On Being Scared

This is a confessional.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time wishing for lightning bolts of clarity. I am not impulsive. I am contemplative. If I don’t know the answer right away, I will agonize over a decision until either my hand is forced or I have exhausted all possible outcomes in my head and settled on the best one–or often the one that is least bad. Add this to my anxiety, and it’s often a marvel I get anything done at all.

From there it’s about to get a little bit TMI–that’s your cue, if you’re not into this sort of thing; have a nice day, and go look at some good cat videos for me.

Here goes: I have a pretty nasty family history of endometriosis, fibroids/polyps, PCOS, and uterine cancer. What I also have is an absolutely crippling phobia of going to the doctor. Dentist? Fine. Let’s go. Optometrist? No big deal. But a doctor–even a GP who just wants to talk about my blood pressure and possible sinus infection–I can’t handle. I simply won’t go to one, let alone an OB/GYN. It’s not unusual for me to have to miss work because I have cramps that keep me throwing up all day, barely able to make it from the tight-crinkled-accordion-style fetal position in bed to the porcelain. I know, given the aforementioned history, that this is probably indicative of a deeper issue, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s not always that bad. You know what IS always bad? The doctor.

Except. Except, except, except: Yesterday I was really scared.

I had bad cramps, no big deal; just getting ready for work. I was not prepared for the vapor-quick, clammy blackness that took me down in the shower. I know that I hit my head on the way down because I could feel it when I came to a few moments later, engulfed in steam. I threw up. Climbed out of the shower. Managed to call my boss and let him know I couldn’t come in to work. I writhed on the cold, ugly bathroom tile because my insides felt like they were being ripped out and I had already thrown up my Pamprin and there was nothing I could do to make it stop.

And my brain raged: WHY DIDN’T YOU GO TO THE DOCTOR FOR THIS A LONG TIME AGO, YOU FUCKING BABOON? THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

I’m sharing this not in the spirit of so-called millennial-oversharing, but because real terror can be surprisingly mundane, and I will get to the point. I promised myself I would make an appointment. I couldn’t get off the floor because when I raised my head that clammy blackness swallowed my vision and I knew I would pass out again. So I waited. I was afraid I would fall asleep and wake up and not remember how bad it felt, and then I would not get over myself and just go to the doctor, so I scribbled a pathetic note to myself on my phone:

…which was so pitiful and somehow, so effective. Today I bit the quivering bullet and actually called and requested an appointment. I don’t know when it will be, yet, but I’m on the books. I had mostly bad dreams about the stupid doctor all night before I woke up and called, but I did it, because I don’t want this to happen to me again.

So all kinds of things bubbled to the surface yesterday as I lay prostrate in my bed like a nineteenth century consumptive, and today while I ran some errands and caught up on sleep. I thought about what I eat, or more accurately, what I don’t eat, and what I drink and how often and all manner of ways I am not kind to my body. I have a very specific fear of it. Bafflingly, for the first time, I asked myself how I can be an artist, running myself as a business of sorts, while balancing a full time job and a sapling of a social life, if I don’t take care of myself? Answer: I can’t. And I can keep trying all I want but it’s not good enough until I take it (including my well-being) seriously. Much to my chagrin, ignoring things will not make them go away.

This was the first thing I saw online today. I love Nicole; she’s a personal hero of mine, and these words hit home for me today in a way words rarely do on the internet.

I really would hate to look back and wish I’d been kinder to myself. I already wish I’d been brave enough to make an appointment the first time I had a similar issue. I wish I were brave enough to have done that years ago so I wouldn’t have to miss work. I wish I were brave enough to crash equity auditions when I have the chance. I wish I were brave enough to eat the damn cake when I want it. Brave enough to sing. Brave enough to put myself out there more than I think I can.

It’s a blooming, flowery epiphany to draw from a medical issue. But I have drawn it. Here is my lightning bolt of clarity, agonized over only the tiniest bit: Be brave. Or be braver than you think you ought to be. I already know I’m going to sweat through my shirt when I finally have to go to the appointment I made, but I am promising to do that for myself. Maybe the rest will follow.

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