To put it simply, last semester was rough. Some people might blame school, a job or partying for the bags under their eyes, but I blamed something else entirely: anxiety.
I’m the sort of person who notices a twinge of pain, dwells on it for days and jumps to a far-flung conclusion, i.e. thinking it’s cancer or some obscure disease.
In other words, I’m a hypochondriac, but, thanks to my parents, I can usually manage.
My parents both worked in the medical field, so they approach each medical-related problem like a physician would.
They ask me questions like a doctor asks a patient to find a diagnosis, and they always concluded that I was a healthy 21-year-old man.
Most conversations go, “How many people actually get pancreatic cancer? Where and how does it hurt? That’s not your pancreas, that’s your liver. No, you don’t have liver cancer. Well, I guess you’ll just die in a couple months then.”
My parents have a sense of humor that somehow puts my mind at ease.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work.
As a hypochondriac, my biggest fear is a fast-growing brain tumor called a glioblastoma. These are terrifying because they are usually only detected when the symptoms become apparent around stage four, and it’s too late.
So when I began having pounding migraines last semester, I came to the only sensible conclusion: I had a glioblastoma, and I would die before Christmas.
Every day I dwelled on this made-up truth. My parents said I was fine, but I couldn’t shake the thought of suffering through and ultimately dying because my body turned on me.
Around mid-September, I had the first of many panic attacks. Not only did I think I would die of a glioblastoma, but I had anxiety-related chest pain that shot down my arms, resulting in more anxiety attacks.
To figure out what was wrong with me, I went to see a doctor.
He scheduled me for an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram, but both only found a healthy heart.
This might sound like good news, but I was devastated. I was still in pain, and there was no solution in sight.
After receiving the test results, the doctor knew I had anxiety, so he recommended that I take up yoga, meditation, daily running and journaling, among a myriad of other calming things. However, most of these only provided immediate relief, exhausted me too much to be anxious, or didn’t work at all.
I journaled irregularly; when I did, it felt good to express my thoughts and emotions on paper. By looking at my daily thoughts and worries, I began to understand my anxiety and hypochondria, but I still couldn’t get a grip on my mental health.
By October, I hit rock bottom. The constant bombardment of negative thoughts, anxiety and pain convinced me it was hopeless to seek more help, so I put on a mask to hide my feelings.
During this time, I only journaled on my worst days. These were the days when I couldn’t get out of bed, when I was too distracted to do work or when I stayed up until 4 a.m. thinking about my imagined brain tumor.
By censoring myself, my journal became the only form of self-expression I had left. I knew this had to change, but I also believed nothing could help me. After all, the doctor’s recommendations proved ineffective.
This all changed when I watched a show on Netflix called “Your Lie in April.” It follows Kosei Arima and Kaori Miyazono, who both express their anxieties and pain through music.
Arima suffers from anxiety rooted in his childhood and abusive mother, whereas Miyazono becomes depressed after learning she will die in a few months from an unnamed disease that eerily resembles brain cancer.
To deal with their anxieties, they also hide behind a mask.
The first time these characters openly express their feelings is during a duet. Miyazono starts out strong on the violin, but, like Arima on the piano, she too struggles to keep her composure.
During the duet, Arima is confronted by memories of his abusive mother, and he breaks down mid-performance as Miyazono falls to her knees crying. The thought of leaving her parents alone is too much for her.
Even though these breakdowns may be exaggerated, it perfectly portrays how emotional music can be.
This scene reminded me why I loved playing piano. I could express my feelings in a way that my voice or a pencil simply could not, so I sat down and played for the first time in six years.
I was absolute trash.
For two months, I had hidden my anxiety, so when I finally confronted it again, I broke down. The piano forced me to take off the mask and, eventually, overcome my anxiety.
I still struggle with anxiety and hypochondria nearly every day, and I sometimes put the mask back on. But like Arima and Miyazono, I found my therapy and came to terms with my mental health using music.
Bryce Buyakie is a fourth-year communication and history double major.