The Waiting Is the Hardest Part: Anticipation Heightens My Anxiety
When I was younger, I was always “waiting” for something to happen. I can remember at 10 years old counting down the days and hours until the next big social studies test was over. I would think, “By this exact time two days from now I will be done with my test, and it will be the weekend.” Similarly, I looked forward to vacations with, “Just five more sleeps and we will be on a plane!”
Now, I wish I had the simple worries of an upcoming test or the exciting anticipation of a vacation. As I became more aware of my medical conditions and physical limitations, my expectations changed. My medical issues cause me worry, frustration, and heightened anxiety. The school test had a definite endpoint. Once it was handed in, I didn’t give it much thought. Now, a medical appointment usually leads to follow-up visits, further testing, procedures, and surgeries. My anxiety increases when I feel trapped in a web of anticipation from which I can’t escape.
When I wait for an appointment, surgery, or procedure, I try to address my fears. I used to hold all my worries inside, but it became too much to handle and led to panic attacks. My thoughts spiraled out of control. The reality of life with a chronic illness is that the list of worries is endless when it comes to anything medically related.
The longer I have to wait, the more worries pop into my head. It took me a while to realize that many of my concerns were beyond my control. I tried to focus on what was happening, instead of the “what ifs” and the “could happens.” I began to acknowledge my distress about real concerns and relegated those things over which I have no control to the bottom of my list.
Lately, I’m feeling frustrated as I wait for my surgery. This emotion is hard for me to deal with because it has a physical as well as a mental effect on me. Physically, it drains me of energy, leaving me feeling like I’ve run a half-marathon. Mentally, my thoughts race a mile a minute and my head spins with anger. However, I realize that anger hides my real emotions.
When I feel upset, I try to recognize my emotion. Typically when I am agitated, that feeling is a cover for deeper ones such as sadness and depression. I find it easier to express frustration or anger than to cry and show that I’m upset. However, I know that my frustration is allayed by addressing how I’m feeling while anticipating a significant event.
The mixed emotions I have while waiting can sometimes feel like too much to handle. The frustration, sadness, anger, fears, and worries put me in a heightened state of anxiety. My unease prevents me from giving my attention to the present; it keeps me focused on the things over which I have no control.
The questions, “What is going to happen next?” and “How will this turn out?” cannot be answered no matter how many times I go over all the possible outcomes. The best thing I can do is to let myself understand my feelings. I am no longer hard on myself for feeling anxious or worried. I try not to let these thoughts take up all the space in my mind. I focus on things that I can do while I’m waiting instead of focusing on what hasn’t happened yet.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.