The Waiting Is the Hardest Part: Anticipation Heightens My Anxiety

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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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.


Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Wow, Brittany ! I can’t even begin to imagine the rollercoaster of emotions you are and have been going through, I know , even for myself, appointments and tests can cause huge anxiety. These are the “ scheduled “ appointments and tests. The others, the unpredictable tests, surgeries, hospital stays, etc can even capes more fear, anxiety as well as anger and frustrations.

It sounds like you are learning g how to deal with the actual emotion you are dealing with at the moment instead of holding it all in, which I often tend to do as well and it makes it all worse. Often this causes a snowball effect and physically, mentally and emotional can be draining . I applaud you for sharing and as you go through these emotions, please know that , YES, it is OK, we need to feel our true emotions, often this takes a lifetime of learning.

You are a huge inspiration for myself and I know for so many others . Please know if you need to talk, I’m here anytime via email, text, or phone. I think you’re doing an awesome job handling all of this !

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

Thank you so much, Jen.
Your support on the forums and on my columns really means a lot to me. It makes it easier to get through the bad days, that's for sure! I'm glad you are also trying to recognize and feel your emotions in the moment. It's hard at first because we become so used to holding them back, but that just makes things way worse. Always here for you too!

parnell crittenden avatar

parnell crittenden

Hi Britany,

I totally sympathize with you. About three years ago I started passing out and having many other dangerous symptoms. In July 2016 I became oxygen dependent. I flipped out because not only was I constantly receiving diagnoses, waiting for doctors appointments, test results, and my next appointment. At that point, I had thirteen or fourteen doctors and other health care providers. I could not escape my condition as well as my decline. The medical doctors told me, my symptoms were not indicative of my diagnosis. In September of 16, I had an attack and was hospitalized at Duke which holds a very good pulmonary reputation. Initially I was told that I had a heart attack. Next, I started undergoing a number of tests. A right heart cath was positive for Pulmonary Hypertension and no other diagnosis. The heart attack diagnosis was withdrawn. With my symptoms worsening and not knowing what would come next I started seeing Mt. Siani doctors in New York City. Finally, I was told that I would need a double lung transplant. Here we go again, now waiting for a lung transplant. I have been on the transplant from February 2018 through December 2018 at which time I was taken off the list because of a heart procedure I urgently needed. I have been waiting to be put back on the list now for months. It is extremely difficult but I am grateful that a transplant is a possibility, I have some hope, the doctors have me eight to twelve liters of oxygen and some other medications which helps me feel somewhat comfortable.

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

I can't even begin to imagine all that you're going through. I know that speaking up about my health conditions and talking about it openly is something that has helped me through my most difficult times. Especially talking about it with others who understand. Are you a member of the PH forums? You can find a link to the forums by going to the columns page and clicking the forums tab! If you're not a member yet, it is a great community of support and there are others on there who are also in the process of waiting for a lung transplant or they have already had one! Let me know if you have trouble locating the forums because I am one of the moderators and can walk you through how to register. I am hoping for the best for you and that you get re-listed for transplant soon ! I'm glad you are holding onto the hope that you have, even though I know it's a challenge.

Parnell Crittenden avatar

Parnell Crittenden

Hi Britany,

Thanks for your reply. I am almost positive that I am a member, however I will double check today. I have the good fortune to have a group and therapist that I see and attend weekly. I do have three friends and my wife to talk with to process many issues. I am always looking for new groups or persons to expand my network. One last point, I am participating in a meditation program offered by Peggy Huddleston. This program is focused on - a guide to mind & body techniques, prepare for surgery and heal faster. I am really trying to practice as much self care as I can.. It is not easy because when I take one step forward I take two steps backwards. It is a day by day process. Whew!!!!!

Brittany Foster avatar

Brittany Foster

It certainly is a day by day process and I hope that it one day will become a little easier. Hope you are doing well ( as well as you can be!) How did the meditation program go? That is something that sounds really beneficial. Keep us posted !

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