I live in western North Carolina and I would like to share my story. I'm 37 years old and have enjoyed relatively good health. I am a 12 year community college instructor. I have seasonal allergy problems but they're not at bad as they used to be. In 1996 I was diagnosed with PSVT and since then have taken half of a 20mg tablet of propranolol twice a day. I have a physical every year and the results have always been excellent.
Back at the end of May, I started having typical bad springtime sinus problems and eventually began noticing slight balance problems when walking and extreme sinus congestion. I let the problem to until mid June and by then, my doctor diagnosed a sinus infection. He said my eardrums were severely contracted and the negative pressure was causing my balance problems. One night at an outdoor function, I experienced extreme fatigue and what I perceived as stiffness in my legs and really panicked. After I got home, I did the worst possible thing I could have done -- I went to the WWW and attempted to diagnose myself. I managed to firmly convince myself that I had MS and that's where my troubles really began.
My sinus infection got worse before it began to get better. From June 28 until nearly the end of July, I was in bed most of the time, unsteady when on my feet, and harboring the fear of having MS. I had about 6 or 7 trips to my doctor and each time he assured me that the muscle issues were due to the sinus infection affecting me systemically. I remember one night being up till 4 am worrying, quite literally, about this and not being able to work the next day. I experienced general fatigue and weakness, particularly in my legs. The balance thing really threw me for a loop becuase I'd never experienced that before and I'd certainly never heard of "retracted eardrums". I subsequently found out they are a big problem for allergic types like me. I was also worried because I thought all infections were accompanied by fever and I'd not had any fever. My doctor told me that only about 10% of sinus infections present with fever.
My doctor initially presecribed a 10 day round of augmentin (2 875mg tabs per day) and this decimated my appetite and I began to lose weight. I went back to the doc and he stopped the antibiotic after 8 days. As luck would have it, the infection had not cleared and two days later he started me on a 10 day round of cefzil. After that, I took another 7 day round of cefzil. During this cefzil period I finally got able to eat again but I was still extremely weak and shaky on my feet. All the while, I harbored the fear of having MS and my doctor just "missed it". He ran two complete sets of blood tests and everything came back normal. His office neuro exams checked out too and he assured me that if he thought for a minute that there was anything neurological going on he'd tell me. I've had this doctor for ten years so I trusted him, but I managed to instill this great fear in myself.
Eventually my doctor, knowing about the Internet thing, told me he thought I'd scared myself into having anxiety episodes and suggested I address that. One day at work, I just bottomed out and burst into tears, still afraid I had MS and fearful over why it was taking me so long to get well. Now, all this time I was looking for a quick fix to wellness and I attempted walking (I'd previously been walking over a mile every evening) and got scared when I couldn't walk far without my legs feeling tired, knowing it was just from being so sick but ignoring that knowledge in favor of the anxiety. I also tried exercising, stressing muscles that were already weak from being sick. That caused me to worry about other neurological conditions too, and my anxiety doubled. I sought couseling on July 29.
Since then, I've become fearful of things like ALS because I've noticed muscle twitches. I've always been very hyper-aware of bodily sensations, especially vertigo sensations (that traces back to an experience in college in which I constantly thought I was going to pass out or have a stroke, neither of which ever happened of course) and now I seem fixated on my legs. At the beginning of August, I sought a second opinion from another medical doctor and he checked me out agreed that anxiety was my problem. A few days after that, I had my annual physical with my own doctor and once again, everything checked out. He said it may take me a while to completely get over that infection. Indeed, I have friends who tell of friends taking up to six months to completely recover from bad sinus infections.
I still have some residual fatigue, but I think I'm otherwise over the physical illness. But I think I've managed to dig myself into a rather deep anxiety pit and am trying to get out again to normalcy. Counseling is going very well for me but sometimes I am simply overcome with the fear of having a neurological disorder. Every creak, twinge, spasm, and hint of leg or arm tiredness strike fear in me. I'm exercising and/or doing relaxation and breathing exercises regularly now (1 hr every night). I've managed to cut the grass several times, and I'm walking more than I was before the initial sinus infection (my record is about 1.25 miles in about 30 mins) but sometimes I'm afraid to get up out of a chair for fear my legs will collapse under me. Of course they never do. At one time, I was afraid to go to the grocery store for the same reason. It's getting better (been several places this week). I'm a bit more at ease at work now too.
My counselor (and a friend of mine who is also a counselor) spacializes in anxiety disorders and tells me that I'm not alone, with millions of other Americans with this problem. I never in a million years thought I'd have to deal with anything like this. I would love to hear from others in my situation!
Thanks much for the encouragement! Last evening, I got out and mowed my entire yard, and that's a 0.35 acre lot! A few times I had to manhandle the mower and naturally that affected my arm muscles. I was also tired afterwards, but a normal kind of tired. This morning, I woke up achy, especially in my legs, and all keyed up and really started worrying. I saw my doctor this afternoon and he thinks it's an adrenaline excess issue too. He put me on Zoloft and told me to take my first one tomorrow morning. He wants me to try it for 3 weeks and see if I notice any improvement.
I too tend to find distraction important. I don't worry about what I don't notice. I suppose I really scared myself this summer. My doctor thinks that's part of what's going on.
BTW, I usually walk between 1 and 1.25 miles each night (except when the weather threatens) and find that very relaxing. In fact, more than once I've noticed that I simply didn't feel like stopping and had to walk extra just burn off the energy. Could that be the excess adrenaline talking?
I am so sorry that you are suffering with this. I wanted to post to you because it was a sinus infection that started my 'health anxiety' 10 years ago. Like you, I never dreamed that I would be dealing with this problem. I am continually working through desensitizing myself to NOT notice every twinge and pain and allowing any feelings of fear to float right by. You can overcome this and Internet boards (in addition to other therapies) can be beneficial.
I have convinced myself that I have MS (or some other dreaded neurological disease) also. I've worked myself up into a complete frenzy over this. Everytime I feel a twitch or a tingle, I get on the internet and start reading up on it. The more I read and obsess about it, the more pronounced my "symptom(s)" get. My doctor didn't even bother to do any tests on me and looked me in the eye and flatly stated "I do not think you have MS". I have been under a huge amount of stress this summer (hubby dx with melanoma) and had myself convinced that something horrible was wrong with me too and my kids would become orphans, etc. etc. (I was extrapolating to the nth degree). Turns out my hubby will be fine (caught it in time), but I'm still sometimes able to talk myself into believing I have MS (by the way, my current "symptom" is feeling like something is wrong with my legs, too. I can walk just fine, no weakness, just a "weird" feeling. If I get distracted enough, I don't think about it at all. The minute I think about it, they start feeling weird again).
I tell you....this anxiety stuff is crazy . I never in my life have gone through anything remotely like it. I started Zoloft and will be starting with a therapist soon. I hope to get this behind me, or at least learn some coping mechanisms.
Just wanted to let you know that you are NOT alone. Sometimes it really feels like you are.......