Anxiety: The Notorious Joy Thief

Confession time: I suffer from anxiety. Perhaps those of you who know me are not that surprised by this. Others of you who are familiar with the stat that over three million anxiety cases are diagnosed in the US each year are even less surprised by it. Here’s the truth: I was surprised by it.

I still am sometimes, even now that I have the scary “diagnosis” that can trip a small panic attack all on its own. Why me? Why can’t I handle this? Why can’t I lean into fear head on as a motivator like some of my siblings do?

For me, that thought trail is dangerous. It’s quite dumb, actually. I have found that naming this anxious struggle of mine has allowed me to address it. I now recognize the true thief that anxiety (and the thought trail that follows) can be.

Allow me to back up. Since I’m coming clean about this not-so-uncommon struggle of mine, I want to demonstrate some ways anxiety has robbed me of that joy thing I’m attempting to seek.

Exhibit A: The Health Debacle

For four years, my body has been sending me on a what’s-wrong scavenger hunt. Unexplained stomach pain, nausea, acne, head fog and dizziness, temperature sensitivities, endless neck pain, wondering if I’m about to pass out, other symptoms less aligned with blog etiquette… I’ve had all that and more. When the symptoms got bad enough for me to overcome doctor anxiety (a whole other story), I went through a string of more traditional medical tests. Multiple blood tests, CT scans, HIDA scans, MRIs, video nystography (look it up if you want an explanation for a thrilling way to spend an afternoon)–I went through them all. And all included the same sequence:

Photo by Katerina Radvanska on Unsplash

1. Hope that this test might give me some answers…
2. Fear that I would get the bad-news type of answer…
3. Fear that the test would be physically uncomfortable…
4. Revisit #2 on repeat whilst waiting for results…
5. Results come back normal…
6. Immediate relief that it was not X diagnosis…
7. Inevitable despair as it sunk in that, if it wasn’t X, I still had no answer…

When you have no answers from one area of medicine, you try another. Consequently, I’ve also “enjoyed” the more alternative/holistic treatment cycle with two different physicians now. Ready for the quick version of what that looks like? {Deep breath} Go through several other specimen-gathering tests where the doctors look at completely different results and then form a very strict diet plan you have to follow that makes you lose too much weight whilst taking a bazillion supplements you are told will work magic and help you feel better in a month…in two…in six…in eight… Never mind that most of it isn’t covered by insurance. Never mind that traditional medicine doctors think the holistic doctors are quacks, and the holistic doctors think the traditional medicine doctors are poisoning you with prescriptions.

In the midst of all this, plunk down anxiety-ridden Jen who doesn’t know she has anxiety issues. And that has been my life on and off for the past four years.

While I have found some relieve here and there for extended periods, I’m never 100% sure what it is that has helped. To top this all off, my fear of health problems has reached an epic high on the germaphobe scale.

I wash my hands until they crack. Listening to someone share their recent-vomiting saga without recoiling or holding my breath is almost impossible. Anticipating the excitement around future events transforms into swallowing worry that I might get sick and ruin the potential fun. I even start imagining symptoms that aren’t there sometimes.

Where does that leave me? Spending way too much on hand lotion, unable to show honest sympathy to those who need it, AND missing out on the joy of future fun because I’m lost in worry. Not to mention I feel like a head case.

I wish I could say I have found the metaphorical alarm system against this joy thief of mine, but it’s still a work in progress. Anxiety meds have helped tremendously, not to mention the relief they have provided from some of the aforementioned symptoms. But I believe this is a battle I will fight for the rest of my life.

While that notion alone has the potential to leave me down trodden, I will not give up. I will run after humor and silliness. I will write more blogs on seeking authentic joy. I will be aware of this monster so that, when he shows his fangs, I can reach for my wooden stakes instead of giving into the bite. I can share that, if any of you are familiar with this joy thief, it’s worth having at least a conversation with your doctor about it. And I can keep my eyes open for any other joy blockers out there, since I’m familiar with what they look like. My prayer is that you can do the same.

What gets in the way of your joy? Message me through the contact page if you’d like to share!

2 thoughts on “Anxiety: The Notorious Joy Thief

  1. Jen!! This post is so honest and amazing. It’s scary sometimes to put into words the things that we feel all the time and then to realize there is a reason our brains make us feel this way.

    The hardest part about anxiety for me is the idea that I’m just not trying hard enough to be happy or joyful… That it’s my fault that things that make other people happy don’t always work for me. So I hope you’re not being too hard on yourself like we often are. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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