20 October 2016

Catalogue of woes

A month on from writing about my stress over my parents' declining health, it's become apparent that the last few weeks have turned my situation into a microcosm of this blog.

It's as if I'd received the secret instruction 'Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to demonstrate to your readers as many of your issues as you can in as short a space of time as possible.'

Firstly, and almost inevitably, there has been an exacerbation of my OCD, as any distressing event is liable to have this effect. Increasing my ordering compulsions creates an illusion of certainty and control in largely uncertain and uncontrollable circumstances. 

Coming a close second is a flare-up of my generalised anxiety. These days, my body seems to be in a state of almost constant 'fight or flight'. Not only is my mind buzzing with worry, but I'm also experiencing the classic physical symptoms - mainly heart palpitations, a churning stomach and a sporadic loss of appetite. 

Even my tendency towards obsessive-compulsive spartanism - the opposite of hoarding - has reared its head again. When I cleaned my flat last week, it was all I could do not to throw away a whole heap of stuff in the process. I always find getting rid of things cleansing: it's as if I'm making space in my brain as well as my home. Fortunately I managed to avoid binning anything important.

Image courtesy of artur84/

Worst of all, however, has been the escalation of my insomnia. Even if I get to sleep quickly, the moment I wake in the night, my heart is racing. Before my mind has time to pick a worry to focus on, my body is on the case - it knows I'm anxious even when I'm asleep, which is reflected in the troubling dreams that make any rest I do get unrefreshing. Once awake, it can be up to an hour before I settle again. Multiply that by two or three times a night and it's no wonder I spend my days feeling like a zombie.

In addition, I've always had a propensity to tears - I've written previously about how some of us are 'highly sensitive people' - and tiredness only makes me more fragile. Barely a day goes by now when I don't cry at least once. 

The only respite from the mess in my head has been the couple of occasions when I've drunk slightly too much wine and inadvertently achieved a pleasant state of relaxation. However, I know self-medication is no solution. In a post last year, I expressed my concerns about that 'treatment' and, once again, I find myself having to make a conscious effort not to tread that path.

I have, at least, rediscovered sudoku puzzles, which I found to be a great distraction earlier this year, but had stopped doing. 

But puzzles are not enough. 

Reflecting on all of this, I've realised that I can't afford to wait for the cognitive behavioural therapy I've been promised, as that's likely to be at least three months away. I'll end up having a full-scale breakdown without some earlier intervention. 

So I'm considering paying privately for neuro-linguistic programming and/or hynotherapy sessions and also plan to seek - somewhat reluctantly - a prescription for sleeping pills.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear if any of these options have helped those of you who've experienced similar issues?


Unknown said...

sorry to hear things aren't going too well for you :(
I have zero experience with either NLP or hypnotherapy so I can't recommend/warn you about either of them. I also haven't taken sleeping pills but I do think a decent night's sleep (or lack thereof) can make a huge difference to general well-being (I found this recently when I had an ear infection which kept me awake) so I'd certainly say it's worth giving sleeping aids a try.
I've had CBT in the past, the main take-aways I got from it to try and prevent/deal with panic attacks were that my therapist got me to come up with a cheesy personal slogan (the cheesier the better, he said) and a personal anthem - ie an uplifting song I could sing to myself whenever I got stressed out. I've also found reciting times-tables to help in situations where I've been nervous - I think it's a similar thing to the Sudoku puzzles, giving your brain something else to focus on.
I hope things get better for you soon x

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear things have been so rough for you, Helen. I will keep you in my thoughts. This too shall pass!

Helen Barbour said...

Ruth, thank you for your suggestions. My main funeral song - yes, I've chosen it! (and I'd like the congregation to sing along) - is 'Don't stop me now' by Queen, so perhaps I shall adopt that as my anthem. Times tables sound like a more flexible idea than sudoku, as you can do them any time, any place, anywhere and for as long as you want/need. Thanks again.

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtalk, thanks for your support. Yes, indeed, this too shall pass - thanks for reminding me of this great motto.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I'm sorry you're having a difficult time, Helen. I have found that an anti-anxiety medicine can help me rest. The one I take works gradually and my doc told me years ago that it was one that was good for OCD. I am a bit afraid of taking sleeping pills, but with a doctor's guidance, hopefully they will help you get some rest. When we're tired, it's so hard to do the other things--meditation, listening to music, reading, puzzles, walking, etc.--that can help with anxiety. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and hope you will be better soon!

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Tina, good to hear from you - thanks for all your tips and your support. I hope all is well with you and yours?

Steven J. Seay, Ph.D. said...

If you're considering private pay, could you do so for CBT? NLP and hypnotherapy, while helpful for some things, may not be the most effective for OCD and other types of anxiety. If you're looking to allocate your resources in a non-redundant way, maybe consider building up your mindfulness repertoire? Sleep is important, so if there is a way to improve that (e.g., increase your exercise, increase your mindfulness practice), that could be helpful. Medication is a great option, if needed, but exercise and mindfulness can do wonders. I would also mention the option of SSRIs, if you're considering medication.

Hang in there, and know that it gets better!

Helen Barbour said...

Hi S, thanks for your very helpful feedback in terms of where best to deploy my financial resources - that is very useful to know - and for your support. It is so kind of you to comment.