Gastroscopy timeline (educational but not so fun)

Oversharing warning!!!

Description of an unpleasant medical procedure on a health anxiety sufferer – Get out now while you still can and go read about puppies instead!

Ever wondered what it’s like to have a camera down your throat? Well, it’s about as fun as you imagine it to be, but it’s not painful, and it’s not deadly and even a freakshow like me can go through with it whilst conscious…so…I reckon pretty much anyone can do it.

Here’s my timeline:

T-6 hours, breakfast and 1mg diazepam 

T-2 hours, last water plus 2mg diazepam

T-1 hour, leave for the hospital

T,  taken for blood pressure and pulse check 

T+45 mins, still browsing the oatmeal for amusing distractions, wishing i’d taken more valium

T+50 mins, taken to the theatre

T+55 mins given lidocaine throat spray and description of what will happen, seriously wishing i’d taken more valium.

T+60 mins, mouth guard in, tube in, and around 4 mins of weirdness and wretching while I hyperventilated and set off the heartrate alarm and the consultant took a video and three biopsies. I wasn’t allowed to watch the screen while they did it 😦 

T+65 mins, breathing and heartrate returning back to normal, results explained (stomach polyps, no sign of reflux), and released home.

T+4 hours, unnecessary irrational concern that the sudden rise in heart rate might have caused damage. 

T+13 hours, wake up overheated, wander around looking for thermometer in case I have a deadly fever. Cant find one, go back to sleep because it’s probably just the valium wearing off. 

T+18 hours, eat breakfast but discover mild vague stomach soreness and consider perforation, cancel horse riding, even though it’s probably muscular pain from the wretching.

T+20 hours, order myself a cute handbag as a reward for being so brave yesterday

T+24 hours, observe dull heartburny chest discomfort that I worry is either my heart or some esophageal tear. Take gaviscon, it gets better.

T+30 hours, starting to get a grip because I’m not displaying any dangerous symptoms…still checkimg temperature and avoiding exertion :/

****

I’m intrigued as to the biopsy results but expect them to be normal..Someone could have told me they were going to check for celiac because I’ve been gluten free for over a month! I also anticipate another day or so of vague discomfort while my insides heal from the bruising and the little fleshy chunks they cut out. Lets be honest here through, even if these mild and largely non-worrysome symptoms don’t improve overnight I’ll still be on the phone for some medical reassurance as soon and the department opens tomorrow! I like to get my money’s worth out of the NHS!
 

Phew! What an adventure. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not voulenteering for another any time soon. I highly recommend the sedative that I declined this time. If there’s a next time I want to be out cold (as long as I can control my tube pulling-out reflex).

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In which I forgive myself and don’t refer to myself as a pathetic idiot

If you get triggered by descriptions of medical procedures then probably don’t read this…

Today was hard for me. I mean really hard. I had to go for a hospital procedure that is basically my idea of hell. I’ve been losing sleep and taken up a whole therapy session fretting over it. Despite much reassurance my anxiety rather got the better or me. I was pretty much holding it together right until I went for some admission tests, y’know the boring blood pressure etc and then the eye faucet was opened. 
Oh dear. Well that wasn’t super helpful but I was unreasonably stressed and couldn’t understand the nurse very well (a combination of anxiety worsening my attention, and a nurse with hayfever and a heavy accent). 

I got my shit together and read my kindle for a bit. An elderly lady with a stick was ushered in and asked to change into a gown. I wondered if she was agile enough to change herself but she managed it OK. As I was called to have the canula put in I got freaked out and the lovely nurse was very nice to me while I sobbed about stopping breathing and dying…so I was put back in the waiting room uncanulated. Being somewhat teary I got a concerned look from the old lady across from me. Despite the effort for her to get up and hobble over to me, she did so and gave me a hug, asking of I was OK. In her thick Scottish accent she told me she was 90 years old had stomach surgery for cancer 40 years ago and had been a regular attendee at the clinic ever since. She said I’d be fine and I almost believed her. People can be so lovely.

