Will I ever get back to living a happy carefree life?!

26 Apr 2012


Hi Robin

I’ve just had an interesting (!) experience. Again.

I was getting some nail varnish off my nails, and I suddenly felt rather panicky. Like, very strong, not felt this for AGES, impending doom panic. Where everything else drowns out, you feel like you’re in an alien world, no family will be able to help you and in fact they are about to witness your horrific, terrifying death-panicky.

So I was a bit unnerved!! I caught my thoughts, changed them, they still reverted back to “no this isn’t right, why did it just come out of the blue? was it the acetone? or is it these iron tablets you’re on sending you funny? IT MUST BE SOMETHING THIS CANNOT BE JUST PANIC, yes you’re panicking but it HAS to be for a reason to feel this severe and other-worldly…”

I had to clean my fish tank, so I got on with that whilst listening to the radio. I noticed that it ebbed and flowed like you’ve described before, like it comes in ‘surges’ so I watched that. I’ll admit I definitely did struggle, checking my pulse, strong urge to lie down and scrawl a quick will, but I carried on trying my best to change the thoughts to “You’ve felt like this before, nothing came of it” etc.

I started talking to my brother and calmed down a bit, which gave me confidence that this feeling could be overcome.

I’m feeling a lot better now but I’m still unnerved, I find it hard to view major panic like that as a ‘learning experience’ as my thoughts about it being a chemical upset or imbalance within the body are very strong.

I can’t bring myself to accept that the fight or flight mechanism is completely under my control – that’s why I ‘give in’ to my panicky thoughts when I feel panicky, as I feel they’re justified… But in the same breath.. I just helped myself.

I still feel jittery and a bit unnerved but that is to be expected isn’t it. I just find it hard to be triumphant, rather than gloomy that I felt that way.

Off I go to fill in a CBT worksheet and re-read the books! lol

Hi N

I know this is going to sound too simplistic

but you are doing exactly as well as you should be doing

I had many whoppers during recovery – they even seemed to increase when i was feeling better for a while

it really is just the way it goes

and from your description of how you dealt with it – you are doing just as well as I did

think about it – you aren’t writing to me saying ‘ oh my god, I am having these terrifying sensations, what is happening to me , I must be dying..’

you are very clearly explaining that that is how you felt – you caught it – you worked with it – it wasn’t easy and it has passed – but you still feel jittery

this is EXACTLY the correct way to practice

we tend to think – ‘surely with what I know now this shouldn’t happen’ – but these sensations are simply too strong sometimes and all out knowledge gets swamped by the fear

that’s ok – it’s not pleasant but it’s ok – it’s still just anxiety – you still are in no actual danger

I know this may sound stupid – but the fact that you still have a LOT of fear means that you still have a lot of belief that the symptoms might mean that your life is in danger

that’s the equation

the more you work with the symptoms – the more you bring them on and see that they don’t do anything the more you believe that they ARE just anxiety

THEN the fear is less and the symptoms don’t even come up as much because you aren’t anticipating them

it’s a bit of a puzzle but just accept for now that for a while it will be like this – read and study and if you can do LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of graduated exposure – and interoceptive exposure

this will speed things up

otherwise you have to ‘learn’ when panic arises – out of the blue

why wait – bring it on – get used to it – experiment – test it

I absolutely know for sure – ONE HUNDRED PERCENT – that you WILL eventually write to me sometime in the future and tell me that you know you are free from panic disorder

you will say that you no longer have the total fear and that you see it in a different way – and it’s not just excitement but a real deep knowing that it is over

but not just yet

and I’m not going to give you a time limit – there isn’t one

but it will happen



2 Jun 2012


Hi Robin, hope you’re well

I’m sorry to bother you. I just would like a little chat on my progress to date

I’ve been doing ok, that is to say not anxiety-free, but managing to catch, check and change feelings and sensations so I don’t completely freak out.

However, I feel that I’m sort of stuck on ‘static’ progress. This may be due to the problem being more health anxiety than panic disorder..

I have got a lot of uni work on at the minute so I know this will be contributing to my stress levels and ‘tired mind’ overall. I keep getting numb lips and a tingly tip of the tongue, it comes and goes – breathing correctly helps it somewhat

I applied for my first job today – when I saw the advert, I really freaked out, like I did when I first got my car after passing my driving test – (“no! i cant do this! we’re going to have to take it back” haha)

I realise these nerves and worries are completely normal, as the rest of my Uni group are freaking out also! I’ve surprised myself and been fairly organised, being one of the first to fill out the application form!

I’m struggling to get the thoughts of panic and anxiety ruining my career before it has begun out of my head. Like iv said, i know i’m extra stressed at the minute so it’s a bit of a ‘tired thoughts in a tired mind’ scenario, but the thoughts “this stress will kill you” are very strong.

I suppose I’m still struggling to accept that recovery is ‘real’. I know I’ve caught glimpses of it, but the utter horribleness of my thoughts/feelings/sensations sometimes feel like, “how can I ever go back to living a happy carefree life?” 

I’ve made the mistake of going on NMP, I mostly go on to help people now actually, however I’ve seen a lot of posts re:”ive had panic/anxiety for years and it never REALLY goes away” “its awful” lalala, I know a lot are comments made from misunderstanding (i.e. anxiety is ”evil”) however it is worrying to see so many people say they are still suffering, when I am feeling like I’m struggling.

