Friday, January 22, 2010


Still sick with this nasty cold. Blech. Red Rudolph-esque nose, dark circles under eyes, scratchy throat sinus pain...bleh. Fun fun fun. Time for more vitamins and sleep.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is what stress does, kids.

Hello all. Happy Tuesday.

So I went to the podiatrist yesterday and he said my muscles are just fatigued because of my flat-footedness and tendon issues and that I really need to get back in those orthotics so my body stops trying to overcompensate for my lack of arches, etc. He's making me get a scan-o-gram to see if I actually have a leg length discrepancy (as my chiro said) or if that is b.s. and the orthotics are fine as-is.

The tongue pain,/weird speech (at least in my head) actually went away for a while yesterday and a little bit today, mostly while I was fully focused on whatever task I had at hand, so I definitely think that's another gift from the stress factory that is me.

So, good right? Now I can relax.....BOOM here's a nasty cold for you because once again your worrying/lack of sleep/lack of focus on healthy eating and exercise has lowered your immunities. Woooooo! So I spent last night and today with a rather brutal sore throat, lots of stuffiness and the feeling of 10-lb weights suspended from my lower eyelids. Thanks, body, for reminding me as you always do what happens if I let anxiety take over.

Time for more cold meds...and high doses of Vitamin C!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Setbacks are the name of the game

Hello all,

So today, truthfully the last couple of days, haven't been great for me in the realm of my health anxiety. I'm having that annoying toe twitching again on one side and my toes feel weaker than on the other foot. Now, logically, I know I have the tendon problem, and my foot tends to roll inward and it's probably just an effect of my gait without wearing the correct orthotics...but of course my mind always wanders to the dark side. It also doesn't help that I've been just bombarded with mentions of ALS from fundraisers going on in school districts in my area to people appearing on TV with it that were happy with the passage of the medical marijuana bill in NJ. I know I shouldn't think of things as "signs", I learned that lesson during the whole HIV fiasco, but it's like it constantly has to be in my sight, in my mind.

Not helping matters is the fact that I've been having issues with my tongue lately (over the last month or so). First it just seemed as if my mouth was overly dry (often stress-related) then I felt like I was moving it kind of strangely and over-pronouncing my words, then it had a sort of burning sensation and was really sensitive to my teeth (which I also read could be stress-anxiety related) but now it just hurts, aches like an overworked muscle and I feel like certain aspects of my speech are stiff. I know there's a distinct possibility I'm holding it strangely due to stress and tension and straining the muscle thereby causing all the problems (since I've dealt with jaw pain and the like before) but I just can't seem to relax it or make my focus drift from it. I KNOW focusing on it is making things worse as always happens so I need to find a way to remedy that. I'm hoping a fun weekend with my boyfriend, aunt and cousins will do the trick. The kids will certainly keep me running around too much on Sunday to dwell on much anything else. Wish me luck.

In other news, the situation in Haiti is still very sad and I feel like I should be doing more to help. God bless all those poor people and all the wonderful doctors, volunteers and rescue workers who are doing their best and risking their own safety to help others.

Current plan: Watch a funny show or read an entertaining book, take a warm shower, get some things checked off my to-do list, try to get a decent night of sleep - hopefully all these things help.

Hugs and best wishes to all who need them today :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mapping it out here's a list of all the things I thought I was afflicted with over the last five-ish years (and why) and all of the pretty minor things I've been told I have instead (well, except for the MAJOR anxiety!)

HIV (We've been through this one. But I took three tests up to EIGHTEEN months past my first worry. Three negative tests. The last nurse actually told me she'd better not see me back again)

Some sort of autoimmune disease - symptoms: widespread muscle pain for more than a month, fatigue, insomnia ( I insisted on seeing the doctor for this one and insisted on blood work for Lyme Disease -which I actually did have briefly as a child, Rheumatoid Arthritis, a complete blood count, etc. - all normal)

ALS (Lou Gehrig's) - The way this one came about is ridiculous, looking back, but it has reappeared a major fear approximately four times (including now!)
Background: I tried out for a game show, yes despite my anxiousness and shyness I was able to take this chance, and I made it! I was at home being quizzed on trivia questions by my mom when we came across a question about Gehrig. I asked what disease he had, again and decided to look it up, and look it up and look it up. Suddenly the "dents" in my wrists, how often my legs fell asleep, etc had become "signs". Because of a trivia card!!!! (This one went away on its own for a while and returned when - on separate occasions, I noticed that my right foot rolled in when I walked, that I couldn't balance on my toes on one side, that my knees sometimes felt like they locked up, that my toes twitched and - more recently - that my tongue twitched when I stuck it out, that my tongue sometimes felt heavy and words seemed hard to pronounce -happening right now - and that the muscles behind my toes on one side were less developed than on the other) Yeah, this one's a bad one.

