Therapist: ‘I’d like you to imagine your worry is a tree’
Me: ‘Tree? I have a bloody forest in my head!
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 written by Stephen King because he knows all about fear.
I’ve known Fear for as long as I can remember. It’s always been with me. That 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 and 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.
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 about changing your thoughts. Or trying to. 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 said.
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. I know I’m not breathing properly which is why the palpitations are back.
I feel SO disheartened.
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