Well this is a bit impromptu, but I need to get it off my chest so you lovely lot will be the one’s forced (OK not forced, you can just close this off) to read my little rant. It’s important to know that this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ post. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by mostly open minded people who always at least try to understand mental health, but it isn’t always the case.
As I’ve written, we’re currently going through fertility treatment to help us in our quest to start a family. As you can imagine, this is a tough thing to go through as it is, so add anxiety and a panic disorder into the mix and you’ve a whole world of little problems making the entire thing quite unpleasant. What I’ve tried to do is be open and honest with any medical professional I come into contact with or have to work with, in order to ensure we’re both on the same page and I’m able to be there for my girlfriend as much as possible.
Up to now, everyone has been fantastic. Nurses have been understanding, our consultant is very welcoming and addresses my anxiety at each appointment and “hopes today isn’t too difficult” for me, which is so reassuring. I met with a nurse at the clinic two weeks ago who walked us around the facility, explaining what I’ll need to and not need to do, and told me how everyone is understanding, easy going and will aim to make the experience as easy as possible.
Today, however, saw a different scenario, and I want to write about it in the hope that someone somewhere reads it and maybe learns from it.
Here, I talk a bit about medical things, so if you’re not a fan, ignore the next paragraph and scroll to the next bit.
Our appointment was to talk about sperm samples, ovulation, but most difficult for me was discussions about blood tests and injections including how my girlfriend would use the needles, the medication, dosage, injecting herself, all of it. These are a particular trigger for me, even writing the words I find tricky, so to sit hearing about them and potentially watching it happen was enough for me to clock out and do one! From here onwards, I’ll refer to the injection equipment as ‘Stuff’
With this in mind my intention was to inform the nurse again about my anxiety and that I’d be stepping out for that bit, but unfortunately she had a wobble gob and wouldn’t stop talking as soon as we got in there – and she got straight into it. My anxiety was through the roof, legs shaking, fidgeting, twitching, I was hot. You name it, I was it.
It was then I noticed she spun around and turned her back to me, so she was only facing my girlfriend with me behind her. I didn’t think too much of it as I was too busy concentrating on not hyperventilating and running out of the room screaming. Then as she reached for the ‘stuff’, my girlfriend asked if I was able to step out for this bit as I have anxiety and prefer not to see or hear it. It was the response that threw me.
“OK OK I’m not getting it out now, we’re only talking about it!”, which I said “OK”. Then came “I could see you were nervous, thats why I turned my back to you, you were distracting me. You just sit there shaking, we’ll sort all of this”. Now, I guess this sentence doesn’t read so bad, but it was more the tone of which it was delivered that bothers me – it made me feel a bit “pathetic”, like the pathetic guy at the end who’s no good at anything, and I’ve never felt like that before, or at least been made to. I didn’t focus too much on it, I was just focusing on breathing and getting through the appointment and anxiety wasn’t really mentioned until later.
That was when she asked “so with your anxiety, how are you going to be able to support your partner in the theatre etc?”. Now this is something we’ve discussed, and she’s not too fussed in all honesty. I want to be there with her but some things I just can’t do, and she understands that and we work around it, but it was that question that’s really stuck with me. It was as if my anxiety, for the first time in this process, was going to be a problem. We explained that family will support us along the way and we will take it each step at a time, but she just seemed unconvinced.
Overall, the treatment wasn’t necessarily bad, and she wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but for the first time in a long time I felt the stigma attached to mental health and anxiety. I witnessed first hand what ignorance can do and how it can make someone feel. I’ve had my fair share of dismissive responses and ‘get a grip’ comments, but since becoming much more confident I’m very defensive. However, in an environment where you’re vulnerable, this goes out of the window, and now all I’m left with is a feeling of guilty, doubt, and a little bit pathetic. As the clinic is quite close-knit, I can’t help but think the whole unit will know me as “that guy who’s a bit over the top”, or “he doesn’t stop shaking, how odd!”.
Moving forward, I’m bringing my defence back up. I’ll be asking for another nurse, I’ll be pushing for someone who’s much more accepting, and just keep trying my best to hopefully one day experience having a family for ourselves.
My parting words are these; don’t judge something you don’t understand. Ask questions, enquire and discuss in order to learn the real truth about what journey someone is on and what they’re going through. Having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re not supportive, kind, a good person or will be a good father. Having anxiety is one part of me. Shaking legs is something I do to cope, it hurts no one and disrupts nothing but helps me manage the tension I feel when sat trying to keep a severe panic attack at bay. I’m sorry that my behaviour distracted the nurse, and I’m equally sorry that in her position, she wasn’t better equipped to deal with it. 1 in 4 people suffer a mental illness at some stage in their life, coming face to face with these people is becoming more common. Open your eyes and see that not everyone is the same, and that your words can change someone’s perception of themselves forever – make those words kind ones.