This week, a few members of our community really struggled with believing their anxiety diagnoses. Mags and I understood exactly how they were feeling—we’ve both been there, done that, and literally wrote the book on it. In fact, most of the hundreds of Anxiety Sisters we have interviewed spoke of some form of denial or disbelief when they were told they had anxiety.
Most of you know the story of my first anxiety attack, but, for those of you who have not yet had that pleasure, here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
Serious cardiac symptoms (rhinoceros sitting on my chest, gasping for air, numbness in my left arm etc.) followed by a brief floating incident (depersonalization) and a spinning room sent me to the local ER. After hours of tests, I was pronounced anxious but otherwise healthy. Certain I had been misdiagnosed and/or blown off as a hysterical female, I shelved the packet of pills I had been given. I also ignored the suggestion that I see a psychiatrist, and instead I had several more anxiety attacks that led me to several more visits to the ER. Finally, I did take the aforementioned pills, and they did indeed help. But like any good anxiety sister I went to the cardiologist (2 of them) and I still was not convinced that I had anxiety.
That, however, is the tricky thing about anxiety. There’s no blood test (yet) or x-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Even after twenty years of suffering from anxiety in its myriad forms, seven years of interviewing hundreds of fellow sufferers, countless hours of research, and thousands of dollars in psychiatry bills, I still ask Mags (nobody else will listen) “Are you sure this is anxiety?”
The hardest part of having this disorder, for me, is accepting it as the cause of my physical symptoms. And yet, that very lack of acceptance stands in the way of my healing. There is a “giving over” to the disease—maybe to all diseases—that needs to happen before it can be fought. Only after this acceptance, can I effectively utilize all the other techniques that help me manage my disorder.
Without absolute acceptance of my anxiety diagnosis, there will always be this insidious thought wandering the corridors of my brain that maybe, just maybe, I really do have something wrong with my heart. And we all know where that thought leads…
Anyone else struggle with acceptance?