(tap, tap, tap)
Is this thing on?
I’m going to write a blog post today.
It’s the first time I’ve felt like doing it in awhile.
You see, I started a new writing job that has (happily) exhausted my ability to drum up words at the end of the day, in addition to a dad health scare (blood clot in intestinal artery; dad had to be subjected to me texting him every hour while in the hospital for five days) that left me frantic and emotionally spent.
Oh, and I’ve also had crippling anxiety lately.
Sadly, I’m not using the word “crippling” lightly here. I wish I was. I wish I could use the adjective “funkifying” instead.
I thought my anxiety got better after starting the new job; I figured that financial security and a routine would help set me back on track. And in some ways it did. However, I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that if you have anxiety, there is probably no immediate magic, sparkly eraser for it.
So, as I mentioned before, I haven’t felt like writing in awhile, but today, after putting down in words how I’ve felt the past few weeks, it made me feel better, and I was reminded of what the power of writing can do.
I can’t remember the last time a body ache didn’t send me into a state of panic, grappling for the thermometer and checking my heart rate on the LifeTrak pedometer-slash-heart rate water a family member most regrettably gave to me. The watch, though helpful in knowing when you’re in near heart attack range, also exacerbates anxiety by causing you to freak out when you see that your heart rate is high.
My memory fails me on the last day I didn’t think a small, round bruise on my calf was a blood clot or indigestion wasn’t a sign of stomach cancer. Or esophageal cancer. Or pancreatic cancer. Did you know that there are over 200 different types of cancer? I know this because I read about the symptoms of various cancer on a daily basis (this is magnified by my current employment at a cancer-centric non-profit).
I didn’t think my excessive worrying was a problem until I started sneaking into the back of the house to take my temperature so my boyfriend couldn’t hear me for the sixth, seventh or eight time that day. Unfortunately, the loud beeping would give me away and I would inevitably hear a shout of, “My baby is crazy.”
Actually, I didn’t even think it was a problem then. It was when my panic attacks caused by phantom blood clots and cancers stopped me from living the life I wanted to live. Becoming unable to leave the house due to health concerns or pulling myself away from the crowd of friends in order to mourn my “self-diagnosis of the day.”
When friends would come find me and ask how I am, I’d want to shout, “CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M DYING OF COLORECTAL CANCER HERE?!” But I can’t. Deep down, underneath the heavy layers of worry and anxiety, I know that I’m being a freakin’ blowhard.
If I don’t break away from the crowd, I will often feel trapped in my own head, hearing my own screaming fears of death and unable to hear what the other person is saying to me. I smile and nod repeatedly and I wonder if they know that a vacant and scared individual is staring back at the them. They must know I’m not there. How could they not? Do people just really smile and nod that much in conversation?
I miss the last where I didn’t think that I was dying. I wish I could remember that day and claim it back. In the words of Liz Lemon, the Goddess of Worry and Anxiety, “I want to go to there.”
So, you may be wondering how the hell I got to this point. Or maybe you don’t give a shit. Either way, I’m still in the process of trying to figure it out myself and I plan on adding a second notch of psychotherapy on the ol’ belt buckle of life.
If I had to guess what is causing my hypochondria it would be:
1.) Anxiety runs in my twittering Jewish veins.
2.) I turned 30 and realize that neither me nor my loved ones are getting any younger.
3.) I’ve seen friends and family get sick or die.
4.) I’m a Jewish, Gemini, female only child with fears of abandonment and a certain dose of narcissism.
5.) I’ve had pressure under my right rib cage off and on for a year that I can’t seem to find the cause of. I’ve convinced myself that it has been: a kidney infection, an ovarian cyst, a broken rib, broken cartilage, gall stones, an ulcer, a hernia, lung cancer, liver cancer, leukemia and an infected appendix. After seeing three doctors, with one telling me that “sometimes people just have to find something wrong with themselves,” I’ve surmised that it’s either rib issues or gall stones. Or I’m just one of those people who has to find something wrong with herself.
Though I’ve not been clinically diagnosed as a hypochondriac yet, I’ve learned that I can scratch off every single one of the symptoms. Obsessively doing health research? Check. Worrying that minor symptoms or bodily sensations mean a serious illness? Check check! Frequently checking for sores or lumps, or often checking your vital signs? Check X three, mother f’er. I guess another symptom of hypochondria is self-diagnosing, and I’m officially self-diagnosing myself a hypochondriac.
