Monday, 30 April 2018

If you think Anxiety is fun, try the new improved META version!


What the heck is META anxiety? It’s anxiety about anxiety (also known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder). And up until a little while ago, I was suffering from a big fat dose of it. It’s not fun.

If any of you have experienced episodes in your life where you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks, you’ll know it’s one of the worst feelings you can experience, ever. I wrote about it here. As I say there, it’s hell. But usually when we suffer from episodes of anxiety, there’s an underlying cause that’s definable. E.g. grief, stress at work, post-natal depression etc.

Usually when I have experienced anxiety it’s linked to events or circumstances which I could identify. I had generalised anxiety when I knew I needed to change my job in 2001. I changed jobs and within 6 weeks my anxiety symptoms disappeared.

Previous Periods of Anxiety

In 2004 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as her mother, my beloved Nana, was in hospital with secondary cancer of the womb. 7 weeks later my Nana was dead. I developed anxiety whilst my mum was receiving chemo. After a traumatic year, my mum had recovered well from the cancer and I went travelling in the Far East for 2 months. My anxiety went.

Four months after my first child was born in 2009 I developed post-natal anxiety. This time I used therapy and an increase in anti-depressants to deal with it. I’d gone on anti-depressants in 2005 for depression (I wasn’t experiencing anxiety at the time). I knew that I couldn’t just “change” my situation! I had to deal with being a mum because it’s for keeps! So therapy and increasing my drugs helped me overcome the anxiety. It took a good while, a couple of months, but then having a baby is a pretty big adjustment!

I got a small bout of Meta anxiety about four months after having my second child in early 2014. I’d assumed that I would get post-natal anxiety with her because I did with my first, but of course the second time around everything is different. You know the sleepless nights will eventually get less frequent, you know the crying will stop, everything is a phase. So when I got anxious, I went to see my therapist and she told me I was anxious because I was expecting to be. There was no reason for it and within a week, my symptoms disappeared again.

Between now and then, I’ve THANKFULLY had hardly any brushes with anxiety. The odd panic episode (not even enough to call a full attack). But mostly I’ve been completely free of it.

What's Happening Now

Just before last Christmas I had a panic attack. It was a one off based on cumulative stress but I think it might have opened the floodgates. The fact that the panic feeling seemingly came out of nowhere (e.g. not one specific event to trigger it) made me feel a bit more vulnerable to it. If I could feel panicky about CHRISTMAS, which is historically my most exciting time of year, then I could feel panicky ABOUT ANYTHING AT ANYTIME.

So when I got ill at the beginning of March with a flu during heavy snowfall that kept us house bound for 4 days, I started to get anxious. And after my daughter had also come down with it and I’d been stuck inside for nearly two weeks, I felt the full force of it. I couldn’t eat or drink properly, I felt sick and shaky the whole time. Desperately exhausted from the adrenaline pumping around my system 24/7. I couldn’t concentrate on much. I couldn’t look forward to any plans because I couldn’t see that I’d ever feel normal again. It makes you so incredibly insular and in a way, selfish too. You can’t think about anything other than the anxiety.

I went back to my therapist and after my first session, I felt better. I could see why it might have come back, quite often people can feel quite down after a viral illness so I expected that it would just peter out, the way it has done in the past.

Except this time, it didn’t. It lingered. That nasty, pervasive, gnawing feeling that things aren’t quite right and you might at any moment start REALLY panicking and lose contro was there almost constantly. And I didn’t know why! It impacted every part of my life. I couldn’t fully enjoy anything because I couldn’t ever relax. Thinking about plans I’d made pre-meta (!) filled me with  dread because there was an evil voice in my head telling me I might have a panic attack. I MIGHT properly lose my mind and unravel in front of EVERYONE. Even though intellectually I knew it was unlikely. There’s a lot of evidence from my past to suggest that I have lived a happy, non-anxious life for MOST of my adult life (and almost all of my childhood/teens). But I might. I might start to feel that rising panic, crawling up my throat from my jelly-like stomach, making my legs weak, my heart beat faster, my head feel lighter and my throat drier.

At the next session I had with my therapist, she reminded me that what I was experiencing is Meta anxiety/GAD. I cried. I cried because it felt like I was going to feel like this forever. It felt like I was never going to get rid of it. It felt like if anything remotely bad happens in my life, I won’t be able to cope because I’ll be in a permanent state of anxiety. I cried because I am ashamed that I can’t cope and I don’t know why. I cried because I didn’t know how to stop it.

We talked some more and she reminded me of the fact that I haven’t always felt anxious so I won’t always feel that way. It WILL go. 

I was unconvinced.

But guess what? I am fine. I am over it. For now. I am back to not waking up with crippling stomach ache and feeling shaky. I wake up and don’t even THINK about it. I am NOT worried about feeling anxious in the future. If anything I feel emboldened by it, I've proved to myself that I can get through it!

So YEY! I am SO GLAD TO BE BACK!

The only positive thing to ever come out of a period of anxiety is how grateful you feel afterwards for everything good in your life. Right now I am absolutely thrilled with life! Woohoo! Let’s DO this!





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8 comments :

  1. I can totally relate to meta anxiety. I think I have it right now in anticipation of my labour. I’m so anxious about it turning out like my first that I refuse to accept it won’t. I’m so glad you’re back to yourself x

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  2. Oh Jess, that sounds horrific. I'm so glad you're feeling better now, and hope you don't go through it again xx

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  3. I had anxiety as a symptom of my PTSD but never knew what that really meant because depression took over during those times and I couldn't really tell the difference. I still get mild anxiety that is always triggered by something but I also know how to alleviate it. I have a pretty good routine now. I've never heard of META anxiety. The mild anxiety that I get can be stressful. I can't imagine how bad the META gets. #DreamTeamLinky

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    1. Thank you Michelle. It's pretty rubbish! I am glad you know how to manage yours. It's really important.

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  4. That sounds so stressful. I also suffer from anxiety, mostly as a mother and in situations when I feel I need to protect my children. I completely understand what you're talking about.
    Thanks for linking to the #dreamteam

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  5. Oh wow! I hadn't heard of META anxiety before. Thank you for sharing about your experiences with it. Glad that you are currently doing well. #DreamTeam

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  6. Thank you for sharing. I can relate. I can get so worked up about my anxiety that I have started focusing on the events that bring my anxiety about the anxiety and try see what I am able to control. Easier said than done I know. #dreamlinky

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  7. I hadn't heard of META anxiety before, you sound like you've had a really tough time. I suffer from anxiety and horrible panic attacks, they aren't so bad at the moment but I haven't done much about it, feel like I should though as they come at the weirdest times! Hope you continue to feel better xx Thanks for linking this to #thursdayteam

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