“Just relax” murmurs the doctor soothingly as she attempts to probe tender bits of my anatomy with something alien, cold and rather unpleasant. Relax? Seriously? I think to myself, trying and failing to unclench my jaw, and other bodily parts.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we, rigid with fear and tension, willing ourselves into a sense of detachment and pretending that this invasive procedure is happening to someone else and not to us.
Whether it’s swabs up noses or needles in jaws, it’s not exactly pleasant, is it?
We try desperately and without much success to imagine we’re on a desert island, or floating down a river, or up on a cloud, when the reality is that we’re imprisoned on a chair, or a couch, at the mercy of a determined medical practitioner. The hitherto unobserved ceiling becomes an object of great interest to us, as we watch with impotent and horrified fascination an abseiling spider drawing ever closer. At least it takes our mind off whatever procedure is happening to us. Maybe there’ll be a fire alarm, or a very minor earth tremor will hit Bay Street, and we will be reprieved, from both the spider and the treatment. We can but hope.
Whatever part of the body it is, subjecting ourselves to possible pain or discomfort at the hands of dedicated and very capable doctors, nurses and dentists brings out the latent coward in most of us.
Our inner five year old wants to wail “Mummy, don’t let that nasty woman hurt me!” while we grit our teeth (dental equipment permitting), try to breathe out slowly and put into practice all those relaxation techniques that seem so effortless in Yoga classes.
We know it’s for our own good (we may even be voluntarily paying for it), we know it will soon be over, but we don’t like it. We’re embarrassed at being so pathetic and tell ourselves sternly that this is NOTHING compared with what people who are really ill are going through, that we should be ASHAMED of ourselves for making such a fuss and it’s for our OWN GOOD.
But it doesn’t make it any easier….
Time to ‘fess up – I was for many years one of those Yoga teachers who played soothing music and talked in a low monotone to lull my classes into a semi-dormant state of relaxation. It’s easy, isn’t it, when you’re lying on your mat in that dark room with nothing to disturb your peace of mind. I’d mentally transport my class to warm sandy beaches, or cool mountain forests, or favourite places and we’d all think beautiful thoughts. But put me on that doctor’s couch or dentist’s chair, and all my years of practice and training go out the window as I frantically wriggle my toes (as advised by a long-ago dentist) and try – and fail – to let go.
I’m a real wimp when it comes to medical stuff. I’m the sort who faints giving blood, and never ever wanted to play Doctors and Nurses. I close my eyes during the gory bits in movies and would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch a hospital reality show.