I am sitting in a gastroenterologist’s waiting room, waiting for results from a biopsy taken last month. I’m worried about what I will hear and the treatment the doctor might recommend. I’m stressed about work—I just got another time sensitive assignment on top of all the others I’ve been handling and can’t figure out how I will find time to complete it. I take a deep breath but all I can think about are the billions of potentially infectious microorganisms circulating in the air. It doesn’t really help me calm down.
My mind is like a congested highway with a distractingly horrible catastrophe on the side of the road. I feel equal needs to pay attention to the traffic and crane my neck to observe the carnage.
Another deep breath, trying not to think about the flu I might be contracting. The door opened, but it was just another patient leaving. I’m momentarily envious.
I’m trying to picture a good outcome for this day and situation. It’s difficult but it calms me a little. It’s hard to believe that before I started a meditation practice I would be more anxious than I am at present, but thinking back to my last appointment, that’s the case.
I think about how, in this moment, I’m able to take the time to write this. Freedom even measured in minutes, is a luxury. Annoying commercial jingles play on the television I’ve purposely faced away from. All of a sudden my mind is back on work and my carefully crafted deadline schedule which will surely crumble under the weight of this new thing.
This kind of thinking isn’t productive of course, but it’s the natural pathway my mind follows. Sometimes overwhelmed becomes it’s default setting.
I’m trying to focus on the present. I pick out features of the room that draw my eye. There is a gaudy pink and silver flower candy dish with only a few wrapped mints. Who eats this candy? Someone reads a magazine and someone else watches the TV. I’m glad I faced away from it.
I do feel somewhat less anxious. I try again to visualise receiving good news when the call me in. I think of ways to solve my work problem. If I work on it late tonight it will be done but then I won’t have time to spend with my family—something that already happens way too often. I could possibly do it over the long weekend but I already worked over 7 hours last Sunday. I really need some downtime. Thinking about how downtime isn’t in the cards for me sends me spiralling back into anxiety.
Another deep breath. I am here. In this room. I don’t have to be working right this minute. I will figure it out. Maybe I should repeat this until I believe it. I try. I think I need a stronger meditation practice.
I try to visualise a beam of sunlight shining down on me, filling me with warmth and light. It helps. I’m calmer, at least until the door opens again. I’m doing what I can in this moment. It’s essential to remember I can only do what I can. It will be enough because it has to be enough. I’ve come out the other side of many more stressful situations than this one and I’m still here, still keeping on.
I feel better. I’ll get through it.
They called me in and took my measurements. I weigh less than I thought I would considering this heavy pullover. I wait for the doctor. The walls are grey and I can hear conversations out in the hall. I hear voices from and adjacent patient exam room but not words. That’s good. I don’t want other patients to hear the doctor with me.
My mind goes to work again. Maybe it’s not such a big thing. I likely over-reacted and am now concerned my boss will judge my reaction negatively. It wasn’t exactly a positive reaction. I need to work on that. I just don’t want to take on too much and have the quality of my work slip. I hope I didn’t come across as difficult. . . these negative musings aren’t doing me any favours.
Pretty soon the doctor will come in. I expect she will confirm the diagnosis she gave right after the colonoscopy. I hope it’s still not cancer. She said it wasn’t cancer. I don’t think that will change after the biopsy. My stomach hurts thinking about the possibility cancer and then about the diagnosis she gave me. I take another deep breath.
I don’t like waiting, but I haven’t had this much time to write outside of work for a while. Boredom is kind of calming. I want to go home and see my dog. I want to get things sorted with work so I can stop dwelling on it. It’s weird but I haven’t really been hungry all day. Probably nerves. I have no appetite before deadlines/court appearances either. I have both coming up.
I picture the sunlight again. It hits my face and I can feel it’s warmth. It’s sunlight, not this fluorescent abomination. I breathe in and out as it starts at my feet and ascends through my legs and all the way back to the top of my head. I feel better again. I feel receptive to the information I will receive. I feel able to handle things.
I hope not to have to wait too much longer.
The doctor knocks then opens the door before I can respond. She scans my file, greets me, and gets to business. The preliminary diagnosis has been confirmed but at least I don’t have cancer. She talks about treatment and the benefits of starting it for patients with my GI diagnosis. I tell her I’m not interested at the moment and she acquiescences. I’m to call if or when I become more symptomatic. I agree to this halfheartedly. I know the effects of the treatment can be worse than the disease.
I explain I plan to stay mostly asymptotic by following a healthy diet and continuing to exercise. She says that has nothing to do with this disorder. I silently agree to disagree. Some more talk, instructions, warnings. She wonders how I know about the drastic increase in the rate of bowel cancer in younger people. I tell her I read medical records and studies a lot for work. I’ve already paid my co-pay, so I’m free to leave.
I come home, take 15 minutes to make a healthy (really late) lunch, and get back to work for a while. Of course I let Ludo out of the kennel before these other things, and am consequently showered with puppy kisses. I’m grateful to be home, to be fairly healthy, and to have finally escaped that waiting room.
My meditation practice has started to make mindfulness a habit. By taking a minute to focus on the present, it’s easier to put things in perspective. Catastrophes shrink and solutions begin to reveal themselves. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, my GI condition is exacerbated by stress and I’m already dealing with significant anxiety disorder. I can’t think of a better reason to continue to incorporate meditation into my daily routine.