I'd like to spend a couple minutes recapping what has been a wild couple of weeks. I'm hoping that others can learn from my journey, and perhaps it will provide some degree of reassurance. So here it goes...
Well, about a month ago, I had what I would come to learn was an atypical migraine: a mild headache, chills, weird numbness in my jaw, sinus pressure and subsequent weakness for about a day. To make matters worse, it happened while I was out of town on a business trip. I have had issues with anxiety regarding the health of my family members, but I have never really worried about my own health. That changed. I began to think the worst -- brain tumor, or more specifically, glioblastoma multiforme -- which I am well acquainted with given my career in medical research. I sought reassurance from my wife, my colleagues, my friend who is a physician, but I couldn't get out of my mind the very unlikley (but very real, at least to me) possibility that I was going to find out I had an incurable disease and had months to live.
I have seen many stories like this online, including on this board. So I tried to reassure myself that things would be fine, that I had a 1 in 1 000 000 chance of this given my age and otherwise normal health. Then, I started getting some really weird symptoms. I had tingling in my face, in my legs, and hands. I had a headache, first on my forehead, then my temple, then on the top of my head. My eye started twitching. My blood pressure (I measured it at the drug store) was 146 / 89! (I'm a relatively healthy 28 year old male).
I really wanted to believe this was due to my anxiety over my impending doom, but I couldn't believe that these real, physical symptoms could be caused by a state of mind. It didn't make sense to me. (Full disclosure: I have spent the last 10 years studying medical science at a university level, including 5 years of graduate study). Even with my background, I kept thinking "sure, all those people probably think they have real symptoms, but I know that these things I'm feeling have some organic cause that can't be explained by simple anxiety or stress.
I went to the doctor to look into things, and she did a full neurological exam which I passed with flying colors. However, given that it was a new headache, she ordered an MRI to be absolutely safe: something I wasn't expecting (I was hoping for an "all-clear") and I really started to freak out. What is she not telling me, did she see evidence of elevated intracranial pressure during my eye exam? So I had to wait for the MRI appointment (2 weeks) and then I figured I'd have to wait longer for the results. Meanwhile, I continued having these symptoms and they seemed to be getting worse. I had nausea really bad in the morning, my legs felt weak, I had more tingling and weird warming sensations. I was really expecting the worst.
As it so happened, I work at an institute that does research with MRIs, and they needed a "healthy" subject for a test sequence. I thought, hey, I could agree to this and get a copy of my scan to look at before my actual MRI appointment. I'm no radiologist, but I figured if it was the worst case scenario, I'd be able to see it fairly easily. I remember lying in the scanner, thinking they would stop the study and say something like "we found something unexpected, and you should talk to the doctor." But that didn't happen, I got my brain on a CD and went back to the office to have a look. I spent about 30 minutes looking up and down, until I was confident that there was nothing there. I new there was a chance that there was something small I might miss, not being a doctor, but I wasn't worried about the small, I was worried about the big, worst case scenario.
The amazing thing was, as soon as I realized I had spent all this time worrying for nothing, I felt better. Moderately better at first, but then completely fine after a couple days. All those weird symptoms completely went away! I had the actual MRI scan days later and a quick reply came back from the radiologist: completely normal.
I realize that my anxiety is a continual battle, and it isn't solved by this experience. But that part aside, I really learned a great deal going through this process. I hope that people will really believe me when I say that you really can have weird, autonomic and focal symptoms from anxiety. It can mimic all sorts of things. I can only imagine that it is a common thing people go though -- much more common than some weird brain tumor -- but unfortunately, it is the rare horrible things that make the news and get the hits on Google.
Anyway, I wish everyone well in their HA battle, and hope my experience can provide some positive reflection.