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Why do I feel this way? Understanding Anxiety.

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

It was a quiet evening; the breeze was cold as she walked home. There were so many things on her mind. In less than a month, there have been radical changes as the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. She was scared and didn’t know what lay ahead; she was planning to do her diploma. “What would the future hold?” she thought. She kept on hearing news of how devastating the pandemic was; how it took many lives in a blink of an eye. Where can she run to, should she seek refuge? Where would she go? This Pandemic seems to have swept through so many countries. Thinking of all these made her feel chills down her spine. She kept walking,

In an instant, as if she had been awoken from her thoughts, she suddenly felt someone walking behind her. It was getting dark, she panicked. She began to walk fast, stretching her long legs as far as they could carry her.

A tall man with a daunting physique approached swiftly. She doubled her steps as she approached a dilapidated bridge. In an attempt to get through the bridge quickly, she fell headfirst into a nearby ditch. She couldn’t move, the man got closer and closer; she wanted to lift herself from the ditch but her strength was gone. She was frightened, trembling, and wondering if that was her last moment. As the man got to the exact place she fell, he picked up a pocket knife with his right hand and brandished it at her. Terrified, she screamed with the little strength left in her. At that moment, she heard her mum asking “Are you OK...”, and then she woke up.

It was 4:30 am; Nana sat at the edge of her bed, covering herself with her blanket and desperately clinging to a Teddy Bear she received as a gift. She was panting and drenched in her sweat. She had a horrible dream. "What a relief, it’s just a dream”, she murmured. She whispered some prayers and eventually went back to sleep. At 8:00 am, Nana’s mum gently tapped her, urging her to wake up. Nana felt pain at the back of her neck; this pain seemed to move slightly towards her shoulders. It felt as if a knife was cutting right through her. She managed to get out of bed reluctantly.

Her mother had noticed some changes after her wedding to Kwaku was called off. She started closing all her windows before she slept. This was unusual; Nana had always preferred to keep her windows opened whenever she slept in the past. Nana seemed to be worried about work lately, spewing negativity about her past relationship with Kwaku, approaching deadlines, and life in general. She also seemed tired most of the time and found it difficult to concentrate on her work. She could hardly sleep.

Nana’s mum suggested that Nana book an appointment with the family doctor, Dr. Short. Nana finally decided to visit the doctor, when she noticed that the pain in her neck and shoulder was just not subsiding after taking a lot of pain killers.

Monday mornings are busy days at the Crestward Hospital. Nana got there before 7:00 am but the queue was long. She waited at the reception. After an hour, the nurse called out her name, took her blood pressure, temperature, weight, and height. She was then told to walk down the corridor, and go to room three to meet Dr. Short.

She knocked on the door and entered the Doctor’s office. “Hello Nana”, Dr. Short said, looking into her folder. “What brings you here” Nana nervously adjusted her bag on her lap and said “Dr. Short..., I've been experiencing some back pains for about two weeks now and it's not going away”. Dr. Short asked Nana to describe the pain she was experiencing. “Well...” Nana uttered, “it feels as if someone is poking me with a knife mm… it’s quite uncomfortable”. Dr. Short went on and asked, “Aside from this, do you experience any other symptoms?” Nana replied, “lately I’ve been getting tired quickly.

Also, I seem to lose interest in work and I find it difficult when I'm going to bed. Besides, I feel tense most of the time and I feel bloated as well. Err…err... I sometimes fear I might die”. Dr. Short maintained eye contact with Nana and asked, “Have you experienced any disappointment lately?” Nana replied. “Well... yes’’. “That’s OK,” said Dr. Short. He quickly scribbled something on a card then looked at Nana and said “I will give you some pills to take but kindly do these labs and bring them on your next visit”. When Nana got home, she quickly contacted laboratories that offered the test Dr. Short asked her to do and got it done.

On her next visit to the hospital, she quickly got ready; she had slept well the night before and felt a bit well. This time, she arrived at the hospital earlier than her last visit. Her vitals were checked and were asked to see the doctor. When she got to the consulting room, Dr. Short asked how she was doing. “I feel much better today” Nana replied. Dr. Short asked, “Were u able to do the labs, can I see them?” Nana said yes and took out the reports and handed it over to Dr. Short. He looked through the report and then looked at Nana warmly. He took out a sheet of paper and asked Nana to answer a few questions for him.

After a few minutes, he took back the sheet of paper. He glanced at it and said, “from your report and conversations that we’ve had, you seem to be experiencing some form of anxiety. It is good you came here early. From time to time, we all feel anxious about certain things; if these things get out of hand and one is not able to sleep well, keeps on worrying or begins to lose concentration on their work, then that becomes a problem. The American Psychological Association describes anxiety as an emotion that is manifested by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure”.

How does one get anxiety” Nana interrupted. Dr. Short adjusted his lenses and replied, “an individual experiences anxiety if he/she experiences emotional trauma, relationship or financial problems. Sometimes, withdrawal from some drugs could cause anxiety. Also, other factors like one’s genetic makeup could predispose one to experience anxiety. I would want you to take these medications that I will prescribe for you. I also want you to start engaging in activities you enjoy, like listening to music, exercise, or meditation. I will show you how to do deep breathing exercises when you come for review. Try as much as possible to eat balanced meals, get enough sleep, and maintain a positive attitude towards life. Learn to talk to your friends and family who are supportive. I will refer you to our counselor and I am sure you will be fine in no time”.

Thank you, Dr. Short,” Nana said as she stood up. “Take care Nana, you will be fine,” Dr. Short said. Nana left Dr. Short’s office, glad that she finally knew what was wrong with her.

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