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I was going to make a comment on the last post from a guest blooger but decided that maybe it was worth putting up a post myself. I was intrigued by this comment: 

“But the difference between positive people and those who let themselves slip into a kind of depression because they worry too much lies in knowing where to draw the line, and not letting yourself cross it.”

This is probably the core of what anxiety is all about.  We are concerned that we are “letting” ourselves slip, or that we are not positive enough.  I find that positiveness cannot be forced.  I am not a positive person, but I can enable myself to be realistic.  I may not be able to say that everything will work out in the end, but I can say that I will cope with what ever comes my way as best I can. 

I do sometimes slip into despression, and at times it does all become too much.  Trying to keep worry at bay is exhausting, but I find rather than fighting my anxiety all the time, that it is often best just to acknowledge that this is me, that it doesn’t make me a bad person, or negative, it’s just who I am.  Funnily enough, this is often enough to ease the anxiety and I can move on.

It is summer here and we are just about to go off on our camping holiday, and I’m anxious!  I have packing to do, and in the back of my mind is the nagging thought that my son is off with his mates at a music festival getting up to goodness only know what!  There is always something to worry about – but so far, I am keeping it all at a reasonable level, and acknowledging that although I am worried about my son driving, and being on busy roads etc, that in the end this is probably just normal behaviour for any mother.  I’m not catastrophising, but I will be glad when he joins us for the rest of the holiday and I will have all my loved ones safe and sound.

Happy New Year. 

Jane

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It is ages since I posted anything for this blog – and it would seem that I am not alone!  So I’m wondering what is going on for everyone?  Is it the upcoming election, the financial problems of the West, getting through winter (although that’s only for us in the southern hemisphere), or are we all just too plain busy?

I’ve had a real struggle through winter this year, it has been long, cold, grey and wet.  The arrival of Spring has been a blessing, but not quite enough yet to lift me out of a period of depression and anxiety.  It has been hard to ignore the news, and the fear and the gloom that seems to accompany each bulletin.  What a miserable lot we are! 

I wish I had some words of wisdom, but sometimes it’s about just getting through it all, hanging in there and hoping for the sunshine.  It’s about grabbing a moment of peace, realising that you are laughing, and how wonderful that feels, still getting out for that walk, even though your body would rather curl up and sleep, patting the dog and enjoying the licks, finding the colour red again (I always seem to loose the ability to see red when I am anxious for some reason) and reaching out to others. 

I hope you are all managing ok, and that you are safe and well.

When you have struggled with various manifestations of anxiety for many years I think it can sometimes be hard to realise if what you are worrying about is normal worrying, or if it is getting into the realm of anxiety.

Everyone worries – or at least I think they do!  However, I believe that I worry more than most, but do I?  I certainly don’t worry about everything, but I have some things that seem to always set me off, and often it will be around health.  But then worrying about one’s health at times is normal isn’t it?  Noticing that funny looking mole would send a lot of us scurrying to the doctor I’m sure, so what makes me anxious and the other person just “normally” worried? 

I suppose it is about how long the anxiety lasts, are there physical manifestations that don’t go away such as sweating, nausia, dizziness etc.  Is the worry the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night?  Is your sleep affected?  Is there a sense of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope?  Are you leaping to the obvious conclusion and planning your funeral?! 

Unfortunately there is no magic pill to make us never have to worry again.  When you have experienced severe anxiety however, the part that is the most scary is the actual physical and emotional manifestations of a nervous body feeling out of control.  A normal sense of worry can at times be overwhelming – but this does ease – it can be scary – but you see possibilities for hope, it can be all consuming – but time does pass, you might start to feel hopeless – but there is still an awareness of options.

So, I am on a journey of normalisation.  I want to experience the normality of worry, to realise it is ok to feel anxious, but that it doesn’t mean I am unwell, and that time will pass.

I don’t know if anyone reading this blog watches “Brothers and Sisters”. My kids and I are quite addicted to it, and although it is all of the things that I am supposed to hate about TV, and TV drama especially, there is something about this show that keeps us all hooked. My children like to laugh at me and say that I am just like Nora, the mother on the show played by Sally Field. She is what you might call an over-involved mother – she keeps a close eye on all her children (she has 6 I think), interferes dreadfully, but I like to think that she loves them all unconditionally. When the kids laugh at her and say “you’re just like that mum” I do feel a bit defensive I must admit, and find myself saying “but she just loves her kids, what’s wrong with that?”

What I have realised lately is that loving my children goes without saying, but my level of worry about them is something quite different. I want to control any bad things that could possibly occur, and although I am completely aware that to grow and develop they have to experience everything that comes their way, I have realised that this control and worry is not about them it is about me.

