Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thanatophobia: Feel The Fear & Write About It Anyway....

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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  1. Oh God Hayley this sounds horrendous :'(

    I've never really feared my own death to be honest. I've always worried about losing the ones I love though. The kids mainly are the ones I worry for the most, and this fear has worsened in the last few weeks due to a recent event (you know about that but I can't write it down at the mo for anyone else reading, sorry). I find myself sat on the floor in one of the kids rooms every night just watching their chests rise and fall. And if one of them dares to breathe in for a second too long I jump up in a panic and touch them to make sure they're ok. I'm sure it's not healthy but I can't help it.

    I wish I had a suggestion to help you overcome this fear but I'm just rubbish at anything like that. You know where I am if you ever need to just talk or vent your frustrations though.

    Louise xxx

  2. As I was reading this, I was thinking how awful it is to have a phobia you can't escape (like you said--I'm afraid of heights, but I take care to avoid them, so it isn't usually an issue for me). Then I thought, I wonder if religion would help at all? I think that is what helps me when I imagine death/what comes next/not being here. I'm a member of the Mormon church, so I thought it was funny that you mentioned you'd been going there! I hope you enjoy it, haha. Religion defeinitely isn't for everyone, but it brings me a lot of peace and reassurance especially in tough times.

  3. It does sound horrific. I remember feelings like this after my second child was born, but it didn't last too long and it was always fleeting and never all-consuming. Your fear of death is preventing you having any life.
    I'm sure counselling will help, I'm certain you will be able to have joy and laughter again, but I can see that it'll take some time. You're very strong writing this post, I wish you strength as you continue to beat this x

  4. Oh my lovely, I can't even begin to imagine how you must feel, like you can't escape your fears. I wish I had some practical advice I could offer, but all I can offer to you is a friendly face, a person on the end of the computer if you ever need to chat and a shoulder to cry on if it gets too much x

  5. Gosh sweetie. I have never experienced anything like this and from reading your post you sound like you are trapped in hell. I have no advice to help you out or no tricks to keep your demons from pestering you. But what I do have is friendship and ever need me to just scream at, vent too or whatever you think you need...I am just an email/fb msg/tweet or phone call away! I do hope you can overcome this {even a little!} soon!! xxx

  6. Aww Hayley, parts of that made me tear up :( I'm so sorry its taking over your life ... I wish there was something that could be done too.

    As you know, I don't have panic attacks and I'm not sure what experiencing one would feel like. But as you also know, I have a huge fear of death but dying of old age doesn't bother me as much as suddenly dying which gets to me massively. I think about it constantly. I lie awake at night crying thinking about silly things like having a gas explosion in the kitchen or have a car run us down while walking down the street... things that are very unlikely to happen. But what if it does happen?? Then I have illness. The thought of getting cancer or Beau or Adam getting ill scares me.

    I have always had a fear over it but it became increasingly worse when Barney died. Because it was so sudden and we couldn't say goodbye.....I am determined that it will happen again. Someone I love and care about will be taken from me.

    I have to avoid it when I can. I feel awful saying this and I have had people say stuff to me about it, but I can't go to the cemetery to see Barney's grave. I haven't been once since he died. I can't.

    Anyway. I'm off to sort myself out before Adam comes in as I now look a mess!!

    You can speak to me any time you like, you know that. I understand what your going through. Whether it'd help, or just make things worse.. I don't know. xxxxx

  7. I think it is brilliant that you are trying all these new techniques and churches to see if they can help you hun, I agree religion isn't for everyone, me included, but I fully appreciate and respect those who find it and believe in it xx

  8. Hayley. Im so sorry to hear about this phobia.. my friend suffered with it a lot but is coping a lot better now.. she had a good counsellor..

    i too have a lot of thoughts and fears and suffer a bit of anxiety in that whrn im not well i fear the worst and im terrible for googling things and presuming.. that then makes the anxiety worse and i feel worse.. i worry a lot about losing close ones which i think stems from losing my brother 14 years ago..
    i dont know what to suggest to help, but i really hope slmethinf helps...xxx

  9. Aww Hayley it's so sad to hear you are suffering so badly with this phobia and how it is taking over your life in such a negative way. I suffer with anxiety too, relating to safety and and I have quite severe OCD, but I found CBT really helpful - it may be worth booking a session. Also hypnotism may help too if that's something you would want to try?
    Always about if you need to chat - just dm xx

  10. I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this. I suffer with anxiety so I empathise but I can't imagine feeling the way you do every single day. Must be so hard. Hoping the counselling helps and thinks improve.

  11. This sounds so awful for you! I wish I had something to suggest to you that would make everything better....All I can offer is a hug & my thoughts xx

  12. I feel a lot of folk fear death if their honest(always been aware of death & thus feel / felt anxious too if this may comfort you; you are not alone), Hayley!

    Enjoy ur son, enjoy ur family(you have a good one:) while you can:)


  13. And try to get hold of some genuinely-tasty Teapig's camomile(actually taste nice unlike the low quality others:), worth spending a little bit more on the best source(unfortunetly they have not paid me in anyway to say that)! X

  14. I'm really sorry to hear you're feeling like this. I suffer from panic attacks too caused by post traumatic stress disorder following an incident I was involved in on the tube and I find Yoga ( particularly the breathing) really helps, I also second CBT. Hugs xxxx

  15. I just couldn't not comment on this Hayley- it sounds awful and it must be so hard going about your day to day life when you feel like this. I have no advice as it sounds like you are trying to get help and figure out ways to reduce it if you can, but I just wanted to send you a hug. I get anxious and fear things like this, especially now I have my girls, but it is only just fleeting scary thoughts.x

  16. Hi Hayley,

    I don't know you, but I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks too, so I can sympathise with what you've written. It sounds like you're having a really horrible time at the moment. Counselling (CBT) has really helped me, but I've been seeing my therapist for a year now, so don't give up yet :)

    Yoga and meditation have been amazingly helpful as well, and exercise too. That rush of endorphins is the best! When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, my doctor prescribed me antidepressants (which I still take now). I know that not everyone likes the idea of medication, but for me, taking my meds takes away most of the anxiety I was experiencing on a daily basis. Being on medication has allowed me to try other things to reduce my anxiety and get well. Without them, I would be afraid and confined to my home. Maybe it's something to ask your doctor about?

    I also have a blog where I write about managing my anxiety and being a mum. If you want to check it out, you can find it at sunnymondays.net

    Sending you love and peace <3

    Rebecca x

  17. Aw Hayley, it must be so horrible for you! At least you are trying to do something about it! And you are able to talk open and honestly about it. I worry a lot about something happening to Adam or Ethan and it can leave me in tears until I clear it from my mind. x

  18. As soon as I started reading this I thought about my blog post I linked up for Sunday Best, I'm so sorry I feel awful.
    I can't even imagine what it must be like to experience what you go through, it must be so terrible for you. You are brave for being honest and open about it. I'm sorry I don't have any advice but send hugs x

  19. I too share this fear and it is incredibly real. I work very hard to break thought patterns esp when looking at my children but I get horrific visions and repetive patterns of thoughts. Sometimes it's just too much to think I will be gone. Nothing.
    Only one thing keeps me going and that is my faith. I am an Anglican I believe in god and heaven and this keeps sane because I believe in a spirit I believe in a safe place I believe in Him. It's all I have and I am thankful for my faith. I don't go to church I watch live church online it helps. I use rescue remedy in my drinks to help anxiety in general too.
    I hope you feel better soon. I hope you find peace of mind. Xxx


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