finch: (dragon: reach out)
[personal profile] finch posting in [community profile] anxietysupport
(cut for discussion of physical illness, please don't read if that will upset you)

My brain tumor diagnosis came completely out of the blue. The MRI was for my vertigo symptoms, purely a precaution, and on the wrong side to boot. Relatively quickly (within two weeks) I got a diagnosis of benign and a recommendation for brain surgery, and I immediately started worrying about all the ways surgery could kill me. (I had a panic attack at the hospital the morning of my surgery, but I think that's understandable.) Once I woke up afterward, I figured I was in the clear.

It wasn't until months after, when I was explaining to a coworker how the brain tumor was totally asymptomatic, that it occurred to me that it might have killed me without my ever having a symptom. It was in my brainstem, after all. Could have displaced the wrong thing and stopped my heart or my lungs before it ever gave me a seizure or a headache. (And hell, I'm prone to headaches as it is.)

I've had issues with panic attacks and health anxiety since I was a teen. (Whoever decided that panic attacks should present JUST LIKE HEART ATTACKS anyway?) For the longest time, my health scares were minor, and I was able to tell myself that it was probably nothing, and I should keep an eye on it, and it would go away. And it did, for the most part.

But now there's this obsessive thought that I get stuck with, that this wrong thing is still there, still in my brain, growing back. (And that's actually true; chances of recurrence are incredibly good.) And a few cells could come loose. Or it could happen to grow in a slightly different direction this time. And it could kill me at any time.

This is worse than virtually anything else I've dealt with before as far as health anxiety goes. It's a real thing, so I can't break the loop that way. It's slow growing, so there's no definite end or treatment in sight, unlike the wait for surgery. I've been trying to work on Buddhist meditations on mortality and that's helped a little, but not much.


Short version: Any advice for dealing with an obsessive fear of something that's real and possible and you can't do anything to mitigate? None of my coping mechanisms really cover it.

Thanks.

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Anxiety Support

December 2011

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