26.2.17

Living with Health Anxiety


Living with any form of Anxiety is not fun. It consumes your happiness, your thoughts, clouds your judgment and changes you as a person. I've often described it as "soul destroying".

I have suffered on and off with various forms of anxiety for 4 years now, and its something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I wont get in to too much on this post about the how's and why's my anxiety started, but more of what its like to live with it and the symptoms I get.


Health anxiety has always been at the forefront of my anxiety. I have always been a worrier, its just who I am, part of my personality. But in my adult years it has manifested itself in to something that at times has completely taken over my life. So much so that  I have had to give up work, distanced myself from friends and family and become recluse.

My health Anxiety started with the focus being on myself. I became terrified of the thought of falling ill and leaving behind my husband and daughter without a wife and mother. I would over analyse every pain I got, convince myself whatever I had was life threatening and spend hours on google self diagnosing, which of course is the worst thing you can do. It got so bad that I wouldn't enter shops or go out other than to sit in the car. My light bulb moment when I realised I needed help was when my 2 year old asked me why I always sat in the car and never went in the shops with her and daddy. Of course like any natural worrier and mother, I beat myself up and blamed myself and thought I was ruining my daughters childhood. But then something clicked. Those few words made me realise that my daughter was aware more than I realised of what was going on and I owed it to her as well as myself to get the help I clearly needed. My Husband always opened up to me and told me some home truths about how my anxiety was not just affecting me but the family a whole. I was pregnant at the time so reached out to my midwife and I was put in touch with a CBT therapist. This was actually my second time doing it but this time it was for a different issue. The therapy worked and I was back to myself, being the mum and wife I wanted to be.

Then came along my son and from the get go we have had illness after illness with him. From a stay in intensive care to a febrile seizure we have been through it with Charlie. Over the past 2 and half years these events have caused my Health anxiety to rear its ugly head and at the back end of last year it was beginning to take over my life again but in a different form. I once again reached out for help in the form of CBT and it has really helped. However this time around I'm finding my recovery harder. My health anxiety is now focused on my children. Particularly Charlie. That is no reflection on the love or bond I have with my children. I know its because all the scares have been with Charlie. To me Elise is my strong one, she is my little fighter, I know she can get over just about anything. Charlie I feel is my weaker one, he needs me to mother him more, look out for him, he's not as strong as his sister. In reality I know this isn't true, but when a doctor says to you had you not brought your 5 week old baby in to hospital sooner they probably would not have woken up the following day, that's enough I think to make any mother become anxious and fear the same could happen again.

Don't get me wrong I get worried and anxious when Elise is poorly but Charlie only has to sneeze, cough, say something hurts and I am sent in to a spin. I fear him going to nursery, soft plays, parks and being around other children for the fear of him getting unwell, and of course this is no way to be. I recently went shopping with my nan and Charlie casually said "mummy my ear hurt". If you follow my Instagram you will know Charlie suffers with his ears and get very poorly with it, even resulting in a mad dash in an ambulance a few weeks back, which I think is to blame for my current relapse I'm struggling with. My nan said Charlie uttering those few words to me was like a switch going off in my head. Instantly I changed. I became agitated, stressed, I felt hot and clammy, my stomach started doing flips, I couldn't focus or hold a conversation and we ended up leaving and going home. Now I know that isn't a normal way to respond. But to me, when I get a sense or know Charlie is coming down with something or I see a temperature on the thermometer, in my head I am already at the hospital in intensive care, praying my baby makes it through the night again, or I'm putting him in the recovery position whilst he convulses screaming down the phone at the paramedics to hurry. That's where my brain goes. it goes from zero to one hundred in a matter of seconds.

I know this isn't a healthy way to be and its getting easier and easier each time to talk myself out of these thoughts. But its the Physical side that can feel the worse. The churning stomach, the dizzy spells, the hot flushes and sometimes chills and trembling I get. To not feel in control of your own mind and body is frightening. I feel I am always on edge, waiting for the next illness or the next high temperature to spike. We are surrounded by "awareness" of illnesses and symptoms to watch out for which of course is fantastic, but for someone with health anxiety this is both a blessing and a curse. Every illness the children get I will always jump straight to the worst case scenario and I am that narcotic mother at the doctors surgery getting them checked, this has got better but at one point it was really bad. But its all for reassurance. Anxiety makes you feel like you cant trust your own mind or rely on your own instincts. You seek for constant reassurance to feel better but most of the time that reassurance you crave only lasts for a while until the next anxiety episode happens.

If you are reading this and you can relate on any level I urge you to go speak with you GP and seek help. Before you realise it can spiral out of control and take so much of your time. Why I am not where I want to be with my recovery I am learning day by day. Its baby steps to that recovery line but you will get there and I can feel myself getting closer and closer. I will always be a worrier but I want for my children to be able to have colds without me fearing its life threatening. Its not an easy road to take to that recovery line but with support and guidance its achievable.

I hope this post has helped even just one person not feel alone. I made a video and wrote a blog post for PANDAS mental health week which you can read here and watch below.


Thank you for reading and please know you are not alone and it will get better.

Natasha
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