Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"A little paranoid, are we?"

If you're like me, you probably rattle around this world with at least a few fears; nothing wrong with that, of course. Fear can be a healthy emotion. But only if it causes you to take some form of positive action. For instance, based on my conversations with other diabetics [and my own paranoid imaginings], there is much fear of losing a limb to disease. If that fear motivates you to take steps to help control your blood sugars better, as well as exercising to maintain the best conditioning possible for you, that fear has become a positive encouragement to healthy actions. Then again, if you are swept up in concern and negative imaginings [like the screaming man in the painting at left; incidentally, at least one theory on the Web says artist Edvard Munch was motivated by a crushing case of agoraphobia; who knew?] , the stress thus created will likely make it even harder to control your blood sugar levels, and possibly drain any interest you may have in activity, healthful or otherwise.

I don't know why, but my fear level rises several points while I'm sitting in my doctor's waiting room. It's not the fact that most of my fellow patients are superheroes [as illustrated at right]; come to think of it, why have we had to wait until 2009 for the introduction of diabetic superheroes? Anyway, I just get more and more paranoid waiting to see one of my doctors. I bet a few of you out there have, too. And you probably feel as foolish as I do when the fear comes.

But the real fear doesn't kick in until I'm actually in one of my doctors' examination
rooms; I've yet to figure out what sets my heart to trip-hammering when I'm sitting alone in that room, waiting for WHATEVER. I mean, I can be there, feeling good about my "numbers", my compliance with the treatment plan, my weight, my posture, everything. But still the fear comes.Why? I think it comes from a sense that, no matter how well I've kept to "the program", I have veered at least occasionally [trying to block a candy bar with my mouth, for instance]. (My late father, who was an LPN for many years, told me about "white coat syndrome", a theory that people, suffering the same kinds of fear that I do, actually raise their own stress, leading to artificially-high blood pressure readings, for instance. Something to that, I'd think. But "the fear" is there before I see the doctor [and why don't most doctors keep anything to read in those exam rooms? There's usually more than enough to read in the waiting room. Even if it's five-year-old issues of Time or Newsweek, it can help keep your mind off what's coming].

So, can anything bring Serenity to those moments before a doctor's appointment? Perhaps it starts with an acknowledgement that you have DONE YOUR BEST at compliance with your treatment, a belief that you may not be perfect, but you have made an effort to eat properly, exercise regularly, and followed the treatment program of your health care team. In the movie Animal House, Dean Wormer tells pledge "Flounder"[*], "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life". Well, paranoid and fearful is no way to go through life, either. Make the effort. Do what you're supposed to do, as best you can. Then face your doctor with a clear conscience [and probably good results, to boot].
-Mike Riley
* - "Flounder" was played by Steven Furst, who has, in real life, struggled with diabetes. In fact, he's even made a couple of videos and written a book on the subject. They can be ordered from the American Diabetes Association [click on the link above and to the left, under "Diabetes Information"].


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