It brings me comfort in knowing that what I’m experiencing is normal, however, I can’t help but feel that this affliction is causing me not to enjoy my life. Er, I KNOW it’s causing me not to enjoy my life. How enjoyable is it to walk around convinced that you’re dying every single day? I’ve become a killjoy and I’m just not funny enough to pass this constant nervousness off as cute.
My boyfriend calls it “The Xieties” and it looks like I’m going to have to live with them for a little while longer.
My friend picked me up the other day from Fun Fun Fun Fest with a little plastic baggie with a klonopin in it and said “here you should probably take this.” I had been having extreme anxiety issues that week for several reasons and it all culminated at the fest where I was self medicating with alcohol (good idea when I’m having a little bit of social anxiety but BAD idea for me when I’m having really bad depressing type of anxiety). But because I’m a worrier, I didn’t take the klonopin. In my drunk panic attack state I was terrified to take a drug that I wouldn’t know how I would react to. I guess the point of this story is…have you ever taken medication for your anxiety? Because I have not, but I’m starting to think that maybe I should, but I am terrified. Just curious where you stand on anxiety meds.
I took Zoloft for one year in my early twenties. It’s a fascinating pill. I didn’t cry once for the entire year. If you want to be happy with zoning out, it’s great. I could sit in bed and stare at the wall and not worry about a thing. However, I had people tell me later that I was like a zombie. I guess it depends on how badly I need that again…
“Live with the Xieties a little while longer???”
What, are you crazy? They are KILLING YOU!!!!
Now doesn’t affirmation make you feel better?
Someone once wrote “The pebble does not know where the ripple goes on the surface of the pond it impacts.”
Anyway, I mention that only because YOUR narcissistic indulgence is interfering with MY narcissistic indulgence of reading your posts. (Dammit)
I hope you dad feels better soon!
Thank you (about my pop) and you’re right. I’m sure this is causing other health issues, fellow narcissist.
Zoloft isn’t the only anti-anxiety med out there. Find one that works for you and get on with living a better life.
Best course of action? Google “Integrative Medicine Austin”. Find an MD who will give you an anti-anxiety for the short term and work with you on whole body\life changes for the long term.
This is not an insurmountable problem, even if it feel like it.
Thanks, LaLa. I will look into that. I tried Lexapro before Zoloft and I hated it! It’s weird.
Sorry that you are dealing with all of this. Also, I hope your Dad is okay!
I am a bit of a hypochondriac myself. I have been known to read WebMd articles in the middle of the night, which only makes me worry more. It doesn’t help that because I have Lupus, doctors assume the worst when I go in for a new symptom. I went in for abdominal pain and they assumed it was appendicitis and I had to get expensive emergency scans done when it turned out to just be an ulcer. Ugh.
Damn, Katie! I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. Lupus sounds terrible. 🙁 Are you able to manage the pain?
I also have anxiety but it’s on more of a social aspect. Big crowds freak me out, so bad! Anxiety is the biggest buzzkill. I’m sorry you have it too 🙁 Things like a hot shower or green tea help me calm down sometimes – & hey, green tea is healthy for you, so that might help the hypochondria as well!
I’m sorry that you have that! Big crowds make me uncomfortable sometimes. It depends. Sometimes I love them! Thanks for the tips. I love a nice hot bath!
I have had on and off pain under my rib cage for about a year as well, which I’ve attributed to over-bending in a hot yoga class and then continuing to finish out my unlimited month of cheap classes. Maybe you did the same?
You might be right! I went to a gastro today who told me that my floating rib on the right side is inflamed. He said I should be less active, but knows that is not possible. I’m going to take anti-inflammatories, and then I might have to do PT. Doing yoga recently made it worse. :/
Anxiety is practicing failure in advance.
Whatever it is that will bite you in life will not be the thing you were worried about. Even if they do kill you, just remember, they can’t eat you.
My “tendencies” are worse when things change….. the weather, relationships, homes, life…. I think. I think i’ve identified it as a response to change…… Oh and if I do a caffeine binge then i’m definitely dying of a heart attack. Or an aneurysm. :-/
As always I am in awe of your writing. You are hugely talented. I know you know this already, but it’s always good to remind people occasionally. Stay fantastic.
Hi. Points 1-4 are simply facts of life and things that happen. There is nothing you can do about it. Number 5 – well, you have gone to a doctor. I’m sure you’ve done your research. I see these posts are from earlier in the year, so I hope you have gotten this cured or it has otherwise gone away. Best wishes.
[…] I did write a couple of posts regarding my anxiety and hypochondria, which you can read here and here- if you feel like reading about an unhinged 30-year-old (who […]