I never knew I would have such an existential meltdown because of my addiction to cigarettes, of all things. Maybe if I was addicted to heroin or meth, my lapses into panic about my life and my health would make more sense. But these panic attacks are nicotine-induced.
About a month ago, I started having some back pain that was annoying but wasn’t terrible. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching my favorite show and the main character found out she had lung cancer. One of her symptoms was back and shoulder pain. I immediately felt the blood drain from my face as I closed my laptop and proceeded to cry, alarming my fiancé.
The next day, I went to Urgent Care because I imagined that my chest was hurting along with my back, and it had to be something serious. My diagnosis? A panic attack and muscle spasms brought on by stress.
Since that day, I have vacillated between the knowledge that I’m okay (because 21 is too young to have lung cancer) and the feeling of certainty that I’m going to die. Feeling like I may die because of my smoking habits has had a very interesting effect on me. One moment, I figure I better get myself in shape and healthy, and I better kick this habit once and for all. On those days, I feel afraid to smoke a cigarette because I think it could be the one to actually kill me. Then, on other days, I figure that if I’m going to die anyway, I might as well enjoy living. I smoke a lot of cigarettes on the second kind of days.
I think I’m coming back to a balance again, but I still have this dread about smoking. I never dreaded it before – I knew that it could someday have a bad effect on me, but I never had the feeling that it was killing me now. Even though I know it probably isn’t going to kill me today, next week, or this year, I’m still very afraid.
My point is that we tend to wait to change things until they manifest in a real way in our lives. Problems aren’t problems until we can see and feel them. I hope my actions now can help make up for the addiction I fell into four years ago, but I fear they might not. It makes me realize that the small decisions we make day-to-day have a profound impact on our futures. I, for one, won’t make decisions lightly anymore. From the food I eat to the activities I engage in, I won’t let myself fall down the rabbit hole of dread and guilt again.
image via health.usnews.com