I went through to the theatre and the nurse in charge of the actual tube down throat manoeuvre tried to calm me and with some hesitation I agreed to them going ahead. I was shaking so much that no sedation was out of the question.  It took three nurses and three attempts to get the stupid canula in due to being dehydrated. So that was a bit painful and sore so I got dizzy and teary again. They sprayed some godawful demon banana flavoured anaesthetic down my throat, flushed out the canula with saline then gave me sedative, within a couple of seconds I was relaxed, they put in a mouth guard and then I came to in the recovery area a few mins later. 

Apparently it did not got to plan.
Sedated pickledsparklymooseprincess did not enjoy having a camera being pushed down her throat and so she started trying to pull it out with her hands. I don’t know how many times they tried or how much sedative they gave me, I asked why they didn’t just hold my arms down but during the chat the head nurse had with me afterwards. She rather suggested that I was uncontrollably uncomfortable and it was impossible for them to restrain me enough go continue.
Eek.
So basically I went though all the hunger, thirst, build up, the tears, the stress, fear, needles, sedation and presumably gagging, plus associated throat soreness that come free with the procedure without ACTUALLY managing to have it done. 

A large part of me is disappointed and not very sympathetic about this turn of events, however I am proud of myself for agreeing to the procedure, going to the hospital, having the canula put in, having sedation and trying to have the scope. Sadly it wasn’t my day and I might need a general anaesthetic if they decide I really need it done that badly.
So there we have it. Not what anyone wanted but I almost made it. On the plus side I’ll be less scared of canuli and sedation now (and hospital procedures in general). So for the next few days I’ll be stopping myself mid-thought when the words idiot, stupid or pathetic come to mind. Lets face it, this was not a pleasant morning but I got through it and even without the rose tinting of time, would try again (though the nurses may disagree!) 

What I didn’t tell people about my weekend

This weekend was most definitely a good one. I got away with zero housework, travelled across the country for a lovely afternoon with a dear friend, and then spent Saturday morning horse riding, bathing the horses and cleaning tack. The afternoon involved attempted napping.

image

(one very soggy Buster)

All good stuff.

Now. What most people I’ve told about my weekend don’t know is that Saturday didn’t start out quite as planned. I was a bit nervous about all the travelling (~6 hrs on the train in total, 6 hours of germs confined goodness) but got myself up, washed and fed, and just as time to leave approached, I realised I needed some sunscreen. Now. As I mentioned, I was a bit on the anxious side, so with every drawer ransacked and every box furiously emptied onto the floor, panic started to seep in, like a vengeful possession wherein all I wanted to do was smash up everything around me. So, still having a modicum of self-restraint I did the only other thing possible and just broke down in tears, freaking the fuck out about acne from other sunscreens, sunburn and skin cancer, and missing the train, and disappointing my friend and catching the plague from the London underground and then, something both amazing and utterly horrific happened. My body reacted to this most acute anguish by seemingly stabbing itself in the abdomen repeatedly. I don’t know if it was meant to be a distraction or what, but it didn’t fucking help, I can tell you that much. So with tears streaming down my face and clutching my belly in agony I thought long and hard about if I could really do this. If I was even capable of taking the reins of control away from anxiety and riding the day out in peace.
After much wincing, ouching and short breaths, I continued rummaging the instigating sunblock was located, and was liberally applied. I was theoretically ready to leave but by now I really wondered if this pain wasn’t something serious. I mean, it really fucking hurt. Like gastritis and ibs x a billion, so it was almost certainly Appendicitis, and what if it burst in the train?! My significant other coaxed me like a timid animal to the car and calmly drove me to the station, he let me out to walk a bit to see if the pain was in retreat, and to my amazement it was. I kissed him goodbye, and headed for the station, took a deep breath and didnt have a single twinge of anxiety for the whole rest of the day. (except maybe that bit where I was running through a storm brandishing a lightening-attracting umbrella…that wasnt exactly chilled,I’ll let myself off for that one though)

This may not read like a good story, but it reads to me like the novel experience of being able to look back with satisfaction, knowing that no matter what anxiety does to my body, I can make it through, and sometimes when anxiety is dead set on ruining your day, sometimes you have to just give it the finger.

