Anxiety (it’s such a lonely word)

Last night I was speaking with a longtime journalist pal who told me he was envious of what I have. “You’ve got a great career,” he told me. “You have a lot going on. I, on the other hand, have a lot of problems.”

Though I was certainly empathetic to my friend, who, indeed, has faced some truly tough times, his words also made me think about the differences between reality and perception. We always think other people have it better than we do; always think those who seem to glide along actually, literally (in a sense) glide. It’s almost always hogwash.

For me, personally, the demons I face come in the form of hypochondria/anxiety. I’ve never written about this before, but I’m not even remotely embarrassed, so, hey, what the hell?

For, oh, 10-15 years, I’ve grappled greatly with the concept of mortality; that life is extremely short, and—no matter how badly I want it to go on forever—it will end and I will spend eternity/infinity as complete and total nothingness. In and of itself, this is a pretty heavy-duty burden. Most people go about their days debating whether to drink a Pepsi or a Sprite, and I’m often weighted down by death’s looming reaper.

Somehow, that fear has manifested itself into anxiety, where now I not only think about the implications of dying, but convince myself of death’s imminence; that something is wrong with me and I’m destined to have some horrible disease and die. Within the past two years, I’ve convinced myself that I’ve had:


• An irregular heart

• MS

• A brain tumor

That’s what I’m going through now—fears of a brain tumor. I’ve been feeling head pangs (not quite headaches, but pangs) for the past few weeks, and I have to tell myself over and over and over again, “It’s not a tumor. You’re fine. It’s not a tumor. You’re fine. It’s not a tumor. You’re fine.” For people like myself, pressure often results in anxiety, and anxiety results in created physical ailments. It’s not that they’re not real—they are. But they’re caused by the mind.

This might sound silly or trivial, but—at its worst—it’s crippling. At some point I’m planning on talking to a therapist, because I really don’t want to live the rest of my life in fear. My grandfather was a hypochondriac, and he was a miserable man. Hypochondriacs like myself tend to want to share their feared ailments with everyone, so that people will say, “Oh, I’m sure you’re fine.” Who wants to listen to that?
I’m not quite sure what the point here is, except that nobody’s life is perfect; nobody floats along; nobody just rolls smoothly 100% of the time. I’m blessed with a great wife and two healthy kids; a wonderful career and a beautiful lifestyle.

But I’ve got my problems, just like you do.

(I just happen to be dumb enough to blog about it)

*** Aftermath: Woke up this morning with the same ol’ headache I’ve had pretty much every morning for 2 1/2 weeks. It freaks me out … start thinking of the ol’ Cobain line, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” (OK, Cobain didn’t actually come up with the line. But he sang it damn well). Am gonna make a doctor’s appointment, because the one cure I’ve found for health-related anxiety is a doctor saying either: A. You’re fine; or B. You’re sick (but at least you know about it—no mystery)