Varicose and anxiety

Merry Easter! Happy Passover! Here’s a photo of the veins that were removed earlier today from my left leg …

That’s right. I am a man who suffers from varicose veins. So today, after years of bulging blue lines along my shin and months of heaviness, I took action. I arrived at the doctor’s office at 9:30 am, hopped up atop a table and watched (well, read a newspaper) as a doctor and his staff punctured my leg 28 times and tugged out several veins.


Technically speaking, the experience is gross. I mean, quite literally, they ripped out something from under my skin. Even though my legs were numb, I could feel the tugging, sorta like a rope trying to pull up a heavy chunk of metal. Making matters worse, the doctor was explaining everything to a new employee. So I’d hear, “Now what we’re gonna do is …” when all I wanted to do was read the Times.

And yet … I was never completely grossed out. I’m a runner, and heavy legs suck. I feel (potentially) liberated. Maybe even faster. Who knows?

Along those lines, I’ve recently started seeing a therapist about my health anxiety. This is something I’ve struggled with for years and years and years, and I’m tired of it. If I’m not convinced I have ALS, I’m convinced I have MS. Or cancer. Or Parkinsons. Back in the day, I used to think it was wise to ponder death. It’d make one appreciate life, seize the day, etc … etc. But, as is the case here, that can go too far. Quite literally, I can convince myself that I am dying, and the overwhelming dread and fear ruins me. In fact, I believe it ruins me more than were I to receive news that I were actually dying. There’s something about the looming unknown that fucks with the health anxiety nut. It feeds us. Consumes us.

What I’m trying to do now is fight fact. I made a doctor’s appointment for this coming Monday—and I’ve cancelled it. My new philosophy is: Wait three months. If my arms are hevay, or my legs feel numb, or even headaches. Wait it out, wait it out, wait it out. Because my track record of anxiety-driven pain and discomfort is a long one.

I’m also zeroing in on something the therapist has discussed at length—attacking my fears. Instead of doing my all to convince myself that I don’t have ALS (Googling, asking everyone’s opinion, convincing myself it is, in fact, not the disease), he wants me to repeatedly put myself in the most uncomfortable position. Think about having ALS. The doctor telling me. Me telling my kids. Wheel chair, breathing tube, limp, etc. That way, he says, the thoughts become boring. Dull. Run of the mill. You think about it so much—and in such detail—that it gets ho-hum-ish. Admittedly, this is uncomfortable. And awkward. But I like the sound of it.

Hence, I’m in the midst of not Googling my aches and pains. Which, for me, is really hard.

But I’m in.

So, if you suffer from health anxiety, just know you’re not alone.

5 thoughts on “Varicose and anxiety”

  1. Jeff- I am dying. I know it, been told so by 5 doctors or maybe 6, I can’t remember now. I know ten pounds of drugs that I put in my body each month can not be good for my liver, heart or kidney’s. I don’t worry about it. I worry about not getting everything I want to do for the world done while I can. I forgot if you have just your daughter or more children. I am sorry about my memory. You have a gift and part of you will live on for generations to come. My family dies with me. My brothers have a different father and my baby brother that was from my Mom and Dad, died of a heart defect when I was 7 years old. He was only home a week and we have a family video on Mathew and I holding hands, asleep on the sofa for one of the nights he was home. So remember that you are blessed, no matter your future health status. I know I will not endure any more surgeries or medical treatments if I don’t die from the medicines I am taking first. I have had enough of being a pin cushion for doctors. I watched my Dad’s face grimace as I was being punctured over and over after I had a tumor removed that was near my spine 14 years ago. They did an epidural and I leaked spinal fluid. It gives you the worst headache you would ever believe, your brain rests on that fluid and when it is gone, it rests on the bone of your skull. They put blood in the spinal canal, called a blood patch, to stop the leakage. To me it was no big deal. I had about 100 angiolypoma’s that are blood supplied fatty tumors on me which I had taken off every year, which just means they grow faster than regular tumors. I would watch the doctor take them out of my chest or leg or arm and it didn’t bother me unless they hit an area that wasn’t numb. The doctor would pour lydocaine into the wound. I used DMSO when I was a runner and the Doctor thought that was the cause. Anything that was on my skin went right into my bloodstream. The DMSO cured hip and knee pain and GNC sold it. Lots of runner’s used it from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Anyway I write too much. You are an awesome Sportswriter in the footsteps of Pat Jordan I am certain your books will be ranked in the top 10 of this century, just like Pat Jordan’s, “A False Spring” was the last century. You have done amazing things in your life to be very proud of and if you are ever sick, know what good that you have done in the past 20 years will
    last for at least this Century. Best wishes and a bear hug, Mike Sharp

  2. Hi, Jeff

    I could definitely relate to your health anxiety since I’ve been dealing with it for years myself. I would like to know how you are able to keep up with parenting and career responsibilities when the anxiety is triggered. For me, it’s a struggle since I almost shut down for days or weeks. Right now, I’m seeing a therapist who is treating me with cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s effective, but a lot of work. I tried the desensitizing by facing my disease fears, but it only increased my anxiety.

    Good luck with the therapy and I hope you report on your experiences.

  3. Hi jeff… are you okay now? I am also struggling with that condition. After seeing so many neurologist and done some test such as MRI, ct scan, series of blood test.. nothing has been found except venous insufficiency for both lower extremities which causing varicose veins.. so the doctor always concluding that i have anxiety.. its episodal anxiety attracks out of blue and i’m still battling up to this days..

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