Yesterday at work it wasn’t busy so I decided to sit in on an operation and use it as an opportunity to put myself in a situation where I was likely to feel that stupid fainting anxiety I’ve been getting so much of lately, and try to see it through to the other side.
You know, a good little bit of exposure therapy, to help desensitize myself from the fear.
This was a short case so it wasn’t a big risk from an anxiety perspective. Since there would be Xray equipment in the room, everyone had to wear heavy protective lead jackets, aprons and thyroid collars.
Ok no problem, I can handle that.
The OR tech was a young girl and she remarked, “I hate wearing the thyroid collar. I don’t mind wearing the lead, but the collar always makes me feel like I’m choking and I get all hot and feel like I could faint. I hate it.”
Jill: Amber you have to wear the thyroid collar. You know better!
Amber: Yeah but it’s only for a few minutes
Jill: But all that exposure adds up. You don’t want to get thyroid cancer.
Amber: Yeah but I feel so hot with it on. I think I’m going to pass out.
Jill: (Saying this to myself as much as I was trying to reassure her) You are not going to pass out. Just shift your weight from one foot to the other or squeeze your thigh muscles. And make sure you eat something before you have a long case.
Amber: Ok, ok! (smiles at me)
This conversation took place right in front of the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the other nurse in the room. It sounded completely rational and natural. Because it was. I kind of didn’t even think about it- the words just came out- but it was good advice because I followed it myself.
No one said anything to the contrary. And I didn’t stand out sounding like some whack job. I think I probably just sounded like an older experienced person talking to a younger person.
And no one fainted.
The case went fine and I only had to deal with a little bit of stupid thoughts. I did just what I suggested to Amber and sure enough I was fine. My heart was a pitter-pattering in my chest, but I was no worse for the wear.
It was nice to have this spontaneous conversation with Amber – she does not at all seem to be anxious. I bet a lot of people get hot or feel faint when they have to stand around for a long time in the operating rooms.
I plan to use every opportunity I have going forward to put myself in situations where I can bring on the fainting anxiety symptoms. And then I will check my breathing, make sure I’m moving a little, continue to function with that level of fear, and feel awesome afterwards.
After the case was over I felt triumphant and had an impulsive thought to ask if I could cross train in the operating room. That would force me to be there every day for a few months. It was tempting but on second thought, I don’t want to freak myself out too much. I think for now I will just dip in there and get my feet wet for awhile and maybe go for cross training at some point in the future.
It is the best way for me to conquer this beast- with persistence but gently, and on my terms.
I wish you peace,