Health anxiety

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Mindset is everything. The way you view the world can directly affect your experiences. I have always heard that phrase, but never fully understood its meaning until this year. During quarantine, my mindset failed, and I became obsessed with my health. I developed anxiety.

That anxiety, which shrouded my life, started last March. In freshman year, I was involved in sports and was highly active until school closed. Because of the state shutdown, I stayed at home and stopped exercising. With this stark change in lifestyle, both my mental and physical health took a hit, and I started feeling brief chest pains and palpitations merely two weeks after the closure. I had experienced similar pains and fear when I was younger—this time, they were more intense and long-lasting.

Google and heart monitoring apps became advisers to me. I read each article of information and viewed each heartbeat meticulously. I convinced myself that I was on the verge of dying from a heart attack or disease. Although I knew not to entertain that ridiculous idea, it was hard reminding myself when I was experiencing the palpitations almost daily.

The pains came in a variety of ways. It often started as a sudden, sharp pain that later died down. With every beat, it was as if my heart was beating too hard and too slowly. I felt panicked and out-of-body each time, frantically checking my heart rate and immediately pacing back and forth to cope with it. Sometimes the pain and fear of dying kept me up until the early morning hours 6 a.m. I just wanted to make it through each passing day. 

I knew that if I was going to get better, I needed to include my parents. It was hard to do so, because I had never involved them in my personal life before. I didn’t think they would understand me. Eventually, I could no longer suppress my emotions about the palpitations. I pointed to my chest as I cried out to my parents, “It hurts right here.” I was so vulnerable and frantic at the time. My family sat me down, hugging me in our living room. This familial comfort did not make the physical pain or panic go away, but it was incredibly relieving to know that I was not alone. I no longer felt like I had to fight my fear by myself.

I went to the doctor’s a couple days after. She was vigilant in helping me and performed an electrocardiogram. The results confirmed that I was healthy. Waves of relief washed over me, and I refound my sense of reasoning. I was hopeful that everything was finally going to be okay.

Nowadays, although my anxiety hasn’t completely disappeared, I can repress my fearful thoughts more easily. I still experience occasional pains and self-diagnose myself with diseases occasionally, but I try to maintain both a healthy lifestyle and state of mind to appease it. After confiding in my family, I breached an emotional gap that originally separated us. I felt closer to them than ever felt before, and most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson. No one should ever feel ashamed to seek help. Even just telling one person can make a difference. Mental health does not define who we are and no matter what, we will always find happiness at the end of all our adversities.

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