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tags: story anxiety GAD Jackie Benton CAT scan
THREE DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS
by MATT GARVIN

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CHAPTER 6: SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND

Some time goes by.  I am still in the hallway with a fair bit of traffic, and I am trying to mind my own business now, and *not* stare everyone down.  I am trying to just let things be.  They know about me; I am not being forgotten.  Have faith, Matt.  You are "in".  Enough, anyway.  Quit being a nutter.

Sure enough, after 30 minutes or so, a woman in blue scrubs approaches me and asks if I am "Garvin".  See, the system is working!  She introduces herself as Jackie Benton, and says she is a Radiation Technologist from the CAT scan department.  Then she hands me two giant-sized glasses of water, in white styrofoam cups, and explains I have to drink both of them in the next hour, at which point they we will do my scan.  She is pretty, and seems nice enough.  Dark hair, thin. But I have questions. And my goal is to speed things ahead as much as I can. (Here I am, wanting to game the system, again.) "If I chug these down, can I get in for the scan sooner?"  The answer is no.  The liquid needs time to work its way through my bowels.  She gives me a couple other insights, too. Apparently this normal-looking water contains iodine, or high-contrast dye, or iodine *and* high contrast dye, or possibly neither and I misunderstood completely... who knows?  But she gives me a bunch of information, 25% of which stuck, and goes on her way.

So here I am, left with two huge styrofoam cups of cold water, one in each hand.  I am in sitting in a chair, in an odd fashion; half sprawled out, like I am in a chaise lounge, to counter the discomfort I am feeling in my abdomen.  I happen to notice my backpack is on the floor, a little too far from me, and is a tripping hazard for passers-by. Looking down at it, I try to shift it with my feet, to bring it back into my orbit.  Splash! Something cold splatters on my belly. I have now poured ten percent of one of the cups of water on to myself.  Fack.  I have no where to put these stupid, oversized glasses.  I decide I will drink one quick, to free up a hand.  I learned to chug pretty good, back in my frat boy days. I polish one off.  Presto! One hand free.

At this point I have to introduce you to another big player in this story:  My Little Friend.  Actually, this little buddy of mine is a big player in my *life* story, not just this hospital jaunt.  You may have heard of My Little Friend already, by their more official name: They go by "Generalized Anxiety Disorder", or "GAD", for short.  As you can probably gather, I am being facetious calling them a "friend".  "Demon", "Monster", or, if they aren't raging, "Little Bugger", are all more accurate terms.  Because having GAD really is like having a little monster inside, always gnawing away, poisoning your thoughts and perceptions.  The bugger is always awake, and if I am not careful to control him, he *does* run rampant.  In the past, I have tried drugs to control him, but these drugs were a case of "the cure is worse then the disease". (Often I was prescribed various "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors" (SSRIs).  Do a google on "SSRI sexual side effects" and you will see what I mean about the cure being worse than the disease. In rare cases, as with Finasteride, people can have horrible long term consequences, that can remain, again like Finasteride, *even after they stop taking the drugs*! No thanks, Big Pharma!)  Over the years, after one drug fail after another, I stopped taking any drugs whatsoever for my GAD.  They all sucked.  Donkey dongs.  I get by with some tools I learned from seeing many psychologists, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  The CBT, along with meditation, exercise, and socializing with close friends and family, as well as by being in nature regularly (walks in parks), or at least taking notice of nature in little snatches here and there (taking in sunsets, and hanging out on our balcony), gets me through the day.

This anxiety of mine, the little demon, is part of me, always.  Like back hair.  It runs in the background, humming along at a baseline of 20%.  It skews my self-talk, with a negative bias, and distorts how I perceive situations in real-time.  The little monster has a huge bag of tricks, and left unchecked, it would negatively inform pretty well everything I think and do.  But, for the most part, I can manage it.  Unless, I really *am* in an objectively worrisome situation.  A situation like, I don't know, being doubled over in pain in a hallway of the Mount Sinai ER.  In a legit stressfull situtaion like this, the little demon can grow, and he can sneak up on me.  (And steer my thinking before the objective Matt, with his CBT tools, has a chance to tamp him down.)  Unfortunately, this is just what what happened, after polishing off Huge Cup of Water #1. The little bugger snuck up on me.

