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Lynz

Advice on dealing with anxiety about a medical procedure

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Hi friends,

Like always I'm very good at giving advice to others but rubbish at listening to that advice myself. I was hoping you guys would be able to help me with this problem I'm having.

Basically, I have to have a procedure tomorrow called a barium enema. It's a type of x-ray where they insert liquid barium into your colon in order to be able to take images of your bowel to look for anything that might be wrong such as tumours, inflammation, polyps etc. I've been having some GI symptoms for a while now and although my consultant doesn't think there's anything untoward happening he just wanted me to have this test to firmly rule out anything else before confirming my diagnosis of IBS.

Now I'm not actually worried about the test itself at all, and I'm not overly worried about the results. I'll probably find the test itself a bit embarrassing but it'll be over really quickly and then I can forget about it. What is making me really anxious is having to do the preparation beforehand. I have to take laxatives today which empty your bowel (not too bothered about that), but I also have to effectively fast (i.e. go on a clear liquid diet) for 24 hours prior to my test.

My test is at 2pm tomorrow so I'm only allowed white bread at 2pm today (I've had my breakfast as normal) and then I can only have things like clear soup, clear jelly, honey, bovril, clear liquids, sugary drinks and boiled sweets for 24 hours. This is what is making me so anxious as I have issues when it comes to food to do with my OCD. I often get thoughts that I might develop an eating disorder and I then have the urge to monitor my intake to make sure I'm getting enough calories. I also worry about not getting "the right" nutrients or nutritional balance, and I also worry about being hungry. For example if I have my tea a bit early in the evening and then I go to bed, if I'm a bit hungry in bed I find this completely intolerable and so I have to get up in the night to have some cereal or toast or something like that. If I think I might be hungry in the night even when I'm not I'll have some toast before bed "just in case". I'm aware that these are compulsions and I have been working to try and stop them, but they are way down the list of compulsions that I need to stop as other obsessions have greater priority at the moment.

Basically I'm just worried about having to do all of this and I'm unable to just get on with it and not worry about it. I think part of it is to do with the fact that I'm in my final year of nursing training and I have tons of exams and assignments coming up, as well as having to do loads of placement hours. I have an assignment due in next week, and worrying about this test and having to do all the preparation for it is distracting me from my uni work, which as you can imagine causes a vicious circle to be established.

So far I've been trying to see these worries as just thoughts and not pay any attention to them, but it's really difficult. Any advice or support on this would be welcome. Thanks everyone.

Edited by Lynz

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Hi Lynz,

I think this could actually be a good opportunity for you to practice breaking some of your eating rituals and it will only last one day (right?), so it's a chance to experiment with doing something differently, but then you have the safety net of knowing that it won't last forever. Maybe also try to keep in mind that this isn't something you've chosen to do in order to lose weight, but are being asked to do by medical professionals. Just keep reminding yourself that OCD is all about control and worrying that you will lose control of yourself via a certain aspect of your life (in your case eating), but that a day of eating different doesn't mean that you have lost control. 

I hope this helps and best of luck with the appointment! 

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Thanks Malina. Yes you are right. I do think a lot of it is about control and the fear of losing it (i.e. losing control of my eating and developing an eating disorder). On the other hand, having to consume lots of sugary liquid drinks/jelly etc. is also making me worry about how unhealthy it is to have that much sugar. I keep telling myself that it's only for today and therefore not likely to have any ill effects at all.

Pah, OCD sucks :(

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5 minutes ago, Lynz said:

Pah, OCD sucks :(

 

Yes it does :(

But look, sugary drinks are unhealthy but, like you say, it's only for a day. We all have days when we have sugary drinks or food and it doesn't cause any negative health effects. They wouldn't advise you to eat like this if it was going to harm you. Just relax and try to engage in something else. I find that work actually helps me more than anything, when I'm anxious I find it hard to focus on things I actually enjoy doing. If you're able to, do something you find fun or spend time with friends. Try to do something to get your mind off the eating and it'll be over in no time!

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I agree with Malina. This is what everybody who has bowel tests has to do, it's completely normal. The worries about eating healthy, eating disorders etc. need to be challenged for this test and then eventually, so see this as a first step. Look at the goal, the goal is to check your bowels are fine, then once you know they are, that's one less thing to think about. 

I've had to do loads of exposure and challenging of my OCD for recent health problems and avoiding it feels so the easier thing to do, but it really isn't. You can do this Lynz :)

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Hi Lynz, 

You are so sensible not to worry about the test itself and results etc. and it sounds like you have tons on so could easily feel overwhelmed but that you are keeping a level-head so well done for that! Would it be worth letting your uni know in case you need an extension? The laxative day today sounds stressful!

Malina is right that this is a great opportunity to face some of your OCD fears (although it may feel more like flooding than graduated exposure!). Eating sugary clear foods for one day won't cause you any harm and will mean that you won't lie in bed hungry tonight. If you think about it when pregnant women have morning sickness they often can't keep anything apart from ginger biscuits and sweet foods down for days on end and they're fine. Also if you had a bad case of flu or a sickness bug then you wouldn't eat for a period of time but would suffer no long term consequences.

Could you maybe keep a written record of how you are feeling and of your anxiety levels etc .as the day goes on so that you can reflect on this (re. OCD) in the future?

