My recipe for dealing with anger and frustration: set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant, and rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.
— Phyllis Diller
Yesterday frustration the order of the day.
It was frustration borne out of having to juggle multiple appointments, with the juggling relying on the timeliness of others.
I had been living the life of a chained animal for nearly three weeks. (Yes, I exaggerate.) Having had surgery, I had been sent home with a bag of body fluids attached to my side by a tube. I won’t tell you what was in that tube, but it was pretty yuck. The magic number was 20 by 2 — essentially, 20mL (max) of fluid for 2 consecutive days before the drain could be removed. I had also been given some other numbers — 10 to 14 — which represented the number of days this should take.
The issue was I had bypassed the 14 and was heading rapidly towards 21. That’s a lot of days to be dragging around a plastic bag and being restricted to a 40cm radius of movement.
So, when I finally reached the magic 20, I then spent a nervous, anticipatory 24 hours hoping the magic 20 would be achieved again and the thorn (tube) in my side could be removed.
Yesterday morning I nervously squeezed out the contents of the bag and held it up at eye level … 20mL! Then came the wait for the community nurse to arrive.
This is where the frustration began … she was late.
And so my carefully constructed chain of events seemed about to unravel from the outset. Cue the frustration trigger.
As it turned out, the community nurse made it just in time. These nurses are an absolute godsend … they are amazing! She removed the drain and allowed me to get to my next appointment in time. This appointment then finished earlier than expected. Bonus!
We made it out to the Canberra Hospital for appointment number 3. Cue frustration again because it took us over 20 minutes to find a park. Turns out we could have circled for much longer, because the doctor was running 45 minutes late.
Upon finally making it in, we were then left sitting waiting for longer because my pathology results couldn’t be found. (I am not sure why this hadn’t been sorted earlier, but do acknowledge they are very busy people.)
Over an hour after my scheduled appointment time, I was lying on a hard plastic surface, gown gaping in a rather unfeminine way (why are hospital gowns made like this?), having my limbs pulled and pushed into weird contortions and allowing my skin to be drawn on. (This was the planning appointment and the simulation for upcoming radiotherapy treatment.)
My arm would not go all the way up over my head (still post-surgery stiffness) and I had a huge dressing on my side from where the drain was taken out less than 6 hours prior. BUT the staff — indeed, the doctor herself — knew about this and had told me to come in anyway because ‘there are ways around everything’.
Fnally I’m all manipulated into position, my skin is a painted canvas … and the doctor walks in. She looks, tut-tuts and says, ‘Oh … no, we can’t do it. You’ll just have to come back again next week.’
I am about to explode. But I don’t.
I want to scream at the doctor who told me to come in anyway, then made me wait for over an hour, then decides she can’t do it after all. But I don’t.
All that happens is that a sigh escapes my lips as I say, ‘Okay.’
She pounces, ‘You sighed, what is that about?’ She must have skipped the bedside manner tutorials at med school.
So, I told her. It had been a long day, I was tired. Now, I’m disappointed that I came all this way, waited for a long time, only to be told ‘too bad’. There’s 3 wasted hours of my life I won’t get back.
I knew my hands were tied.
I knew her hands were tied.
But surely I was entitled to my frustration?
She proceed to patronise me; telling me she knew she’d made me wait but had many important things to do and asking me how I could expect her to perform the procedure if it wasn’t going to work.
I knew all that and, quite frankly, it wasn’t the point. Eventually I shut her down … in the most polite way I could, ‘I do understand. I’m not blaming anyone. But you need to just acknowledge that I am annoyed and frustrated that all this time has been wasted for nothing. Anyone would feel the same.’ Then, I shut her out.
On the way home I ranted to my long-suffering husband about the arrogance of this doctor, all the while trying to work out exactly why I was so angry.
I figured it out. It boils down to this: I was justifiably frustrated after a long wait with no outcome. I’d been through quite a bit already (chemo, surgery, nearly 3 weeks on a leash) and I’d psyched myself up for this next event (which was going to be rather unpleasant from what I’d been told).
Then, it didn’t happen. So I was frustrated.
The doctor did not acknowledge my feelings, so the frustration turned into anger.
This is why I was (and still am) angry. But, in writing this, I am going to let it go now.
Getting overly and consistently frustrated when things don’t go your way is not helpful. I know that.
However, feeling frustrated is a natural human response to stress and we should be able to express this frustration in an appropriate way without being told off, lectured or made to feel bad.