My mother is a hypochondriac, and so my sister and I have grown to question, by default, everything she ever says about her health.
Six years ago, I got sick with an incurable condition. My sister has always questioned the validity of my condition, even though half a dozen doctors have confirmed it. While the condition is in remission, there are side effects that linger.
I can’t talk about my health struggles around my sister. I feel as though she dismisses them or invalidates them.
I can’t discuss my anxiety or panic attacks, even as they are happening. I can’t say no to going places because of my agoraphobia because I fear her reaction. I can’t mention the pain of my chronic hives because she’ll flippantly say “just put some lotion on it,” as if that will cure it.
I love my sister, but I wish I could be open and honest with her about what is going on in my life. But our mother has poisoned that potential. Every attempt at conversation about health ends in her shutting down. I understand why she does this, but I just wish that someday it could be different. We are not our mother, and we are allowed to get sick.
Stigma and bias can be a hard thing to overcome, even if one is not aware of the stigma for which they are living with.
I had led a life, up until the point of my unwarranted health anxiety making itself blatantly clear, of uninhibited happiness, health, and carefreeness. I miss those days, but the dark days in-between have made me a better person today. I almost miss the days in which my anxiety and fear was at its worse, because during that dark time I learned about myself, about my resolve, and no matter how dark it got, I had hope at the end of an fearful tunnel. I found that light, and I’m living in the light now, although I still have anxiety daily.
For two long years, between 2010 and 2012, my anxiety and obsessive fear over my health hit its zenith.
For each new symptom I would act illogically; in my mind, an eye twitch meant my muscles were dying; sensory symptoms of tingles and zaps meant I was developing a Neuromuscular disorder; headaches meant I was battling a brain tumor, and so on. The twitches were the worst, because they were ever-present and I truly thought that they were the beginning of some sinister development, of ***.
During those two years, I visited countless doctors, ranging the whole spectrum of specialization, from neurologists to eye doctors to nurse practitioners, to my doctor back home. All of the experts, across the board, would give me the same prognosis: you are fine; your symptoms are benign; you are extremely healthy. Yet, I did not believe them. I felt that they did not understand or that they were missing something. My eyes were twitching, I told them! This can’t be normal! They twitch a lot, sometimes days on end, sometimes for weeks straight. My muscles twitch, my toes tingle, this is not normal, this never used to happen to me, this must be the start of something sinister. I would leave one renowned neurologist to seek my doom from another; I would seek the results of tests, for they could not lie to me; emg’s, cat scans, MRI’s, etc., yet those also declared I was ok. I stopped believing in science, it must be missing something, how can it know what I am going through!
I was prescribed some anti-anxiety medication, and I took it for a while, about 4 or 5 months, but I did not like the effects it had on me; I felt like a zombie. I didn’t tell my doctor, and I stopped taking them, cold turkey. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The anxiety, obviously, worsened. But I thought I could battle this affliction on my own.
Even in my committed relationship, I began to have irrational fears. I became hyper aware. A redspot the size of a pencil tip on my d*ck was concern enough for me to visit a doctor, an expedition that before this affliction, would have been the last thing on my mind. Yet, by the end of 2010 I had no shame. I had shown my you know what to at least five separate doctors, an act of embarrassment for some, an act I went into without reservations. “You see that red spot,” I’d say. “What red spot?” they would ask. “Look, right here. See it? What do you think that is? Am I okay? What could it be?” I’d say this anxiously yet calmly, because I had become so convinced that I was doomed, I began to expect that to eventually be the answer. “It is nothing, it looks extremely healthy,” they would say. Without breaking a blush I’d pull my jeans back on, they’d tell me to talk to someone about anxiety before this starts to snowball out of control, and that would be that.
I did not tell my girlfriend that I was seeking out these diagnosis and she never suspected as much, because a rational person had nothing to suspect. I was lost in a terror inside of my mind. My outlets of exercise, reading, writing, provided slight distractions, but no cure. Eventually, after two years, I started to get better. I figured, I’VE HAD THESE SYMPTOMS FOR TWO YEARS, and I am in FACT HEALTHIER than I have ever been, that doesn’t add up. What am I afraid of? I am okay.
I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay.
I actually started to believe this. I stopped going to doctors for every little fear — after THOUSANDS of dollars of medical bills, which I’m still paying off today. I stopped calling my Dad daily with my fears, telling him I was afraid I was dying and instead would call my Dad as a loving son, asking him how he was doing, a normal loving relationship. I started to care about other people, as I had my entire life before ANXIETY took over. I worried about my younger brothers instead of myself, instead of my irrational fears. I stopped googling every symptom under the sun, and began reading classic novels again. I stopped examining every inch of my body throughout the day, and instead only looked at a mirror at night before bed and in the morning after a shower. The relationship I had during those years of anxieties peak ended, which was very hard at the time but which made perfect sense. If I couldn’t care for myself, if I spent all my energy worrying about myself and hiding it from my partner, what value did I possibly bring to such a relationship. I am lucky that that was the only relationship in which I lost forever.
I am now working to help others who go through anxiety. Nothing is taboo. Anxiety is something that I still live with daily, and every now and then I almost allow myself to fall back into a state of doom, almost…..
How did I get BACK to this place; a place of production, health, and dare I say: happiness? There wasn’t ONE PATH, there never is. People who tell you there is one path towards anything are often wrong, or often haven’t walked enough paths to attempt to be dishing out advise. There were many things I had to do, and although I did it without medication, I wouldn’t say that there is a right or wrong way — medication helps a vast number of people. Lately, I have been studying how my BRAIN functions through a service called BrainPaint, which is a natural and safe tool of neurofeedback that studies your brainwaves. Seeing the image of my brain and how it works is a powerful sight. It makes me want back all of the years I was mistreating my brain, the damage of my illogical, fearful, constant state of doom way of thinking; a state of being that I didn’t know how to escape. It is further reinforcement of the power of the brain, the importance of keeping yourself sane and the importance of the Pursuit of Happiness.