I feel like I've tried everything and am at my wits end.
posted by noella to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am female, 40 yrs old, single and from the uk.
I have suffered HA for the past 5 yrs now, and it seems to be only getting worse. It first cropped up in my early twenties, but I managed to overcome it after about a year when I began a college course.
I have had my fair share of trauma, an event in childhood, as well as several upsetting life events (bereavement, loss, sexual assault) in adulthood, although I did seek help for these issues and dealt with them the best I could. I am certain that one or many of these issues may have led to the health anxiety arising in the first place, but that knowledge does not seem to assist me in solving the problem.
Two years ago I completed some long term cognitive (CBT) therapy and was told at the end of my sessions that I was to be passed on for deeper therapy because she thought my problems were too deep seated to tackle via CBT alone. I then had 5 months psychodynamic therapy which basically felt like treading water, with no great effect, until the therapist just up and left me to start a new job elsewhere. I complained, but was told I had been given enough therapy (NHS) and would have to go private if I wanted more. In fear of seeming ridiculous and needy, I just walked away.
My problem: I am utterly terrified of my body. So terrified I can barely describe it. It is a constant terror, a sense of not being safe, as if my entire body is falling apart with disease every minute of the day. When I manage to fight one fear off, another replaces it. My particular type of fear is malignancy, something that may entail a slow or agonizing death - but I do not exactly fear sudden death, infection, or the concept of death itself.
I fear taking a shower, getting changed or seeing any part of my flesh. Often I will dress quickly and only look very fleetingly in the mirror in case I see something that scares me. This could be a spot, rash, mole, bump, asymmetry, and can involve every area of my body. I try to fight this by telling myself that it is the anxiety fooling me and that I am highly sensitized to it all, but then my body will 'deliver' something real for me to freak out over, like a small rash, or an odd mark, or what feels to be a lump. Most of these turned out to be nothing, the worst being a temporary ganglion on my wrist, but the cycle is constant, and I can't even soothe myself by saying it's all in my head - for every slight thing I see is real.
For example, if I went to my doctor about every single fear, I would be there three times per day, every day, always. I go through periods where I can't eat, sleep or function at all, although for the most part I am plowing forward, managing to function, but it is a very low quality of life.
My doctor is extremely helpful and encouraging, so that's one good thing, but I am absolutely at my wits end with this and wonder how I can go on.
Every waking moment of my life is terror. I don't even know anymore what is worth worrying about or worth ignoring. Every bodily symptom is a danger alert for me, and it happens on the unconscious level, well before I can inject logic and calm into the equation! I am not doing this on purpose and am so scared that I will never be free of it. It does seem that things that are 'visible' are my weak spot (like I said about moles, stuff I may see when getting changed, etc). Yesterday I thought I had breast cancer because I thought there was more wrinkling on one breast than the other (can see this when temp changes, stuff like that), then later it wasn't visible - yet most of my day was swallowed by this fear. Then it's weakness, a weird blemish, a sore thigh (so it must be sarcoma!), heartburn (esophageal cancer), a dark mole, a flash in corner of my eye (brain disease), lumpy bone in one leg, is there a mass behind my breastbone....is my shoulder ache actually lung cancer....and so on. My mind. An endless slideshow of hell.
I have tried everything, from CBT, some meditation, group therapy, childhood trauma therapy, medication (did not help and I won't try it again so please don't suggest this, it's a no go for me). Is there anything else I can do? I appreciate that we are all ultimately alone with this, that disease is entirely possible, even inevitable, and death of course will follow at some point, but whatever philosophy I try to apply to my own problem, the constant panic won't go away. I am intelligent, have a lot of personal insight, but can't get to grips with this. It's like my own pet monster that needs feeding constantly.
It's as if my body is a sort of separate entity that only exists to terrorize me. Whilst I KNOW this is wrong, I can't shift the feeling. I have tried all manner of self help techniques, but to no avail. This is so powerful, I can't seem to fight it. I don't want to live in the past or keep seeking therapy, I just want some semblance of a regular life. I just want to feel as if living in this body isn't like running through a field of landmines wondering which one will explode next. I want to get out of it, punish it, make it all stop.
Lifestyle - I have recently made positive changes to my life which were long overdue (a bad relationship in the past, unhappy living circumstances, etc), and now I have this new beginning and a lovely new home, and so much that could be positive. I do need to build a social life, as I work from home building a small business, but I am trying. That is all I can say.
Is there any way out of this?
(Thanks for reading).