Until about four years ago, I wouldn’t have labeled myself as an anxious person. I’ve always been socially anxious, but life didn’t keep me up at night, specific events did. Like an exam I knew I didn’t prepare enough for, a big game or track meet at school, an important interview, having to give a presentation in class or at work, or a tough deadline.
Actually, until I turned 30, I would have described myself as a pretty laid back person. This is funny to me now, because I think I just had a skewed perception of my personality. I guess I’ve always been a worrier, but I suffered mostly in silence.
With one phone call from my dad the day I turned 30, my life completely changed and my ability to pretend I wasn’t a pessimistic ball of anxiety shattered along with it.
Over the next two years, my dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and I was heavily involved in his care and treatment schedule. I was laid off from the job I’d held for four years, I struggled with unemployment, I got married for the second time, my dad passed away, and we got pregnant and I became a parent. This may not sound like much more than normal life to some, but it changed everything for me.
Nothing could or will ever be the same again.
Anxiety became a part of my life every day. I didn’t really know what to call it though–I was just over-thinking and spinning out about everything. I started imagining the worst case scenario for every piece of news I received. I would lie in bed at night unable to shut my mind off, and I would see even the most mundane set backs through to the worst possible conclusion imaginable. Many of them worked out exactly the way I feared.
This is still a real part of my psyche today. I’m awake and writing this at 4:00 am because insomnia hits me at the same time almost every night, and I’ve started getting up and going to my office instead of staying in bed counting the hours of sleep I’m not getting.
When the ice storms hit Texas last week, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack.
I woke up three nights in a row with night sweats. Completely drenched, short of breath, dizzy and nauseous. On the third night, after I’d changed into dry clothes, and did some deep breathing, I went to my computer and did what no person with medical symptoms should ever do and googled night sweats.
As Web MD popped up, I spiraled down the list of links and possible causes, convincing myself I was seriously ill.
They start off easy–are you too hot? Is the temperature in your room comfortable for sleeping? Yes, I was wearing what I always wear. Cookie pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. Winter sleep wear for someone who is always cold.
Then I followed the hot flash links. I’m too young for menopause right? But wait, what is perimenopause? I guess that could be it. Am I going to have hot flashes until I’m 50 and actually go through the change? That is terrible. I guess I can’t have any more kids. Do I want more kids? Well, not really, but what if I change my mind? I want more kids now, crap! No fair. Being a woman is terrible. Freakin’ vagina and boobs. Nothing but trouble since day one.
Then there were the cancer links. Night sweats are an early symptom of cancer. Lymphoma. I’ve got lymphoma. I knew it, I’m going to get cancer. I smoked for so many years. I’m going to get lung cancer or lymphoma and my daughter will grow up without a mom because I couldn’t put the nicotine down. I’ve got cancer.
Fuck YOU Cancer.
I need to call my doctor right now. I need a chest x-ray and a CBC, stat. Why aren’t doctor’s offices open at 4 am? I could EAT a cigarette right now.
Eventually I grew tired of the internet as I often do. My eyes got heavy again, and I decided I couldn’t cure my cancer ridden, hormonally unbalanced body right then, and headed back to bed.
As I passed the thermostat, I noticed that it was set to 76 degrees.
My husband sleeps in basketball shorts only and has a light-weight blanket for his side of the bed. I was in sweats, long sleeves, and buried under a down comforter, sheets, and an extra blanket on top.
I was sweating. At night. Because I was too hot.
Or…you know. Cancer.
Can someone please pass me a Xanax and an Ambien with a Jameson chaser?
My doctor won’t prescribe them to me, and I probably wouldn’t take them anyway because that would cause me more anxiety.
It’s not always a fun place up in my brain.
I’m sure a lot of you can relate.