Health anxiety is in the spectrum of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and causes sufferers to obsessively worry that a minor illness or pain is something far more serious like cancer or a brain tumour. I wish I could just listen to the logical voice in my head that reassures me it’s not something awful, but it’s not as simple as that as these thoughts can be very intrusive. Health anxiety first became a real problem for me after recovering from Anorexia, as I was scared that I had damaged my body by starving myself to a dangerously low weight. It was also made worse when my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died only two and a half weeks later when I was twenty-five. The grief I went through was horrendous and I never thought I would feel normal again. Her death fueled my health anxiety by confirming my worst fear that you could be seemingly well but have some awful illness festering inside you.
Becoming a mum to my beautiful twin boys was the most incredible feeling and something I’d always wanted, however, suddenly having two little people whose welfare was my responsibility caused a whole new set of worries to materialise. They were born three weeks early and struggled to breastfeed, although with determination and patience they eventually got the hang of it. These weeks were quite hazy and I started to obsessively worry about whether they were too hot or cold, checking and rechecking their blankets were tucked in properly so they couldn’t go over their faces, undoing and redoing their nappies to make sure they weren’t too tight and watching them whilst they slept in case they stopped breathing.
One of the hardest things was taking them out in the car because I was terrified we would crash. I saw my health visitor and she did the postnatal depression questionnaire on me and I was borderline, but I explained to her that my anxiety was so crippling at times it was stopping me from leaving the house unless I could walk to where I was going. She couldn’t have been more understanding and I saw her every week for a month for support. I then had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to try and help break the negative thought patterns.
I have since divorced and am now happily remarried with a three and a half year old boy as well as my now nine and a half year old twin boys. Health anxiety is never far away but I have found ways to help try and manage it including talking to my husband, close friends, family and sometimes my counsellor, exercise really helps too. I also try to stay in the moment when I’m with my children and not let my intrusive thoughts interfere with this precious time.
Mental health still has a lot of stigma attached to it, and the only way we are going to break this is for more and more people to talk openly about their experiences so that others can get the help and support they need.
Anna is a full time mum of three very lively boys. In her spare time she loves exercising, reading & going for long walks in the woods or on the coast. She is also starting freelance blog writing. You can find her on Instagram here.