Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story! I’m glad you noticed you needed help and more importantly went and got it! I agree, anxiety is a monster but you can beat it and you WILL!
My battle with mental health issues is ongoing. At sixteen, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I had been very ill for a good few years before that. For those unaware, this is an autoimmune disease: an overactive immune system that attacks your stomach. Without going into too much detail it causes chronic pain, many other symptoms associated with the bowel, and more to boot. A malfunctioning bowel means you’re not absorbing the correct vitamins and low vitamin levels can cause fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Anxiety has always been my main issue. I have a very vivid imagination and I’m capable of having a vague thought and making it real within seconds.
In 2016 I was rushed to hospital for major abdominal surgery. I was given a right hemicolectomy and sent back out into the world with very little after care due to poor funding of the NHS and a Tory government that has stripped a major asset and sold it in pieces to its friends.
Anxiety is a beast on its own but health anxiety is another world. Especially when its based in reality. The fact is that I’m not a well person. I managed to convince myself that I was borderline heart attack 24/7. This caused me to live in a state of constant panic and palpitations for about 18 months. I realised how poorly I was on a lovely day trip in York when I saw blue flashing lights at the end of the road and my thought process went something like this:
1. Maybe someone has collapsed.
2. Someone could have had a heart attack, it happens all the time.
3. I could have a heart attack any minute now
4. I’m having a heart attack.
This may seem like a leap but at the time, when my condition had put such pressure on my body, it all seemed very real to me. I finally admitted I had a problem and my recovery started with a course of CBT and some meds. It took a while to find the correct meds, it is not a one size fits all situation and the most important thing I learned through my counselling is that just because I think it, it doesn’t mean it’s true (yes, I am that guy).
I started making a recovery and then predictably, along came COVID. For someone who is high risk, and suffers with health anxiety, a global pandemic is an absolute cluster fuck of ammunition with which to feed your paranoia. So I had a setback but that didn’t mean I was back to square one. In actual fact I was probably worse than before and it happened very quickly but this time I was equipped to deal with it and I saw it approaching.
As a person of poor physical and mental health I tend to be a workaholic as I don’t like admitting that anything is getting the better of me. I definitely did myself no favours in hindsight. Mental health issues are a life long ongoing battle and there will be peaks a troughs. Eventually there will be more peaks as you become better practiced at dealing with the troughs. We have to learn to be kind to ourselves, give ourselves a break, rest, read a book. It is not your fault if you are poorly. Life comes at you like a sledge hammer sometimes and all you have to do is step aside and sit down every so often, and everything gets much easier.