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Introduction and Exciting Announcements!
Welcome to the third episode of Season 2 of Lichen Sclerosus Podcast! Today I discuss something that is probably pretty familiar to many of my Lichen Sclerosus warriors out there: appointment anxiety! Specifically, I discuss the anxiety that comes with going to a doctor’s appointment.
Before we jump into appointment anxiety, I want to introduce you to our new sponsor: the Lichen Sclerosus Support Network (LSSN). LSSN is helping bring even more information, education, and support to all you Lichen Sclerosus warriors out there.
Keep reading until the end of this post for more amazing announcements sponsored by LSSN!
Appointment Anxiety: The Drive to the Doctor’s Office
First off, what do I mean by appointment anxiety? I mean the anxiety and fear we feel when either going for our first doctor’s appointment, a follow-up appointment, or an emergency appointment because something is off.
Appointment Anxiety: A Mother’s Pain
Recently, I experienced appointment anxiety while driving to the doctor’s office. Suddenly, my eyes welled up, and I felt a chill go through my entire body. I felt sick to my stomach and I was overcome with profound anxiety and worries about what the doctor might tell me. My mind was fixated on the worst-case scenario; it was all I saw at that moment. The worst-case scenario kept unfolding in my head during my drive.
What if they said those words?
Most importantly, this doctor’s appointment was not even for me! It was for my 8-year-old daughter who had been complaining of vulvar pain. Understandably, I was terrified because I didn’t want my daughter to have Lichen Sclerosus. It is hard enough for an adult to process and deal with, I couldn’t imagine my baby girl not only having pain and irritation but having to process this later in life when she starts to learn more about sexual health and function.
The Importance of Letting Go of Appointment Anxiety
Seeing her future through that lens momentarily paralyzed me with anxiety. However, about a third of the way into the drive, I snapped out of it and brought myself back to the present.
This was an important doctor’s visit for my girl; the first appointment where she would have her private area looked at. I needed to be strong for her to take care of things when I got to the doctor’s office. For instance, I needed to be able to ask the right questions, to hear and listen to what the doctor said, to speak up and communicate for my daughter, etc. And if I let anxiety consume me, I wouldn’t be able to properly advocate for her.
If you have Lichen Sclerosus, you probably have experienced appointment anxiety before. A plethora of emotions can take over before an appointment. For example, fear, shame, anger, and sadness are just some of the many emotions you may feel before seeing the doctor.
The Importance of Being Present
Being present at your doctor’s appointment is critical for your health. That is, if you are fully engaged with your doctor, you can ask questions, hear their plans to manage your case, ask follow-up questions, and voice your needs and concerns. If you are wrapped up in anxiety, you will not be present, and you may likely forget some of this. Consequently, you might leave the office without having asked an important question or you are not clear on how they want you to use your steroids.
However, squashing anxiety and being present is no easy feat! Therefore, I am going to provide you with some actionable tips and advice on how to be present and overcome appointment anxiety.
Tips to Overcome Appointment Anxiety
The 5-Senses Grounding Technique for Anxiety
The first step to overcoming appointment anxiety is to pull yourself out of the grips of anxiety. One helpful strategy to employ is the 5-senses grounding technique. This technique helps reconnect you with your immediate surroundings and the present moment.
The next time you feel anxious, try to:
- Notice five things you can see (for example, “I see a computer, a coffee mug, a phone, a blue highlighter, and a Kleenex box”).
- Notice four things you can touch (for example, “I can touch the keys on my keyboard, warm fuzzy socks, the chair beneath me, and the heating pad on my back”).
- Notice three things you can hear (for example, “I can hear the rain outside, the music from my Spotify playlist, and the sound of typing”).
- Notice two things you can smell (for example, “I smell the fresh rain and coffee”)
- Notice one thing you can taste (for example, “I taste coffee with hazelnut cream”).
Focus on What you Can Control
Once you have come back to the present moment via a grounding technique, ask yourself the following questions.
“Can you change the outcome right now”? If you cannot change it, let it go.
Further, ask yourself, “will working myself up and dwelling on anxious fears change anything for the better”? If it will not improve your situation, do your best not to do it.
Finally, ask yourself, “am I focusing on the worst-case scenario”? If you are, then try to be objective. Remember the worst-case scenario is not necessarily reality. While you are thinking about the worst-case scenario, there are many other possibilities out there; why focus on the worst of all possible scenarios? Especially when it is only worsening your mental state!
