I bit of an insight from a moment of calm:
Health anxiety is this:
It's a feeling of anxiety/depression that needs a focus. For me, when one "health issue" is solved, that underlying buzz, that underlying feeling of fear needs a different focus and so my brain cycles through all the old habits to see which disease is gonna be the flavor of the week. Take this last week for example: I feel pretty ok--it's the age of Metamucil; my loose stools are finally solid and thick thanks to Metamucil. For the time being, my colon cancer fear is gone out the window, yet that feeling still remains and it wants attention. It wants to grab hold of something. So, on the 2 hour drive to my parents, anxiety asks me to check my lymph nodes and I do and they are all the same and I say to my anxiety "I'm not going there, all is well, sorry anxiety." Couple more miles, David Bowie playing on the radio and my mind says to me again, "what about the left supraclavicular fossa? why don't you check there?" So I check, and--oh wait--something feels a little different. So I poke, and I prod, and I poke, for an hour and finally I find this little pin point sized floating ball above my left collarbone. I lose it. I keep feeling and I keep feeling, and eventually I get home and Im moody and I feel my left clavicular region for three days. By the third day, my mind gets bored with this fossa stuff--mainly because the internet isn't turning anything of interest up--and so my anxious brain says "hey Adam, what about that tonsil that's ever so slightly swollen in your neck, that's probably related to your other lymph nodes you have?" And so I research and research and determine the only kind of lymphoma I could have is follicular and an atypical follicular at that so I drop the whole thing. But my anxious brain insists: "there has to be a reason your right tonsil is slightly swollen along with your right jugular node, sure they are both under a cm but does that really matter?" More googling--wham bam HPV+ oral cancer--90 percent originate in the tonsils. I don't smoke; I don't drink much, but I have had years where Ive been more than promiscuous, and suddenly thats it. I schedule a docs appointment, I must have HPV + tonsil cancer. But the more I read, the less likely it seems, as these case reports the tonsil and lymph nodes are quite swollen and the ultrasound/CT (which I've had) seems to pick up the metastatic cancer. So, I drop it. But AGAIN, my anxiety screams at me "what about me?! pay attention to me!!" My family loses power one night due to an ice storm. In pitch black I look at my tonsil again, and look through the rest of my mouth, and decide to look at my upper gum and notice this bumpy white patch all along the top gum.
Research says Leukoplakia. Speckled Leukoplakia. Cancer of the gingiva. Gingival cancer is rare--almost unheard of in HPV+ cases--and 4% of all oral cancers. Yet, suddenly I have it. Suddenly the docs appointment about my tonsil becomes one about my gums. The doc takes one look and says "leukoplakia" my heart sinks and he acts worried he puts me in for an urgent/mandatory meeting with the ENT. I'm in bits.
For three days that's all I think about. My anxiety has something to eat and it's very happy.
I skip the ENT; I go right to the top oral surgeon in the state. He takes one look and says it's normal. Doesn't need to see me again.
I leave. The relief is great. I eat for the first time in three days. And I listen to music again, and I'm talking to people and I picture myself living to be a father and a maybe even a grandfather.
And then anxiety says...what about me? And I feel a bump on my gum. And my throat hurts. And my ear feels clogged. And my anxiety says give me food. Ask google what this could be.
And the cycle--2 hours after seeing the top oral surgeon in the state/president of dentistry--almost starts again.
I think about everything anxiety has taken from me over the years, and I realize Ive been trying to change for the wrong people for too long. Ive been trying to change for my mother, and Ive been trying to change for my girlfriend. But I need to change for myself. I want my life back.
1) I'm done with google. Normal people don't spend days on google when they have a cold. In this case, knowledge is not power because, well, it isn't knowledge.
2) I'm going to work on accepting and ingratiating the feelings of anxiety into my life ala Claire Weekes. It's apparently here to stay so I might as well get used to it.
3) I'm going to start thinking of horses when I hear hooves in the hallway instead of zebras.
4) And I'm going to give back to this board. One thing I regret when it comes to anxiety zone: I am a 10 year sufferer of hypochondria and have a lot of good advice to give when it doesn't pertain to me. Unfortunately, I've taken from this board and given back very little. You'll see me much more. I'm going to give back to those in need.
5) And finally, I'm really gonna try and work on this. This is something I need to work on. It is taking over my life. It is ruining my life. The other day, my girlfriend asked me if I remembered how great the summer was, and I started to cry because I realized--for as great as it was--I worried all summer long about having colon cancer.
We're all going to die. Some of us will die younger than others here. Some of it will seem unfair. We need to accept these uncertainties and these truths. We, as hypochondriacs, are no different than anyone else out there--a good and a bad thing to hear. On the one hand, we are not "special," we are not magically more prone to these diseases, we are just like everyone else. On the other hand, worrying about something doesn't mean it won't happen. I think some of us use this as a crutch. It's as if we give up on the worry, then the bad thing will happen.
Newsflash: the bad thing will happen one day. It's going to happen to all of us, and that's a tough pill to swallow, but we've gotta find a way. I hate to see so much suffering.
Anxiety: "what about me?"
Me: "Hey. What's up, dude?"
Anxiety: "Your ear hurts and so does your throat, want to research it online for a bit?"
Me: "Nah, not tonight, dude."
Anxiety: "Why not? I'm hungry? That oral surgeon kind of blew you off a bit today, didn't he?"
Me: "Want me to move over? You can lie here with me and watch 'Game of Thrones'?"
Anxiety: "I don't like to rest."
Me: "I know; but it's been about you for a long time now. It's gonna start being more about me."