Esophageal (and/or stomach) cancer - This one came after I read in an article we produced that people with GERD long-term were more likely to develeop EC. Well, candidly, I had struggled with some form of bulimia for a couple of years in college so I thought that must be WORSE. Then, the heartburn came after every meal. Then the pains in my upper left quadrant (medical web terminologies have become an integral part of my vocabulary haha). I was FREAKED and actually visited a gastroenterologist for this one. Also had a lump in the throat sensation during this time that returned during other high-anxiety periods.

Brain tumor - I'm pretty sure every single person that suffers with health anxiety has thought about this one (probably more than once). A friend of mine who deals with it has several times. My symptoms: headaches pretty constantly, sharp pains in temple (when I didn't eat or had too much caffeine...hmmm), occasional dizziness, fatigue, eye floaters (yeah - you know what those are? little spots that float in front of your eyes when you look at the sky or a white wall), nausea, a drooping eyelid (so I detected), and I'm sure there was more. This one got me two or three times.
Eventual tests: CT scan - clear; spine and brain MRI -clear

Pancreatic cancer - this one was big in the news, a coworker of mine lost his poor dad to this and it was on my mind. Suddenly I was getting major fatigue after eating and I thought it was a sign of my pancreas failing. I also thought the bottoms of my eyes looked yellow.
Tests: none

Carcinoid syndrome (yeah you probably never even heard of this one). It's a type of tumor in your intestinal tract that, if it causes the syndrome, is often bad news. My cheeks were getting red and warm after eating - I thought I was done for.
Tests: none

Skin cancer - I've had several tiny moles removed that I thought looked "suspicious" - all fine. I have had some bad sunburns in my life though so I guess this isn't a terrible one to be diligent about.

A heart attack or some heart problem - Sharp pains in chest, fast heartbeat, trouble taking deep breaths.
Tests: EKG, chest x-ray, blood tests for pulmonary embolism

Ovarian cancer - crampiness in the abdomen.
Tests: exam

Breast cancer
Tests: exam

Adult-onset cystic fibrosis (Of course I didn't know this existed until I found it online and OF COURSE it's very rare - but it was a combo of several things - my aunt tested positive as a CF carrier when she was pregnant, I felt like my breathing was shallow and "catching" and -after my internet research - I decided my sweat was too salty)
Tests: stethoscope listening, chest X-ray

Scleroderma - symptoms: freezing cold hands, pale fingers, purplish nails ( a nurse practitioner told me I might have Raynaud's one time which I researched and found could be a symptom of scleroderma, also thought skin on fingers was tight and noticed tiny broken blood vessels on face)
Tests: bloodwork for ANA - came back negative

I'm sure there are more - I just can't think of anything else at the moment. The sheer amount of diseases is mind-boggling, no? I should've been dead several times over by now, right? To someone with a "normal" rationality, this would seem unbelievable and exaggerated but I can assure you they were all very real to me.

Minor things I have been diagnosed with:
-Tension headaches
-Chronic muscle tension in the neck and upper back (seeing a chiropractor-helping!)
-Jaw clenching (not true TMJ)
-GERD (Acid reflux - treated with Nexium)
-Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction and fallen arches - accounts for my foot issue, might be due to extra bones the podiatrist discovered in my feet (what?) - can be treated by wearing orthotic inserts - waiting to have them re-fitted
-A pulled/strained muscle in the chest (my "heart attack" - treated with ibuprofen and rest)
-This weird thing where my cheeks turn pink and warm from the action of chewing (straaaaange)
-A deviated septum
-Mild IBS (often stress-related)
-ANXIETY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Likely the root of SO MANY of my "symptoms")

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Putting things in perspective...

I'm watching coverage of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti and was in correspondence with the Red Cross and some people with a son doing missionary work there at work today...what a horrific situation. All of these poor people killed and injured, the lack of necessary equipment and government, and where is all the help from the rest of the world? It makes everything else seem so trivial when something like this happens.

*Everyone say a prayer for the people of Haiti tonight...may those who died rest in peace and those who survived find some kind of relief*

It all started when...

I don't really know when my "anxiety" started. I think I've always been a rather anxious person. When I was a kid I used to worry about being left places (even though I never was), about blowing away on a windy day (thanks to my lovely older cousin telling me a lie) and I suppose I had a fair amount of social anxiety in new situations - I was always the shy kid.

I can, however, pinpoint when that anxiety developed into a laser-honed awareness of my body and a constant nagging fear of disease. And it seems to have followed, rather than occur during, a most stressful period.

I had finished my freshman year of college - a year of constant academic stress, roommate troubles, a somewhat unstable ralationship and a bit of an eating disorder. I had just changed a lot in my life - new wonderful roommates, new wonderful boyfriend, new wonderful major - and I was finally able to smile and breathe and ... BAM! That's right - health anxiety entered my life in a big way and still hasn't found its way out despite the passage of more than five years. FIVE YEARS! That's a lot of tense muscles, heart palpitations and sleepless nights, my friend.

