I had to acknowledge that while usually my earlier worries may have been irrational, this time there was a real, present and quite pertinent dangerby Helen Whitehouse / June 16, 2020 / Leave a comment
At the start of the pandemic there was a meme going round on social media saying people with anxiety are best prepared because they’ve already spent many months worrying. Back in February, when cases in the UK had just started to rise, I laughed at this and shared it with my friends who have long put up with my endless anxiety. It seems strange now that all the worrying I’ve done over the years had actually become justified.
I’ve always had chronic health anxiety, but it was only in 2016 when it took over my life in a full-blown way. I was 19 and had just finished a year-long apprenticeship at the Daily Mirror when I started on a manic year of overworking to pay for a journalism qualification. I was working 10am-6pm in one newsroom, then hotfooting it across London to start at 7pm to do an evening shift in another, all in the hope of saving up the funds to do a course.
Once I had enough, I needed to support myself through the programme. As it ran full time from Monday to Friday, I worked every weekend and evenings on Fridays at another paper. I was selling freelance stories, trying to revise and maintain a 20-year-old’s social life. It felt like a student lifestyle on steroids and frankly, without the fun. I was tired, lonely and worried about my future.
By the end, I was exhausted. I started having panic attacks. They crept in slowly. First came anxious thoughts and palpitations, which progressed to lying awake all night listening to my heart beat in my ears. I’d cling onto a cup of tea that I wasn’t drinking, and was terrified that I was dying.
I’d fall into hours-long Google holes about rare illnesses, and obsessively check my arms, legs, eyes, mouth. I’d check my pulse, suddenly concerned my heart would just stop one day. It was debilitating.
Each time I found a new spot, bump, potential symptom I’d cry, exhausted that I had to be consumed into…