Conquering Health-Related Anxiety

Liesel Teversham

Liesel helps HSP introverts to embrace their sensitivity as a superpower, and overcome obstacles so they can thrive. She also works with clients to solve their health issues, and has authored 2 books. More here.

Published on 2024/03/19

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do,
but it doesn’t get you very far.”

~ Jodi Picoult

In this article, I’ll share my thoughts and personal experiences on working with the complexities of anxiety. If you have not suffered from anxiety yourself, you may not get how big a deal it is for someone who has. If there’s someone in your life who can use some hope for their anxiety, please point them to this.

For the longest time, I had intense fear and anxiety about going to the dentist. I would postpone check-ups for months. The mere thought of having to make the phone call had my heart racing.

I’ve had lots of teeth trouble over my life, partly because I started clenching my jaw at night when I was about 17. The back teeth took lots of strain with all the pressure on them night after night before I started wearing a bite plate. Many cracked and had to be crowned.

Every time I found a new problem with a tooth, it meant weeks or even months of agony. I would hold out as long as I could before making the appointment. One time I lived with a cracked tooth for many months, enduring the sharp pain every time I bit down. I didn’t want to even consider making that dentist appointment!

Each time, I eventually had to surrender and go. Mostly I’d have to take a Dormicum ahead of the appointment, so I’d be half-knocked out to not feel the awful anxiety. (Dormicum is a pre-op sedation tablet that can be prescribed by South African doctors ahead of a procedure for their anxious patients.)

Not just the dentist

I also noticed the anxiety in other areas where medical help was required.

I’ve had glaucoma since 2012. At my first ophthalmologist appointment in London, they did a strange procedure to look deep into the eye structures. I had a panic attack right there in the little cubicle. I had no idea what was happening to me — it was a first and completely unexpected. Only when I read up later, did I understand what that experience was. My heart still goes out to anyone who deals with it regularly.

Then I had an eye procedure with a laser in 2018, and 2 biopsies in the following 2 years. I didn’t sleep the nights before those procedures, and the nerves in the hours leading up to each appointment were just awful. I thankfully did have help from wonderful friends and practitioners to get me through it. Without them, I don’t know how I would have got myself to the appointments.

In 2019, my husband was in South Africa for his mom’s funeral, while I stayed in London. A new health issue came up for me just before he left. During those 10 days alone, I experienced such anxiety that I took myself off to a hospital in the middle of the night because I thought something else was seriously wrong.

That was no way to live!

I hated the cycle of debilitating fear and avoidance, yet I couldn’t get over it. It got worse over the years. Every scary experience seemed to add to the pile, and I thought I’d never be able to have appointments like ‘normal’ people. Of course — that made me dread any health issue. “What would I have to endure to investigate the issue?”

Another thing I’d been avoiding was an endoscopy. I’ve had tummy trouble for about 12 years and have been managing it with all sorts of alternative and complementary methods — rather than seeing an allopathic doctor. Acupuncture, Naturopath, supplements, Chinese herbs, homeopathy, and finally Meta Consciousness ** (more about this later).

And what about EFT?

Of course, I was using EFT, too! I was an EFT Practitioner and even a trainer for a few years and knew exactly how effective it could be. I tapped to get myself to make every appointment, before every appointment, during (on the finger points), and after the appointment. Other EFT practitioners supported me here and there when I was particularly anxious and afraid.

To be honest, I felt like a kind of ‘EFT failure’. Gary Craig (Creator of EFT) talked about the ‘One Minute Wonder’: Use EFT for a few minutes, and the problem would be completely gone.

“Why did that not happen for me?” I kept asking myself. “For what reason was my anxiety not resolving?” I sometimes felt like a bit of a fraud when I helped others with their troubles and theirs disappeared. “Why not mine?”

Then one day a few years ago, I got so sick and tired of this issue that I decided to clear it once and for all. I had another crown appointment coming up in a month, and I contacted a skilled EFT practitioner. Before, I had always done ‘swops’ with colleagues. This time, my commitment to overcome the fear was so firm that I decided to pay to get the job done.

