Please welcome Abigail Steidley, owner of The Healthy Life, LLC Life Coaching Services and blogger of The Vagina Dialogues. You can read more about Abigail at the bottom of this post.
I recently coached a client through a hysterectomy, working on her fears about the surgery, her worries about anesthesia, and her concerns about her doctors. Health crises bring surges of emotion into our lives, and if we don’t know what to do with all these emotions, we run the risk of making the experience much more unpleasant and painful than it needs to be. Fear, panic, depression, and anxiety never help health problems, and they aren’t any fun to feel, either. Working through these emotions to reach a place of centered calm can make surgery and other health issues much easier to face and experience.
My client, Gwen, worked admirably and faithfully on her own thoughts prior to the surgery. Our own thoughts, if we let them, can alter our perception of reality and create lots of unneeded stress in our lives. Living in the land of “What If,” for example, causes high levels of anxiety. When we first started working, Gwen had lots of What If’s what if the surgery doesn’t go well, what if there are unforeseen problems, what if the doctors will not clear me for surgeryand more. The What If Syndrome is a common problem for those of us who have been or are ill. I remember many of my own What If’s from my experience with vulvodynia and IC. What if I never get to have a normal sex life again? What if I can’t have babies? What if, what if, what if
Thinking this way removes you from the present and places you firmly in the future a future much worse than the one you want. It creates a mental picture of a future you do not want, and then you dwell on it, repeatedly. If you’ve seen The Secret or done any reading about the Law of Attraction, you know this isn’t going to bring you what you long for, which, I’ll assume, is health. Law of Attraction aside, thinking repeatedly about a negative What If can only increase your anxiety and panic levels, making you feel unhappy, stressed, and depressed.
Gwen and I worked together on her major What If – What If they call off the surgery. As we talked through it, Gwen realized that as of the current moment, the surgery was still scheduled. She already had exactly what she wanted. So focusing on the thing she didn’t want made no sense. The reality was, the surgery was going forward, and nobody had said or done anything to alter this. Gwen was creating her own mental pain by thinking ahead to an unwanted future event.
It is true that most What If’s could indeed come to pass. But why create mental anguish by even considering them? Of course thoughts pop into your head, and perhaps a What If or two will catch you by surprise. But you have the power to choose to believe the What If or not. The future is always unknown, always unavailable to us. We can only live now, and even if we are in the midst of something uncomfortable, the reality of it is often much less painful than the stories we tell ourselves about it.
Gwen’s surgery did come to pass, and she is now in the recovery phase. More importantly, she was not terrified, panicked, or anguished about the surgery itself. She went into surgery with a calm state of mind, for which, I’m sure, her body thanks her. She tells me she dreamt she was in Jamaica the whole time she was under anesthesia. Now that is a truly happy mind.
The Healthy Life, LLC
Life Coaching Services
Blog: The Vagina Dialogues
Martha Beck-trained Life Coach Abigail Steidley coaches women suffering from vulvodynia, vulvar pain, IC, STD’s, painful sex, vaginal infections, vaginisumus, and other pelvic pain issues. Abigail was diagnosed with vulvar vestibulitis, vulvar dysesthesia, interstitial cystitis, and pelvic floor dysfunction in 2004. She suffered through two years of vulvodynia before discovering her own path to health and her essential self. Now she works with women who want tools to dissolve the painful emotions that come with these afflictions. Visit her blog at http://vulvodyniacoach.wordpress.com where you can contact Abigail, read health-related posts, and find out more about coaching.