She was only 16, but she was convinced she was having a heart attack.
Although I assured her she was a healthy young woman and it was highly unlikely she had heart problems, she was terrified something was seriously wrong. From her repeated visits to online medical sites, a practice we had teased her about for years, she recognized all her symptoms: heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain and a sense of choking. She walked around with her hand on her chest, trying to rub away her increasing discomfort. Over the course of several weeks, the pediatrician and cardiologist confirmed her heart was indeed healthy and suggested perhaps we might consider other causes for her symptoms. I gently told her it was time to see a psychiatrist to talk about her anxiety.
While her symptoms did not reach crisis level until shortly before her junior year in high school, we always knew Brooke was a “worrier.” We had been through any number of incidences where her fears and worries interfered with her doing things she loved to do. She perseverated about her health, with every twinge of discomfort morphing into a potential brain tumor and a visit to the doctor. Every field trip or church camp required weeks of pep talks prior to leaving, although she would ultimately go and have a wonderful time. Each new school year presented additional worries about new teachers and friends. Brooke required an enormous amount of reassurance and verbal processing. And the reminder, over and over again, that she was a brave soldier.
No one outside of our inner circle ever suspected her struggles. While we knew how much she worried, she appeared to the world to be fearless. Continue reading