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.