I suffered severe anxiety alongside my PND – the two fed off of each other and I was trapped in an endless loop of negative feelings. When I first started having panic attacks I had no idea what was happening to me. My heart was racing, it felt as though it were going to explode from my chest, I would become hot and flushed, I felt sick and like I would need to run to the toilet, and I wouldn’t be able to hear or focus on anything around me. All I felt was a huge wave of panic hit me. I started to fear that I would pass out while I was with my child and this resulted in me not wanting to go out.
My anxiety worsened as I let it take over, I would avoid situations so I wouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable and suffer an attack. It wasn’t until I began challenging these situations that I started to gain control again. It was really difficult, but I was gentle with myself and my husband supported me, he never pushed me to go out or go somewhere I wasn’t comfortable with. Instead of fighting against a panic attack, I sat with the feelings. I would do calm breaths, and try to focus my mind. Sometimes I would count or sometimes I would say positive affirmations, ‘it’s just adrenaline passing through your body, this feeling will soon end’, ‘you got through the last one, you can get through this one’ it has taken a lot of practice, and patience – there are still times when I suffer an attack, but now I let the feeling pass and then I’m ok to continue. It gets a little easier each time.
My anxiety also showed itself with regard to health. I was obsessed with the health of my children and myself. It’s something I still struggle to control these days but I manage it much better now. I would constantly be checking them and looking out for symptoms, if I thought something wasn’t right I turned to Dr.Google – I can’t stress enough how unhelpful this is …. please DON’T do it! Now days I follow my instincts, this partly comes with experience but also we know our children well enough to know if something’s wrong. When my daughter had her first infection the thermometer was in her ear every five minutes and I couldn’t sleep or eat until she was better. I’d be getting my parents to check her, my husband, In fact anyone that I spoke to. Now days I can just tell if they’re sick, and the thermometer only comes out when I know they have a fever. I had to take away the tools that were making my anxiety worse. Dr Google has been fired. No longer do I google symptoms at 3am convincing myself of the worse case scenarios. I found it quite hard to resist the urge but the constant obsessing was making my anxiety worse.
Now I’m better at recognising my anxiety triggers, I avoid reading too many stories about illness or awful accidents as I know it’s a trigger and I will obsess. If it’s an event I’m worried about going to (I still have occasions that make me quite anxious and goals I want to achieve) instead of concentrating on the things that could go wrong I think about the positive things that will happen. I’ve also recently begun practicing Mindfulness, it’s really helped with my health anxiety and I’m more comfortable to sit with the worrying thought and quieten it, rather than try to force the thought away.
These little techniques I’m learning along the way are helping me to regain some control over my anxiety and the more I practice these, the more natural they are coming to me.
Speak to a health care professional if you are having severe anxiety or obsessive thoughts and have a chat about what is available to you, it’s worth trying different techniques. What has worked for me may not work for others and visa versa but once you have found the right one keep at it, it can drastically improve your mental health.
You can read more about my recovery in my previous post https://pndmumof3.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/recovery-it-is-possible/