It’s the classic “what if i’m that % that never get better! particularly going in to a stressful job, etc..

wow there are a lot of “I” statements in this email. Very egotistic! I’ve been attempting some mindfulness and meditation, and find it does help somewhat but I do struggle to maintain practice and progress, my boyfriend said it took him a good while to get past this though.

It’s like, I’m too concerned for wanting ANSWERS for everything… WHY do people have to suffer and die such horrible deaths and illnesses? etc. It’s like I’ve seen how dark the world can be, and can’t get over it.

Thanks if you’ve got time to read and respond


Nice to hear from you

Try to remember that you haven’t really been practicing recovery for THAT long – honestly

In my estimation you are right on track – even if you do have health anxiety I think you are still doing well

what I mean is that you no longer are totally in confusion as to what is happening – now you know what is going on but yes you still get triggered and lose the practice

That’s just the way it goes

It would really speed things up for you if you went to a CBT therapist for health anxiety

I know you will say you can’t afford it but what is it costing you NOT going

if I said to you give me £300 right now and I will CURE you of health anxiety I bet you would find the money somehow – somewhere

so what’s the difference paying a therapist over a period of weeks – it HAS to be worth it

you know now that this stuff works – but I get the feeling that with the health anxiety you probably aren’t doing the same practice as you did with CBT4PANIC – because it’s hard to do it yourself

you need someone to show you the way – give you exercises – keep you MOTIVATED – someone to MAKE you do proper exposure etc

all the thoughts you mentioned I have had them – for me some of it was health anxiety – some was just existential – what the hell is it all about

the best help I can give you right now is to tell you this is normal and part of the journey both of recovery and of self discovery

Get a therapist – read more CBT books – practice more – and do more Mindfulness – and read more books like Awareness by Anthony DeMello

Have fun 🙂



7 Jun 2012



Do you know much about adrenal fatigue btw?

It’s probably normal, and I’m more responsible than I think from it, but my body feels quite ‘tired’ and generally yucky most days. I imagine it’s to do with all the Uni work on at the minute and me imagining being newly qualified and killing thousands of people!!

I just wanted to know if you felt this too, like iv said before, its like ur mind is getting there but ur body is taking longer to catch up. I suppose diet and exercise are the answer! 

I just worry about work, I know I’ve asked you ‘do you think its wise for me to stay on my course’ before, and im glad I have, I have come quite far – I finished my latest placement yesterday with a glowing report, I delivered a jubilee baby and I got a letter from the postnatal ward (the ward where i had my horrible mentor) saying that, in a recent survey, a patient had commented that I had given very good care on that ward 

But I’m still conscious of the stress I’m placing on my body – I almost imagine that, because of what I have been through, I should take a year off solid and just lie in bed if I want to be safe and heal! instead of being a 3rd year midwifery student, then newly qualified midwife..lol

I was on labour ward when I delivered the jubilee baby, and luckily it was lovely and straightforward, and I was quite pleased with myself and my attitude whilst I was on there. But when I was first asked to go to labour ward (The day-assessment unit I was on was quiet, so we closed and went across to help labour ward, which is why I was there) I was pretty nervous, racing heart, at one point I was so nervous I kept seeing black spots in my vision!

I’m about to go back to labour ward in 2 weeks, where I haven’t been properly on placement or witnessed an emergency since I began CBT (Except for the one incident) So I just want a bit of reassurance that I’m not committing myself to suicide!!..lol

I think If I can ‘conquer’ labour ward, it will really help my progress, because the emergency situations on there will be the ‘pique’ of anxiety that i will experience in my job. I just hope it makes me instead of breaks me!!


Ah – the fatigue – I know it well and still get it from time to time

the best thing that helped – after trying many other things – was to simply make sure I got 40 minutes sleep in the middle of the day

even if it has to be after work – as soon as you get home lie down – not in your clothes on a couch – I mean get into bed properly for 40 minutes

NO LONGER than 40 minutes!!

set your clock and make sure you get up after 40 minutes or else you will confuse your night time pattern

there was a study done on this and it said that our body does need this siesta during the day – so the Spanish must know something 🙂

Trust your deeper instinct – you ARE doing well – but this anxiety will be with you for some time yet

relax in the knowledge that you just have to go through that for now – you don’t have a choice

keep moving forward – I know you can do it – and even if you have a blip so what

why don’t you try some imaginal exposure to a high anxiety work situation – let yourself freak out in your mind – then practice the practice

Going by my own experience and time line – you are probably still try ‘desperately’ to be relaxed, anxiety free, energetic, healthy and so on

This ironically causes tension

ALLOW yourself to have a bad day

ALLOW yourself to feel extremely fatigued

ALLOW yourself to mess up

ALLOW yourself to look bad in others eyes

don’t try ‘desperately’ to exercise and eat right – just do the best you can do and laugh at yourself when you get stressed about not doing it right

let go let go let go

accept accept accept

we sometimes spend all our life chasing some future state where we will feel happy, smiley and carefree

but  guess what – we all get old, we wrinkle, we get sick and then we disappear – that’s life

wouldn’t you rather be living it each moment – including just being with the feeling of fatigue or worry – than live your whole life in some future non existent place

catch it – smile – move on

take a big deep breath and say – oh what the hell – I feel like shit today – so what!

and I know this isn’t easy – I don’t do this myself often enough 🙂

ah well – so what – that’s ok too…

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