Living with Health Anxiety
You're Not Alone
National Mental Health awareness was on Sunday October 10th, and I am of course posting this a few days late. I think that everyday should be mental health awareness day if we are being honest.I feel like it's very misunderstoond, and many feel guilty when they have a mental health disorder or bad mental health day. I am very happy that the world is begining to aknowledge mental health more, but I do feel like we have a long way to go.
My mental health anxiety journey really began in 2017, I am closely approaching my 4 year mark next month. Through this journey it has caused me to really reflect on my life and I began to realize that anxiety has always existed in my life, but never to the extereme that I found it hitting me in 2017.
It all started on a night out with a friend at the time. Me, her and my sister were heading to the movies. We had stopped at Jamba Juice and they went in to get smoothies. Nothing was different about this night, I felt completly fine. I can't recall even stressing about much, I was excited for a girls night out. I was sitting in the car on my phone waiting for them, when all this sudden my vision went blurry, my heart began racing, I felt like I couldn't breathe, I felt frozen, and most of all I felt extremly scared as though I was dying.
When they returned to the car I didn't say anything about it, I didn't know what to say without making everyone worry. I ended up watching the movie, but the whole time all I could think of was the episode that I had and what it might mean for my health. This is what would begin many trips to the ER, hours of googling, and self diagnosing myself with everything from MS to a brain tumor.
The truth was looking back I had a lot of things I was sub consiously stressing over, rather that was things of my current reality or everything I had burried in my past. But I wouldnt discover this unti 2021. As 2017 came to a close I tried to foget about what happened, and tell myself that it was just a one time thing. That was until I was at work one day, about to head to lunch with a coworker and I became extremly dizzy out of nowhere and again my heart began racing. I continued with her to our desination but when we got inside I had to tell her I didn't feel good and need to get some air outside.
I should note that I work at a hospital with an emergency room, and as I was on my way outside a techologist stopped me to ask if I was okay as I looked a bit pale. I assured them I was okay and rushed outside. Once I got out there I began walking, hoping that would help me calm down. But as I got further away from the hospital I started becoming increasingly scared so I texted my boss telling her I didn't feel right. In my mind I honestly thought something was seriously wrong with me, I had never felt fear so intensly before in my life.
My boss assured me that I was just having a panic attack, but I told her that I felt I needed to get checked out to ease my mind. I didn't feel as though I could drive myself to a hospital that took my insurance so I went down to our ER at work. At this point I had been working there for so many years a lot of them knew who I was and were concerned. After getting a work up done I sat at our ER for about 5 hours and never got back to see anyone. One of the the assistants did come up to me and tell me that if my job is causing this that it wasn't worth it and to start taking care of myself.
I did end up figuring out all my blood work and everything was good, it was probably caused by stress or not enough to eat and drink. That held me over for a bit, until the cycle would start all over again and I would begin assuming they missed something. To counter act the symptoms I was having, I began heavly drinking. It was the only thing that would shut my brain off and also stop me from feeling my wide array of symptoms. Little did I know this was making everything worse, leading me to even more ER visits.
During some of these visits I felt very unheard, miss understood and like no one cared. I honestly thought I was going crazy, and I remember asking my boss at work one day if she new of an impatient place that I could check into because I didnt know what else to do. The ER visits just lead to being told you're healthy, you need to stop drinking and take this pill everything will be fine. I honestly felt like this was going to be my life forever, I would never be happy again. I was scared, and I didn't know where to turn. My family tried their best to support me in anyway that they could, but other than my mom many of them had never been through this. My mom lives 3 hours away, but she did what she could to help with her experince.
Eventually in mid 2018 I decided that I would search YouTube and see if I could find anyone that was going through what I was. There wasn't too many videos at that point but I did find a few people that were going through similar things, and that lead me to Facebook support groups. I finally felt like I had found a place were I could share my thoughts and vent with like minded people. It was amazing! But they had their disadvantages at points as well because I began to depend on that for reassurance, instead of learning to trust myself. But I will always be thankful for finding these people, as it gave me the comfort in a time of feeling so alone.
Fastfoward to 2021 and man have we all as a society been through so much, and metal health awarness is rising. I think it was a mixture of people slowing down and discovering about themselves as well as all of the uncertainty and isocaltion from family and friends. One positive that I have found is how many people are now speaking up about their struggles with mental health and giving people safe spaces to go and talk with others.
For me 2021 has been the toughest on me mentally I will say. I had to do a lot of self reflection, deal with my past, and learn to admit that I have been a toxic person in some situations. It's also taught me that I need to set boundries with so many people so I can heal myself, and not try to heal everyone but me. This is also when I have discovered authors such as Joshua Flethecher who wrote the book "Untangle your Anxiety" who explains so well about how stress will build up overtime and one day your pot just overflows. I highly recommend that book.
If you're into podcasts I would definatly check out the Anxiety Chicks with Allyson and Taylor. That podcast has a wide range of topics, and health anxiety is one of their topics. They made me feel even less alone, and so understood. It was like a breath of fresh air when I found their podcast.
As far as how my health anxiety is going in 2021, I would have to say improving. I went to the ER back in January and that was were a Nurse came to me and just let me talk to him. He told me that I am a perfectly healthy 34 year old, and to go out and live my life. He said he understood how terrified I felt, but I was also wasting a lot of my time worrying about things that just werent wrong with me. I think that was the first time I ever had someone in the ER just listen, and be understanding to my fear and not just brush me off. And with all that nurses are going through as of late I was very greatful because I can't imagine what they are going through and how they feel.
I share this with you all because I want to make at least one person feel less alone, this entry is already long but I did skip over so many details of my story, so I may make more detailed posts about different things that I went through. Thank you all for taking the time to read and listen to my story. Please feel free to share your story below, and also ask any questions if you have any! See you in the next entry :)