Join Date: Nov 2012
Anxiety and Hypochondria
Hi, I was hoping I could get some advice here regarding an ongoing anxiety problem.
I have been suffering with anxiety and panic attacks for 14 years, basically most of my life. Between 2009 and 2010, my anxiety and panic attacks got worse and more frequent, and instead of seeking help, I became more and more in denial that I had a problem- instead becoming more withdrawn and spiralling into a more anxious state. Eventually, my problems, left untreated, led to depression and I felt like I had a little voice in my head constantly telling me that seeking help was weak, I was nothing, not goot enough etc. It made me feel like an empty shell.
In 2011, I got to the point where I was planning a move to another country (a requirement of what I was doing academically at the time) and I kept putting off getting help for my anxiety. I was also living with my parents who were very reluctant to accept mental health issues as a ''legitimate'' health issue, so the fact that I was becoming more panicked, withdrawn and depressed was either ignored, invalidated or met with 'you have too much time on your hands'. That made me more paranoid about telling others and eventually I cut myself off from most people (unless unavoidable) entirely.
One night, I went to bed and had a panic attack as my heart felt like it was going to explode and I was convinced that I was going to have a stroke or heart attack. During this time, my sister was diagnosed with high blood pressure and the matter was treated as being quite serious (she is 30, had been morbidly obese since her teens, suffered from Sciatica for a number of years, and drinks and smokes heavily- none of this applies to me). She put a lot of pressure on me to go and get my blood pressure checked out too but the mere thought of going to the doctor made me more panicked as I believed- GENUINELY- that I was about to 'stroke out' from the anxiety my body had been experiencing for months. It made me have more and more panic attacks to the extent I would avoid sleeping altogether- I would spent the nights walking around my home, trying to exhaust myself into falling asleep on the spot rather than having time to think incase I would die from the stress I was under during another panic attack. Needless to say, it made me exhausted, anxious, severely depressed and terrified.
Anyway, I eventually moved away and started going to counselling. However, my family came to visit me and were upset when I told them I needed my space and wouldn't be returning for Christmas. I should also mention here that my family are all quite heavy drinkers and can get aggressive when drunk- Christmas is the worst time for that. I understand that they are who they are and I do accept them as they are, but I just needed some time away from their behaviour. Unfortunately, my family were angry at me and they all cried over it which just made me feel more guilty. They also suggested that I was being self-indulgent over 'being a bit stressed' and that I was talking nonsense, but at the time, my anxiety was so bad that I felt like my heart would explode at any minute, I would have panic attacks in my sleep, I was exhausted and fragile and I was mostly housebound due to stress. I just wasn't able to cope with life, and became more isolated as my family then refused to talk to me. It was the worst Christmas of my life.
But then my family started to take my anxiety seriously. Staying away made them realise that it was a legitimate thing. I eventually manned up and told them that I needed to get better (I had being seeing a great counsellor who helped me see that I was trying to balance too many things at once and not allowing myself to fail, I was borderline bulimic, I was overly analytical and critical of myself and others etc- a recipe for anxiety and depression. I went to the doctor and was told my blood pressure and health were great and the feelings of heart attack and stroke were all in my head. This has helped me get back on track), I told my family if they wanted me in their life then they needed to accept me as I was and stop saying things like 'oh you have a touch of the 'crazies' today!' and 'it's not depression, it's over-entitlement' and things like that. After nearly a year, my family and I have rebuilt our relationship and things are a lot better. Even though they are not perfect, I realise that neither am I and I should have sought help and communicated my feelings more assertively and clearly. I am an adult and need to do for myself what I silently hoped others would do.
So after living away from home, I am now ready to return back and start living my life again. But, in true 'me' fashion, old worries have started to creep in. What if I start having panic attacks in my sleep again? What if I start feeling like I'll have a stroke or heart attack again? Are these feeling all in my head? Even though I've literally wrote mere paragraphs ago that a medical health professional said, 'These feelings are all in your head- you're in perfect health', I search for reasons why this may not be the case ('That was months ago- people can deteriorate massively in weeks, let alone months!' and 'You misheard the doctor, he didn't say 'You're fine, he said 'You have a few months to live!' the voice in my head cries).
Can someone offer me some reassurance regarding this? I'm not in the same place that I was, I have so much more clarity and I'm fine now, it's just that those feelings of self-doubt are so convincing. I've spoken with my mother who is now very sympathetic to my anxiety and says if things even become remotely similar to the past, she will do her very best to help me. That in itself should be enough to settle my mind. I suppose, for me personally, those panicked feelings are counteracted by the feeling of having options other than just being stuck in a situation I am panicked in- I feel like I can breathe.
I just don't want to go back to the living hell of depression, anxiety, panic attacks and exhaustion again. People are now willing to recognise that I suffer from this, I recognise it too. I suppose what I'm asking is, will I ever be able to relax again? Or maybe I'm not, because I think I got everything I needed from just writing this down and putting it out there.
I kept trying to end the last paragraph with 'I suppose what I'm asking is, will I (insert what I want to get out of this here)?' but I couldn't quite figure out what I wanted. What do I want people to tell me, what would make me feel better? Probably because I don't know how to fix how I'm feeling, or how to express what the feeling is. Perhaps shared empathy, perhaps someone telling me that it'll all be ok.
But I already know that it will all be ok. Somewhere along the line of the past few years, of being to hell and back, I think I realised that I knew it would all be ok.
In that sense, what I originally wanted when I started writing this was to hear that someone reading this would say 'I've been where you are and I can tell you that I survived it and you're going to be alright'. But the funny thing is that I'm the only person who can truly tell myself that, and I can genuinely say that I know in my heart that I will be because I HAVE been through it, I SURVIVED it and I AM alright. And everything will be fine. Until I wrote this all down, it was a mess of feelings and emotions, and now it feels like I have finally identified that I am living proof of what I joined this forum looking for- a person who manages to live with anxiety and has came out the other end of a bad situation a more positive and able person. And that should give me confidence. And it does.
So that's it I suppose.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and any comments, discussion or tips are greatly appreciated.
It's been so nice to feel like a weight has lifted from me getting this out and posting it, thanks for helping me do that by being part of this board.