In general I’d consider myself to be someone who handles stress well. From time to time I get amped up over something, but once I get a handle on the fact that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m pretty resourceful about making a plan to work through it in a more manageable way.

But anxiety is a whole other issue. Anxiety isn’t about just “calming down” or taking some deep breaths. Anxiety taps into the reptilian brain that pumps adrenaline into our blood stream because the body feels like it’s under attack. There’s no rationalizing your way out of it. Some people get anxious about public speaking or flying in an airplane or getting blood drawn. But as for me, I get anxious about one particularly weird thing: getting my blood pressure taken at the doctor’s office.

I’m not sure when it all started, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that surge of adrenaline kick in as soon as I enter the office of a medical professional. I’m guessing that somewhere in my past, I had something negative happen that triggered this, and it’s gotten reinforced with nearly every single visit I’ve had since then. The problem with having anxiety over this is that medical professionals rely so heavily on the blood pressure reading as an indicator of health. So, my anxiety becomes quantifiable and then unfortunately, a hurdle to my care. And then as you can imagine, the anxiety gets reinforced again and again and again.

I can’t even begin to tell you how nightmarish this is for me. I’m someone who has always valued my health highly. I’ve worked out regularly ever since I was a kid, keeping it up even during my first trimester when all I wanted to do was sleep. I’ve tracked my food intake for years, not only for calories but also for key nutrients to make sure it’s balanced. I even bought my own blood pressure cuff to reassure myself that the issue is purely anxiety-based. (I get perfect readings at home every single time.)

But no matter what kind of calming exercise I try to do, I can’t replicate my perfect blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office, which of course makes everyone nervous. Since blood pressure is so important during pregnancy, this has become an ongoing issue at the birthing center. They have definitely accommodated me, allowing me to take my own blood pressure at the end of the visit, and while that helps, I still can’t get a blood pressure reading in my own personal normal range. (My readings are low enough to be “normal” for the birthing center, but they aren’t ideal.) More than the number on the machine is the amount of fear and anxiety I feel when I feel like I’m being judged and critiqued for something that feels absolutely out of my control.

I came home in tears over this yesterday. The worst part is feeling like there’s nothing I can do to fix this issue. Like I said earlier, I’m generally a resourceful person. I’ve worked through many emotional issues in my life in the past, so it’s even harder for me to face something that on the one hand feels so silly on a cognitive level (really? A harmless test?) and yet feels so unconquerable. I’ve come to the conclusion that on my own, it probably is.

I’ve decided to take action and call a psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders and hypnotherapy. I truly believe that this is something I can conquer with the right kind of professional help. My hope is that the birthing center will work with me throughout this process. In the end I do believe I can rid myself of this strange, deep-seated pattern of thinking that causes me so much anxiety, and I’ll be better off for it.

Ok, so make me feel better. Do you have an issue that causes you anxiety? Have you been able to conquer it?

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