It's been a while now since I blogged about my anxiety issues and so I thought I would brave doing a bit of an update.
I find it difficult to blog about these issues, and I do worry that perhaps I'm over sharing, but I'm recording my journey for myself as much as anything....I really hope to be able to look back on these posts at the end of the year and see how far I've come.
It was one of my New Years Resolutions to seek help for my anxiety, and certainly the most important of all the resolutions I made, and so I'd like to be able to look back and see exactly what steps I have taken to try and deal with the problem....and hopefully see what has worked for me and what hasn't.
I'd like to say that I'm seeing some improvement since starting weekly counselling sessions 2 months ago, but I'm not.
Infact, my anxiety and panic attacks are at an all time high.
I don't think this is in any way related to the counselling...I think it's more that it's really got a grip of me, there have been thoughts in my mind that have never been there before and the anxiety has reached new levels....it is now much more difficult to shake.
It's so hard to explain it to other people....but this is as best as I can do....
It used to be that I would be "normal" and feel ok most of the time, but sometimes my thoughts and fears would creep in and send me into panic mode.
Now....my thoughts and fears are there sending me into panic mode most of the time, and sometimes normality and calmness creeps in.
Unfortunately the moments of feeling normal, calm and happy are VERY rare at the moment.
As I've explained before, my trigger is death.
I learned recently that this is actually a recognised phobia.....
"Thanatophobia, or fear of death, is a relatively complicated phobia. Many, if not most, people are afraid of dying. Some people fear being dead, while others are afraid of the actual act of dying. However, if the fear is so prevalent as to affect your daily life, then you might have a full-blown phobia." - About.com
Somehow, learning the name for my phobia actually helped a little....I suppose knowing that it is a recognised phobia made me feel a bit more normal.
I have honestly felt lately that I am going mad....I'm completely unable to stop my thought processes and it has honestly had me questioning my sanity.
Fearing that you might genuinely be losing your mind is a truly terrifying feeling.
It used to be that, occasionally, I would be going about my day-to-day activities and I would suddenly be struck by the realisation that one day I won't be here anymore.....and that thought seemed all too real and too much for my mind to comprehend, which sent me into a panic attack.
It was horrible of course....but thankfully it didn't happen often.
Now the same thing happens multiple times every single day.
Now the thought is never out of my mind.
I get up in the morning - and my first thought is "One day I'll be dead, this will all be gone, I will have no consciousness".
I get dressed....and I think about it.
I play with my son.....and I think about how I won't always be here with him, how one day he will die too.
I go for days out with him......I look around me at the trees and the ocean and I think of how bizzare it is that those trees will be on this earth for longer than me. That they will still stand long after I have ceased to exist.
I sit in the car as we travel home...I gaze out of the window and I see elderly people, and I wonder how they manage to get through each day without freaking out at how close they are to the end.
My fear used to be focused solely on the thought of the blackness of death.....the thought of returning to the eternity of nothingness that came before our births....just typing that sentence makes my heart beat faster.
But at least I never used to worry about WHEN it would happen to me....now I do.
Now I find myself doing mental calculations throughout the day, counting out how many years I'm likely to have left if I live to the average age.
Now I find myself constantly checking my breasts for lumps in the shower, convinced that I am going to find something.
These thoughts are so intrusive.....and they are interrupting my life so much.
The irony isn't wasted on me...I am fully aware that nothing I can ever do will take away the fact one day my greatest fear will become reality for me, and I am fully aware that I am wasting my life by worrying about death.
But I can't stop the thought process.
The hardest part of this phobia is that there absolutely no escape.
If you fear heights...you can usually avoid them.
If you fear snakes...you can usually avoid them.
Nothing I can ever do will enable me to avoid death. I know that's where I'm headed and it's just a case of when.
If you can't avoid your fear, you can face them....that's how you're supposed to conquer a fear....
How do you face a fear of death?! How do you confront it?
People have suggested exposing myself to documentaries, seeing dead bodies, etc.....but thats not my fear. It's not about the visuals and mechanics of death....its about what happens after. And there is not one person in the whole world who can definitively tell me without a shadow of a doubt what that is.
I am now missing out on so many things because of this fear....
I can't put Tyne to bed anymore, because laying there with him in my arms as he falls asleep makes me think about the fact that one day I won't be here to love him and know him and be with him....and that sends me into a panic attack. Numerous times I have woken him by having a panic attack as he sleeps in my arms, which is no good for either of us....so now I can't put him to bed.