An aside

For anyone who doesn’t know much about psychosoma, I would like you to know that the amount of pain someone feels does not depend on the source. Abdominal cramps from anxiety or food poisoning both have you crippled in pain, and just because one was triggered by an internal process rather than external, doesn’t make it less real. If you know someone who suffers from psychosomatic symptoms please remember that although the cause isn’t a deadly disease, the symptoms can be uncomfortable or even debilitating, and telling them that they are making it up or faking it just makes you an arsehole.

A train of horrific consciousness

I’m not sure what happens when I get of public transport, it’s some kind of portal to a hellish dimension where all of my deepest fears come to haunt me, taunt me, mock me make getting from a to b some epic ordeal involving the hypothetical hopebole of unquestionable and unfathomable terror. So this is what’s going though my head as the world whizzes by and that uncomfortable gurgling in my stomach makes itself more known, ever-growing in its attempt to push me to that unthinkable orifice that is the train toilet. It’s not like the splatters of mud on the windows remind me of the blood or anything, that was so long ago you’d think I’d be over it by now and why the fuck have I run off the margin? Well that’s just bumble bimble, elegantly unruly. I was wondering how long it would take to degenerate into random words and there we have it; a fine example of explosive vocabular diarrhea. The fields of rape are so bright I think my retinas are being burned out. Some billions of tiny trumpet-headed blossoms tossing their pungent pollen into the world and waiting for it to sneeze. Anything to take away the focus on the suspect stains in the carpet that could as easily be coffee and lemonade as shit and piss and the dust of some thousands of commuters’ skin and lice explode with every movement. Gusts of undiscovered bacteria, jumping into my personal space where they have no right to be. Keep breathing! It doesn’t matter how many flakes of the dead you inhale, how many spores or motes. They will get you in the end whether your breaths are deep or shallow. The ticket inspector provides a moment’s respite, but his charming youthful demeanour serves only to remind me that I’m not so young any more and that one day someone else will be breathing in my dead skin from this seat. What a comforting thought, don’t you think? He stammered when he caught my eye. I’m going to guess that he got a glimpse of the madness and a momentary fear about what I could be so feverishly writing. Indeed. If only you knew young man. If only you knew how torturous and deadly this ungodly giant metal horse without legs really was. I won’t break his spell, maybe he doesn’t need to know. Maybe no-one does. I wished I didn’t and could just blissfully breathe and lean against the window in reckless abandon, feeling the cool glass against my cheek instead of feeling my damned hand cramp up like a motherfucker because I haven’t written so much so fast since my exams some 11 years ago.
I transcribed these words into WordPress to stop the electric currents of my paranoia from stepping up, and then it happened.
The four most dreaded words in public transport even for a normal person: rail replacement bus service.
I’m sat at the back even though I know I’ll probably feel more sick but at least I can see all the other lizard passengers from here, I know they can’t read what I’m typing. I know they can’t see me. Those fears I had about the train toilet now pale in significance as I start to fear that my bladder might be getting full but there is no lav on this noisy ramshackle wheeled behemoth, and the only place for wee to exist is inside one’s bladder or on the seats that have been peed on so many times before. Did you know that as a child I refused to take long journeys because I was afraid I would need a wee? A tragic consequence of recurrent cystitis that resembles quite well the nervous wringing that comes with such journeys as this.

If you’ve read this far then I’m impressed. Now maybe learn the lesson that no, it doesn’t always get better and no, there isn’t always a point. Sorry folks,  sometimes it’s just melted words.