So was the fear all gone in a session?

That would have been lovely, and, no. Let me continue.

I had 4 very intense sessions with my fabulous new practitioner. It helped me to get through those crown appointments in much better shape than before, even with extra challenges in the mix.

For a start, there’s no Dormicum available in the UK — and I got through the appointments without sedation. Yep, I was still nervous to go, yet I felt extremely proud of myself. There was heavy snow on the dentist-days and it increased the number of things that could go wrong, like being late. It was a new dentist, I had no relationship with her yet, and it was in the middle of lockdown. Everything about it felt more unsafe than usual.

And yet, I was thankful to start experiencing changes in the anxiety.

I had better nights’ sleep ahead of time. The nerves started building only 1 hour ahead of the appointment instead of many hours. And I didn’t tremble quite as much during the appointments. That was a great start and I felt encouraged. (Though of course, like anyone else, I wanted it all completely gone!)

I had another 8 sessions with her. It was fascinating to notice how much anxiety there was everywhere in my life — not just around health and medical issues. I noted down all the progress and was very pleased with how many shifts I experienced. There was less anxiety as a passenger in a car, and different conversations in my head about various issues. More kindness, more encouraging thoughts, instead of just dread-thoughts.

Then life took over, the dentist was a distant memory, I got busy, and stopped the sessions for a year.

Other trouble

Of course, life has a way of reminding us to work on important issues. Or in other words — our unresolved baggage keeps being triggered!

I came back from a visit to my parents in January 2021 with excruciating tummy trouble, and went down all the complementary routes again — to avoid the medical route where scary procedures would probably be offered!

After many months, finally one day I was so sick of worrying about serious issues lurking underneath, that I made an appointment with my NHS GP. I gratefully accepted the medicine they prescribed, thankful that something would finally help. For weeks it went well… but then some more awful episodes convinced me to go back to the GP. He started mentioning an endoscopy and I guess he saw my expression… So he suggested more ‘non-scary’ things like blood tests and ultrasounds.

“Yay”, went my brain… “we avoided that one very nicely!”

Back in I go for Round 2

Another 6 months later, I was back in South Africa to spend the last few weeks of my dad’s life in South Africa. We buried him, and our family had a beautiful bonding time. I was astounded that I had absolutely no tummy trouble during the entire stressful time.

Until the day that I took my mom for an audiology appointment, started feeling sick and vomited right there in the consulting room in a rubbish bin! Ugh. My poor mom with Parkinson’s had to push me to the car in a wheelchair and organize a driver to get us home. What a sight that must’ve been… I can laugh now. <grin>

The tummy bug came and went, but the nausea didn’t… another doctor’s visit later, and we discovered an infected gallbladder. You can imagine my anxiety climbing through the roof because an infected gallbladder is what led to my dad’s sepsis and death.

Back in the UK, I contacted my EFT practitioner again and we started working on all the possible underlying issues with the help of a ‘Meta Consciousness Analysis’ **. I uncovered exactly how much difficult stuff in my life I still had not let go of.

Honestly, it was a bit of a shock. I had to write a timeline. So much I thought I’d left in the past, yet never actually processed. I became aware of how many ‘Big T’ and ‘small t’ traumas I had in my life. Big car accidents. Divorces. Miscarriages. Other painful relationship break-ups. Betrayals. Unprocessed childhood stuff that led to limiting beliefs. Animals dying in traumatic ways in front of me. And much more.

As I started working through this list with my practitioner, I could feel myself starting to change in ways that are hard to describe. Yet again, I could hear my self-talk changing. I started being more supportive to myself — like a friend who could talk me through difficult patches. There was less panic and anxiety around difficult things.

And finally… healing

I could avoid the endoscopy no more. I got a call on a Tuesday, for a cancellation they had just 2 days later. My heart leapt into my throat when I heard that… and the next minute I went calm and to my surprise, my thoughts were “YES, let’s get this over and done with so I’ll have more information.”

My goodness, what a change! I could hardly believe how differently I was thinking and feeling.

