I don’t feel well. I’ve been fighting off a cold for two or three weeks, but now it’s descended upon me and I’m sick. As an anxious person, getting sick is always a little scary. If a new symptom arises, one that’s not normally associated with the cold I’m used to getting, I become worried that I have Cancer. I am always afraid I have Cancer. My back hurts a bit and I immediately worry that it’s terminal. This is because I’m afraid of death, and I’m afraid of death because I have extreme separation anxiety, and–get ready for this one–I’m afraid to be away from the people I love after I die (despite not believing in an afterlife). I’m also afraid I’ll be forgotten.

But, back to getting sick. I get sick a lot. I get sick when there is something big on the horizon I don’t want to get sick for. I get sick when I start dating someone I REALLY like. Essentially, I have mastered the art of willing myself ill. I don’t like having low energy. Or feeling too unwell to get out of bed and walk my dog. When I’m sick, I worry that I’ll never get well. That this is the sickness that will last forever. That I will be the one person in the world to catch the UNcommon cold, which never ceases.

“sickness spreading” by bornazombie is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Because I grew up with a heavy mist of dread taking up all the room inside my body, I am not a fan of feeling symptoms that suggest I am not well. Until I went on Anti-Depressants when I was 25, my anxiety was relentless, all-encompassing, and it scared me. When it grew thicker and more ominous, I often couldn’t move because I was afraid I’d knock something loose and the dread would grow worse and kill me. So much of my childhood was spent being held against my will by the symptoms inside my body, that now, when I get sick, it scares me in the same way my anxiety scared me growing up.

And, because whatever was plaguing me didn’t plague other kids, I naturally assumed I was the only person in the world to be suffering in this particular way. Now, when I get sick, I often need to announce my ailments and ask other sick people what their symptoms are, just to make sure ours match and that I don’t have a rare form of something that might kill me.

This is all to say that anxious people, when sick, are unhappy in a very specific way.

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