I am currently undertaking prep for a medical procedure which is unpleasant anyway but because I have done this three seperate times in the past and it hasn’t worked in any of them, the prep is twice as long and very unpleasant indeed. I have spent the past two days feeling very tired and confused and this is interspersed with drinking the prep solution which is a sensory nightmare requiring a large number of strategies to make it possible. Last time I did this which was only a couple of months ago, it impacted on the absorption of my mental health meds and, had I not made an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist who immediately increased my meds, then I would have gone into psychosis which in my experience can last for years and result in major disruption to my life and be very scary. Added to this I have eight presentations and MC-ing a national awards ceremony coming up in the next three weeks so being really unwell is not on my list of options.
All off this is a perfect storm of nasty and stressful. So why am I happily sitting at my computer writing this blog post and not standing out the front of Whimsy Manor holding up a sign that says ‘The end is nigh’?? Why am I not filled with fear for the future and misery at having to go through this horrible medical procedure yet again? There are actually a few reasons.
The first is something called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is not the same as ‘accepting’ that something horrible is OK and in doing so invalidating your experience. It is more about accepting things are how they are and you can’t go back in time and change them. From that position of acceptance you know that you are in control of how you respond to the situation. Regretting the past is the key to misery but radical acceptance is the key to managing life’s difficulties and being a lot happier then you would be if you spend your energy wishing that the past had somehow been different.
The second reason I am doing OK is that I have strategies. Strategies do not fix the issues. I still have to go through the medical procedure, I still have the worry about mental illness and giving all those talks, but strategies mean I can get through the worst of the difficulties. Strategies are individual to each person. They are about practical, sensible activities to lessen the impact of something. Some of the strategies I am using now include putting in place a practical means of making the prep solution drinkable. This is a strategy I have learned over the past three times of doing it so I am using knowledge from past experience to improve a situation. Another strategy I am using is to practice my talks for early December. The more prepared I am, the less it matters what my brain is doing when I give the talks.
I am also quite adept at the mindfulness style of seeing things. I try to not get bogged down in the past or terrified of the future but focus instead on the present. What I need to do right here right now. I could think ‘ugh, I have eight lots of prep solution to drink’ and become totally overwhelmed or I can think ‘Right now I have one cup of prep solution. The task at hand is to drink this cup. I shall dedicate my entire focus on doing that well in the present time.’ This might sound difficult but it is in fact not too hard when you start doing it. This makes a difference in pretty much all miserable situations. Once again , ti doesn’t make the issues go away but makes them easier to manage and removes a lot of the suffering element.
I am resilient in that lovely sense of being able to turn adversity into a teacher. This is a great quality and one I would wish for everyone else too. Resilience is a skill which takes time and practice to acquire but it is a very useful one to have. I find it stops me from being terrified of the future.
The last thing I am using to manage is my thinking and attitude. My approach is one of gratitude. I am grateful that I have the strategies I do. I am grateful I have a full-time job with sick leave and that there is no chance that when I return to work on Wednesday I will be told I am fired for my two day absence. I am grateful I have social media so can communicate with friends even if i can’t leave the house. I am grateful that I have an internet connection….I could go on. Shifting my focus from negative to positive is a hard thing to do but it is a skill that has improved with practice.
These qualities do not fix the problem. Being accepting and resilient does not make colonoscopy prep taste nicer. The thing about all these strategies is that they make something horrible more manageable. They are actually more useful than magically removing the issue would be, because these skills grow over time. In the past I was terrified of mental illness and getting unwell. Now I am not. I know if I am unwell I can manage it to a point and I know it will pass or at least change in its nature. Strategies give me strength to deal with every issue I face. They are a framework for dealing with life. They are all hard fought and won and came from me getting through some extremely difficult things. I guess that gives value to unpleasant past experiences if they can give value by becoming a teacher. I hope you got some value from my strategies. I do like to share helpful things as there isn’t much use to them inside my head!
*And for those of you who want the colonoscopy prep strategies I use…
- Make 1 litre of the prep and put it in the fridge until it is very cold
- Pour 250ml of the cold prep into a cup
- Make up 250ml of stock / clear broth which is allowed in the liquid diet
- Drink some of the stock and then drink as much of you can of the prep through a bendy straw
- Drink some of the stock. Keep doing this until both stock and prep are finished. Then repeat the process until the whole litre of the prep is finished
- In between cups of prep it can help to suck on a barley sugar – also allowed in the fluid diet
- Cultivate a sense of resolve and self-motivation. e.g. thinking ‘I can do this!’
- Set yourself a reward for an agreed milestone
- I often gamify the process by reminding myself of how much prep I have got through