What is wrong with me?

anxiety

 

In my early 20’s I was carefree and considered to be a laidback person. Partying like any other 2o-something; succedding in my university studies and in a relationship with a wonderful man; it seemed everything was going great in my life. Then, I received bad news; my cousin, Mark, had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from a massive heart attack. Considering he was only in his late 20’s himself this was a shock to the family; I took it pretty hard as I admired my cousin and bonded with him well. It also made me come to the stark realisation that I myself was not invincible. Mark had sufferd from Marfan’s Syndrome, a heredtiry heart condition which results in the arorta becoming enlarged to the point where it literally explodes. I still to this day do not know why he was not diagnosed and treated (open heart surgery/valve replacement) with the condition, considering his mother (my aunty) had passed away from the exact same fate; and it made his loss seemed unnecessary.

For the following week I ate and drank little, spending the best part of my days sleeping. Little did I know that this was just the first symptoms of my mental illness. My grief did not seem to lift, and along with general feelings of depression I felt an ever constant feeling of dread which I had never experienced before. It seemed I had gone from the laidback, happy-go-lucky person I used to be to one who was full of fear of what the future may bring; which in my mind, could ultimately only be death.

I felt tense every minute of the day, my shoulders and chest ached, and my heart raced most of the time. My chest burnt from severe acid reflux and I would break out in welts/hives along my arms. At night I would lie awake convinced I would not wake to see the morning, unable to sleep as negative thoughts filled my head and my muscles remained stiff and sore. I had progressed to not only being scared of dying from a heart attack, but also fatal illness, particularly meningococcal/meningitis; as cases of people dying from the virus flooded the news on a regular basis. Eventually, my negative thoughts coupled with the constant chest pain and palpitations resulted in me being of the belief that I too was going to die from a massive cardiac arrest, or had the early symptoms of meningococcal; (somatoform disorder) and send me into full blown panic attacks. My heart rate would increase even more and I would hyperventatate, overcompensating as I thought I was not breathing. Throughout these attacks all I could do was proclaim “Im having a heart attack, Oh my god! Call an ambulance”, to which my partner would respond; if you were having a heart attack you would be dead by now” and “No your not your just being silly”. While these responses from my loved one were accurate, it only served to make me become defensive and even more agitated at his perceived insensitivity to my ‘plight’.

It took many visits to GP’s before I was correctly diagnosed. Doctor after doctor diagnosed me with asthma and wrote scripts for Ventolin and Serotide, none of which obviously helped ease my breathing difficulties. Eventually however one GP finally diagnosed me with anxiety after hearing my symptoms. I was given a print-out of breathing exercise to do when experiencing panic attacks, Valium for muscle tension and a referral to a psychologist. While I was relieved that another doctor hadn’t just fobbed me off as having a condition I knew I did not, and that I finally had a name for what was wrong with me; I was also extremely scared at the fact that I had a mental illness. Thoughts that I would always be like this and that I may be on medication for the rest of my life swam around my head. I felt ashamed at being ‘crazy’ and like an outcast as no-one else I knew suffered from anything like this.

After about a month of continually suffering panic attacks and becoming almost completely agoraphobic, (in order to avoid germs), it was finally time for my first session with the psychologist. While I did not know what to expect of the session I was excited at the prospect of being ‘cured’ and at the very least having someone to talk to that understood what I was going through.

My first session, while obviously not a magic cure, was fantastic. I was diagnosed as having general anxiety disorder (GAD); as well as phobia based anxiety, given my preoccupation with illness and dying. I learnt more about my condition, physiologically and psychologically, and was given ‘homework’ do complete in order to begin to manage my anxious thoughts and panic attacks. I was told my treatment was a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) approach and that ideally I will be able to manage my condition without the use of medication. My psychologist explained that I will never be rid of anxiety all together, that it was part of who I am and that I should accept it and learn how to manage it in order to live a full and happy life.

That was close to 11 years ago, and now I am extremely happy to say I have not had a panic attack in approximately 9 years. While it was a long road to ‘recovery’ I have come a long way and successfully manage my anxiety in all aspects and have come to enjoy that full and happy life which I was told I could have despite my disorder. I would never change having anxiety or what I went through, as I truly believe it has made me a much stronger person and part of who I am today.

 

Links:

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

www.mindspot.org.au/      1800 614 436

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

www.anxietyaustralia.com.au

mantherapy.org.au

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Fragments of my Thoughts – What is wrong with me? | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project
  2. deniseeeng
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 17:01:36

    Thanks for sharing this. I am not quite out of the woods yet, and I am also worried that it will last forever. I am also afraid of getting better because my depression has been going on for long enough to become my comfort zone. But hearing good results of cbt has encouraged me. I am going to start cbt soon and hope that it will help me like it has with you. I am very thankful that you have been well for all this time since. It encourages me that I too can get better and stay better!

    Reply

    • queendiamond82
      Mar 20, 2014 @ 23:16:38

      I’m so pleased my blog/experience has given you hope, cbt has fantastic results and will give you valuable strategies to help manage your depression. I wish you all the best and have much faith that you too will have a positive story to tell about your journey with mental illness. I’d be happy to hear how you go with your cbt 🙂

      Reply

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Blog for Mental Health 2014

QueenDiamond82

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