It’s getting very hot in here. A little too hot. I mean, I seriously wonder if the bus is on fire by why hasn’t the driver noticed? I swapped seats but the heat seems to be following me. I can’t remove my jumper else my skin will be in contact with the seat! Finally I find a cooler seat buy it comes with bonus ingrained gum, smeared in-between the pair. I want us to travel both slower and faster.

Uh-oh maybe that was a bad move. I opened a window, not only touching the sullied surface but also letting in the local farming smell. How are people sat there in there coats? So glad I’ve got the whole back of the bus to play musical chairs with so I can pretend I’m not totally trapped on here until Norwich. Noone has turned around to glare about the window so maybe they were secretly overheated too but they knew that there was ebola on the damned window pull. Better get my antibacterial antiviral handfoam out…I promised my therapist I’d hold off on doing that but it’s been minutes and it might be too late to save myself now!

How much longer can I keep this monologue up? Much longer that you can read so I’ll listen to some Tool instead.

Facing the dragon and staring at it for a few seconds before running away

As you know. A few weeks back I proferred some uninvited information for my therapist…it was three major incidents that have affected my health anxiety, a list of health problems that I am terrified that I have or will get, and a list of things that anxiety stops me from doing. The final list was pretty depressing, spanning from driving to dining out to exercising to travelling and maintaining relationships. We are talking some pretty major areas of one’s life there.
Have I told you I didn’t used to be this boring? When I didn’t think I was dying the whole time I could even be a bit fun every now and then. Imagine that!

Anyway enough about that. I want to talk about how cbt is shaping up. Having given this information, my therapist made a formulation… That is a flow diagram showing the vicious cycles that involve being triggered until automatic negative thoughts, having inappropriate cognative and behavioral responses as well as extreme emotional responses, that all feed back into the negative thoughts. You don’t need to know what weird shit I do when I get panicky, but what you should know is that the idea is to gradually stop relying on those unhelpful or inappropriate coping mechanisms by considering an alternative to the doom and gloom, end of the universe, deadly premonition that happens with every sniffle. For me, the downside are that you have to replace the negative responses with something else and therefore I have to be less harsh with myself, which feels unnatural and frankly trite after years of constantly telling myself that I’m a worthless piece of crap and that everything is my fault. I’ve got to the point where I’m so damned negative that I complain about everything and find it quite uncomfortable to even compliment someone else, let alone myself! That’s fucked up because people can be awesome and they deserve to know it.

Anyway, now I have to try and stop doing so much weird shit when I get worried, and focus on something else, cos I spend about 99% of my time thinking about me me me and as I’m not even that interesting, I think you’ll agree that’s a tragic waste of my time. I could be thinking about something more productive like banjo-playing unicorns.

In addition, I’ve been told I need to start exposing myself to things that make me anxious, like to start with, cleaning chemicals, and more strenuous exercise. That’s this week’s task. So far I cycled to and from work a bit faster than usual and I have to say I do feel like I achieved something. My heartrate increased, I sweated a bit and I got a bit of a sore throat, I got that weird pulsing in my eyes (does anyone else get that or is it just my bizarro physiology?) but I didn’t pass out when I stopped and I didn’t wake up the next day having dropped a stone of weight. Triumph. Unfortunately another source of anxiety popped up from under the rocks when my boss told me in no uncertain terms that I was NOT to make mistakes in the future (regarding a minor typo in an email). Because I am a robot without fat fingers, yes? Ugh. No pressure then!

I’m beginning to warm to this therapist after our rocky start. Possibly because she chose to work with what I voulenteered as I thought it was the most important stuff. She’s offered to give some information for my partner to read about my erm condition, so he knows how best to support me (I.e. constantly telling me I’m lazy and to just get on with things like a normal person may not be the best tact)…lets see how that goes down. I’m already worrying about the approaching therapist abandonment.

Laboring through the inevitable fear

The end started its approach on Monday, it didn’t take long to pick up momentum, waves of sticky and infectious anticipation slamming relentlessly into me. That was when I first realised that I’m dying.

