I have a secret that I’ve never admitted to anyone aside from my husband.
You really can’t tell anyone about this.
I am an appointment canceler. When I have an appointment, I panic about it first thing in the morning. There’s a different reason to get anxious about each appointment. Sometimes its because I haven’t done what the doctor asked me to do. Sometimes its because I don’t want to talk about all the things going around in my head. And sometimes its because I’m too afraid to leave the house.
That’s Irresponsible Behavior
I know. I didn’t start out like this. I never missed school in junior high. I was afraid that people would talk about me in my absence. (weird, huh?) My self-esteem was very low. Made all the lower by a narcissistic father that did not love me and friends I did not have. But it did lead to some stellar attendance records.
The first time I canceled an appointment because I didn’t feel like going, I got a rush of relief. The anxiety receded a bit (and re-focused on something else). But this didn’t last long.
After canceling several appointments, the reason for my appointment canceling shifted from simply not wanting to see a doctor to being anxious about leaving my house.
Combine agoraphobia with appointment canceling, and it becomes debilitating. I start thinking about the appointment first thing
TooltipTextin the morning. And I worry it to death all day. I try to make appointments in the morning so I can get them over with and not have to fight myself all day about whether I’m going.
Why Do I Cancel?
I really don’t like talking about myself to doctors (or anyone else for that matter). I grew up in a time where mental illness carried a great stigma. Especially youth depression. 15 year olds aren’t supposed to be thinking about suicide. My mom took me to two doctors and both of them said I was under a great deal of psychological stress. Instead of hearing this for what it was, a validation that my mental state was not good, I took it to mean that the doctor thought my problems were all in my head.
My mistrust of doctors grew to enormous proportions. I don’t like reliving all of the doctor’s appointments I’ve had. So when I was old enough, I started canceling appointments if they were making me feel anxious.
I have canceled at least once on every doctor and therapist that I see. It’s especially hard to go through with it if it’s a therapy appointment. I don’t know if you’re supposed to like therapy, but I do not. Therapy is hard because I only allow all-access passes to my brain to a few people. So I walk the line of revealing enough about myself to talk about in therapy, but not so much that I feel naked.
Canceling appointments makes me feel ashamed. I think to myself, “People can’t trust me to do what I say I will do.” But the fear of the unknown beats out people trusting me. But lately, the “wanting people to trust me” movement has been gaining ground. I really want to be a trustworthy person and someone that can be counted on. You know how good it feels to have someone’s trust.
Canceling Social Appointments
I’m not much better in my social life. Although it happens much less often, I do cancel plans with friends too. My friends, carefully selected, are very understanding about my quirks and they don’t take it personally if I cancel plans.
However, following are some techniques I use to help me keep my date with a friend:
- I ask them to pick me up. That way I get to ride with someone. And it’s harder to back out.
- I tell them how I’m feeling and how it might affect my ability to carry through with our plans.
- If you and your friend separate during the event, text to keep up with what they are doing and where to meet them.
- Have a set ending time.
- If you feel stressed at the event, go the restroom or find a quiet place to take some deep breaths and re-center yourself.
- If you feel panicked and you take anxiety medication, now would be a good time to take an extra dose. You can always sit/stand outside and wait for them. If they are a good friend, they will understand and leave with no questions asked.
- When you get home, practice some self care (https://www.mentallyinteresting.com/self-care-plan).
- If you’re having an all out panic attack, go out to your car and sit quietly. Breathe deeply. Use positive affirmations: “I am safe, there is nothing to worry about.” “I’m just having a bad reaction to this situation. I will feel better soon.”. https://www.mentallyinteresting.com/positive-affirmations Head home if you’re wiped out from the panic.
I don’t know what will cure my appointment canceling. I go through periods where I don’t miss a thing. I also have weeks when I basically erase my whole calendar. Part of it is that I don’t feel bad right now. The appointments seem less like lifelines and more like stress.
So how can you feel more sure and confident about going to your appointments?
*Remind yourself that you’ve never had a bad experience with ABC;
*Think of a reward to give yourself after the appointment;
*Get your attitude on straight. Confident, Brave, and Strong;
*Remind yourself that this will only take a short amount of time, and when you get home, you should practice some self-care. This is probably my favorite “trick” because I enjoy thinking about what I’m going to do when the appointment is over; and
*Remind yourself of your strength and courage.
Canceling plans is my default, but I’m trying to change that. Getting myself in a positive mindset with affirmations and thoughts of what I will do after the appointment helps get me out the door.
Are you an appointment canceler or do you keep every appointment you make? I’d really like to hear about your experience in the comments.