It started like this:
My friends from home came up to my school for a weekend and decided to share some gossip. Evidently they'd heard that some people from our old high school had become infected with HIV due to intravenous drug use (still don't know if this was even true, mind you). I thought "Oh how terrible!" then "What a scary situation!" then "What if I have it?!" Some might see this as a narcissistic reaction and, to a point, that's what health anxiety is. It's an inappropriate fixation on oneself and one's seemingly benign bodily functions to such an extent that they take over your life. And WHY did I think I might have HIV just because these former classmates might? Because I had ever used drugs? Certainly not. Because I had any interaction with the aforementioned people? Nope. I just thought I did - not from drugs but from past relationships I might not have been too happy with at the time.

What began as a mere thought, a pinprick of fear in my heart became an obsession of almost two years. That's right - TWO YEARS. But that's insane, you might say. There are tests, you know. Oh, I know all right - I had three of them. Three perfectly negative, perfectly reassuring tests. It still took me six months after the last one to actually believe it.

You see, after that first "what if", I turned to the internet - a base of information I used to create my own personal hell. Had I experienced a fever a few months before? Could that have been the virus taking hold? What were these white lines on the sides of my tongue? Were they oral hairy leukoplakia - a problem sometimes associated with having AIDS? What were the tiny bumps in my throat? Were they the swollen lymph nodes that surely signified infection? And then, my boyfriend fell ill. My wonderful, sweet, handsome new guy suddenly had a high fever, swollen glands, a sore throat, night sweats and nausea. That's it, I thought. I have it and now I've ruined someone else's life too. Despite all the facts stacked against either of those possibilities - I was sure. The reality? My boyfriend had mono. Was that my fault? Possibly - but it was certainly not life threatening. However, the psychological damage was done.

For the next month or so I spent hours (often into the early morning ) searching symptoms and convincing myself that I was ill. I saw signs everywhere - commercials about getting tested, people purchasing books at the college bookstore on the topic, TLC's "Waterfalls" playing on the radio and then the most poignant one of all. You see, I had finally convinced myself I had to be tested. After killing myself with worry and spilling my guts to a friend (who was sure I was fine) I decided there was really only one way to end the madness - a test. The night before the test, I had to hide my overwhelming anxiety from my family, needed to distract myself - so I turned on the TV. Selected an episode of Sex and the City and settled on the couch. It was an episode I'd never seen before. The one where Samantha has to get an HIV test. I was doomed.

Inside the shell...

Greetings web browsers, nutty and not-so-nutty, and welcome to my new blog. I have created this site for two primary reasons (1) for my own sanity and (2) to provide some comfort (and hopefully a few laughs) to my fellow worriers who have created a rather frightening bubble of anxiety for themselves thanks to the wonders (read:horrors) of readily -available health information on the net and their own predisposition to visit crazy town on a pretty regular basis. (Embrace it, people- it's the only way.)

Anyway, here is a little about me. And, just maybe, a little bit about you.

I am a health nut. No, not the good (but, let's face it, pretty punch-worthy) kind of health nut who spends hours at the local gym, subsists on a diet of salmon and leafy greens and shudders if anyone utters the word "diet soda" in his or her presence. No, I'm a CRACKED health nut. The kind who will make a fast food run a few times a month, often skips the gym in favor of watching reruns of The Office and shudders when someone asks her to "go for a run". But also the kind who is constantly worried about being knocked off at any moment by the most debilitating and fatal disease she can think of that month.

I use humor because it's a defense mechanism and also because, despite the fact that I've never stopped suffering from this often strangling anxiety (not yet, anyway), when I look back at some of my bizarre behaviors and positively insane obsessions over the years, what can I do but laugh?

In truth, the internet was probably one of the worst inventions of modern times to co-exist with my existence. Fifty, hey - thirty - years ago, if I suddenly found myself covered with purple spots with two limbs hanging off by threads, the most I could do would be to head to the doctors and trust in their medical knowledge. With the internet, I can Google a headache and find out within seconds that I COULD be suffering from a brain tumor, an aneurysm or bacterial meningitis. Peachy.

Before I get into my long journey with health anxiety/panic disorder/ "maybe it's some kind of OCD" (thank you, psychiatric community), I need to explain what finally prompted me to create this blog. As I said, the internet is a dangerous place for us cracked nuts and it has been a rare and reassuring moment that I've come upon a blog, message board or medical web site that offered some compassion, had someone write "It's OK. I've had this too. And I'm still here." Look, no one knows what tomorrow will bring - I could get run over by a tractor trailer, a meteor could fall from the sky, or I could be bitten by an ultra-poisonous spider unknown as yet to scientists in my state, but THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY OF FORESEEING OR CONTROLLING THE FUTURE and that is something I am finally beginning to accept.

What I can do is share what I've been through in the hopes that it will help someone who has been holed up in a room, staring at his or her laptop for hours with debilitating fear, actually go out and live a life instead of worrying obsessively about if that mole was there yesterday or if that twitch in the right shoulder is a sure harbinger of doom.