a few years ago that I had Interstitial Cystitis but he based that purely on the fact that I have to pee a lot. He’s a man. Apparently, he doesn’t realize that older women (and sometimes younger women) just have to pee a lot. I still love him though. He’s a good doctor.
I hadn’t been convinced for a long time that Interstitial Cystitis was my problem so I really wanted to lay that to rest, one way or the other. But, oh the anxiety. I mean, I wrote this whole blog post to try and explain anxiety and I still can’t. This doctor visit was on my mind, every second of every day. I dreaded it to my very core. Some might say, “Well, just don’t think about it.” HOW DO YOU DO THAT???? If I knew how, believe me, I would have forgotten about it until the very hour it happened. Luckily, I was very busy at this time and that helped some but it was still there, haunting me every single day.
Finally the day arrived. Before the cystoscopy, I had to have an ultra sound of my kidneys, which required me to drink a lot of water before I got to the radiology place. Needless to say, that helped keep my mind occupied because when you REALLY have to pee out 32 ounces of water, you’re too busy perfecting the pee dance to think about much of anything else!
Afterwards, it’s on to the urologist’s office. I really can’t say enough good things about my urologist and her staff. They knew I was dreading the procedure and they tried to keep things light. Everyone in that office is SO nice. They assured me that technology was much better than back when I’d last had the procedure done but my brain wasn’t convinced. It was telling me I still had time to make a break for it. Although, at this point, I was pantless so that might be what kept me in place!
I will have to say, they were right. The procedure was so much better than it was years ago. Not saying it’s something I’ll be lining up to do again anytime soon but there was minimal pain during and afterwards (afterwards used to be almost as bad as the procedure). So, all’s good and the anxiety is gone, right??
Nope. As I mentioned before, anxiety is never gone. It’s just that what was causing my anxiety has now been replaced with something else. Afterwards, she talked to me about the results of the two tests. The good news: she said my bladder looked fine which means no Interstitial Cystitis! Past issues prove I’m sensitive to some foods and I know what those are but having IC and just being sensitive to some foods is a whole different ballgame! In the meantime, I’m literally so relieved at not being in pain, I think I might have been in some sort of shock. I didn’t ask her near as many questions as I should have, especially about what she told me next.
She said the kidney ultra sound showed that I have dilation in my right ureter (the tube going from your kidney to your bladder). She literally drew me a picture of it. She said what she thinks is causing this is a stone stuck toward the bottom of the ureter but the only way to be sure is to do a cat scan. She said that since I’ve been feeling better, we could wait and do another ultra sound in a few months and see if the dilation is gone. The one question I did manage to ask was: could it be something besides a stone? Her answer: “If you were 80, smoked 5 packs a day and was peeing blood, I might think it was a tumor but I’ve never seen one in someone your age, with your symptoms.”
Do you know what my brain heard? TUMOR. Do you know what has been flashing in my head like a neon sign ever since that moment? TUMOR. Do you know what my Google history looks like right now? TUMORTUMORTUMOR. Quite honestly, I think that’s why I felt so compelled to write this, just to get some of it (TUMOR) out of my system. I mean, basically, I went to the doctor and got pretty decent news but all I heard was TUMOR. All my brain can focus on is the one small possibility of TUMOR.
I’ve already had someone tell me I need to be positive and if you have anxiety, you know that’s one of the worst things someone can say to you. It’s so patronizing. I mean, I feel like on the whole, I’m a pretty positive person but it doesn’t make anxiety just go away. And also, telling someone they need to be positive when they’re obviously worried about something (TUMOR) is like saying what I’m feeling isn’t valid…..that I don’t have a right to be worried or scared (TUMOR). I wish I wasn’t worried (TUMOR). I wish I could just make the thoughts (TUMOR) go away but that’s not how anxiety works.
So, in the meantime, I have to decide if I want to get a cat scan (which brings up a whole other anxiety issue that I won’t go into right now) or if I want to try and wait until December to get another ultra sound. I have so many thoughts (TUMORTUMORTUMOR) going around in my head about what I should do but right now I don’t have a clue how I will deal with things. The way I’ve been trying to deal with things lately is with prayer and just by taking one day at a time. I’ve found it much easier for me to break things down into small increments (days) than try and tackle my whole life at once!
If you’ve read this far and you think I’m being silly, well, lucky you. I’m glad you don’t have to deal with anxiety on a daily basis. But if you’ve read this far and you understand, or you’re trying to, then God bless and thank you.
Accurate representation of my mind on most days: