A little anxiety is healthy, it’s supposed to alert us to any danger around us. If nobody felt nervous or anxious then we’d all be doing stupid shit we’re not supposed to do – but an anxiety disorder is different. It’s irrational fear; and it’s humiliating. One of the most common anxieties I see and one I’ve experienced myself is health anxiety. It makes me come across as a delirious, frenzied hypochondriac, but in my head it makes complete sense. In my head, there’s no room for an alternative answer.
How many times have you had a stomachache and were convinced it was the end? If you’re worried you may be alone in this (Like I thought I was) then let me tell you about the time I almost ruined my holiday:
Ollie and I were in Tenerife. It was day four and I felt so relaxed and well rested, it was a well deserved break. We’d spent the day at a water park, and when we got back to the hotel Ollie casually drops in conversation that he thinks he’s inhaled some water – no big deal. Except it was a big deal, at least to me, because I remembered an article I read years ago about how it was possible to drown in just a tablespoon of water, so I was adamant he was in immediate danger. I pulled out my phone and began researching – and my heart sank. It was called dry drowning, and he matched some of the symptoms. Every website I visited said it would be fatal if not treated within 48 hours. I felt like the whole world had fallen apart, and my anxiety returned from its four day break and was back in full force. I started urging Ollie to go to a doctor, although he kept reassuring me he was fine and I was worrying over nothing, but I panicked because we were in a foreign country so I checked my phone again to make sure I knew where all the hospitals were because I knew that when the time came I would have to call an ambulance, and I wasn’t sure I knew what to do.
Guess what? We’re both completely fine. After the health anxiety turns out to just be a drill I kick myself for jumping to the worst possible outcome, but at the time, it seemed perfectly rational. My anxiety senses the danger in a situation, presents me with a morbid answer and says, “This is definite.” and I believe it.
There was another time when I threw up so hard that I strained a muscle in my neck (rock ‘n’ roll) which gave me the worst headache. A quick Google search revealed that vomiting + headache = brain aneurysm. I had minutes to live. I curled up in bed, sobbing violently, thinking of what I would do with the last remaining minutes of my life. It consumed me so much that I experienced a panic attack and I had to be held as I sheepishly admitted what had caused me to get into such a terrible state.
I was getting dressed one morning and notice my ribs aren’t symmetrical, one Google search later: Scoliosis. I’m going to need an operation, which means time off work, physio, I won’t be able to drive, I’ll have to cancel my holiday…
There was no dry drowning, no brain aneurysm, and no scoliosis. When you feel under the weather or in pain, it’s important to rationalise your thoughts. Your chest pain could be a heart attack, or it might just be indigestion. Your headache could be a tumour, or you might just be dehydrated. Monitor your symptoms and go from there, get some rest and try to counteract your anxious mind by talking to someone you know and trust about how you’re feeling. It is very, very unlikely that you’ll fall victim to a serious illness overnight with no symptoms. Look after yourself, and have a happy and healthy 2018.
P.S. Stay off WebMD!