My Health Anxiety Story

Sharing such a personal story is very daunting and I always fear judgement whenever I tell people about my anxiety. I tried for a while to just forget about the worst of it. However, I truly believe that mental health should not be a taboo topic and that sharing is the best way for me to help others who might find some comfort through this article.

My story begins in March 2020, a few days after the global pandemic shut down schools across the United States. I never expected to the leave the University of Utah for spring break and never return, but that was the reality for everyone. Almost as soon as I moved back in with my family, I came down with a pretty bad fever. I decided to quarantine myself at that time because I really didn't know anything and I wanted to be as safe as possible. I stayed quarantined for a really long time because my fever would not go down. (I didn't know this at the time, but I would continue to have a low-grade fever for the next several months.)

During this time of self-isolation, anxiety hit hard. I was so scared of being sick and exposing my family. After about two weeks of staying in my room alone, I finally was able to get tested and the result was negative. We all breathed a sigh of relief and I thought that was the end of it. Really, it was just the beginning of my struggle.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment where things started to get bad, but suddenly I was afraid of everything. I noticed a lot of things about my body starting to go wrong. I was feeling a lot of different pains. I would go to the doctor and they would tell me nothing was wrong. Every time, I wouldn't believe them, still continue to panic about the pain, and ultimately stress about being exposed to COVID while at the doctors. This probably happened at least five times during the summer. It was a nasty cycle. I felt that I could not get peace of mind without going to the doctors, even though I never felt any better afterwards.

Plan B Alexandra Redmond / Spoon

One of my first times at the doctor, I was given a prescription for anxiety medication and was basically told that I could take it if I needed it. There is a lot of stigma surrounding anti-anxiety medicine, so I really did not want to take it at first. I tried going to virtual therapy and doing mindfulness meditation practices for a few months, but I really felt no difference at all. Finally, I decided to try taking the medication and I honestly wish I had taken it as soon as it was prescribed. I cannot endorse medication for everyone, but for me personally, it was the only thing that helped significantly. 

The most frustrating thing was feeling the pain, but having to hear every doctor tell me that there was nothing wrong even though I was in pain, had a fever, and panicked constantly. My heart rate was always abnormally high and I even broke out in hives. I can guess that a lot of that was due to my constant fear and anxiety. Today, I still often panic a little at any abnormality, but I have progressed so much in the past year. I still have some chronic pain, but it doesn't consume me. 

The pandemic has made the healing process hard, because I fear leaving my house and interacting with anyone outside of my bubble. I am always embarrassed about requiring masks and distance from my friends and rejecting offers because I am too afraid to go out. However, I know that I have to be careful about my own mental health and do whatever I can to give myself peace of mind. Luckily, I have very understanding friends and family that are willing to compromise when I need it. I am so lucky to have been blessed with such amazing family and friends because I honestly do not know if I could have survived this without them.

I have high hopes about seeing some kind of resolution of this pandemic soon, but I know that health anxiety is something that I will struggle with for the rest of my life. The experience was pretty terrible, but I have learned so much about myself and about mental health in general.

Most people do not know about my condition, but I have had a few friends come to me for advice after I shared my story with them. This made me realize that so many people might have similar struggles that I would never know about. There were so many moments when I felt that no one understood me and that I was the only one. Now I know this is not true! No one's health anxiety is the exact same, but hopefully this reaches at least one other person going through a hard time in this pandemic. 

You are not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel!