“No one likes the way constant worrying makes you feel, so why is it so difficult to stop? The answer lies in the beliefs—both negative and positive—you have about worrying.
On the negative side, you may believe that your constant worrying is going to spiral completely out of control, drive you crazy, or damage your health. On the positive side, you may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prepare for the worst, or come up with solutions. You may even believe that worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.
Negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, add to your anxiety and keep it going (much in the same way worrying about getting to sleep often keeps you awake). But positive beliefs about worrying can be even more damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. In order to stop worry and anxiety for good, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.”
Taken from Helpguide.org click this link to go to the page and find some useful, practical help on anxiety.
My own anxiety journey
Anxiety became a serious obstacle in my life after I became a mother to our twins. It kicked in when they were a few days old and I had become unwell, not seriously, but I had to take a heavy dose of antihistamine which left me exhausted and confused amongst other things. That was the first time I remember worrying about being there for my children, or more precisely – not being there.
My own mother died when I was 27. We were very close and she was the most wonderful mother I could ever wish for; warm, funny, inspiring, loving and really nurturing. I had the happiest childhood I could imagine, we were a really happy family. She developed bowel cancer and it had spread to her liver. She survived three years but sadly lost the fight in October 2001.
The worry about my own health came in short episodes and was prompted by my noticing ‘signs or symptoms’. I would fixate on them and spiral into a severe state of anxious thought, which I have now learned is called ‘catastrophizing’. I would lose my appetite and become unable to concentrate on anything other than the anxiety. I would make a Doctor’s appointment (feeling sick with worry just making the phone call, never mind getting there and having the actual appointment). At the Doctor’s I would receive the reassurance I desperately needed and then temporarily go back to day to day life (with worries about my health always in the back ground, popping up at times of stress).
A pattern of anxiety
I kept finding myself with the Doctor in the surgery, crying. Each time, so much worry had built up in me, that by the time I spoke my concerns out loud with the lovely, sympathetic Dr, I broke down, convinced of my impending doom and terminal diagnosis. To anyone who has not suffered with this condition it may seem silly, pathetic, or ridiculous but most of the damage had already been done to my psyche over years of subconscious thoughts and messages totally beyond my control.
Getting a diagnosis
The Dr helped my to realise that I needed help and that I was wasting the life I had by worrying about it being taken away. She referred me to the psychology service at the local hospital. I met with a lovely women, with whom I cried (again) and she said to me ‘you have health anxiety, and we can help you’. As I drove home from the appointment that day, it all made sense, and a huge weight was lifted from me. I thought to myself “Of course I have health anxiety, I would have been lucky not too have developed it under the circumstances”. (My own mother’s mother had also died from bowel cancer before I was born and my mother’s sister had died of breast cancer in her early thirties, leaving two tiny children. Subconsciously I had registered that mothers in my family do not live to see their children grow up.)
I began a weekly series of cognitive behavioural therapy sessions. It was as emotionally draining as it was helpful. I used to dread going but when I walked out of each appointment I felt lighter, calmer, happier, with more rational perspective.
I learned lots of techniques (which are listed in the above article link) which REALLY helped me. I was also recommended to get the following book:
This book is very helpful. It’s simple, clear and easy to follow.
My life now
My twins are 8 years old now, I’ve learned so much about myself, about, health anxiety and anxiety in general. It is always there waiting in the wings but mostly I am not plagued by it day to day any more. It is usually in times of vulnerability and stress or when I’m tired but I’ve learned to recognise my triggers and then to access the help that I need which doesn’t involve seeking reassurance quite so much.
Dr’s appointments now
Whenever I go to the Dr’s now, I still struggle just being there, my heart races and I try to talk myself into leaving. But I focus on my breath and try to employ the thinkings skills I learned during my therapy. It helps. My Dr’s have all been brilliant, I always start the consult by letting them know that I have health anxiety and it enables them to talk to me with care, knowing that I can read into their words and assume the worst. They always take this on board and it really helps, I’m so grateful to them.
We all have our challenges. Please get in touch if you have any questions or I can help in any way. I am planning to follow this post up with a monthly update about my journey with anxiety, which I will post at the end of each month.