Hello. My name is Amanda. I’m 33, and have lived with anxiety since childhood. I’ve always been a worrier, but as I’ve gotten older, the condition has made my life nearly unbearable.
I deal primarily with hypochondria. But when my anxiety is seriously out of control (which has been the case lately), I am not really able to leave my house for fear of having a panic attack in public. The isolation, and general belief by my family that I exaggerate my symptoms, leads to severe depression.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve visited the local Emergency Department this year alone, because it has been too numerous. The staff at the hospital no longer take my complaints seriously, and I am humiliated simply walking in the door… but the fear always outweighs any shame I might have.
My husband tries to be understanding, but I see what I’ve cost him. I am often unable to care for our infant daughter. My mother no longer speak to me unless I am “happy”, and any mention of worry over a pain or symptom ends the conversation flat.
I feel afraid all the time. I feel like no one believes me. I feel alone.
I have been experiencing persistent dizziness (not true vertigo, just a feeling of faintness or lightheadedness) since about six weeks after the birth of our daughter. So, for about six months. In recent weeks, I have had increasing difficulty focusing my eyes. I saw a neurologist who, with the most cursory of examinations, tentatively diagnosed me with Intracranial Hypertension. I had a completely normal MRI, and I also saw an ophthalmologist who examined my eyes for any signs of damage typically associated with IIH. He found none.
I didn’t present with headache; I had no swelling of my optic nerve, nor did I have pulsatile tinnitus, which sometimes presents with IIH. I now believe that it was my weight which led the neurologist to his diagnosis. He felt that a lumbar puncture was necessary to rule out IIH; and of course I went through the invasive procedure, because I could not endure wondering “what if”.
I developed a spinal headache the very next day, but was dismissed by the ER because it was not presenting in the usual way. (I had severe pain in my neck and in between my shoulders). By day two, my head throbbed every single time I sat up. The neurologist advised me to lay flat all day, and would not consider any active remedy unless the headache persisted for over a week. By day four, I went to the ER and received and epidural blood patch. My headache resolved immediately…
But now, a week later, I am experiencing throbbing pressure in my head upon standing, and a whoosing sound in my ears. My right ear has a persistent ringing, and hearing has become difficult.
I fear subdural hematoma… There’s not a single person I could say this to, though. Not without them rolling their eyes, and caustically assuring me that it’s “all in my head”.
Maybe it is. But what if? What if, what if, what if??? I never know when I should go to the ER, because I constantly doubt if what I’m feeling is “real”.
My mother is extremely annoyed with me for having the spinal tap done in the first place. When I tried to have an honest conversation about how I was feeling, and how isolating it was to not be able to talk to her, she said she blamed me for everything I was going through. I’m doing it to myself. Maybe I am.
But that doesn’t make the fear go away. And I am alone in that fear. It is crippling and exhausting to live in constant fear and obsession over illness. I just want to be better. I want to smile and be able to leave my house without ending up in the ER because I’ve suddenly become short of breath and think I’m having a heart attack.
I need to be better. So here I am. I know that these words are really being sent out into an endless void, but maybe someone will see them. Maybe I won’t have to be alone. And maybe just writing them down will help… in any case, it’s a little relief to be here.