It started off with this thought: "Hmmm... hold on a second. The glasses Jackie gave me look like they just contain normal water.  But didn't Jackie say they have some chemical in them (iodine?), that was required for the CAT scan to work?  How can I *know* these normal looking waters have what they need to have, when I can't see it?" Plop! The seed was planted.  The little monster snuck one in, when I had my guard down.  Now it was up to me to tamp this down, and try and be "normal".  If I could manage it. (Easier said than done, for The Nutter of the Day.)

Thanks to my therapy, and my own research on the matter, along with self-reflection, I am completely aware most people do not think this way.  For what it's worth, believe me, I wish *I* did not think this way.  But I do.  And that is just the beginning. Now the little demon began to water the seed he snuck in.  Under his spell, a chain reaction began, and my anxiety really started to flare.  Now I thought: If these glasses of water are really just glasses of water, and I have to wait an hour to have the scan, and then they do it, and realize a mistake was made, they will have to re-do it.  And I will be hours behind, and have to endure hours more pain and nausea.  (Assuming there was even a fix for what I had.  After all, at this point I didn't even have an "official" diagnosis.)

But, alas, even that is not enough.  You see, once things get going, my anxiety, and the little demon that shapes it, doesn't sit back, satisfied.  It does not go for "participation medals".  I have all-star level anxiety; it's a trooper.  In a blink, I think: "Yes, there is a chance this is just plain water. And yes, it may blow the scan and set me back. But! Then there is a chance the technician will see that while the scan is blown, their shift is a about to end, and I don't look *that* sick.  Everything is *probably* fine.  And they don't want to get anyone, or possibly themselves, in trouble.  So maybe they should just act like everything came back fine, and send this fat guy on his way. He probably has Munchausen syndrome, anyway?"  My friends, that is what Bronze or even Silver Medal anxiety looks like!  And it sucks.  Gorilla dongs.

It also puts me in this conundrum, which I am in every day, when I interact with people:  Should I or shouldn't I?  Should I make a stink, and ask questions, that may quell my fears, but risk me coming off as a pest? Or should I let things be.  It is one thing if I am at Starbucks, and want to make sure my order didn't get screwed up;  not much risk there.  But in a hospital situation, we are talking about my healthcare, and in a worst-case scenario, maybe even *life and death*.  The higher stakes make it that much harder to just sit back and hope for the best.  For me, anyway.

With that in mind, the decision, for me, with my GAD, in the ER of Mount Sinai, is actually an easy one.  In fact there *is* no decision to be made. My anxiety is now raging, and I am not governing it all.  Now it is too late to reel it in.  At this moment, I don't have bronze or silver medal anxiety.  My anxiety is now the Michael Phelps of anxiety; it gets only gold medals!  So I *have* to be a pest, and I *have* to try and allay my fears.  For me, there is no other way.
 
With a cup in one hand, and 45 minutes to go, I keep my eyes peeled for Jackie to pass by.  At some point she does. I flag her down, I explain my concern, and without appearing to judge me negatively, she tells me what is needed is in there, and that they are very careful, and not to worry.  She is reassuring, and pleasant, and doesn't make me feel like I am an idiot for asking.  Thanks for that, Jackie.  And, Phew!  My anxiety dips immediately.  Well, to 25%, anyway.

Going forward, I am not going to go into detail about my anxious mind.  I wanted to, just this once, because it is a big part of this story, and it is a big part of who I am.   I wanted readers to be aware, my worry is always present, to one degree or another.  If I told this story, and included all of my anxious thoughts, the story would be five billion pages.  So going forward, I will just give a hint here and there about it.  With what I have just shared, I think you can figure out for yourself what is secretly going on, in my over-active, twisted mind, as my story unfolds. 

- END OF CHAPTER -
This writing above is one chapter from the long form article "3 Days and 2 Nights".
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