Posted 11/29/2010 11:02 AM (GMT -7)
In a nutshell, my story goes like this: I had my first panic attack in my mid thirties, and assumed that I was coming down with the flu. I was stressed (although I didn't realize just how severe it was) about the dynamic between my oldest daughter and my husband, and my daughter's increasingly bad behavior in general. I felt just like I was getting a whopper of a bug, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, hot/cold flashes, abdominal distress, ect. It passed quickly though, and realized that it must have been a panic attack. I confirmed this with my doctor, who offered to write me a prescription, but I wasn't ready to take that step-I was hoping that it was an isolated incident.
Wrong, I actually started into a panic cyle, and even though in my rational mind I knew what was happening, I would come completely unglued when the physical symptoms presented. I became convinced that I was dying, or had some dreaded disease/condition. After all, how could my mind make me feel this horrible, and set my world spinning out of control?
Well I opted to try therapy for relief from the constant fear, and increasing panic attacks. It was CBT, which I knew nothing about and didn't put much hope in. In the beginning, it did not seem to make any difference, and I began to think that I was wasting my time-that there was no hope for me.
After a couple of months though, changes started, I would start to have the panicky feelings (either out of the blue, or directly related to a situation) but I could control them, and usually avoid a full-blown attack. The longer I was in therapy, the better I got (duh) but the benefits started really growing bigger and faster as more time went on. In other words, at first things moved slowly and with baby steps, but before I know it I had the run-away train effect-in a good way!
I actually finished one course with one therapist, and after a life-altering event, went in for a refresher course. Even though the second therapy wasn't related to my health anxiety (it was relationship based) it still helped me even more in all areas of my anxiety.
Long story short, I have had all of the health worries (the heart for sure!) that you have, and I am still here! I still struggle with it, I don't think that anyone doesn't worry about such things, but it is manageable now. I no longer suffer the debilitating attacks. I no longer manufacture and dwell on the disease/condition 'du jour'.
For your comfort, I have read that while long term stress can obviously affect one's health, no one has ever suffered serious/fatal damage by P/A's. If you have been given a clean bill of health by your dr. choose to believe in that, and keep working on your health anxiety!
One other thing that helped me tremendously was getting educated. I checked out, and purchased so many books on A/P, I practically had a library going in my house! Knowledge is power as they say. It equipped and comforted me to know exactly what was going on with me, and I got to take the tools that worked for me from several different sources. The things that didn't work, I ignored-that's the thing with recovery-you have to custom fit your formula for what works for you. everyone is different. The more sources you have to pull from, the better!
I hope that this gives you some hope! Things can and will get better for you. Keep working your program with diligence and patience, it takes time.
Take care, and talk to you soon,
"Courage is not the abscence of fear, it is feeling afraid and doing it anyway!"