Guess Who’s Back

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Therapist: ‘I’d like you to imagine your worry is a tree’

Me: ‘Tree? I have a bloody forest in my head, love!

My therapist laughs and so do I but my laugh is manic whereas hers is not.

It’s what it feels like in my head. On my worst days it’s gnarled trees and demons. If my mind was a novel, it would be a Stephen King one.

Fear.

I’ve known Fear for as long as I can remember. It’s always been with me. The bastard was there when I was born, watching and waiting for the moment when it could scare the crap out of me.

I don’t know what it’s like to live without anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks since I was a little girl. One minute I’d be fine, the next my stomach would lurch and I’d feel sick. Sometimes I would be sick. It would often happen after I’d seen something unpleasant on TV. My chest would feel tight and the room would spin. I remember feeling this way whenever Panorama came on. To this day, I can’t watch it.

Two years ago I had my first nocturnal panic attack.

I woke up in the early hours utterly convinced I was having a heart attack. It became the norm to wake up with my heart pounding. Things reached a crisis point in February when my heart started beating erratically at about 5am one morning. It wouldn’t slow down despite triple-bagging my Chamomile tea and deep breathing. I ended up in Accident and Emergency and once again I was convinced that Death was coming for me…

He wasn’t. Obviously. Or I wouldn’t be typing this.

It was a severe panic attack. I was given a beta blocker and sent on my way.

That day my anxiety went orbital. I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. The drugs made me so ill that I lost half a stone in two weeks. I chose to come off the medication and CBT became my only hope.

CBT has been helpful because it’s all about changing your thoughts. Medication is great (when it works) but it only deals with the symptoms, not the cause. CBT has given me some useful distraction techniques aside the old worry tree.

Two weeks ago I noticed the good days were starting to outnumber the bad and I was controlling the panic more. I wasn’t waking up with my heart going nuts every day and dared to think that I’d got this thing beaten.

‘I think I’ve turned a corner!’ I proudly told the therapist after giving her my scores for how anxiety is affecting my life.

‘You’re doing really well’, she soothed down the phone.

I told her that I’d taken up ironing again after a 10 year hiatus. I hate ironing with a passion but figured it might help me if I imagined the creases were my fears which were disappearing with each glide of the iron. The therapist was impressed and I think she wrote it down because she went quiet. Either that or she was updating her Twitter..

Got a right one here #loon #needacareerchange

This week the symptoms have been creeping back in. I’m back to the 4am waking up with my heart pounding. This morning it was 4am then again at 5.30 and I know I’m not breathing properly which is why the palpitations are back.

I feel SO disheartened.

However.

I know setbacks happen with anxiety. I know it’s a long way back from where I’ve been. As soul-destroying as it is to relapse, it’s a normal part of the recovery process.

Some days I wish they give me a lobotomy.

I feel too much.

I think too much.

There is just too much mind-traffic.

The Boy and I came up with an analogy which helps him describe what’s going on in his head as being autistic he struggles to describe how he feels. We say his head is like a motorway and on a good day it’s running smoothly and traffic is flowing. On a bad day it’s congested and people are peeping their horns in frustration. My personal version (for grown ups) includes lots of wanker signs, road rage and multiple collisions. Of course, there are fatalities because my thoughts are catastrophic ones.

It drains you. The happiness goes out of your life as if you have a Dementor circling around your head only you have no wand. But wait, I DO have a wand. It’s in my head. An imaginary one along with the imaginary thoughts that torment my mind. So I whip out my wand and send those thoughts spinning into oblivion.

EXPECTO PATRONUM, MOTHERF*CKERS!

Obviously, Harry Potter didn’t call them motherf*ckers but I bet you anything he was thinking it…

I hold onto the thought that I’ve been here before and things have got better.

I hold onto that thought tightly when Fear threatens to overwhelm me.

I know that worrying about symptoms and constantly body scanning triggers panic attacks so I try to acknowledge the sensations but refuse to take it to the next level because that’s where the shit happens. That’s what Fear wants me to do because then it can control me and I’ve had enough of it controlling me.

I will no longer run from it.

I will look it in the eyes, smile and say.

‘Hello, Fear, you bastard.’

‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”~ Frank Herbert – Dune

Image Via Creative Commons

Papa Tont

 

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14 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Back

  1. Oh Tracy, like any illness unless you suffer the same, you cannot understand but what you can do is empathis and this blog of your horrific anxiety shows how it is all encompassing, 24 hours a day, giving you no let up, never knowing when its going to grip you round your neck and strangle you. All credit to you with your CBT, that’s a draining emotional task in itself but let’s hope the ups and downs peter out and you get the benefits that you deserve, not only for you but for your family, it must be awful for OH to witness it during the middle of the night.
    Thanks for an insightful blog but sorry it’s at your expense. 😘💞💞💞xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks lovely, don’t know about it being awful for OH. He slept through the first one and I had to wake him up with the one in Feb lol. I think he would sleep through a hurricane! xxxxxx

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  2. I’m glad anxiety seems to be getting more attention, and posts like this really help.

    I’ve suffered from panic attacks on and off for years, although to a far lesser degree than what you’re dealing with.

    I’m the loon sat on the floor of a supermarket, sweating, pretending to look at the lowest items on a shelf when I’m actually planning my escape.

    I love the motorway analogy, I’m keeping that one! I’ve always likened it to a game of musical chairs you never asked to play, and fear is the b*stard who’s taking away the chairs, although I’m pretty sure a therapist would take me back to a party in 1978 to explain that one.

    And I’ll see your ironing and raise you the cleaning of the fridge. Honestly, you can judge my mental state by my fridge alone. On a bad week I laugh in the face of use-by dates.

    We should start an anxiety cooperative! I’ll bring my ironing round and while I’m there give your fridge a clean. There must be loads of us, each with our own ways of dealing with it. Between us we’ll have the best kept houses in the UK!

    I know it’s of little comfort but sometimes setbacks can just be a reminder of how far we’ve come, although if someone told me that mid panic attack I’d happily use my last breath to swing for them with whatever I could reach 🙂

    Hope things settle down again soon x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry to hear you get panic attacks too Mark but your comment did make me smile. You’re right about the setbacks reminding us how far we’ve come and you’re also right…if anybody said that to me mid-panic, I would deck em one ha ha. Anxiety cooperative sounds good lol. x

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  3. I remember seeing the fear in my wife’s eyes as she was utterly convinced she was going to die during a panic attack. It was a genuine fear of death; an absolute belief that it was possible for her to die from what she was suffering from. It’s there where the well intentioned fall down. The act of dying from a panic attack seems so implausible to them, that they forget that the comprehension in the mind of the sufferer is very, very real. “Don’t be silly, of course you’re not going to die. That’s ridiculous!” I remember saying when I saw my wife’s first attack. All it took was that look, then I knew exactly how she was feeling. It was haunting.

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  4. Like I’ve said to you before I’ve had one really bad anxiety attack when I really thought I was a goner, so I totally feel for you as I never want to have another. In some ways I’m glad that these Mental illnesses are getting more airtime as it means we all talk about it more with less stigma. It is changing and posts like this can only help. Well done for doing the CBT.

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    • I’ve had that many panic attacks now that I know I’m not going to die but it’s still exhausting and disheartening when you’ve been working hard to get better. I like how more people are talking about mental illness. It needs to be out there. X

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  5. I can identify with this. I love your description and must remember when my husband is bombarding me with questions and does not understand that I cant cope. I personally cant live without my medication or I would struggle, But everyone is different and we all have the choice. I send you positivITY and know your not alone most days my head feels like a forest that I can’t see my way through. X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks lovely. I’ve been on medication before and that worked but it was many years ago and I can only imagine that my inability to tolerate them now is hormonally based since I’m post-meno. There are other things which I am sensitive too as well. I’m having to do it the hard way but I’m determined to get better. X

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  6. I love the humour of your post and also relate to the in-the-moment horror of the panic attack: I rocked up to A&E once clutching my chest thinking I would actually die. I have spent many hours breathing into brown paper bags or deliberately trying to lower my oxygen levels by sticking my head under the duvet. Zoomed out it’s hilarious; zoomed in it’s a fucking nightmare.

    It’s great that you are getting support for it from a therapist. Sounds way healthier than my solution (quit everything and retreat totally from life like a hermit until recovered). I don’t get them in the same way now – you can recover (or maybe just get some fresh new anxiety symptoms as a replacement…?) Either way I wish you well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m still very much in the grip of panic disorder and I know I am staying in a lot more than I was. Normally going out is a struggle but when the anxiety is as bad as this, I go semi-hermit. I think I have had every symptom there is going but I do find that doing breathing exercises helps more than anything else.

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