3 Things to Do (and Not Do) When You’re Too Afraid to Call the Doctor
I found a painful lump under my right arm last week, so I did what any responsible, intelligent mother-of-four who is in the business of teaching self-care would do. I ignored it.
My business is one of self-love. Fitness, yoga, meditation, clean eating—my daily practice not only includes honoring myself with healthy action, but I also preach these non-negotiables to the thousands who follow me online. I don’t mess around with what goes into my body, so why did I freeze and do nothing when I found something in there that shouldn’t have been?
The simple answer is fear, which gives way to the simple question, “What was I afraid of?” Maybe it’s obvious, and I was just afraid of being sick. Maybe I was afraid of the change that an illness would bring.
Whatever the fear was, it was certainly doing its job. It had paralyzed me into total inaction. I didn’t even give my lump the courtesy of a scribble on my to-do list.
I become most articulate and convincing when I’m making empty promises to myself. “I promise I’ll take care of the lump as soon as I get through my morning emails.” “One more load of laundry and I’m calling the doctor.” “I’m imagining the lump because I’m stressed out about X, Y, and Z.” “I’m not wasting my time on an imaginary illness because I don’t want to deal with my real responsibilities.” I said I was convincing to myself. I realize this all sounds like a load of crap to everyone reading this.
The pressing issue here isn’t why I wasn’t making a doctor appointment, it’s that I wasn’t making it. We can leave the whys for another day, because I know that there are a whole lot of you out there who have done this very same thing. You have ignored obvious warning signs from your body because you were just too busy, too embarrassed, too stubborn, or just too scared to give them any attention. Maybe you’re doing it right now, and that’s perfect! Because now is the perfect time to stop.
All my years of practice in self-awareness haven’t stopped me from being stupid or irresponsible or unloving toward myself from time to time, but they have taught me to recognize my stupidity while (or soon after) it’s happening. This is a gift. My awareness has allowed me to create systems to rescue me from myself, and my platform has provided a way for me to share my anti-stupidity tools with my dearest friends online.
Please be assured that I use the word “stupid” with love and compassion. It should be commonly held sense for us to know how to love ourselves, and all the earthly trappings and ideas that come in between our heads and our hearts have made us ignorant to this love.
The things that have happened to us and the false ideas that have buried themselves into our psyches have made us stupid—separate from love and strangers to our intuition.
In my quest to be less stupid and more of what God has intended for me to be, I have called on the help of lists, systems, and friends to keep me on track to becoming a purpose-fulfilled soul (and body).
In this particular case of me ignoring my lump, I pulled out the playbook and used my 3 Things To Do When You’re Too Afraid To Call The Doctor:
#1: Call two friends.
Imagine your group of friends. Then categorize them by their most prominent personality traits—the funniest, the most serious, the boss, the sweetheart…Who is the bully of the group? This doesn’t have to be a mean friend, just a friend who gets what she wants, when she wants it, and from whomever she wants it (and is maybe a little scary about it at times). When this friend speaks, you listen, because she’s not only a little scary, she’s a lot smart. Next, think of your sweetest friend. The one who’s just one stray animal rescue shy of sainthood and would never judge you for that really fun (but forever secret) thing you did that night with that stranger…in that bathroom. She’ll do anything for you (including making you homemade soup when you’re sick or helping you cut your ex’s face out of every photo after he broke your heart), and you could never say no to her.
You’re so lucky to have these two as friends. Call them. Tell them that you think something is wrong and that you haven’t made an appointment. Then, go about your business. They will either bully or guilt you into making an appointment, and then they will continue to follow up (read: badger, hound, harass) with you until you check in with the results. If this is the only step of the three you take, you’ll be on your way to the doctor (and recovery) in no time.
This is an actual text from one my friends on the morning of my mammogram:
“In order to remain calm, if all that yoga nonsense doesn’t work, I want you to imagine me standing next to you making wildly inappropriate comments—in a prom dress.”
This is the same friend who convinced me to talk to my midwife when I was in denial about having post-partum depression after the birth of my fourth child. In that case, she saved my life.
#2: Don’t Google.
You may think that the best way to fix this is to stop un-knowing and do some searching for your symptoms on the Internet. I cannot tell you how bad of an idea this is. Once you have gotten a first and second and possibly third opinion from trusted health professionals, by all means empower yourself by doing research and becoming an advocate for your own proper care. Do NOT start playing “Internet private eye” immediately after finding a funny looking mole on your rear end. Here’s an example of why: Just for fun, type “butt cancer” into a search engine and see what happens. For even more dramatic results, click on the images option. I’m sorry, but this is where I have to practice a little tough love.
Googling will not get you to the doctor. It will either give you a false sense of security, convincing you that nothing is wrong, or it will send you into a tailspin of anxiety and panic with horrifyingly graphic photos and a certainty that you will absolutely die from that infected paper cut.
Self-diagnosis by search engine: always a terrible idea. I don’t think I have to say it again.
#3: Be Here Now.
I’m a meditation teacher, so you should have seen this coming. Speculating about future events or outcomes will not help you in this moment. You may be worried. You may be afraid. Whatever is keeping you from picking up the phone and calling your doctor is probably related to you practicing some fortune telling on your own behalf. And for the same reason that being negative about the future won’t help you, forcing yourself to be positive probably won’t do much for you either. The truth is that you just don’t know what’s ahead, and that is totally OK. You don’t have to know. The only thing required of you in this moment is to keep breathing and keep taking the tiny steps to get you to where you need to be: sitting in the doctor’s office.
This is a time that it’s OK for you to get on the Internet. Find a meditation video or a local yoga class. Write a blog, and stop right before you hit the publish button if you’re not quite ready to share. (That’s what I did.) You’ve already done the super smart thing and paid attention to my first two tips, so now it’s time to be in the moment. You don’t have to pretend not to be scared. Find a quiet spot to sit with your fears. Breathe in and gather every single worry into your lungs. Breathe out and let them float away into outer space.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with racing thoughts and mental chit-chat, repeat a mantra either silently or out loud.
“I am here. I am safe. I am in perfect health.”
“I am loved. I was created with divine intention. Healing is on the way.”
Now go take care of yourself. I love you!
Note: I almost finished this post without an update of my health status. As of today, the worst has been ruled out and other possible causes are being investigated. I got this.
Rebekah “Bex” Borucki, founder of BEXLIFE™ and the BLISSED IN™ wellness movement, is a mother of four, TV host, fitness and yoga instructor, popular YouTuber, and backyard farmer raising sixteen gossiping hens and growing her own organic garden on their eight-acre homestead in New Jersey. To learn more about Bex and receive her weekly Bliss notes, visit her website Bexlife.com.