Hi everyone - I just posted this in the introductions forum but I saw a number of other people were directed to post in the specific forum that fits their needs, if they are looking for advice or reassurance. So I am just copying and pasting my post from the introductions because I am sure the health anxiety section is where I belong!!
Greetings from the sunny but frozen prairies of Canada :)
First of all let me say how glad I am to have found this forum. I have read through a number of the posts/threads and it is really reassuring to know there are people out there struggling with similar issues to me. This post may end up being long so kudos to anyone who makes it all the way through. Typing it out is therapeutic as I'm sure many of you can relate to. I'll bold
a couple places that I would really appreciate feedback about, in case people don't want to read my whole novel here hehe!
A little about me - I'm a 29 year old woman. I'm not married and have no kids but am in a long-term relationship with an absolutely wonderful guy although right now unfortunately we live a 2.5 hour drive apart! I work full-time with at-risk youth. My home is the west coast but I moved to the prairies in 2011 to pursue my career. Aside from that, I love to ride my horse and play roller derby (my name on here being an amalgamation of my two favourite hobbies!) I also love yoga but that seems to have taken a back burner lately as the other two tend to take up a lot of time.
I've always been somewhat of a worrier. Now that I know more about anxiety, I am sure I've had it in some form since I was a kid. When I was little I would worry that our house was going to catch on fire, or robbers were going to come in the night or something. When I got a bit older, it would be things like if one of my parents were out for the evening, I'd worry they were going to die in a car accident or something.
But the first time I started to have what I would call "significant" anxiety as an adult was when I was in university and about 24 years old. That's when I really started to have irrational worries about my health. I would get a headache and worry it was a brain tumour. I randomly went to public health in a panic to be tested for HIV/Hep C/etc even though I do not have any high risk factors for those in my life (I always advocate for getting tested because of course anyone CAN contract those, but I was stressing and worrying about them a ridiculous amount considering the very low likelihood that I had anything - which of course I didn't). I did have stresses in my life at the time as I was in a very demanding program academically, and it was my first time living away from my hometown...money was also a factor but it's funny, I never actually worried about school or finances...it was like my stress would somehow get morphed into worrying about my health. That spring/summer I pretty much was able to work my way out of the anxiety...I got out of a fairly bad relationship and also got an amazing summer job that had me outside riding horses in the sunshine from dawn until dusk. Since then the anxiety has popped up at random times but I've always been able to talk myself down and tell myself that it's just anxiety, I don't actually have any horrible illness, and any symptoms that I've imagined for myself seem to disappear within a day or two.
Anyways...fast forward to the last month or so. I started having pain/heaviness in my chest. I have been under quite a bit of stress lately and I know that is a big symptom of anxiety so for a while I was able to convince myself that I was fine. Eventually I ended up going to emergency late one night because I was convinced I was having a heart attack. Well the ER was so busy and short staffed that the triage nurse checked my vitals, gave me an ativan and sent me home. He said it was most likely anxiety but to see my doctor as soon as I can. Luckily I was able to get in the next day. My doctor checked me out thoroughly and came to the conclusion that my symptoms were a combination of anxiety, and excess stomach acid. He gave me some stomach pills to take for a couple weeks, as well as a prescription for Ativan to take "as needed" but told me not to take them every day, if I felt I needed them every day to come back and he would prescribe me something different. I already had a prescription for sleeping pills (temazepam) which I only take very rarely (like...10 of them lasts me the whole year) but I don't like the zombie feeling I get from them the next day. I like the ativan much better because they just calm me down without knocking me out.
So things started to get better for a little while. I am pretty convinced I do NOT have any heart or lung problems so that worry has gone away. What has started within the last little while is this dizziness/brain fog.