I will do anything to stop the anxiety that builds and builds as I ponder and ruminate on the multitude of awful things that could befall them. I have learned that if I try and prevent anything bad happening to them, be it health, driving in cars, emotional entanglements and so on, that my anxiety lessens – but only for a while. There is always something new to worry about. My need to control is not about protecting them, it is about protecting me, and I have realised that I am giving myself all those old messages of “I won’t cope if….”, and teaching them that anxiety is a way of coping, when it’s not.
So, it’s time to stop all this. Out come all my old books and bits and pieces that I have collected over the years that have helped in the past. I am revising and relearning (again). I will get plenty of sleep, I will try and float past all these fears, and to realise that a certain amount of trust, self belief and belief in my children will help me get through this.

This isn’t so much of a post as a query to see if anyone has had experience with this therapy (EMDT).  I know of therapists who use this procedure, but I am curious to hear if anyone has had experience of it themselves, and what the results have been like. 

I am kind of sceptical I must admit, but the brain certainly is an interesting organ, and mine certainly doesn’t always behave in a predictable manner!

 

I have been thinking about Fear and how it dominates our press and the affect this has on the anxious.

 

If you are an anxious person then you will be well acquainted with fear.  Any campaign designed to alert us to have a mammogram, (fear of cancer), wear our seatbelts (fear of crashing), be alert to strange unattached parcels in public places (fear of terrorism), eat the right food and exercise regularly (fear of obesity and/or death), recycle our rubbish (fear of global warming), get in stocks of canned food (fear of bird flu), use the correct moisturiser (fear of aging),  will no doubt succeed and send  the anxious out to get the next mammogram or buy out the local supermarket of canned goods.  I find myself avoiding this type of media activity as it feeds my fear, but then of course I fear that I am merely burying my head in the sand .  I can’t win!  I also wonder if the people that these types of campaigns are wanting to target ie those who don’t know about these issues, or don’t care – still don’t know or don’t care?  The only people watching and listening are the anxious (who know all about this stuff already…!)

 

So, how do I try and deal with this overload of fearful information?

  • I only listen to commercial radio in the mornings and save the “real” news for later in the day when I am awake and lucid.  Waking to endless bad news cannot be good for you.
  • I prefer to read the news rather than watch or listen.  I find TV news unbearable, it is designed for the few second sound bite, contains little information and a whole lot of fear.
  • I find talking about what I have heard is helpful. Hopefully someone will be able to challenge some of this information, and might put a different perspective on things.
  • If it all becomes too much I’ll turn everything off and have a news holiday and read a trashy book, or go to a feel good movie – anything that helps take me away from news and gloom overload.
  • Every now and then I will congratulate myself on the fact that I am a responsible person and doing the best that I can. 
  • Sometimes it helps to find out more information, and not just to take what I have heard or read about as gospel.  I believe that information can ease anxiety and help get things into perspective.  (Although you have to be careful with this one as this can lead to a certain obession which isn’t always helpful either).

It is of course important to be careful, to be alert and to be aware of our environment, our health and our political climate.  However, if like me, you are inclined towards the anxious then it is also important to look after yourself – it is all too easy to become overwhelmed.

I have become interested lately in the use of the term “Hypochondria” and have done a bit of trawling on the Internet to find out how we use this word.    I have noticed that a lot of the Blogs on this subject are funny.  You know – you go to the doctor with suspected ( and probably absolute) cancer/heart disease/ near death and find out that it is nothing to be concerned about, and everyone has a good laugh. 

 

Movies and TV also enjoy using hypochondria for a few quick laughs.  Woody Allen has made a specialty of it, there is the resident hypochondriac on the TV sitcom “Scrubs”, and even children’s animated movies have had a go, for example “Madagascar”. 

 

Now you may be thinking that I’m being just a bit overly serious, but I notice that I don’t use the term of  hypochondriac to describe myself, and  I prefer to say that I suffer from a “Health Anxiety”.  However, if a hypochondriac is someone who has an “abnormal anxiety about one’s health” (Oxford Concise Dictionary), then that’s me!  I’m wondering that if we continue to see a hypochondriac as someone to make fun of,  then it makes it even harder for sufferers to get the help and support that we all need.

 

In the end however, whatever term you use, the most important thing as always, is to get this help and support – only then can you regain a sense of humour!

 

I am having an interesting time of it at the moment observing my daughter struggle with anxiety.  I always knew that she got anxious, but now in her early 20’s she seems to be taking a similar path to her mother.  Her worries are different than mine, but they manifest themselves in the same way – obsession to the point of not being able to think of anything else, and then when one particular issue dies down, something else comes up to take it’s place.   

