Anxiety makes me doubt my body’s physical pain

This week, I think I’ve had an ovarian cyst rupturing. The emphasis is on “I think” because I genuinely don’t know if this is what’s happening to my body. I’ve been experiencing stabbing pain right where my left ovary is, having some abnormal bleeding, and feeling a bit light-headed at times. I have PCOS, so it wouldn’t be impossible that I have a cyst that is rupturing. But I don’t know because I couldn’t find a doctor to confirm this or run tests. The earliest my ob/gyn can see me is in a week, urgent care didn’t have an ultrasound, and I don’t feel it’s bad enough to go to the E.R., especially with how over-run they are with COVID.

I’ve had this pain on and off for over two years though, always extremely localized to where my left ovary must sit. But every time, by the time I see my doctor, the pain has resolved. They do an ultrasound, and find no dominant, rupturing cyst. They say we will wait and watch, and I should call if the pain returns. So, I do, a few months later. And the cycle repeats itself. This time, the pain was worse than it had been before though. And the frustration built enough for me to try urgent care.

Going to urgent care was hard for me though. I doubted if I should go for over an hour. I was crying, asking my friends to tell me what to do. It wasn’t until a friend validated that it would be worthwhile to go to urgent care, that I was able to give myself permission to go. This reaction is because I have an overwhelming fear that the pain and sensations are psychosomatic. What if it’s just my anxiety causing me to be hyper-aware of my body? What if I go to urgent care and they tell me it’s nothing? Even worse, what if they tell me it’s just my anxiety?

How many times has someone with anxiety on their chart presented to a doctor with a physical health problem, and been told it’s just anxiety? Probably too many to count. And sure, maybe sometimes it is anxiety, but even if it is “just” anxiety, that person is still a patient who deserves care and treatment and referrals for their anxiety. They shouldn’t be brushed off. And how many times is it not anxiety? How many times do we miss earlier diagnoses or any diagnosis because we assume it’s all in their head? We’re breeding a system where people with anxiety disorders can’t trust their own bodies, where we self-invalidate our own pain

For now, I plan to keep my doctor’s appointment next week, where we will do yet another ultrasound and probably still have no answers. But I also plan to be assertive about how bad the pain was a few nights ago. I plan to be assertive that this pain is real and valid, even if just to myself.

Morgan

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