Now, I have gotten this before and chalked it up to anxiety or sometimes a head cold. But it's always gone away within a day, or even a couple hours. This time it's not going away. It started a couple weeks back just occasionally. Then when I was home in BC for Christmas, I woke up dizzy on Christmas Eve day and have had it every day since. Not constantly, but consistently. And getting more and more constant and more severe with every day that passes. Occasionally I have felt like I was losing my balance but for the most part, it's more of a spacey/foggy kind of feeling. So far, here are the things I have been telling myself to convince myself that it's not something like a brain tumour etc (if anyone wants to confirm or reiterate these or tell me I'm right, PLEASE PLEASE DO SO):
- Even though it's getting more often, it's still not constant. I went to roller derby practice on Monday and felt pretty much entirely normal while I was there and afterwards
- Having a drink helps. I'm not a huge drinker (my party days are in my past) and not that I advocate for self-medicating with alcohol, but if I sit down and chillax by the fire with a glass of wine, it majorly helps. I'm pretty sure wine isn't a cure for brain tumours
- I have been battling the cold from hell for a couple of weeks. Most of my other symptoms like the sore throat etc. are gone but I wouldn't be surprised if it's still in my system
- As a 29 year old female with no history of brain cancer in my family, I am not at very high risk for having a brain tumour
- I have been through a MAJORLY stressful period in the last 8 months. I bought my first house but lost it almost immediately due to financial reasons and poor planning (escaped with my credit intact and don't feel the need to share details but it was awful). I have also had to put one of my horses down and the other one had a serious bone infection resulting in emergency surgery (she is fine now but.... $$)
- My routine just got all messed up because of Christmas. Even though I had a great time with my family, my schedule was out of whack. I'm also a nervous flyer so flying there and back was stressful too.
- I don't have other neurological symptoms like seizures, blurred vision, tingling etc. I don't even have headaches except for occasionally, just as much as any average person.
- I have a lot of tense muscles in my upper back and neck. I'm sure those are caused by anxiety and I wonder if just having those muscles be tight all the time contributes to the dizziness?
- Even if it's not just because of anxiety, there are plenty of other medical reasons for dizziness that are not nearly as serious, such as iron deficiency or a virus, and it is WAY more likely that I have one of those than a brain tumour or serious brain illness.
- It is the darkest and coldest time of year. We have been well below -30 (celsius) most days since early November, with the coldest days being -50C. I am SURE this contributes to anxiety especially since I did not grow up in temps even close to this. I haven't been able to ride or spend any time with my horse because of this weather. I can't even go for a walk!
- My boyfriend has had my dog since before I went home for Christmas. I am used to her being around and she is a huge stress reliever.
So far this is what my plan of action is:
- I am going to see my boyfriend this weekend from Saturday morning until Tuesday morning. He doesn't relate to the anxiety but he's very respectful and supportive. Even if he doesn't understand, he recognizes that it is very real for me. I think he just wishes he could help me but doesn't know how. At the very least he provides a great distraction! I will also be bringing my dog back with me.
- I am going to talk to a counselor after work on Tuesday. I have never talked to a professional about the health anxiety before so I am really hoping it helps.
- I am going to continue going to roller derby and yoga as much as possible for exercise and distractions. And if it ever warms up I'm going to ride as much as I can too.
- I have another appointment with my doctor on February 5. I am going to try to get in sooner than that if there is a cancellation but I don't know how likely that is. I don't know if I want him to prescribe me another anxiety drug, or if I want him to do brain/blood tests etc to confirm that there is nothing physically wrong with me. I am afraid to be on anxiety meds daily but I also can't live like this, especially since it's getting gradually worse.
I don't know how I am going to cope over the next month until I can see my doctor and hear it from him that he is not concerned about my brain. I am SURE that's what he'll say but until I am told otherwise by a doctor, I keep thinking, how do I KNOW it's not a brain tumour?? Previously when I've had anxiety, work has provided a good enough distraction that it doesn't really affect my job or my productivity at work. Now, I am still able to do my job and am not completely useless but it has started creeping in throughout the work day and this worries me. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't work. I do have sick days I can use but if this becomes a chronic thing I worry it will get to the point where I can't even hold down a job. And what if I can't drive a car or something? What if I pass out on my way to visit my boyfriend this weekend and crash the car?I am trying to do everything I can to help myself here. If anyone can offer me any more reassurance or suggestions please please please do.
I've never had the anxiety like this where it's almost constant. It's usually just something that comes into my head late at night when I'm trying to sleep...not something that pushes its way into my head consistently throughout the day. Please help!!
Thanks for reading :)