Chapter 2: Part III: Something Must Be Wrong

HEALTH ANXIETY AND CHASING THE BLOOD-WORK…

In my experience, health anxiety followed a strange and torturous cycle. Initially I would worry that something was wrong with me. When I finally got my act together and went to the doctor, I would feel a bit better, like I had some control because I was doing something about my ailments. When the anxiety returned, I would be able to tell myself that it was just anxiety and I would prevent my brain from convincing me otherwise. This sense of logic and relief would last a day or so. Then the anxiety would again generate health concerns as I worried about the results of the testing. Eventually I would go back to the doctor to get the results, feeling near unbearable anxiety as I sat in the waiting room. The results would come back clear and again I would experience a temporary reprieve. A day or so later, I would either persuade myself that something else was wrong, or that there had been some sort of mistake at the lab and they had given me a false clear.

Throughout this entire cycle, I would have periods where I was feeling totally myself. I’d be looking back on an episode of anxiety and thinking that it felt like someone else had gone through it. I would be sitting there thinking how obvious it was that nothing was wrong with me. I had no symptoms. Why had I felt so totally convinced that I was sick? Would that feeling come back? Experience soon taught me that the answer to that last question was a firm “YES”.

I was exhausted. I was no longer sleeping through the night. Cycling through periods of anxiety and normality was draining me beyond belief. The icing on the cake – I was barely eating (remember how the fight or flight response stops digestion?) Not eating meant weight loss – approximately 15 pounds in two weeks. This is a lot for a 6-foot 2-inch string-bean that normally tips the scales at a mere 165 pounds in the first place. I looked gaunt. I looked sick. I felt lethargic and ill. All of this fed itself back into my certainty that I must be sick.

The reality is that I was sick. I just wasn’t looking in the right place.

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