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Are you someone who had a relative who perhaps died of breast or colon cancer and that checkup you were supposed to have at 40 or 50, well, you haven't yet gotten around to as you just "haven't had time"?
One of the many hallmarks of reaching middle age is the innumerable trips one can make to the doctor just to check things out. While some people follow up on their health, others think, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."
Why do some people bury their heads in the sand and neglect their own health? Let's look at a few of those reasons and see what you can do to make your health a priority in the New Year.
Excuse 1: You just don't have time
Calling a doctor, scheduling an appointment, lab tests and procedures all take time and energy that you probably don't have. Time spent now, however, may save you precious time and heartache later on. If you are not prepared to call and make that appointment you have to seriously ask yourself why. Let's look further.
Excuse 2: You're scared
How about that mole you've been worried about or the pain you've convinced yourself is something serious? What if they find something? What if you have cancer? Your mind can create all kinds of scenarios and scare you big time. Fear can be so incapacitating that it may paralyze you from making a move that could save your life.
Being an informed consumer and having access to information is often the best way to deal with a problem. Assess all of your available resources - people, things, actions, past events as these can be a source of strength you never thought of. Write down your concerns and share them with a close friend or professional. Recognize that more anxiety is generated in sitting on concerns than the amount of relief that may be achieved by searching for answers.
Excuse 3: The cure will be much worse than the disease
"I'll just live with it. It will probably go away. If I see the doctor, he'll send me to someone else. I'll need surgery. I will have to do something as I just won't be able to leave it alone."
The truth may just be the opposite. Imagine having a conversation with your physician. What do you think he will tell you? What would you like him to tell you?
Once you've talked it through you may get either reassurance, or a suggestion or solution you could work with.
Excuse 4: What if it really hurts?
No one likes to experience pain. A large part of pain is the fear of being in pain. This is one of the easiest problems to solve. These days, most people need not experience pain from procedures or illness. Not only are there medications but there are non-invasive techniques that can reduce pain to the point of nonexistence.
Excuse 5: You're too embarrassed
"I'll get lectured at because I've waited so long to finally go to the doctor. What if he makes fun of me for coming to him for such a minor problem and thinks I am making a big deal out of nothing? How can I talk about things like urinary, sexual, breast issues or prostate problems with my doctor? That is a bit too personal for my liking."
You may imagine and anticipate the worst. Once you blurt it out, you'll be glad you did and there is no such thing as a stupid question, just an unasked one. That said, you need to be able to talk to your doctor and feel you have a relationship where you can share anything about your own health.
Excuse 6: Your whole life could change
If you think that finding something now will change your life, recognize that by waiting until much later when something serious may have progressed, you might discover that it really will change your life. Your life could also change for the better.
Excuse 7: Guilt
You are afraid that you may have passed something terrible onto your children. Blame and fear are horrible. You can learn to let go of it all with real facts and accurate information.
Preventive medicine is wonderful. It is easier to treat a problem when it is small. Screening procedures are designed with early detection in mind. If you were talking with your best friend, wouldn't you encourage her to check out her concerns? Isn't it time that as of today, you take the plunge and become your own best friend?
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.