I can't watch certain TV shows that I used to enjoy, because if anything about death is mentioned then I end up having a huge panic attack. It is crazy how frequently death is used as a topic on all sorts of TV shows.....
I can't read certain things....I have unfollowed so many Facebook pages, news accounts, deleted my Sky News app from my phone, and hidden endless things from my Facebook timeline that friends have posted....because they somehow relate to death and that triggers an enormous panic attack.
This fear is truly all consuming.
Today I went for a spa morning with Jon....I was very relaxed, I felt the most peaceful I had in weeks....then I simply went to the bathroom.
And in the second it took me to close the cubicle door, the thought was there again and a panic attack came.
I saw myself in the mirror of the bathroom afterwards, and my face was unrecognisable....twisted in fear, sheer horror in my eyes.
Jon said this is how I look all the time now....he says that for the past few weeks there is always terror behind my eyes, no matter what I'm doing...as though its always there bubbling under the surface, waiting to escape.
And it is.
I don't know how to deal with this. I don't know if it will ever get better.
I do know that having such a crippling fear of the one thing in life that nobody can escape and nobody can make better for me is horrendous.
I know I have to try to do anything I can to make it easier to live with.
I dread the thought of still being this way when Tyne is old enough to understand what's happening....I dread passing this awful fear on to him.
And so lately I have been trying so many things to try to help myself.....I'm not sure if any of them will work, but this is all I can do right now.
I thought I would share the things that I'm trying, just incase anybody out there is going through anything similar.
I am now 8 weeks into my counselling. I don't feel it's had any positive impact on my anxiety issues yet, but I do come out of the session feeling much brighter....it may only last for a day or so but with things feeling so bleak right now, a short while of slight relief is better than nothing.
Unfortunately my counsellor seems to take a lot of holidays, and so despite it being 8 weeks since I started the therapy I have actually only had 5 hour long sessions with her with some week long breaks in between....I definitely seem to struggle more with the anxiety on the weeks that I haven't had a session, which is irritating.
We tend to just talk, and she seems to be trying to get to the bottom of why my fear is so intense....which is interesting, but at this point I'm not too sure how helpful that will be in the long run.
I joined Yoga For Beginners last week. I have only had one class so far, but I did feel more relaxed and calm after it. And I managed to go for the whole hour without having any triggering thoughts...which is certainly the longest I've managed to avoid them in a while.
I'm hoping that the more I attend, I will pick up some knowledge and be able to practise yoga at home to hopefully clear my mind in the mornings.
This is an app I downloaded a few days ago. I have only used it twice so far but I found it very effective.
You choose a scene that you find calming, and the soothing voice then guides you through a relaxation technique....it's basically just simple sitting, breathing and being aware of your body but it draws me in and takes my mind away from the usual panic-triggering thoughts I have.
I am very aware of the fact that I have no real religious background or belief system in place. I have often thought that these sorts of fears are probably much easier to deal with if you have a strong faith and belief in what happens after death.....and the fact that I don't is probably part of the issue.
With this in mind, I have been exploring different religions lately in the hope of finding something that resonates with me.
I have attended spiritualist churches, and lately I have been attending the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Thats the Mormon church to most people!)....I realise that religion is an emotive subject for many, and people may find it ridiculous or laughable of me to be trying these things....but at this point I am willing to try anything I can to find some peace, and so far I am finding this to give me some hope and guidance.
I am very much of the "To each their own" attitude where religion is concerned, and whilst I understand and respect everybody's right to their own opinion on the matter....I absolutely insist that mine is respected in return.
Herbal Teas & Medications
I have been taking St Johns Wort for about the last month or so. At the moment, I don't think it is having much of an affect on me...I was hopeful that it would help after hearing a lot of good feedback so I am tempted to try a higher dosage, as the one I am taking is the lowest available. We'll see.
I have also been drinking a lot of herbal tea, particularly chamomile which is known for its calming effect....I have a cup of chamomile tea in the morning and before bed, and it may just be a placebo effect but I do feel it calms me.
So there you have it....these are the things I have tried so far, and I'm sure there'll be many more things I try in the future.
This is a constant battle, and I feel that my mind is forever buzzing with ways to try to help myself out of this horrible deep pit I've fallen in to.....
If any of you out there have experienced anything similar and have anything you would recommend that I try, please do.
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