Do you check your pulse?
All. The. Time.
Suffice it to say, I have health anxiety. Full out, freak out, stress out health anxiety.
I describe it as,
An irrational fear of illness and/or death due to the inability to logically explain certain physical sensations during a specific period of time whereby the anxiety and panic are relieved once the physical sensations(s) subside.
Case in point:
Today, I was sitting on the couch. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I was enjoying a cup of tea. A picture postcard morning.
All of a sudden, out of no where, I felt like I was being smothered, I couldn’t take a deep breath and my stomach started hurting. Ah, the infamous stomach ache. How I despise thee. Commence the racing heart, sweating and thoughts of sheer terror and I had officially entered the domain of a psychiatric war zone. Having said that however, when it happens, you don’t know that it’s “all in your head” and that you aren’t actually in any “real” danger. You just think you are about to die and that your poor children will come home from school and see you lying in a pile of your own vomit on the bathroom floor with your pants pulled down to your ankles.
It’s pretty fucked up, eh?!
I raced to the washroom where I proceeded to do what one does in the washroom. But, what I am quite sure is the anomaly, I panicked. Over a stomach ache. A naturally occurring, quite necessary, physical action that all humans experience. Why, why, why?
The logical side of me will explain.
I am in a constant, heightened sense of reality. I am on the alert to recognize any physical sensation that is out of the “norm” or which I cannot logically explain. Once discovered, within a millisecond, I irrationally decide whether to ignore it or whether I should sound the alarm and proceed down the spiralling abyss into the psychiatric war zone.
Nine times out of ten I choose the spiralling abyss to hell.
It is so easy to sit here now, without a stomach ache, and logically explain what happens during an attack of this magnitude. While it is occurring however, there is no logic. The logical part of your brain shuts down and you enter a realm of disillusion, confusion and terror.
There could be no rational explanation for my stomach ache. It was something that was threatening my existence and as a result, I entered fight or flight mode. A logical outsider with the same experience would think, “Oh, I have to poo”.
I think “Holy shit, something terrible is happening. Red alert! Shields up! Set phasers to stun and ready photon torpedoes!”
This is my life with a stomach ache.
With health anxiety.
With a raging hormonal imbalance.
It’s not just stomach aches that can now set me in to a state of sheer panic. Any unexplained physical sensation can send me into the brink of instability and down the path of panic. It can be my racing heart, a hot flash, a pulled muscle or a urinary tract infection.
It has been about five months now since the switch was flipped and I jumped down this rabbit hole of anxiety. I have tried an SSRI (I had a bad reaction so I came off it), yoga, therapy and vitamins. I have not tried the bio-identical hormones yet as my family doctor is concerned there may be an increased risk given my strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. I think it might be time to try a different anti-depressant. I feel like I have exhausted the natural remedies and I just don’t want to feel like this all of the time. I want to be able to have a normal stomach ache. Like a normal person.
Yah, yah, I hate the word normal too. But I long to be normal.
So there you have it. My day in a nut shell. It went from calm and relaxing to intensely horrifying in the blink of an eye.
Damn you anxiety.
Damn you panic.
Damn you hormonal roller coaster.
Do you experience anything similar? Do you have health anxiety? Do you struggle with finding logic and rational thought during a panic attack? What tools do you use to help your anxiety and/or panic? Are you on an anti-depressant? Please share your story. Your experience, tips, tools and knowledge will help me and others.
Yours in panic,
© The Flip of the Switch, March 2016.