My son, once again, has a low-grade fever. He had one a little earlier this week, but we’ve all been coming off and going one various mild ailments, so I tried not to think too much about it. But now we’re all better, I thought. So what’s with this fever?
Oh, I don’t know. Meningitis? Cancer? Internal bleeding (from when his cousin jumped on him earlier today)? Wait, let me Google “low grade fever” and see what other horrific ailments he might have.
I don’t know how to calmly deal with my reality a lot of the time. I don’t know how to separate or distinguish between what the most likely scenario is versus what the worst case scenario is — to me, they usually feel like one and the same, even if all logic tells me that’s not possible.
I have a headache? It’s probably a brain tumor (this has not been helped by the fact that, six years ago, I lost a good friend to a fast moving brain tumor).
Stomach’s bothering me? I probably have ulcers, or stomach cancer, or an intestinal blockage.
And I can’t go to the doctor. Oh no no no no. What if they just confirm my suspicions? What of they tell me that something is actually wrong? Never mind that they could help me fix the problem (if there is one). I can’t face the possibility that they’ll confirm my fears. I’ll just… live in a perpetual state of anxiety until the ailment goes away, or… whatever.
And lest you think it’s just health concerns that plague me, ah ha, not so, my friends. I have been known to waste a whole weekend persevering on something a student or coworker said to me on a Friday afternoon that — from working in the setting for fifteen years and talking with other coworkers — should have been of no consequence, and yet completely dominated my thoughts for 72 hours. I’ve lost sleep obsessing over particular student assignments, I put off calling in sick even when I’m legitimately unwell (what if the administration thinks I’m faking or taking advantage? What if my coworkers are talking about me behind me back?), hell, I still get nervous when the store alarm beeps when I walk out (what if something fell into my pocket?? (Seriously???))
I rehearse meal orders, over and over at restaurant until it’s my turn to place mine, and I still feel my heart beat a little faster when I do. I get sweaty palms in checkout lines. I have to write out what I’m going to say before I make a phonecall, wear a hole in the carpet pacing when I finally place the call, and am wired for an hour afterward. There’s a note in my PCP’s file that they should take my blood pressure twice — once at the beginning and once at the end of a visit — because I have such a bad case of White Coat Syndrome. I stopped watching and reading the news after the last presidential election because literally everything I heard sent me into such anxiety spirals I would have full on hyperventilating, crying jags at bedtime.
There are connections between ADHD and anxiety — about 50% of people with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder — so I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, though feeling this way (especially when I can, intellectually, recognize the lack of logic/hypocrisy inherent in them) is hugely isolating and objectively makes my life worse. My anxiety is on the books, but I haven’t sought out medication partially because my nervousness/anxiety extends to taking medication (this is not a slam regarding medicating a mental illness — I am very pro-medication, and very much believe medication is a valid option and a lifesaver for many people. As I said, this is yet another in a long line of self-recognized irrational fears).
So, on the day-to-day, I muddle along. Most of my nervousness is so much a part of my personality at this point that I almost don’t notice it, as weird as that sounds; it’s like white noise, always just sort of on the peripheary of my awareness.
What about you? What are your irrational fears, concerns, worries? How do you cope on the day-to-day? How has your anxiety impacted your life overall?