As a child I had bad hearing problems from 0-5 yrs which made me almost completely deaf. This wasnt detected until I was 4 yrs old and then I needed an operation at 6 which scared the hell out of me. I was left with life-long tinnitus, and the early delay in speech development necessitated speech and reading lessons to catch up with my peers in school. I had frequent hearing tests after that until 8-9 years old and common colds would often make me deaf again. During this time 2 grandparents died in close succession which made me worried and think about death alot. The net result of this along with being a sensitive child was that I was always scared about my health from that point onwards. When I was between 12-15 years old I was obsessed I had raised lymph nodes and so had must have had lymph cancer. I can distinctly remember thinking that family holidays would be my last. I still used to get periods of deafness again - one period lasting 3 months - too which made my tinnitus worse. A little later worries used to give me alot of palpitations so I always thought I had heart disease too. Then I started getting lots of depersonalisation and often had lots of abstract, repetitive thoughts (like I should stand up in class and shout **** but I never did). It was like I wasnt never quite in reality somehow. Clearly when I look back I had a history of health anxiety and perhaps OCD which I didnt realise until recent months.
Fast forward many years, in recent years I have pushed myself to the limit at work for several years, with long daily commutes, flying all over the world to give high pressure presentations, have 3 young children, and went through a torrid divorce 5 years previously which financially broke me. Alot of stress. I believe this period coupled with a naturally anxious disposition had seriously weakened me up to a point where I was ripe for a breakdown without knowing it. It just needed one last straw. And it duly came. One day at work I noticed I had some blood in my stools and I flipped and had an on the spot panic attack that sickended me to the pit of my stomach - the first of my life. I slumped back onto the toilet and thought "why me, why have I got bowel cancer, I'm still young". For the next 2 weeks I was terrified - I thought I would be lucky to survive if it was Bowel cancer. Although I was highly anxious I didnt see a doctor, I just wished it to go away. Then 2 weeks later my stools turned dark green and I thought "oh no, its progressed - the next stage of cancer must be kicking in, my liver or gallbladder must be affected now". Then I started to get really fatigued and had to stop going to the gym (I've always been very fit - triathlons, etc). Then I started having sweats during the day and night, and started losing weight rapidly. You can imagine my anxiety levels were by now absolutely going through the roof but still I told nobody for fear of what to do or say. Anxiety wasnt even in my head - just terminal cancer and prospective palliative care. By then I was also getting bloated, had stomach pains and getting tireder. Eventually I just couldnt eat properly anymore and had a heavy dragging feeling on my right side. I was at rock bottom and starting to accept my fate.
Eventually I convinced myself I had advanced Liver Cancer as all the symptoms fitted together. This was the lowest point of my life. I got so bad that I told my wife I was dying, and told her to prepare for a new life after me with the kids which nearly gave her a breakdown. I was wondering how I could tell my parents.
Finally I went to the doctor, who said I probably had IBS. I thought no way, not with my symptoms. Then over the next few days my appetite got a little better and I thought "hey, that shouldnt be happening if I was dying". But all the other symptoms remained. My health anxiety then went through the roof. I saw the GP about 5-6 times over the next 3 weeks (I had seen a GP only once in the past 20 years) asking about Rheumatic Fever, Lyme Disease, CFS, etc, etc and he did many blood, urine, thyroid tests - they all came back negative. I was stumped. Then my GP asked me about my mood to which I said "yeah, I'm really worried". He asked me to fill in a mood/anxiety questionnaire. Out of a score of 0-20 for anxiety, I got 17. He said I had "severe anxiety" but he didnt give a formal diagnosis of GAD or similar. Still, after that I couldnt link anxiety to all the symptoms I was experiencing - I thought anxiety was a state of mind, not a physical illness too. The GP at that point offered me citalopram which scared me but then said 'lets see how we go first'. Anyway, I continued to believe that something was seriosuly wrong with me - I was still tired, my muscles ached, sleeping was a problem, still sweated, and I felt tired all day long. I had been off work for 3 weeks by this time and had lost 14 lbs in weight. I was starting to get dizzier, experiencing more palpitations - sometimes when I ran, and I was feeling really weird, like I was disappearing from reality. As I continued to surf around wondering what the hell was wrong with me I stumbed across a website called AnxietyZone, and remembered my GP had mentioned anxiety - but he hadnt diagnosed me with any specific anxiety, I just thought he thought I was anxious.
Anyway suddenly, I was reading about the symptoms of a condition called GAD and what people experienced with GAD. I almost cried with tears of joy (how sad was that!) as I realised that right there all my symptoms connected. I finally had a conditon to pin to the previous 2 months of worsening health. Finally, I took citalopram - the first treatment I have ever taken outside infections, and the next morning I thought I was having a heart attack as had chemical chills in my chest and down my arms and legs, it was an adverse reaction but just made my anxiety worse! Anyway I came of that immediately. I realised I also had Health Anxiety and was worried about Eye Cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and heart disease due to the palpitations. I had a couple of ECGs which showed nothing but it did nothing to reassure me.
I now realise that I had had a complete mental and physical breakdown.
Then before Christmas I had another heart related rhythm event which ended up with me going to Emergency at hospital. I was kept in overnight which freaked me out (I was sat alongside heart attack victims) and I was terrified about being given really nasty drugs that can kill people to control me. After being discharged on no drugs I then had a battery of in-depth tests which have showed nothing. No-one gave me any reasons for what had happened to me. But the lasting legacy is that I'm now too scared to exert myself heavily (go for a run) for fear of being hospitalised again. Having a diagnosis of "no known cause" (idiopathic) is a living nightmare and since January this year my anxiety has gone into overdrive and been pretty constant since. I have had just about every anxiety symptom known to man and I'm constantly worried about my heart and lungs, and wonder if I have a multitude of weird and wonderful medical conditions. I dont take drugs (tried a TCA for 3 weeks but I cant take that now, and Xanax for 2 days but I hate meds) so its a daily battle to fight the anxiety and not be able to go for a run or do heavy exercise. But the past couple of months I've come to terms with it all and I'm much more relaxed about it all now although the symptoms persist. I seem to particularly get lots of chills and I always feel cold - I'm sure its all thyroid related which would account for alot but the tests say no, or high normal range.
So I just take take each day as it comes with my anxiety always in the background, I use relaxation, I;ve reduced my stressors and I've come to accept that me and anxiety are probably going to be lifelong partners along with the various symptoms. With the unexplained heart rhythm events I always wonder if something is seriously wrong with me alongside the anxiety so its all a vicious circle of worry. I feel like my body has changed from years before, like something has permnanently changed inside me, like I must have burnt something out and I wonder if I will ever get back to where I was before. I hope so - I need to have period of low sustained anxiety to tell if this may be the case. But doctors and medical science have no answers for me, so I am left to figure out what may be causing my symptoms myself which with my professional background means my imagination runs wild.
Anyway, this website has been a such an important part of my life and management approach since coming here for the past 10 months. I just visited and read for a long time to educate myself and then I eventually joined. I dont post often about my own symptoms but try to pass on my medical knowledge and experience.
Sorry this is long winded, thanks for listening.