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Author Topic: Struggling With Overcoming HA - An Intro  (Read 138 times)

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Offline Emulate

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Struggling With Overcoming HA - An Intro
« on: June 01, 2014, 12:12:29 PM »
Hello everyone, my name's Lexi and I figure for my first topic in this forum I'll soon be calling home, I'd just introduce myself and my history with health anxiety. Warnings for heart, stomach, brain, and cancer anxiety triggers.

Heart anxiety (Dec - Feb): For the most part, all my health anxiety started this December when I went to my university's health center to get an ear piercing checked out for possible infection. The nurse took my blood pressure and it was somewhere in the 150s/90s. She told me to immediately get it down because that's "way too high for a 22 year old." I, of course, know blood pressure contributes to heart disease and start getting anxious and also googling for how to lower it. At this point, I start manifesting physical anxiety symptoms. Chest pain, pounding heart, the works. It gets worse throughout the month until one morning I wake up in the middle of a panic attack, misinterpret it as a heart attack, and take an ambulance ride to the hospital. They do two EKGs, everything's fine, and I get kicked out the door and told to get a primary care doctor.

I do so, she calms a lot of my anxiety, and I eventually get on prilosec for acid reflux to manage some of the chest pain and lisinopril for the heart. This has kept my blood pressure from spiking so high most of the time, though I still run slightly high (often mid130s / mid80s) so I may need to get these adjusted.

Stomach anxiety (Feb - April): From here, my anxiety shifted to my stomach. I get nasty stomach cramps and just general nausea, with the issue peaking when I find orange mucus in my stool. From there I spiral out of control, thinking I'm seeing blood. I pass mucus and freak about that. It's a slightly different color, so I freak about that. I end up convincing myself I have an ulcer or pancreatitis or cancer. I decide to try the BRAT diet and/or gluten free, and end up accidentally starving myself for all intents and purposes (I realized after that I was eating between 500 and 900 calories a day). This, of course, made my stomach feel even worse. I go into my doc and get my blood count checked out (again), occult test for bleeding, check for H pylori to see if that'd cause an ulcer, the works. Continue to have anxiety after that, terrified I have some sort of digestive cancer, so I get an abdominal ultrasound which comes back clear.

I start eating again, start teaching myself to ignore changes in my stool, and take another round of prilosec. I also finally start generic Zoloft for my anxiety and depression. This ends up working for the most part, though I still have relatively persistent nausea and occasional stomach aches.

Brain anxiety (April - Now): And now we reach where I am now. With the heart and the stomach mostly settled, my beast turned to the last major organ: the brain. Classic health anxiety comes out and I've been worrying about brain tumors for the past month or so. I had some issues with my vision for awhile, and I started getting killer headaches as spring started. I also, persistently throughout this entire experience, dealt with general weakness in my limbs at time. I've also started feeling spacey and tired more often. Considering I know three people who've had brain tumors over the past three years - one of whom is my age and is doing well, one of whom is a relative who sadly passed away last fall, and one of whom is a friend's relative who passed this February - it's easy for my mind to latch onto this.

Around now is actually when I discover this site (the one good thing Dr Google has done for me). I find Shrublet's amazing post on the subject and also stumble onto some of Sixpack's old posts on the subject as well. From here, I went and got my eyes checked out. Turns out my prescription changed slightly and my optic nerve looked great, so that killed most of the fear for awhile. Getting my lenses changed helped some with the headaches, as has using Claritin. The limb weakness is mostly gone. However, I still feel spacey and tired a lot and get headaches often. My vision is still weird sometimes, but I think that's because I'm hyperaware of it. Lately I've had anxiety about changing personality (I get frustrated and upset more easily) and memory loss, but I honestly think that's nothing.

So I'm working on this anxiety right now, but it's hard. I'm trying hard to avoid a CT scan because I know it'll come back clean and just waste money I don't have, so learning to cope is all I have.

Watching my health beast evolve and transform itself in order to maintain its hold on my life has been frustrating and amazing to behold. I've reached the point where I find it kind of hilarious, actually. I'm literally fighting my own subconscious and body, and it knows exactly where it can go to beat me down. Health anxiety is a slippery thing, and I'm starting to realize the way to overcome it isn't to try and pin it down but to let it go. Though that's much easier said than done when it's slapping you in the face all the time.

Hope: I'm joining this community, both in hope that I can get support from others, but also because I want to give back. This community has helped me a lot, just by providing a place where I can read posts from others going through similar things and helping each other. Such a community is incredibly valuable and incredibly important, and I feel drawn to be a part of it. I hope that this post can help people to see just how health anxiety moves and evolves, while also being a positive post about how it's possible to overcome step by step. I feel like I'm finally reaching a place where I can start healing and I hope that others can see themself in my story and we can work together to move forward.
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Offline vardnas

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Re: Struggling With Overcoming HA - An Intro
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2014, 02:02:32 PM »
Watching my health beast evolve and transform itself in order to maintain its hold on my life has been frustrating and amazing to behold. I've reached the point where I find it kind of hilarious, actually. I'm literally fighting my own subconscious and body, and it knows exactly where it can go to beat me down. Health anxiety is a slippery thing, and I'm starting to realize the way to overcome it isn't to try and pin it down but to let it go. Though that's much easier said than done when it's slapping you in the face all the time.

Ding, ding, ding, ding!! This is exactly right.

Hi Emulate; welcome. :)

You have some incredible insight into your own situation. And you're right, learning to "let go" of your anxiety, instead of pinning it down or "stopping" it, is exactly what will help you reduce your stress and move on from a life of fear. Anxiety feeds off uncertainty and control, and the sooner we learning to better ACCEPT uncertainty, and to LET GO of always needing to be in control, the better off we'll be. From everything you've said, I feel like you're going to get through this just fine.

Question for you, and maybe you mentioned this in your post and I missed it, but are you doing anything to treat your anxiety other than taking Zoloft? Are you seeing a counselor or doing CBT or anything? Many people find that these two together work better than medication alone.
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In case anyone is still confused:  googling your symptoms will cause you to remain in a state of extreme anxiety. Stepping away from the internet is the first step toward lasting peace.

Offline Emulate

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Re: Struggling With Overcoming HA - An Intro
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2014, 03:23:56 PM »
I'm not currently doing anything for my anxiety other than Zoloft and trying to approach things that I know I can do to start feeling better (Getting better sleep, changing eating/drinking habits, exercising, keeping a journal, staying occupied). I'm also going to start working through the health anxiety workbook that someone linked and stickied in this forum tomorrow (need to print it off at work).

I definitely intend on seeing a counselor at some point in the future, but money's always tight for me so I've been putting it off. Considering I also battle with depression, chronic stress, and other mental health issues in addition to anxiety, I know it'd be useful but I haven't prioritized it. It probably doesn't help that I had a lackluster experience with a counselor at my college who did her best, but the way that program is set up is primarily to help school anxiety so students can keep on track rather than other problems.
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