There were only 2 days before it would all be over… this big monster I’d been avoiding for 12 years. And I noticed how present I was during them.

Yes, my thoughts went to the upcoming procedure. But they didn’t stay there. As you might know, our brain tries to protect us from harm by making us focus on the scary thing, so we can prepare. If we’re anxious about something, we hyper-focus on it.

A year or two ago, I would have been unable to keep my thoughts away from it. This time, I thought of it — without the panic or fear! It was almost as if my thoughts could not stay on the upcoming appointment. They came right back to the ‘here and now’, so I could continue my work, or whatever else I was busy with. It felt most unusual for me, and I was unbelievably pleased.

I had to stop eating 6 hours ahead of time and was concerned that I’d get awful tummy burns from an empty stomach. The procedure was booked for 3.30 pm and I had a whole day to get through. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d manage to keep my thoughts away from food. Food is important to a Taurus, you know! So I filled the day with appointments and easy things to keep me busy. As Grace would have it, I already had a scheduled acupuncture appointment for the morning that would help me relax, too.

The day itself

I went through the procedure this past Thursday with (dare I say) flying colours! I had a fantastic night’s sleep the night before. On the way there with Andrew driving, I kept thinking “Gosh, is it really me? I feel so detached from it. Like I’m just going to the park. Is this normal?”

And in the waiting room, I started getting slightly nervous yet still thought “Honestly? I’m here in the waiting room and I’m not freaking out! Is this for real? Is this what ‘normal’ people feel like?”

I can’t tell you how different that felt. My heart started beating quite fast in the prep room as the nurse inserted the cannula for the sedation drip. And still, I was present enough to think, “Of course I would be nervous — this is no small thing. It’s okay for my heart to beat fast. Yet I’m not feeling like running away. I can do this. I can do this.”

It’s hard to describe the feeling. After so many, many years of avoiding procedures of any kind, this feels like the biggest win on earth. I’m writing this with a big smile.

Help and Support

The biggest thing I want to share with this story is that it’s hard to heal from our major issues alone.

I was trying to heal all the fear and anxiety by myself for so many years. Until I decided to ask for help and support, it got worse. Since I opened myself and became willing to admit that I can’t do it all myself, so much wonderful help and support showed up.

The night before the procedure, I had a chat with my dear friend Deborah Sicignano. She’s a sensitive soul too, with a deep understanding and empathy for the challenges we can experience in medical environments. I was already calm, yet she offered something else that brought in the last beautiful piece I needed. We often pray together for each other, and that’s what we did the night before. In those few moments, the deepest trust and peace arrived for me. We prayed for 4 specific things. After that, I just knew that everything would be 100% okay the next day.

Yep, it took a while

The journey was long. It did not take a ‘One Minute Miracle’ to cure me of my anxiety. There were too many layers. And I’m probably not completely done yet.

It wasn’t only the anxiety about medical and health stuff. No, there was general anxiety. There was perfectionism and getting things right, beliefs I took over from my parents and the generations before them, and many examples from my dear mom who was very anxious herself. Things she’d said stayed with me and formed beliefs about how scary the world is. Too much to summarise here but enough to give you the idea.

Sometimes we underwhelm our most overwhelming issues.

That’s a line by another dear friend, Alison Gitelson. And in this long story, dear Reader, I truly felt the message in my bones.

I had to be incredibly persistent and patient with my issue — like a dog with a bone. I had to have loads of help and kind support and give up the illusion that I could be my own healer for this one. And I had to be willing to do the work, to face the hard things from the past. To let help in. To ask. And then to receive.

Encouragement and Hope

If you’ve been struggling with something for a long, long time and you’ve felt hopeless about it, I hope that this long read has offered you something to hold on to.

We live in a world where everybody wants an instant solution or cure for everything. It’s not realistic. Sometimes it happens yes, and in my experience, most times our long-standing issues require a long, loving, patient journey with kind companions on our way to healing.

** Meta Consciousness Analysis: It’s an in-depth analytical tool to help find the emotional root causes for dis-ease in the body. I have been a fully certified Practitioner since January 2024. Contact me here to enquire.


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