I ache for her, and I want to make it all go away.  I hate the thought that she is going down this path, and I feel guilty. Have I passed this on to her, was it the way I brought her up?  I’m scared that my constant worrying lead to her adopting similar behaviour, but I also know that hereditary factors come into it as well.  I know that I can’t solve this for her, but I desperately want her to learn some of the strategies that have helped me.  I border on becoming obsessed and over involved.  In short I am anxious!   

I remember being her age, how anxiety ruled my life, but having no idea what it was, that it was treatable and that other people suffered the same thing.  I felt alone and quite mad.  I try to tell myself that my honesty with her has enabled her to seek help and deal with this at a far earlier age, and that perhaps this will enable her to cope better than I did.  I also have to remind myself that she is not me – she won’t be feeling everything that I have, and she will find her own way.   

Have other people noticed this pattern in their families?  How do you deal with it, what helps? I would be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Christmas can be lethal for producing stress and anxiety. For some strange reason, it doesn’t seem to affect me this way though, which is quite amazing considering I am generally someone who will find any excuse to get stressed!

So I have been thinking about why I don’t get anxious at this time.   

I have come to realise that I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness. I can provide a nice venue, and hopefully it will be a sunny hot day and we can sit in the sun, relax, eat and chat.

I have stopped inviting people I don’t like, (but always felt I should).

I don’t provide huge amounts of food – everyone brings something and it’s usually a wonderfully ecclectic mix of tastes and gastronomic experiences!

That’s it really, I was hoping for something a bit more insightful when I started writing this, but maybe that’s why it works, as often the most simple ideas are the ones that are the most successful. 

I wish everyone a (hopefully) anxiety free Christmas, and time for feeling some peacefulness and joy.  Although I’m not one for New Years resolutions (because I never keep them), I have realised that I like this holiday period to think about what is important to me, and how I can look forward to a new year.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to write, read and comment on the We Worry Blog.  It feels so good to be part of a wider network of interesting and committed people, and I wish you all the best for the New Year. 

Have a look at the link to flickr and some rather lovely old New Zealand Christmas cards produced by our National Library.

 Meri Kirihimete

It is easy when you are anxious to forget about those who are near and dear, who cope with the depression, the questioning, the doubts, the pain and the tears.  When I first started experiencing anxiety I was in a new relationship with the man who would become my husband.  I remember the baffled look as I pounced upon him sobbing because he was late home from a trip away, and his futile attempts at reassurance as my  fears of imminent health failure reached a crescendo.  He really had no idea about what was happening to me, why I couldn’t be reassured, and why I couldn’t just get on with things and be normal!   

 25 years on I thought it was a good time to ask him about the ways that he has coped with living with an anxious person, and perhaps what advice he would give to someone in a similar situation.

J: What was your first reaction when you realised that I had anxiety?

SJ: Probably to be worried! And then to think how could I help?

J: What happened for you when you realised that you couldn’t help?

SJ: Well it took many counselling sessions for me to realise that the best thing to do was actively listen, to not offer advice but to just be attentive and talk.  Just hang in.

J: What advice would you give to someone now?

SJ: the best way is just to “be”. It’s about being attentive, making time to be together and to share.

J: How do you look after yourself?

SJ: Having work and pleasure apart from you is important, at the same time as also making time and sharing things with you too.

J:How important is the time away?

SJ:Time apart is important in any relationship, I don’t think it is any more important when living with an anxious person

 J:  What have been some of the frustrations?

SJ: Mainly that I couldn’t wave a magic wand and make it all better.  Also when I get a bit down and tired myself, and don’t take the time to listen and share things with you, I can get a bit frustrated.  Sometimes I worry that I can’t make you laugh.

 J: Are there any gifts from living with an anxious person?

SJ: It has made me develop good ways of talking and listening.  I hadn’t realised that listening was so hard! It’s about really hearing what the person you are talking to is on about, without trying to solve everything.  I learnt to ask open questions, and to encourage conversation rather than to stifle it.

J: We have done couple counselling.  What do you think the affect of this has been?

SJ: I was struggling to cope with your anxiety at that time, and counselling helped me to cope and to look after myself, as well as become really aware of what would help you.

J: Could you have done this without counselling?

SJ: No I would have struggled much longer.

J: What advice would you give to an anxious person?

SJ: I would say to keep talking about it.  Sharing an anxiety or a vulnerability brings people together.

In the end there is no magic answer.  I think that for us it has been about listening, talking, challenging my thought patterns at times, getting help when we needed it, and trusting and respecting each other.  Doesn’t sound any different from any other relationship does it?

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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