Friday, 4 January 2019

Coping with Anxiety


Anxiety...

I admit I have spent FAR too much of my life with anxiety (mostly health anxiety) and had finally got it in some kind of control ...  just to be told I had a brain tumour and needed urgent brain surgery! Although brain tumours were (rather ironically) one of the things I’d never actually worried about...🙃

Anyway, after the operation and despite all my inbuilt negativity of what might go wrong...

I had survived! 



Not only had I survived, I did not need the blood transfusion that I had been told was ‘likely’, was relatively ‘with it’ after the surgery and didn't need intensive care, was able to walk the following day (definitely better than I could pre surgery) and then had been discharged from hospital just 48 hours after surgery ended! (Much to everyone's surprise) … I was on some kind of high!


I had realised that even being in my idea of a place of terror (a hospital!) I could either be ‘my normal self’ - and feel nothing but fear and panic, or I could trust I was in safe hands, that the universe had my back and be calm. 



I had fought several inner demons in those few days, walking myself into surgery (rather than being wheeled in a bed or chair as apparently everyone else does?!), knowing when I needed peace and to find it even when I was without support, walking up the corridor and stairs the day I got discharged. 

Dealing with the insane dizziness that meant I felt I was totally drunk and out of control, along with ignoring the feelings that I just wanted to sob in a heap until it had all gone away…when I couldn’t. 

I had no option but to face it all…



Yes I definitely had some stressed days after. Yes scanxiety hit big time for a few weeks with each follow up MRI, but it wasn't so 'inside' me... somehow I could override the fear brewing inside and trust.


But the last few weeks, or maybe months, I have started to struggle again...



The feeling that I was still recovering and things would get better, is now tinged by the realisation that after 2.5 years I will probably always have some reminder of the tumour and surgery. That I am never going to be fully ‘back to normal’. I will probably always wobble a little, feel slightly dizzy and unbalanced at times, a bit out of control and my head not feeling properly there. I will probably always have issues with saying the wrong words at the wrong times, my memory and thoughts being harder to process. 

Reading books is now nowhere near as easy, I cannot easily comprehend them, especially when tired - Once a joy it is now a task. My hands, eyes and coordination might never work as well as they did before, I cannot enjoy doing my art as before...heck I can’t even make a straight line between two dots easily, the line wobbles as I move my vision! … My abilities have changed.  I HAVE CHANGED!

I no longer know what I am good at…



Also the thought that 'if' the tumour came back it would likely be a few years after, the fear that maybe my next scan would show it? Or I would start getting symptoms again? Any sign that reminds me of the symptoms starting last time I feel could be it coming back again and instead of thinking I am still healing, I start to panic... I don't honestly know if that is factual or not, it is probably more likely in the first few scans would show any issues as my neurosurgeon seemed happy I had two clear scans... but also know many people with hemangioblastoma’s have had re-occurrences, some several of them. 


Somehow the anxiety that it could return has hit...



Then, a couple of months ago, I had a few days of 'that’ headache waking me at night. Pains in the back of my head, just as they felt before. Basically about the time the anxiety started. (The headache I have not had since these few days...yet the panic is still there...)

At this time I also had a couple of days of odd dizziness and vertigo, where I kept doing things just slightly off centre and then the feeling of moving when I was still, or as I lay down. Even at the time I knew I didn’t have it exactly like this before or after surgery. (This time it felt the bed was sinking and rising and that I was spinning round more) But it terrified me… I felt I just couldn’t handle this again. The GP said she thought it was my ears and yes it seemed like when I had vestibular neuritis last May, but that time I had just had a scan the previous month and had only just been told all was ok…  

 

Realistically the issues could well have been a virus or something, but my thoughts were not being realistic...



Plus it was about this time of year three years ago that I first realised something was wrong... starting in early December with odd sharp pains, brain fog, unreality and gradually increasing into the extreme dizziness and agony. Not to mention I don’t much like Christmas or winter from a multitude of past experiences.   


I am sure some of that fear is stored in my cellular memory...



And my body is still so unfit. For sure it is better than what it was two years ago, when I had basically spent six months living from my bed to my sofa, and it took me three months after surgery to even manage walking a lap of the local park again! But I still need to sleep SO much, I still cannot do some chores for too long without feeling shattered or aching after, I still cannot do much at the (free) outside gym (not helped by the fact I can’t use it much in the cold weather and so each time I have used it recently I feel I am going downhill again)... 


That I can’t just go out when I want- I have to plan it, to sleep beforehand... 

and my life is controlled by this... I feel old! 

Yet I’m not... I am 44!!!




So the anxiety is back... probably with more than a bit of annoyance, frustration, sadness and anger thrown in!

I also seem to have forgotten the things I did which helped me before. Like half the other things my memory seems to have let go of… It wasn't until I felt awful and stressed a few weeks ago that I remembered why I had been taking pharmaGABA for the past few years. Yet I had stopped taking it as I had simply thought I don’t need to take them anymore, and I can’t really afford it,  totally forgetting they helped my anxiety!... (Yes, I brought it again as soon as I remembered and it did help a fair bit even in a few days)

I have started making myself remember and feel gratitude for what I DO have, the lessons my tumour taught me, how the body can heal and the support I have.   

Remembering that winter and Christmas is always my hardest time of year ...but we have had winter solstice, it gets better (and lighter 🌞 ) from now...



Looking after myself is a priority again.



...so I am sharing. As one thing I have realised (and remembered!) is that when I share my fears they start to dissolve a little, I know if I 'had to' I could cope again...bloody hell I did last time and I was TERRIFIED beyond belief.


…and maybe someone who reads this will also be helped by knowing that they are not alone.

 😘💜

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