It's all me, me, me...

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Vivre Sa Vie
London, United Kingdom
Well hello there. My name is Viv (well, it's not really), and, like a lot of people, I'm ever so slightly neurotic... I have panic attacks and anxiety (ranging from mild to pretty intense), on and off. I also have an amazing and quite high-profile job, so I'm choosing to remain anonymous on here. Not because I'm ashamed of the aforementioned neuroses, but because I don't want to be googled and for my colleagues to read bizarre posts about me breathing into a paper bag and popping lorazepam. I've worked for bookshops, mixed arts festivals and charities, and have met (and still meet!) a lot of famous, fetching and fantabulous people for my job. (See, anxiety doesn't need to stop you being AWESOME and doing what you want to do) Here's hoping you'll find some helpful hints and tips on here which will help you tackle the evil panic heebiejeebs... PS. I'm an Australian, but I live in the UK, and have adopted tea-drinking, pubs, Wodehouse, and a Welsh man.
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Monday, 8 October 2012

Crying in hospital corridors (good potential band name?) ...

Nothing has changed in British hospitals since this picture was taken, except that the buildings have decayed and the instruments have grown rusty. And I don't think you get nuns now, more's the pity.

I had my appointment with the surgeon today. 

Managed to hyperventilate as soon as I started wandering through the hot, claustrophobic corridors  - American and Australian (hell, anything but British) readers, I know you're picturing a clean, bright, modern hospital right now, but please know that British hospitals are still using equipment from the 1930's, in buildings from the 1800's, and that that is truly terrifying. 

Burst into tears as soon as I got into the waiting room as it was full of hundreds of geriatric people coughing their wet lungs out. Was sweating so profusely I had to rip off all my layers, so was sitting there crying, practically naked in front of 100 staring old person eyes. I googled ' cute kittens' and flicked through those whilst I cried and waited and chastised myself for being a ridiculous wuss.

Half an hour later I see the surgeon, who is twelve. I just knew I would get a bloody junior doctor. No joke, he then launches into his special nightmarish bedtime story about EVERY SINGLE complication that has EVER occurred to people who don't get their gallbladder out. Terrifying things. Things even Google didn't tell me. He then told me EVERY SINGLE horrific complication that could occur with the surgery. At one point, when he was mentioning perforated somethings, drainage tubes, pus explosions, deranged sphincters (really) and mistakenly cut livers - tears just started pouring from my eyes (as in, I was silently crying). He got me some tissues, said nothing and proceeded with his list - nothing was going to deter him from the list.

I then get sent to the other side of the hospital for blood tests. Get to the desk and there's no-one there. Finally someone comes and points to a handmade sign that says 'No more blood tests'. No more blood tests? When I explain that a surgeon has sent me to get urgent tests, another harassed nurse comes up and starts shouting at nobody in particular 'Look at all these people! We just can't do it! There's too many people! Enough! We're closed! It's impossible!' and the guy nods and says 'nope, we're too busy'.  No sorries, and that's it.

So I go back to the 'digestive diseases' ugh, department, and tell them that apparently the blood test department is shut down for the day. So a very camp nurse takes me into a storage closet (I'm not joking), tells me he hasn't had a day off in three weeks, and does it there and then. The 'room' was so small we had to put together a military strategy for both of us to get out.

Okay, I don't want to be the standard NHS moaner, and apologies to all those of you who've had good experiences (and who will be affronted by bad language), but WHAT. THE. FUCK?! Is this country trying to kill its inhabitants so as to save money on welfare? Is there a grand genocidal, money-saving scheme going on that I don't know anything about?  

I have to wait FOUR MONTHS for the surgery. 

And I feel so ashamed  and furious with myself for having an anxiety attack (didn't quite reach the level that it needs to be to be classified a bowel-shuddering panic attack in my book) simply from walking through a hospital. How am I going to stay in it long enough to have surgery?! I feel like I've let myself down. I feel like I'm not a properly functioning adult - like I'm too sensitive and soft to cope with the harsh realities of the world. I feel different, and not in a good way.  

