Some of the most popular posts on my blog are those in which I talk about living with anxiety and health anxiety. I get it – I Google those things too. Sometimes it’s nice to read about someone else who is going through the same thing. It helps you feel like you’re not alone. That’s why I’m transparent about my journey with general anxiety disorder and health anxiety – to hopefully help someone feel less alone.
Here’s an anxiety update.
The day started off fine.
I was a little sleepy and a lot annoyed that I had a 7:30 AM meeting after a three-day weekend, but everything was otherwise fine. I had just enough time to read my daily devotional and check my email before I had to wash my face, pop in my contacts, and sit down in front of Microsoft Teams. Yes, Teams.
Maybe that’s where things went south? Microsoft Teams, y’all.
By ten o’clock, I was a mess.
It went like this.
I was fine. All was well. I was cranking out work and thinking to myself “wow, today’s going to be really productive. This is my kind of day!”
Then the bloating started.
I’m about halfway through my annual January Whole30 and this go around I’ve experienced more digestive upset than I have in the past. It’s the first time I’ve done this since treating h.pylori and being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I did not eat well the last couple of months of 2021 (or the last half of 2021 if I’m being honest). My body needs more than 2.5 weeks to get it’s act together after all of that. But I have health anxiety and every time I balloon up, my thoughts go to “what cancer is this?”
It’s a mind Olympics, really.
The logical side of my brain knows I’m fine. I had two CT scans and both a pelvic and internal ultrasound in late June/early July. I was fine. “Unremarkable” to use the doctor’s wording. But the health anxiety side of my brain thinks “well, bloating can be sign of ovarian cancer and colon cancer, and other cancers… What if they missed something? Women get dismissed all the time.. What if…” It’s exhausting.
But it wasn’t just health anxiety this go around.
I was just anxious.
Everything felt wrong and heavy and not okay. I’ve been struggling with a lack of community and“what am I doing with my life?” questions and it all came to a head. It all became too much and I had a full-blown anxiety attack.
Of course I tried to walk it off.
I felt it coming on and I went for a walk. I was trying to nip it in the bud, prevent it from happening instead of letting myself feel my feels. I was in a good spot! I was being so productive! I had no time for this!
Walking it off didn’t work.
I tried some of my breathing exercises. I couldn’t take a full breath. I tried meditating. I couldn’t stay focused. Nothing worked until I broke into tears and confided my feelings to a couple of close friends. I had another good cry a little bit later, took a ten minute power nap, and pulled it together to get back to work although my productivity was out the window.
It was a rough day.
I kept thinking “I need to get it together.” But I also kept asking myself “How?”
How am I going to pull it together for my one o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to lead when my eyes are red and swollen and my skin is splotchy?
How am I going to pretend like everything is okay?
How am I going to show up as the “Sarah” my classmates expect when it’s the last thing I want to do tonight?
How do I pretend like everything is okay to the outside world?
Then I got annoyed about that thought process. I don’t have to pretend. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to raise my hand and say “hey, I need to take a few hours off and take care of my mental health.” It’s okay to not give the most thorough notes in class or to be as upbeat and sunshine and rainbows as I usually am.
It’s okay to be vulnerable and let people see “hey, she’s having a rough mental health day and that’s okay.” That’s part of why I wrote this post – to not only remind others going through anxiety but myself as well that it’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to not be able to “walk it off.” It’s okay to overpay Instacart to bring bubble bath and epsom salt so you can soak away your troubles after class.
Living with anxiety and health anxiety (trust me, they’re different) can be exhausting. It is exhausting. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not “pull it together” and put on a brave face.
It’s okay to have a bad day.
I needed to remind myself of that.
I hope this serves a reminder for you too.
It’s okay to not be okay.
And, as one of my friends reminded me during my meltdown, you are not alone.