It all started with pain — pain that was constant and ever-present, sharp and non-fleeting. Pain, no matter physical or emotional, has the power to strip us of air, sweep the rug beneath our feet, and convince us of the absolute worst. The presence of its place in my body, my home, ravaged through my life. No longer was I able to go on with my day without the persistent knowledge of its existence. It was heavy with attention, purposeful with worry, and laced with deep embarrassment.
As I have grown, I have learned that oftentimes, pain is the kind of feeling that simply grows and grows without true acknowledgement or healing. I knew this to be true when, upon simply trying to take one new step at a time, pain cleared away the unsteady ground beneath what little balance I held and pulled me with it into the uncertain trenches of despair.
I quickly and unnaturally grew angry and frustrated with anyone who labeled my symptoms as simply intense health anxiety because, to me, every experience felt so real and intense that it seemed to demand immediate worry and attention. Unproudly, I became the patient that seemed more like a bother rather than a woman desperate for the healing of her broken heart, and so I retreated into my world of shame and loneliness, convinced I would wilt away due to feeling as if I was not being listened to or attempted to be understood.
What transpired as a result was months and months filled with constant body scans, at-home testing and monitoring, and daily research in which I would diagnose myself with the worst possible outcome. I often thought to myself, “If I have seen firsthand the worst of circumstances experienced by the closest people to my heart, then how could they not happen to me, too?” In the midst of being thrown disquieting loss after loss, I became easily and increasingly aware of my own morality, the preciousness of life, and the anticipation of yet more devastating news.
In my grief, I grew to understand that anxiety can present itself in many different ways. Personally, it is now something I feel in my body well before I become aware of its existence mentally. It will start with slight shortness of breath, a bruise that simply will not fade, or soreness that is not typically present, and my anxiety and I journey down a rabbit hole of possible ends to my story or unfathomable death sentences. I cry to my loved ones out of true fear and exhausting anguish, only to leave many moments feeling spent and helpless.
Heath anxiety feels as if my mind can’t trust my body, and my body can’t trust my mind. In each and every scenario, it creates a false narrative in which the ending is always dismal. I have spent so much time worrying about outcomes that are not truly rooted in reality, leading to more and more days that are captivated by lost time.
Yet, in the valleys of this challenge that only seeks to rob me of my present joy, I have learned to ground myself in patience and quiet prayer. It is in these times where I grow even more thankful to simply be alive — to be alive in the home of a body that I trust works to heal me, from the inside out, each and every day and through every painful experience I will walk through.
I reflect on how lucky and blessed I am to have a vessel that greets me gently, that works to calm me, and that has been present for me all along. It is here where I accept that my fear is haunting me, my worry is tormenting me, and truly, all I have to continue practicing is trusting in the natural, peaceful, and harmonious remedies built in the fabric of our very beings.
In even the most panic-induced moments, I seek to remind myself to trust more in God’s beautiful plan. The more I do so, the more I secure my faith in the still moments where I begin to heal myself from the pain of a mind that has been instructed to always look for danger around every corner. It is in this searching where I am reminded that anxiety robs my precious joy that exists so graciously in the gift of this life, which, day after day, only ends up tearing apart my promising future.
If I could return to the most challenging moments in my journey with health anxiety, I would remind myself of this: celebrate joy, even in the smallest moments and memories. Honor your story without the slightest sense of shame. Walk through your valleys, head held high towards God, who has naturally written your story with grace, peace, and hope. Trust in the beauty and optimism of this dear life and simply enjoy the opportunities you have to bring a little more light into it. You will not only survive your greatest anxieties, but you will also learn how to rise above them.