All week long I’d been dreading today. Yesterday afternoon I felt myself getting more anxious and nervous because I knew the next morning I’d have to go in for my annual physical. Now this doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but I hadn’t been to the doctor for a check up in at least 10 years. So my physical hasn’t exactly been “annual.” Still, this is just a routine exam everyone does, but I think I built up some kind of horrible image in my mind of what these annual doctor’s appointments were like from my childhood.
I used to be kind of okay with them when I was younger because my mom would take me to the doctor every year around my birthday. Then as I got a little older, I really started hating the doctor. I remember even trying to run out of the exam room (and I’m pretty sure I was at least in 4th, 5th, or 6th grade at this point) because I really didn’t want a blood test or a shot. It was that bad. At my last checkup, I remember being there for a sickness (maybe a cold or the flu or something) and the doctor was also going to draw my blood. I was at this appointment alone because I was a senior in high school, but apparently my mom had asked the doctor to do this as part of a routine physical. I told them I didn’t want them to do it, so they didn’t because I was 18 and they couldn’t make me do treatments that I refused to have done. That’s when I realized I now had power over what medical treatments I got because I was considered an adult.
It’s not that I haven’t been to the doctor at all since then. I still go to my specialists and I actually don’t have a problem with the dentist. I just didn’t want to see an internist because they draw your blood and order immunizations. I associated the doctor with pain.
So this morning when I woke up, I was not excited. I’d been convincing myself over the past several days that I can handle this. I’m an adult. This isn’t a big deal. I’ve gone through worse pain before. In 8th grade I broke my wrist falling off a pony and because I was scared of getting an IV, I opted to not stay overnight in the hospital and just have the doctor set my bone with his hands. Even with the novacane shots, it still hurt but somehow I managed to not scream, cry, or even make any kind of noise when he set my bone. The doctor was quite impressed. I also kept telling myself that I’m going to go through worse pain in the future (i.e. childbirth).
As I brushed my teeth this morning, this verse popped into my head:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 NIV
Do not be anxious, but pray with thanksgiving? How can you be thankful for something that you’re anxious about? Well, right after that reminder, I prayed this prayer: “God, thank you for giving me access to great doctors and healthcare so that I can take care of myself. I know so many people around the world don’t have this opportunity.”
As I gave thanks to God for the same thing that was making me anxious and nervous, I was also reminded that I am blessed to be in this situation. It makes the potential pain I might feel from getting my blood drawn or from a vaccination seem less significant. I am grateful for this life God has given me because I know others–maybe even like Daniel, the boy from the Dominican Republic my youth group sponsors through Compassion International–would do anything to switch places with me for this kind of care.
I was still nervous, but I went to my appointment. I had my blood drawn and I got a tetanus shot. It wasn’t actually as bad as I’d made it out to be in my mind. In fact, when I got the tetanus shot (which Gerald was scaring me about earlier this week because he said it hurts more), I didn’t even feel it. I wasn’t even sure if I’d even had the shot done yet!
So my lesson in all of this: my fears are all mental. I built up this horrible image of what kind of pain I might endure at the doctor’s office, but really I had nothing to fear. I’m still not going to like going to the doctor because of the labs (but who does like being poked with needles?), but whenever I’m anxious about something else I’ll remind myself to think, How can I be thankful for this situation? What in this situation is there to be thankful for? And I’ll choose to focus on that instead of worrying about what will or will not happen.