The Slog Returns!
A Forty Percent Chance: Maybe More
As someone living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, (OCD.) I have a very strong track record of avoidance. I avoid situations that will trigger feelings of worry and distress. Ultimately though, by avoiding a situation that I believe will trigger feelings of distress. I only pile on more feelings of worry, by forcing myself to ask the question, I wonder if there is anything to worry about in the first place? These constant feelings of fear, panic and anxiety, quickly begin to create a vicious cycle which once you enter, becomes increasingly difficult to claw your way out of. This is the catch 22 of an OCD sufferer, better to know the answer or not know at all. Obviously, for someone who doesn’t have OCD, the answer is of course it’s better to know. Then whatever the dilemma is, can be handled in a proactive logistical manner, and preventative measures can be taken to keep the problem from escalating. Intellectually, people with OCD fully understand this. Yet, we will contort ourselves into positions that would leave even an Olympian gymnast, a master of their craft, awestruck, by trying to convince ourselves otherwise.
One of my obsessions is a fear of contamination, blood, bodily fluids, syringes. Being in close contact with biohazardous materials, even my own, is panic inducing.
As such, I will do whatever is necessary to put off a routine check- up. An anxiety provoking, emotionally exhausting experience, one- year delays, turn into two and then somehow become three. I’ll work tirelessly to convince myself I’m not a risk for this disease and if I do exhibit symptoms for that condition, it’s probably too late, I’ve already got it anyway.
Gynecological exams are even worse, not only do they cause me considerable mental anguish, but they’re physically painful as well. .25 mg of Lorazepam numbs me up enough to keep from springing out of the stirrups and running from the examination room paper gown trailing behind, but I’ll still cry, scream, clench and resist insertion of the speculum making the whole excruciating process much more of an ordeal than it could be.
At the age of forty two, after half a lifetime of regular healthy menstrual cycles, I started to notice abnormalities, my periods got lighter and I convinced myself a more intensive aerobic routine was the cause, then lighter turned to spotting and abdominal discomfort, to a point where I had to unbutton my pants to endure an eight- hour work day seated in an upright position. I told myself it was all those hip bridges I was doing I must have been building muscle. When spotting turned to amenorrhea, absence of a menstrual period, for five months, no amount of mental scheming could guide me towards forming what I could talk myself into believing was a logical reason. This condition was something that couldn’t be delayed anymore.
Because so much time had elapsed since my last check up, medical records classified me as a new patient. Six weeks, October 31would be the earliest they could get me in. I decided to leave Halloween for gorging on Swedish Fish and watching The Omen . Whatever fate had in store for me would be scary enough. I could wait just a little bit longer.
The following Monday, I was greeted by the nurse and then my doctor, who must have rehearsed a script together before entering the room. Both said the same thing to me,
“I’m glad you finally came back.”
I guess I wasn’t the first non-compliant patient to walk through that door after all. Maybe we could form a support group of women who required small doses of a controlled substance to keep from springing out of stirrups and squirming around on examination tables, but that would have to be a task for another day.
I remained sedate enough to detail my symptoms while my doctor searched for a smaller speculum and summoned another member of her staff into the room whose hand I could squeeze and tell me to take deep breaths. The nurses' soothing tone and a warmed pediatric size speculum got my doctor the sample she needed.
Routine blood draws are always complicated not only by my fear of contamination, but by my ‘small tricky veins’ as well. It’s yet another reason why I avoid medical procedures altogether. Trying to find and flush out one of my ‘small tricky veins is like playing a game of whack a mole in real time. Just as one pops up it quickly disappears again, except rather than whacking them with a rubber mallet they get jabbed with a metal syringe instead.
I had enough Lorazepam remaining in my system not to cry and scream while the nurse stuck my left arm then the back of my right hand searching for one of those ‘small tricky veins’ to flush out and draw blood from. The nurse probably felt the same level of pain and frustration as I did, tapping and locating my vein only to have it disappear on her again as she inserted the needle. She must have been as relieved to get rid of me as I was to get rid of her.
‘I’m glad you finally came back’ she said closing the door behind her so I could get dressed.