You know the feeling – the ache or pain, the mole, the lump or bump that you’ve been trying not to think about? You’ve been hoping it will go away.
And now, you finally have health insurance. People in Washington are still fighting, but for the first time in years you can go to the doctor without risking your life savings. So, why haven’t you gone?
You confess to your closest friend that you’re overdue for a colonoscopy. You haven’t had a mammogram since forever… And you’ve got this hangnail! Catastrophizing and procrastinating are now your constant companions. What if they find something? What if I have cancer? What if…
May as well eat that box of chocolates. I'm going to die anyway.
I’m imagining that a lot of people are struggling with getting back into the medical system after years of neglect and over-the-counter reassurances. I’m guessing that facing that first doctor’s visit is not unlike the first day of school (for those of us who hated school).
I’ll let you in on a big secret. Those of us who have had cancer, who have had surgeries and the worst of the worst – chemo and radiation, who have endured all the anxiety-provoking follow-up examinations and scans are not any braver than you are.
We still hate going to the doctor. We still fear at each check-up that this is going to be it. We still race ahead in our minds and turn every minor ache into a death sentence. We cancer survivors call it PTSD. But how about pre-traumatic stress disorder? How about the anticipation that the health-returnee is now putting himself through? You are not alone. Many are playing catch-up with their health, and most are terrified. Most have already self-diagnosed terminal illness. Most are probably wrong.
Ask yourself, what’s my biggest fear - Cancer? Diabetes? Alzheimer’s? When you think of it, can you feel that 1000 pound rock at the bottom of your stomach or that flight or fight response?
I’ve been told by a wise psychologist to delve into those feelings. Give them a place in your mind. Don’t fight them off immediately, because they will come back.
But, don’t entertain them forever either. Invite them in. Feel your terror, then let it go for now. Honoring your fear is not the same as giving in to it.
Break down this health maintenance project into small steps. Likely, the first should be to find a doctor, not an Urgent Care Facility. I mean a medical person who will get to know you and your needs. Check out that list that your insurance provider has given you, and look at it as if you are interviewing this person for a job. You are.
Your primary care provider is your link to the care you need either right away or in the future. This person needs to be qualified and accessible. That means that even though you may not enjoy seeing the doctor or nurse practitioner, you will at least consider this person a member of your team. Shop around. If you find yourself unsatisfied with your first pick, keep looking. Because once you find someone, you should be willing to do what he or she suggests (after all they are the expert) or to at least negotiate another plan. Communicating honestly is critical.
Next, make an appointment. Dave Ramsey suggests the snowball approach for getting out of debt. Pay off your smallest debts first. The thinking is that this allows you to see yourself making progress on what may have felt like an overwhelming task.
Some people like to jump in and do the scarier stuff first. Okay, go ahead and schedule your long-overdue colonoscopy. Only you know what you’re up for, but do something.
Denial and procrastination can be fatal, but that hangnail - likely not.