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When Anxiety Visits Me in Waiting Rooms

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My head was throbbing as I pushed open the glass door to my doctor’s clinic. Getting my queue number, I walked straight to the benches at the left side to wait for my turn. Waiting rooms have never been easy for me, especially with my anxiety. It has gotten better over the years and the last few times I sat in this clinic, it seemed just like any other doctor’s visit. I wait, go in to see the doctor, get my medicine, pay and leave. This time though, my old friend anxiety decided to pay me a visit.

I wondered if it was my fever-riddled brain or the agonizing headache that I had all morning. The waiting room was half full and the nurses were milling about. Then, there was the distinct buzzing sound each time it was time for a patient to enter the room. “19″ was the number the black screen showed with its bright red LED lights. I was number 25. There was still a long way to go. Suddenly, I noticed the sounds of laughter and a hushed conversation between the nurses. My brain was immediately on high alert.

They’re laughing at you. They started talking and laughing as soon as you came in. They must have recognized you from your previous visits. They know how “crazy” you are. They think you’re always obsessing over the littlest things and they think you’re a complete joke.

I stared at my phone screen, trying desperately to ignore these thoughts as I scrolled through various articles on Facebook. I try to rationalize it and tell myself it’s just my social anxiety, but all I can hear is their hushed whispers and their laughter in my mind. Glancing up, I noticed two nurses going to the back and whispering. This increases my anxiety even more as I sit on the bench and try to pretend everything is fine. The next few patients go in and out of the doctor’s office as I try to focus all of my attention on reading a book on my phone. But it’s hard to concentrate on the words on the screen as my head throbs and my mind is screaming at me to get out of here. Just the thought of people judging me or laughing at me triggers my flight response. My legs are ready to run at any moment but I try hard to stop myself because I know that it’s going to be my turn soon. The patient right before me exits the room and I wait for the familiar buzzing sound. Before the buzzer even rings, I see a nurse laughing and holding a patient card. I assume it’s my card and think that they are deliberately making me wait longer.

They probably know about my anxiety and how nervous I get having to wait. They must find it really funny to keep me waiting.

Finally, the numbers on the screen change and I get to go in. The doctor was kind and patient but what I experienced in the waiting room doesn’t leave me, not even for a second. Going out to wait to collect my medicine and pay was just as bad as waiting for my turn.

They must think I’m over exaggerating how ill I am. Am I making a big deal out of nothing?

I eventually collect my medicine and pay. The nurse tried her best to be friendly, even explaining to me that I could keep some of the cough medicine in my first aid kit in case I ever needed it in the future. She told me to get well soon and I just smiled before leaving. Despite how friendly she seemed, all my mind could think about was how much they must have disliked me or why they were laughing at me. Even her well wishes seemed insincere and meaningless.

There is a part of me that knows how irrational my thoughts were. These are thoughts I get pretty often because they’re reminiscent of my childhood. It’s hard for me to take care of myself sometimes when I’m so frightened of waiting rooms that I would rather avoid seeing a doctor and suffer at home with an illness. My fever was over 102 F and my throat was so swollen that I found it difficult to swallow. Yet there was still a part of me that felt like people were judging me for being sick or for making a big deal out of nothing because it’s what I’ve learned my entire life.

I don’t know when I’ll have to sit in a waiting room and face my anxiety once again, but the next time it happens, I hope that I’ll be strong enough to stand up to my anxiety and to silence its lies in my head.

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Thinkstock photo via hxdbzxy

Originally published: August 24, 2017
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