Fact: I have health anxiety. It’s not the kind of “health anxiety” you’ll read about if you search the term online. It’s a bit different. Over the last few weeks I’ve been struggling to get a handle on my migraines. The biggest question on repeat in my mind: Are they triggered by hormones, stress, sinus infections, or worse – a brain tumor? As I check off the list of possible reasons why these migraines have returned after six years, my anxiety is at an all time high.
I am terrified I’m secretly dying. I’m scared to leave my daughters without a Mom. I worry I have a life threatening disease in my body, silently waiting to be discovered too late.
A Little Bit About My Health Issues
Throughout my life I have experienced a variety of health issues. My chart shows a history of IBS, generalized anxiety, migraines, gastritis, environmental allergies, and more. I see specialized doctors for check-ups and treatment throughout the year, some more frequent than others. Overall I’m healthy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t the worry there’s something worse going on in my body.
I’m no stranger to an MRI, CAT Scan, bloodwork or allergy testing. My physicians are thorough, so if I’m not feeling well I am given all the tests. My experience with the testing doesn’t make handling the thought of the unknown easier. I battle a sense of anxiety about my health with every trip to the doctors’ office.
Just yesterday I had an MRI for my sudden frequent migraines. The day leading up to the test I was a wreck, crying tears of worry and lashing out on everyone around me. When I feel anxious I cannot control my emotions.
What if they find something horrible? What if I have cancer or a tumor? How do I tell my children I’m sick or dying?
It’s wild how quickly one’s mind can be flooded with fear and doubt over the unknown. Being a Mom doesn’t help my nerves, as I know whatever happens to me will directly affect my daughters. I think living with health anxiety as a Mom is harder than if I didn’t have children.
Where does my health anxiety come from?
Health anxiety is defined as an obsessive and irrational worry about having a serious medical condition. It was formerly called hypochondria, a condition marked by a person’s imagination of physical symptoms of illness. Let it be known, I am not a hypochondriac. The perturbation I feel related to my health always stems from a pre-existing illness. My anxious emotions therefore seem justified.
Consider the frightening fact that life is unpredictably unfair.
In 34 years, I’ve have had more family and friends die from health related illnesses than old age. Brain tumors, a heart condition, and cancer are the culprits behind their untimely deaths. Each cause of death was unavoidable – and the uncertainty of these conditions terrifies me more than a room filled with dinosaurs and giants.
What scares me is how a person can be healthy one day and dying the next. I know we are all slowly dying, a little each day, but to be given a number of days left to live is terrifying. In each instance described above, my loved one’s lives were instantly changed with one diagnosis.
Health Anxiety is Common?
Yesterday I shared details about my health anxiety with my Instagram followers and was blown away by the response. Not only is anxiety about your health SO common, but many of my followers were relieved to find out they aren’t alone while battling these fears.
I know my health anxiety will always linger, like a faded stain on a white t-shirt, until I have concrete evidence I’m okay. One of the best ways I cope with this anxiety is to TALK ABOUT IT. To speak openly about my feelings is my own form of therapy. That’s part of the reason I write this blog – to put the thoughts in my head somewhere I can physically read them. Sometimes all it takes it seeing your fears in print to accept what’s irrational. Even though health anxiety may seem crippling, I’m happy to be able to start learning coping techniques and processes.