Good luck for your appointment tomorrow! 

xxx

Edited by BelAnna

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4 hours ago, malina said:

Yes it does :(

But look, sugary drinks are unhealthy but, like you say, it's only for a day. We all have days when we have sugary drinks or food and it doesn't cause any negative health effects. They wouldn't advise you to eat like this if it was going to harm you. Just relax and try to engage in something else. I find that work actually helps me more than anything, when I'm anxious I find it hard to focus on things I actually enjoy doing. If you're able to, do something you find fun or spend time with friends. Try to do something to get your mind off the eating and it'll be over in no time!

Yes of course you're right :). Unfortunately I can't go out as I need to be by a toilet all day because of the laxatives (oh joy...), but I'm planning on watching Netflix to distract me and maybe do a bit of uni work if I feel up to it. My partner is off work today so at least I'm not on my own.

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4 hours ago, Gemma7 said:

I agree with Malina. This is what everybody who has bowel tests has to do, it's completely normal. The worries about eating healthy, eating disorders etc. need to be challenged for this test and then eventually, so see this as a first step. Look at the goal, the goal is to check your bowels are fine, then once you know they are, that's one less thing to think about. 

I've had to do loads of exposure and challenging of my OCD for recent health problems and avoiding it feels so the easier thing to do, but it really isn't. You can do this Lynz :)

Thanks Gemma :)

I'm over an hour into the fasting period now and so far it's not been that bad. To be honest I've been distracted from the eating thing due to the very effective laxatives that I've had to take :lol:

Wish me luck guys haha.

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3 hours ago, BelAnna said:

Hi Lynz, 

You are so sensible not to worry about the test itself and results etc. and it sounds like you have tons on so could easily feel overwhelmed but that you are keeping a level-head so well done for that! Would it be worth letting your uni know in case you need an extension? The laxative day today sounds stressful!

Malina is right that this is a great opportunity to face some of your OCD fears (although it may feel more like flooding than graduated exposure!). Eating sugary clear foods for one day won't cause you any harm and will mean that you won't lie in bed hungry tonight. If you think about it when pregnant women have morning sickness they often can't keep anything apart from ginger biscuits and sweet foods down for days on end and they're fine. Also if you had a bad case of flu or a sickness bug then you wouldn't eat for a period of time but would suffer no long term consequences.

Could you maybe keep a written record of how you are feeling and of your anxiety levels etc .as the day goes on so that you can reflect on this (re. OCD) in the future?

Good luck for your appointment tomorrow! 

xxx

Thanks BelAnna. I've actually got automatic 5 day extensions for my assignments due to my disability support plan for my OCD, but I hate using them as I feel like I'm failing somehow (yes I know I need to nip that one in the bud!). So far I've only used my extensions once and that was recently, so I think I've done pretty well to not need them until now. My average mark for my first and second years was in the 80s too so I do realise I need to cut myself some slack!

I'd never thought about pregnant women and if you get the flu etc. but they are good points. Ultimately I think I need to try and forget about it and get on with my day as best as I can (but stay near a toilet :lol:).

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30 minutes ago, Lynz said:

To be honest I've been distracted from the eating thing due to the very effective laxatives that I've had to take :lol:

Wish me luck guys haha.

Haha, who would have thought you'd be too busy to worry. Good luck Lynz x

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Poor you! I know from a friend that the laxatives they prescribe are pretty strong- in fact my friend found some music video on Youtube about the experience lol! 

In 24 hours (well less but definitely by the evening!) you'll be able to eat something yummy and nutritious and be able to leave the house again! 

xx

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I hope it goes well today Lynz! 

PS. That's amazing that you haven't used your extensions for uni work and are still averaging very high A grades! 

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Thanks everyone. It went ok today. It was a bit of a strange procedure but it was over quite quickly and I should get the results next week, but the radiographer said he can't see anything obvious that could be wrong.

Last night was awful. Didn't sleep at all cos I was up and down going to the loo all night :lol:, but at least it's over now!

Thanks for all of your support everyone.

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Excellent Lynz, really glad it went well. Who would have thought those laxatives would keep your mind off everything :D

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35 minutes ago, gingerbreadgirl said:

Glad it was OK lynz and you got through it :) hope you're enjoying eating again! 

Thanks GBG :). I am indeed. I had a chicken nugget meal from McDonald's with a chocolate milkshake as soon as I came out and I'm a happy bunny again haha.

 

25 minutes ago, Gemma7 said:

Excellent Lynz, really glad it went well. Who would have thought those laxatives would keep your mind off everything :D

Thanks Gemma :). My goodness I know. If anyone is ever struggling with obsessions, take a ton of laxatives and watch those worries drain away (literally) :lol: (joking obviously, please don't take laxatives guys haha).

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34 minutes ago, Lynz said:

Thanks GBG :). I am indeed. I had a chicken nugget meal from McDonald's with a chocolate milkshake as soon as I came out and I'm a happy bunny again haha

OMG this sounds amazing! :) glad all is well :) 

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1 hour ago, Lynz said:

Thanks GBG :). I am indeed. I had a chicken nugget meal from McDonald's with a chocolate milkshake as soon as I came out and I'm a happy bunny again haha.

 

Thanks Gemma :). My goodness I know. If anyone is ever struggling with obsessions, take a ton of laxatives and watch those worries drain away (literally) :lol: (joking obviously, please don't take laxatives guys haha).

Ah yum! good choice of first meal after the procedure! I love McDonald's choc milkshakes! 

That's great that the radiographer isn't expecting anything nasty to show up and it must be such a huge relief that it's over.

I hope you get a good night's sleep tonight!

 

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