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4 Tips for Dealing with Setbacks

I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself this week. I was supposed to have a gastroscopy (sending a camera in a tube through your throat into your stomach) on Tuesday but it ended up being pretty traumatic and didn’t go ahead as planned.

I have been getting acid reflux for a few years now which is tamed by tablets (which are amazing) but my GPs have always murmured about sending me for a gastroscopy to check out the situation in my stomach and see if there’s anything to worry about. I’ve never fancied the idea so I always let it slide out of their memories and never reminded them.

Recently though it’s got a little worse so I decided that I would say yes when it was suggested a few weeks ago. They said it would take ages to come through due to delays with Covid so I just forgot about it.

I got a call to make an appointment a couple of weeks ago and they could fit me in the week after. After a little bit of panicking and receiving the paperwork, I decided that it would be fine because I’d take the sedation they were offering, and all would be good.

On the day, I was feeling good and decided to do without sedation – I’ve been through some shit, I’ve had anxiety, I can deal with it, everything will be fine! Spoiler: everything was not fine. When I got to the hospital, the staff were all really helpful. The nurse who explained the procedure in detail was saying it only took about 3 minutes and she wouldn’t bother with sedation if she had to do it. Also, it turned out I couldn’t have the sedation because of my BMI (due to it being at a community hospital with no backup in case of problems).

So I waited about 10 minutes after the talk and then got taken into the procedure room. Again, lovely staff getting me prepared, giving me an anaesthetic throat spray (completely disgusting but you only taste it for a few seconds). I was getting quite nervous then but reminded myself it was fine, people have these all the time, just remember to breathe and it’s only a few minutes.

When they started the procedure however, I got more and more agitated, there was a lot of gagging and I started panicking. It was terrible so eventually when they asked if I wanted to stop, I signalled that I did. After they’d stopped I cried so much for about 5 minutes. I felt completely inconsolable and even now, I’m not sure why it affected me so much.

So I took a couple of days to be quiet and look after myself. Give myself some time to deal with what I’d experienced before trying to move forward. It’s really important to acknowledge what has happened to you in a situation like this. Fall back onto the things that make you feel looked after – whether it’s family, friends, curling up in your bed or some meditation.

I’m now looking for some solutions to this problem because I need to find out if there is an underlying issue and the only way that can happen is if I have the procedure. So I’m looking for ways to make it more tolerable for myself and whether there is some unprocessed trauma from another time that needs to be dealt with.

I also know I need to build myself up for the next time. That means looking after myself and doing the things that make me feel good and strong, so all the usual triad – food/sleep/exercise. I will get on the meditation and try not to dwell on the bad part of what happened. I now know what the process is too, which is an advantage in some ways. I know what to expect and I feel better informed than last time.

So if you’ve suffered a knockback recently, these are the things that will help you out:

1. Take some time to acknowledge and process what has happened. Not dwelling, just acknowledge that something painful has happened and you have had a reaction to it. We’re all human, we all have reactions and we can’t always control them.

2. Find a way to deal with what happened. That might mean turning to someone else for help or for a conversation about it. Talking about it helps you process what happened, instead of it swirling around in your head.

3. Forgive yourself if it doesn’t work straight away. We’ve all had times where something hasn’t worked out the way we planned it, but each time you try, you learn something new. Being really hard on yourself doesn’t make it any better and it just makes trying again that much harder. Be kind to yourself and try asking what you’d say to a friend who is having the same experience.

4. Look for a way to try again. This will help build your resilience and make you stronger. Maybe you don’t need to do it all in one go, maybe this time was too much and you can try cutting it into smaller steps which are more achievable. If, like me, you can’t do that, try finding ways to cope with it. You’re more informed than you were the first time (or the second, third etc) and can use that to your advantage.


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