But I also know that empathy and sensitivity are what make me ME. I think deeply about people's experiences (too much maybe) and care about them - even if I don't know them - and most people don't. Maybe that makes me cry when I see sick people, and freak out when I'm in hospitals, but I'd rather be that than oblivious to suffering. 

And crying doesn't make you weak - everyone over the age of 13 knows that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I might go off and do it some more.*

*NB. Since writing this, some beautiful, charitable genius commented below and snapped me back to reality - so no more anxious self-pity and self-blame going on any more! I'll let this post stand as a perfect example of how easy it is for us GAD sufferers (and really anyone who sets far too high standards for themselves) to blame ourselves unnecessarily. Apparently, sometimes freaking out is normal and justifiable - particularly when surrounded by dying people! That does actually make sense, come to think of it. Thank god for you guys - you are all absolutely AWESOME and amazing and fantastic and I love that we almost have a bit of a community going here. Bring your nervous friends!  V x

This is me, hugging all of you (a little bit too tightly and needily). Awww.  <3


Anonymous said...

In your last post, you related how you felt that those of us who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), were probably the ones who understood the reality of risks and likelyhood of imminent disaster.... so why therefore are you beating yourself up about being desperately anxious and upset while being in a hospital, which appears not only ill equipped to deal with patients, but also has antiquarian machinery to save lives? Your reaction to all of this, plus the ridiculous wait you have for an essential operation, seems to me to be a totally normal reaction.
Now stop being so horrid to yourself, and write a storming letter of complaint.... your feelings and emotions over what you have been through and what you have to face are real, justified and honest.... you are not suffering from GAD. You are being human and reacting to an appalling situation.x

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Oh my God, I don't know who you are, but I love you because you are so right, goddamnit - thank you for snapping me out of it! What am I doing beating myself up?! It's normal to be upset!

I find it so hard to trust my judgment as a consequence of GAD - I never know what's anxiety and what's a normal response. I'm literally going to write a storming letter of complaint RIGHT NOW.

You're so right you make me want to rewrite the whole blog post. Should I re-write the whole thing to set a better example, or should I leave it as honest evidence of how self-punishing anxious people can be?

Thanks for being rational and jogging my brain back into a rational gear. I feel righteous and pissed off now - much better than inward-looking and self-punishing!!

V x

Anonymous said...

Oh please never doubt your instincts and judgement.... please don't re-write your blog, it is honest, human and real. In the words of my goddamn therapist, 'it is totally understandable why you feel this way' (grrrr!). I am the angel on your shoulder who is being kind to you... in time you will not need me. Will send you link to my book when finished! Much love x

Sheryn said...

Heya.I have been away for a week and not been on a computer.I read your blog as soon as I got home and LOVED it.I love that you are so honest about your feelings.Dont ever stop doing that.It helps others Im sure, when you say how bad you were feeling.I know it helps me.Sounds like you had a ghastly time of it at the hospital,ya poor baby.Also thanks for your reply to my last comment.Wishing you peace and love sista.

Wendy said...

I don't know your choices, but personally, I would pic another doctor, another place if I could. Might as well investigate, you have 4 months. BTW, I had a number of friends who had this surgery. Only 1 had difficulty so go with your gut and get someone who listens to you - if you can.

susan said...

I wish I could come with you to your appointments. My friend and I accompany each other ("well it's a day out isn't it" said one ratshit doctor to me once grrrrr). Aaaannnyway, In spite of all the horrible stuff she has had (including gallbladder) we snicker like teenagers in the waiting rooms (and get funny looks from the po-faced) and joke with the drs and nurses. I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but I will anyway, I can take my friend from hysteria to hysterical laughing in no time flat, well 30 mins anyway! I can also be a bulldog when the docs are being dismissive or give the everlasting excruciating examinations (every.fucking. time) and I tell them to stop, enough, she is crying...and they do!
Do you have a sympathetic someone to go with you? If not I'll be there in spirit or write a funny blog you can read whilst in the waiting room.
Lotsa Love
Susan x
PS Found you on Isabelle Nuts blog (I hope she's ok, are you ok Isabelle?)