I feel my heart atrophy, burning into ischaemia after every cup of coffee, every sip of wine,
Each faltering beat convulsed with another gripping stab in my chest that is far too severe and rhythmic to be heartburn.

A narrow escape lets me see Tuesday.

Just when I think the coast is clear, I feel my chest implode and I can’t breathe, some heavy cinch has grasped me tight, and the blood rushes faster as I struggle to inhale, shoulders to my ears but lowering won’t help me, aren’t you listening to me? I can’t damned well breathe!!!

A fluke recovery meant Wednesday rose to met me.

But in Wednesday’s maw is a terrible fate. Into a small cut that I obtained, leapt staphylococcus and streptococcus. They swim from that cut right up to my brain! Lending headaches and feverish ranting as my grey matter becomes violently colonised.

I don’t know how I survived that meningococcal experience, but Thursday knocked on my door nonetheless.

The sun rises with a stab in my thigh, a throbbing ache that portents of a clot. Perhaps I didn’t move all night, and as I rub to test if it’s muscular, the clot detaches and heads for my lungs.  shortness of breath is quick to follow, accompanied by dizziness and all things severe, but once the worst of the embolism is passed, I get out of bed and cycle my weary self to work.

Friday approaches with a rash in tow and infact on my toe, but I’ve had enough. I’ve already had two strokes, five ulcers, two brain haemorrhages, pneumonia and toxic shock this month, No-one can be expected to die every day of the working week. I’ll resign from the Billy Witch council, I’ll join health anxiety anonymous, I’ll write poems in strawberry shampoo, paint a platypus on my knee, whatever you want, just fucking get me off this adrenalin-sapping horror show!

Maybe let me Google that rash first though first, just in case…..

Panic as a failed balancing act

Here is a discussion I had with my anxious inner squid while sat in a meeting.

Me: hmm our ear is ringing a bit
Squid: that’s bad.
Me: it’ll probably go away
Squid: it hasn’t gone away, I think we are going deaf
Me: yeah I guess we do feel a bit dizzy
Squid: a bit? Did we even eat breakfast?
Me: yes, we did
Squid: well it wasn’t enough, our blood sugar is plummeting
Me: but we can’t very well walk out of this meeting to get a snack can we?
Squid: standing up might make us pass out
Me: shit, why is this meeting still going on?
Squid: I don’t like this,I think I might just shut down the consciousness centre to make it go away
Me: what the FUCK? No! That’s not an option
Squid: why are you doing weird things,like constantly squirming,taking our glasses on and off and rubbing bits of our body
Me: because I’m not letting you make me faint
Squid: but people have noticed..
Me: shit
Boss: are you OK?
Me: nope
Boss: haha
Squid: you should just let me win
Boss: why dont you just go
Me: erm. Because I think I’m going to pass out if I stand up
Boss: what do you want us to do?
Me: can someone get me some water and something to eat
(some kind person goes to get water and I’m passed some sugar sachets)
(worried looks all around the table)
Squid: I knew it! You are such a drama Queen!
Me: oh just fuck off, I’m going to have to tell them
Squid: that the anxious squid in your head is freaking you out?
Me: it’s probably just a panic attack
Colleague: has it happened before?
Squid: idiot
Me: yup
Colleague: have you eaten something?
Me: breakfast
Squid: skipped the juice though didn’t we…
Colleague: did you eat something that might have poisoned you?
(luckily neither I nor squid heard that one)
(hurray, water has arrived)
Boss: the meeting is over anyway, shall we leave you alone?
Me: I don’t really need an audience…
Squid: I haven’t gone away you know, I’m still hovering over that switch
Me: except colleague 2, can I borrow you a min.

Two hours later, unaided by medication, I ran out of adrenalin.

So there we have it. The most public anxiety fail so far. I’m getting my ear checked out at the Dr.