It's now been a month since I started counselling for my ongoing anxiety issues and panic attacks.
I've had 1 introductory session and 3 proper, hour long sessions.
I'm surprised at how much I've started to understand about myself and where my anxiety and triggers come from in such a short space of time.
I can't go into too much detail because a lot of it relates to family experiences and situations, so it wouldn't be fair of me to discuss it in great detail.
But just to give a very basic overview - I'm learning a lot about how much of an effect the fear of a parent can have on a child, and how that fear can become magnified and distorted over time.
My main anxiety trigger has always been death.
When I was younger, it was the death of my parents - in my 20s it was my own death.
Now its a mix of the two.
And although I understand that most people will have a fear of death to a certain extent, I know that the extreme nature of my fear is not normal....and something I needed to address.
Until I started these counselling sessions, I had never really appreciated how much death had been a massive part of my life ever since I can remember.
I don't ever remember not knowing what death was.
You see - My Dad's father died when my Dad was only 15, and my Mum's brother died a very tragic death when he was very young and my mum was still a child.
So because they had both lost such important family members in such tragic circumstances, death was always there....I always knew about my dead Grandfather and my dead Uncle Ronnie.
And there was more to come....an aunt died when I was 3, my step grandfather died when I was 4, my Grandma died when I was 4 or 5, the 2 year old little boy who lived next door died suddenly when I was 7, the little boy with downs syndrome across the road died when I was 7, my Grandad died when I was 10, and my school friend Carrie was hit by a car and killed when I was 10.
Because none of these people were members of my immediate family, I always found it hard to understand why I had such a fear of death....I always told myself I'd been very lucky because I still had my parents and my sister.
But actually....I hadn't realised that despite those people not being part of my immediate family, they were still people close to me and that was a LOT of death to experience in my formative years.
And because they weren't my immediate family and because I was so young - It didn't really effect me personally but I did see first hand the absolute horror and devastation that death left all around it.
I saw the little boy next doors mother wailing in the street. I saw my aunty banging her fists on the wall and screaming in agony when she heard that my grandad had died. I saw my Dad cry telling me about the day he tried to revive his dead father. I read my friends name in the newspaper after she was killed so suddenly and saw the shock all around me in school from teachers and pupils who just couldn't comprehend that she was taken so cruelly.
Death was everywhere. It was very real. And it ruined the lives of the ones left behind.
Speaking to my counsellor and realising the number of deaths I experienced has helped me to understand where my fear has come from.
I had honestly never connected it before - I had never thought of my experiences with death as a child to be at all unusual.
Understanding how this fear came about has helped me to deal with it a little.
These past 3 sessions have involved us talking largely about the past - my childhood experiences, my family, and so on.
It's been easy enough to do.
But the last session was more difficult.
My counsellor asked me why I thought it was that I was able to discuss all of the experiences I have had with death without having a panic attack.
I explained that my attacks aren't triggered that way....that they're triggered by sudden realisations that one day I'll be dead, and that the realness of that thought is too much for my mind to comprehend so I end up having a huge attack.
She asked me.... "So what if I said to you now, ok Hayley....one day you won't be here anymore".
And that was it.
Sweating, heart beating too fast, shaking uncontrollably....tears started....
Luckily she saw it right away.
She said "I can see you're starting to panic, so we're going to try a breathing exercise...."
And she talked me through it.
And, luckily, it worked.
I didn't go into a full blown attack.
But she suggested that this is where we need to go....
This is the crux of the issue and if I want to stop the panic attacks, I need to address the trigger head on.
She assures me that its ok if I have panic attacks with her, shes seen it all before and she'll be able to handle it.
I'm not so sure that ANYBODY has ever gone to the level of crazy that I do when I have a full blown panic attack.
I'm concerned she'll call the men in white coats to cart me off.
But she insists that, while discussing the past can help to explain WHY I am the way I am, it isn't going to ease it.
And so....next session....we need to go "there".
To that horrible panic inducing place in my mind, that I usually try to avoid at all costs.
I'm really scared.
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