My Old Companion, Anxiety
I had anxiety. I am very glad and fortunate that anxiety is no longer a constant part of me. I have been nervous and worrisome since my childhood. However, I had poor insight into the fact of how problematic this was. I assumed that the things I felt were what everyone else was feeling. I would get “butterflies” in my stomach each morning, particularly worse with school or work. When driving, this feeling of “flip flops” in my gut would happen each time I would anticipate a terrible accident when other drivers would turn or cut in front of me.
As a physician, when I patient would propose a challenging problem or symptom, I would feel the anxiety building in my mind and in my stomach. Speaking in front of crowds would create intense panic. I was so busy and hard headed to recognize that I was experiencing was pathologic. Now, however, I am blissfully anxiety-free. It took the absence of this nagging specter of anxiety for me to realize it for what it was.
My Thyroid Gland
How can this be, that my anxiety is now thankfully gone? I have a condition called Graves Disease. This is an overactivity in the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland that controls metabolism and growth. I was diagnosed with this in the fall of 2016, after evaluation for worsening fatigue. I was placed on oral medication for about 8 months. About 3 months into treatment, my fatigue had considerable lessened. In addition, however, and totally surprisingly to me, the anxiety I had been feeling my entire life had disappeared.
What is anxiety?
The medical definition of anxiety, per Merriam-Webster, is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”.
Wow. I wish I had looked this definition up sooner, and connected the dots in myself. However, if you do not realize you are having a problem, why would you seek out a solution? I am dabbling in the concept of mindfulness and meditation in the last few weeks. If you start adopting this practice, you will become more in tune with your own symptoms. I hope that by practicing mindfulness and meditation, you will be able to recognize when something is out of balance, and seek appropriate help.
I am so grateful for my improvement with my own therapy. Looking back, I realize that coping with my anxiety all of those years taught me ways to be resilient. I learned to focus and cope through the intense physiologic response of stress. However, I would never go back to the way I felt all of those years. I feel so much more balanced, calm, and free.
If you also suspect that you have anxiety (or any other condition, for that matter) I encourage you to seek evaluation by a medical professional. The first step is recognition that something is wrong. This is often intuitive, feeling something out of sorts. The job of your provider is to then deduce from your symptoms what is plaguing you. If you are currently struggling with something causing you distress, I hope that you also reach peace soon, so you may achieve balance in your work and your home life.