How Marital Arts Helped Me Manage Appointment Anxiety

Health & Wellness

When faced with mesothelioma, we have so many new realities in our lives. Things we have to do that we don’t want to do. Things we don’t know if we can do, but must do.

Upcoming appointments and procedures can be significant sources of anxiety for me. It seems that if I’m not careful, I could lose sight of my real main goal – living the best and most productive life I can despite my condition.

I try, as much as possible, to focus on everything but my health issues. I don’t want mesothelioma to be the main focus of my life. 

There has to be a balance, though, between focusing on the positive and managing appointments despite my anxiety. There was a point in time where my anxiety made it very challenging for me to keep up with scheduling appointments and communicating effectively with my mesothelioma doctors.

Understanding My Appointment Anxiety

Understanding that I experience appointment anxiety and the effects of it has helped me approach managing it. Coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis and all that it entails can be stressful, but I can’t expect my wife to carry all the burden and I don’t.

Prior to my mesothelioma diagnosis, I was very healthy. I didn’t take any medications regularly other than seasonal allergy medicine. I rarely visited a doctor’s office. Along with all the other things that mesothelioma brought, there was now a whole new level of complication for my wife and I in keeping up with all the appointments. 

When my treatment started that burden really all fell on my wife. I wasn’t capable of reliably keeping up with anything for some time. She did a wonderful job of managing appointments, communicating with healthcare providers and exploring options when I couldn’t. 

When I began managing my own appointments, my wife would ask me when I was going to a certain doctor next or when the next CT scan was scheduled and I typically would say “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll have to look.” That could sometimes be a source of frustration for my wife. 

While working throughout most of my mesothelioma treatment odyssey, it could also cause problems at work. Bosses and co-workers sometimes like to know when you’re going to be out ahead of time

It wasn’t because I’m less organized, less able to communicate or less able to explore options, but I’d developed a habit of not focusing on those things. It came about first out of necessity and continued out of habit. 

But understanding why this was happening helped me approach the situation differently. I recognized that there must be a compromise between focusing on better things and being focused on taking the burden of appointments off my wife who was also working.

Exercising Discipline While We Roll With the Flow

During my youth and young adult years, I was very involved in martial arts. One of the skills that was required of us as we progressed in rank was to be able to teach others. I loved to teach. 

As instructors, we worked to train our students’ minds as well as their bodies. As I was stretching and exercising one morning, I remembered a trick I used while instructing classes. 

I would often start doing an exercise to my count with the class, and then start throwing in extra counts. For example, I would be counting off reps and say “5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 11.” There were always some students who immediately noticed and became agitated when I repeated numbers. 

They had an idea in their mind of how it was supposed to be done. When I didn’t do it like they thought it should be done, many of them were distracted and lost their rhythm. 

One young lady brought to my attention after a class that we had done one exercise more on one leg than the other. Could we do that? As I recall, I asked her if she was afraid that she would be stronger on one leg than the other and walk around in circles. “No,” she said, and then smiled as the lightbulb came on. 

It really didn’t matter what numbers I called out. It only mattered that they focused on the task. It didn’t matter if we did more on one side than the other. They were going to benefit either way. 

What has this to do with mesothelioma? To me, a lot. 

We often get an idea in our heads about how life is supposed to go, and when it doesn’t, we can get upset or confused. Life isn’t measuring up. God isn’t measuring up. We’re not measuring up. Other people aren’t measuring up, and so on. 

We need to keep our focus even when things aren’t how we expected or wanted them to be. Life may not measure up to our expectations, but we have to keep our focus.

If we lose focus on the task at hand, we’ll get behind the count. We must eat, exercise, take our medicine, etc. If we miss a day, we’re behind the count. Do the task. Focus on one day at a time. The less time we spend worrying about “what ought to be,” the better off we’ll be. 

I make and keep my appointments now. Just don’t expect me to answer off the top of my head when they are. Thank the Lord for pre-appointment calls and text reminders from healthcare providers! 

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