I thought I was pregnant— it was actually anxiety

I know what you’re thinking — men can’t get pregnant.

How could I be pregnant? I’m male without a trace of female reproductive organs. But, as the hypochondriac that I am, I had searched my symptoms on WebMD (where all life’s answers live) and had come to the conclusion that I was with child. This was, of course, in spite of the fact that the main signs of pregnancy include breast changes and missing a period (both of which I did not experience).

Am I The Virgin Austin?

Junior year of college, I started getting pregnancy-like symptoms that I couldn't shake.

The most bothersome were the incredible bouts of morning sickness and an unshakable nauseousness throughout the day. Breakfast was nearly impossible to choke down, and lunch was a struggle. When dinner came along, my body was so starved for food I ate ravenously and then laid around for hours afterward praying not to throw up.

I also had an incredibly heightened sense of smell. At the time, I worked in an office above a Subway. Nearly every day I’d leave for the day, and the smell would turn me green. But I also noticed that colognes and perfumes, garbage smells and other strong scents that I didn’t notice would quickly overwhelm me. From talking to my pregnant friends, apparently this is also a sign — and its presence didn’t escape me.

Like all pregnant people, I also experienced fatigue, headaches and back pain. And not just the I’m-tired-on-a-Monday type of fatigue, rather the I-can’t-stay-awake-all-day type of fatigue.

After months of this, I finally went to the doctor. I explained my symptoms. I had some tests done.

After blood tests, barium tests and the threat of a colonoscopy, the doctors couldn’t find anything physically wrong. My primary doctor said he thought it might just be anxiety.

“Anxiety?” I said. “I’m a master multi-tasker, Dean’s list college student who works three jobs and I handle it like a champ. There’s no way that something as silly as anxiety could be causing so many problems.”

Image courtesy of Unsplash

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Apparently, all the symptoms I was presenting were all signs of anxiety.

Know The Signs

As the Anxiety Centre details, anxiety induced nausea is very common. “Since acute or chronic stress, fear, and anxiety can cause the body to function abnormally, they can cause a number of stomach and intestinal distresses including nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, “lump in the stomach,” constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and general stomach malaise, to name a few.”

And without eating properly, I wasn’t getting enough nutrients, explaining why I was so tired and had headaches.

But the heightened sense of smell…that wasn’t anxiety, was it?

Wrong again.

According to the Calm Clinic, “although uncommon, severe anxiety can make you more prone to smells, cause you to smell, and more.”

And thus, it was evident. I had severe anxiety that had started to deteriorate my quality of life, and it had happened without me even realizing it.

College Anxiety

In 2014, Penn State conducted a study of more than 100,000 college students on mental health issues and found that anxiety had surpassed depression a the top mental health problem. In fact, nearly 22 percent stated that anxiety affected their academic performance.

Anxiety is not “silly” as I had previously thought. It’s a real issue that affects 3.3 million adults in the U.S., and it can have devastating effects, leading to impaired cognitive and physiological function.

Back Into The Sun

With this new-found knowledge, I scoured the internet for anxiety relieving tips. I tried yoga, massage, meditation, new diets, more exercise and a variety of other tried-and-true methods.

And I came up with three principles that I live by, which have helped me not only relieve anxiety in the moment but also are great life practices to implement permanently.

  1. Just say no: Regardless of if you’re still in college or out in the ‘real world,’ there will always be an overabundance of events to attend or things to do. But prioritize your commitments. If you’re working late, maybe you don’t need to race across the city for that movie with friends. Or, if your summer schedule is packed, save a weekend or a couple of nights for yourself to refresh and recharge. When you’re being pulled in all directions, don’t forget to prioritize yourself, your schedule and your sanity.
  2. Make time for fun: On the converse of saying no, sometimes you also need to say yes! Between working long hours and taking night classes, make sure that you’re carving out time to unwind and relax. Excess work causes burnout and can also make you insufferable (my friends can attest to this). Put down the phone and head to the beach for a rousing game of volleyball. Or, pick up a new hobby (I picked up knitting — this is a story for a later time).
  3. Visit the Land of Nod: With too much to do and too little time, it’s easy to skimp on sleep to get everything done. But, sleep allows your synapses to rest and prepare for the next day (also known as synaptic homeostasis) and without it, it may hinder our ability to learn new things. I’ve found it’s better off to turn off the computer and get some sleep. I’m usually much more refreshed and productive after a good night’s rest.

Since my pregnancy episode, I have experienced bouts of anxiety, but since I know the symptoms, it helps me reevaluate my life, and I’m able to make tangible changes to my schedule to take a break. For me, the signs of anxiety are like when the low gas light comes on in your car: time to get out of the fast lane and refuel.

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