Focus on the Positive and Plan for the Negative When Dealing with Appointment Anxiety
My last piece of advice for appointment anxiety is to focus on the positive and to plan for the negative.
What do I mean by that? Focus on the positive outcomes. Perhaps your doctor will tell you that your Lichen Sclerosus is looking better. Don’t dwell on the worst-case scenario; if you only focus on the worst-case scenario and you end up getting good news, think about all the time you will have spent in a bad headspace when you could have been living fully, enjoying time with your family or indulging in your hobbies.
Concentrate on the things you can control and instead of that which you have no control over (for instance, the outcome of the doctor’s appointment and what they will tell you).
On the way to the doctor’s office, instead of fixating on the worst-case scenario, focus on the questions you want to ask, and what your main concerns and needs are.
Go back and read/listen to my podcast on ‘What you need to do For Every Doctors Visit’ for a checklist. Click here to listen: https://lssupport.netare-you-doing-this-every-doctors-visit/. Bookmark that page to save the checklist for you next doctor's appointment.
This is how you plan for the negative (but note, not the worst-case scenario). You accept that there may be some bad news, but you have a checklist on how to get through this appointment and be an active participant in your health by engaging with your medical team. Focus on what you are there to do and not what might happen in the future.
A Moment of Gratitude
In my example of appointment anxiety, I spoke about bringing my daughter to the doctor for vulvar pain. While I had a moment of anxiety, I grounded myself and focused on what I needed to do and my plan. I’m deeply grateful the doctor didn’t think it was Lichen Sclerosus but a bladder infection. My baby girl is now on antibiotics and feeling much better. Because I was able to pull myself out of appointment anxiety, I was able to advocate for my daughter
Conclusion: Key Lessons on Appointment Anxiety
In sum, next time you are headed to the doctor’s office and get appointment anxiety, try a grounding technique to pull yourself back into the present moment. Then take a few deep inhales and exhales. Afterward, ask yourself whether there you can change the outcome of this and if working yourself up will change the situation, if not, take a deep exhale and let it go as best as you can.
I hope these tips I used help you the next time you have appointment anxiety.
How do you deal with anxious thoughts about doctor’s appointments? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you? Let me know! Email me at Kathy@lichensclerosuspodcast or DM me at @lichensclerosuspodcast on Instagram.
Or better yet! Why don’t you join us for our next Lichen Sclerosus virtual meetup and tell me what your favorite trick is!
Virtual Meetup Information
We meet every other Saturday from 2-4 pm and/or 7-9 pm Eastern Standard Time. This is your opportunity to share your diagnosis story, what is working for you and what isn’t, and ask a question to the group. Perhaps share your experience with appointment anxiety! I have met so many incredibly strong LS warriors through these meetups, and I would love for you to join our community.
Sign up at www.lssupport.net/connect for notifications and updates! Our next meetup is on February 20th. I cannot wait to meet you!
Exciting Announcements from LSSN You Do Not Want to Miss!
We have two big announcements for March. Two amazing Lichen Sclerosus projects are coming your way, courtesy of LSSN.
New Podcast Alert!
First, if you are a Spanish speaker or know someone who speaks Spanish and has Lichen Sclerosus we got you covered! All of the information I provide in Lichen Sclerosus Podcast can be found in its Spanish sister, Liquen Escleroso! Follow @liquenescleroso on Instagram for updates. And signup for notifications at lssupport.net/spanish. The first podcast episode will air on April, 2021! Get ready, this will be fire!
New Blog Alert!
Second, for my English-speaking LS warriors, don’t worry, we got you covered as well. One of my LS sisters is starting a blog about her journey with Lichen Sclerosus. You do not want to miss this! My girl has been through so much and is full of stories and amazing insights; she even gives me hope! She has been in remission for almost 10 months now and her comeback story is amazing.
However, she wasn’t always in such a good place. In fact, if you asked her a year ago if she’d be talking about Lichen Sclerosus to the internet she would have said no way! But she put in a lot of work to manage her LS and it has paid off. And get this! Her blog is called The Lost Labia Chronicles. I mean common now! Is that not the best name ever?!
Importantly, if you want to be one of the first to read this blog, which will debut on March 2nd, go to lssupport.net/jointllc to sign up for notifications. There will also be a special treat for those who sign up early!
Don't forget to follow her on Instagram @thelostlabiachronicles.
All links from the show notes are in the resources below.
Checklist for the doctor: https://lssupport.netadvocate