Anonymous said...

Susie Soo, I am ok, just in need of a little stay in a nice little 'theraputic environment'... I still can't comment on your blog though.
Much love x

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Hey Sheryn - thanks so much for that - I will definitely carry on with my uncensored ramblings then, which is great news for me! x

Wendy, you are absolutely right, and that's exactly what I'm doing right now - I'll let you know how far I get! x

Susan - thank you SO much!! You're exactly the kind of friend every girl needs in her life - your friend is a really lucky lady. My boyfriend came along with me to that appointment, and I'll definitely drag him along to the next one, so I do have a long-suffering companion to cry on, thank goodness! But I would NEVER say no to a funny blog as well - where do you blog? x

Hi Isabelle - add your name on so I can see you! Are you the first lovely commenter or another lovely, unrelated Anonymous? I'm heading off to check out your blog now x

Isabelle Nuts said...

Yes Viv, it is me Isabelle. I have commented twice on your blog, and both times, you have written back to me in the comment section. Right now I am not well enough to ring a bell to get a coffee, but in time, I will be back to my blog. Though, I have received and sent some emails which relate to my fight to end stigma and discrimination in the City I live, I must post them, as they are funny, and will show that though I have to slow down a bit, I haven't stopped!
Much love Viv, and keep writing x

susan said...

Susan here, I am Dollyclothespeg, although I do not recommend if you're not keen on the swearing lol. I alternate between funny haha/funny lunatic and miserably menopausal, depends on the day.

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Hi Isabelle - no, of course I remember you, but those times you used your name, so just wanted to double-check that particular Anonymous was you! So sorry to hear you're not well - sending you get well wishes from here! V x

chintz said...

Hello! As I said in my other comment I too suffer awful anxiety and panic attacks. I had to have my appendix out this summer as an emergency operation - I have huge health anxiety... I'm not massively scared of death actually but I have always been TERRIFIED of appendicitis and I am terrified of surgery!

But I can tell you that it was all totally fine. I had it out via laporascopic keyhole surgery which I think is what they do for gallbladders - if they do this then that's great because the recovery time is super short. I was totally back to normal in 2 weeks! Honestly - the worst part of it all is the trapped wind after the operation - they pump you with CO2 whilst you're under and some of it doesn't get released, so you might have some wind in your ribs/chest/shoulders. I felt no pain after the op though, at all - I had some paracetamol that night (I was operated on at 11pm) and then didn't need any more at all.

I'm terrified of being sick and I cried and begged the anaesthetist to not let me be sick - she was so lovely and gave me extra anti-emetic in my sleepy cocktail just to make sure.

Not gonna lie, I did get a little bit anxious and panicky at times whilst on the ward during my recovery, I felt quite trapped... but the nurses were SO lovely. I just explained to them and if they saw that I was crying or looked anxious, they'd come over, pull my curtains round and sit with me on my bed for a minute or bring me a magazine. This is on a really busy ward in the middle of an inner city hospital in Liverpool, by the way - these guys are probably rushed off their feet but they made time for me!

So my advice is just be honest with them about your anxiety. Almost all of the doctors and nurses just held my hand and asked me if I was receiving treatment for my anxiety (I'm having psychotherapy) and when I apologised for crying and being a wuss they said they much prefer to deal with anxious patients than the mean abusive ones or ones that don't tell them!

I think you'll be fine. Then when you get home you can feel super proud and strong :) Plus the keyhole only leaves little scars. I look at mine every day and go "wow, I was so brave! I got through that all by myself!"

Honestly, it wasn't painful at all. The only bad things were the trapped wind and feeling a bit woozy the day after the anaesthetic (they make you get up and walk around after abdo surgery and you're like I JUST WANNA SLEEP) but that's literally the worst thing about it. Just a bit like having a bad cold :)

Good luck! Sorry for the long comment! x

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