Google And I Need To Break Up: My Battle With Health Anxiety

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healthWhen I was a child, I had some friends who found amusement in scaring me. They’d run ahead as we’d walk to the kitchen and hide behind a corner. As I walked by, they’d pop out. Instinctively, I’d gasp, jump, and clutch my chest. 

The thing is, though, it never actually scared me. 

I always knew they were there. Heck, I watched them sprint ahead of me. Their antics were old and tired. I told them repeatedly, but unfortunately, my reflexes didn’t match my thoughts. It seemed like my fight-or-flight was always engaged. The anticipation of them jumping out scared me more than the jump itself.

Fast-forward to my almost adulthood, where these old habits stayed strong. I was constantly looking for the floor to fall beneath my feet. Being fired from a job, being broken up with, losing a loved one… I was (and still am) repeatedly waiting for “one of my little friends to jump out from a corner up ahead.”

Sadly, now, even as a “real” adult and a mother, I find myself battling what’s more specifically known as “health anxiety.” (Here is an article with more explanation about health anxiety.)

While, to my knowledge, I am a relatively healthy thirty-three-year-old woman, I can’t help but think every ache, twitch, and discomfort is a sign of something dark and scary waiting to be diagnosed. 

I am hyper-aware of my body; I am constantly doing mental checks of seemingly normal things, like my heart rate and bathroom trips. Every symptom leads me down an obsessive spiral that always leads to the deep depths of the Internet. I research, not the kind that consists of scouring a fully-stocked medical library, but the kind that involves a search engine that fits “conveniently” in the palm of my hand. I turn into a main character from Grey’s Anatomy who has been assigned the notorious task of identifying some mysterious ailment by none-other-than Meredith herself.

However, I am not a doctor. My brain just wants me to think I am. It frantically searches for something to cling to and fear. It tells me I am doing this for my well-being, trying to avoid any scary surprises down the road.

Now, I’m unsure where this aspect of my anxiety stems. It could be the early loss of my mother. It could be the trying months of pregnancy I experienced. It could be the last-minute, unplanned C-section I had. Quite frankly, it could be that I now have another human relying on me every day and my every move. I realize now, though, it doesn’t matter where it began. I just need it to end.

As much as I wish I could add “professional Google researcher” to my résumé, this habit is doing me no good — I realize this. As I frantically search for my most recent symptom, I see my daughter play pretend out of the corner of my eye. She laughs; she creates. I sit; I scroll. Of course, this is not all day, every day. However, it’s consuming too much time. Time – something we are told is fleeting from the moment even before that bundle of joy is in our arms. Something we cannot rewind. Something the very same brain that obsesses and worries I’m losing with every seemingly new and potentially threatening symptom. Any amount of time given to this mental battle is too much time.

So, while I wish this were a post full of “how to” bullet points and a “happily ever after” ending, it’s sadly not, as I am currently in this chapter of my mental health story. However, I see that my actions are not conducive to a happy and, ironically, healthy lifestyle.

Therefore, it’s time for Google and me to break up.

(If you, too, are looking for a nudge to seek help with your mental health, check out this post from a fellow Indianapolis mom.)

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