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Hi, newbie here looking for... well to be honest I don't know whether it's answers, reassurance, or just a friendly opinion I'm looking for, but all are welcome. I'm a man in my 30s and for the past few years have been suffering from anxiety. Before the anxiety I was confident, enjoying work, had more friends than I had time to spend with, and was earning good money. Everything revolved around my social life. It was the reason I worked, and all I thought about during the day - what I could get up to at the weekend. Stress and anxiety was something that other people suffered from, but not me. I wasn't interested in settling down, not unusual for a guy in his 20s. Then completely out of the blue, I met a girl. A wonderful, gorgeous, kind, and funny girl, and immediately this changed me. She was the one. In case anyone assumes this is a story about how this girl broke my heart, this is not the case. We are still together, very much in love, engaged, and have a beautiful 2 year old son.
Immediately after getting together with Lisa, I was paranoid about losing her. I knew there were other guys interested in her before we got together but she assured me countless times she was happy with me and wasn't interested in anyone else. I still couldn't shake the thought that someone would take her away from me. After 6 months of us being together I noticed that I'd developed a strange irregular heartbeat. My entire department was about to be made redundant, which was on my mind as well, so it could be that these combined stresses caused this heart beat problem. Every now and then my heart would skip a beat and then catch up with a heavy beat, and I'd feel a flutter in my chest and have the urge to cough. I thought this was the beginnings of heart failure or an impending heart attack, however after a bit of research, a couple of visits with my GP, a chest X-ray and a 24 hr ECG, it was deemed to be premature ventricular contractions (PVC's) which are apparently harmless and very common, but I believe that by the time this was diagnosed the damage was already done and I was convinced my death from heart failure was just around the corner.
Six months later and I'm in a new job, mostly dealing with upset clients on the phone and sometimes face-to-face, and handling their complaints. I have always had a habit of taking things to personally and this type of job certainly had that effect on me. I was now also suffering from bouts of chest tightness and occasional dizzy spells as well as the PVC's and my fears about my health increased as a result. At the same time I had a house move hanging over my head as myself and Lisa were moving into our first home, which gave me added stress. I was going home every day fed up of dealing with angry and upset people and this brought me down. Rather than enjoy my spare time I would spend my nights dreading the return to work the next day, and this was causing frequent panic attacks. I had realised that all these symptoms I was experiencing were down to either stress or anxiety rather than heart failure, which was both good news and bad news; good news that I wasn't suffering from heart disease, but I was ashamed that it seemed I wasn't mentally strong enough to deal with the kind of stresses that millions of other people take into their stride on a daily basis. It made me feel weak.
Moving forward another year, I'd now grown fed up to the back teeth of being a complaints person and had found myself another new job. Not only was I looking to get out of that job but I also needed something with much more flexibility in its hours as we now had a 6 month old son. I was looking forward to a fresh start and had assumed that as soon as I was out of this job, all the stress and anxiety would just float away. Unfortunately this proved not to be the case. 1st day on the new job and they told me that, since my interview, they had removed the flexible hours option from all employees, and I was now expected to do shift work, meaning the child care plans we had made were useless. The job was over an hour commute each way and I found myself in constant trouble for being a few minutes late due to late trains. During the next 4 months I went through the worst time of my life with anxiety. There were times I would just freak out for no reason. I'd be struggling to breathe, my heart would be thumping, my entire body was tense, and I could feel my blood boiling inside of me, for no apparent reason. There were times I was thinking of jumping out of my top floor window rather than spend another minute suffering with whatever the hell was going on in my head. I knew there was no reason for it, but I could not stop. Thoughts of doing every day things, like being in a crowd, or in a supermarket, or on a plane or a roller coaster, a bus, in a queue etc. filled me with dread and I felt I couldn't handle such routine situations. My GP put me on propanolol and, to be fair, it did help. Whether it was actually the medication or the placebo effect of just taking it that helped I'll never know, but sure enough it started to get better. On my next visit to the GP it was decided that I would now take the propanolol every 2 days. I had left the new job after only 4 months and had taken a part time job which allowed our son to spend more time at home with me. I was improving and after another month I had completely removed myself from the propanolol. 9 months ago, my GP told me I could take one as and when I needed to. I haven't taken one since. I haven't had an anxiety attack for ages and I feel I can handle things much better. I haven't got my confidence back fully yet and every now and then I do feel a little overwhelmed, but my attitude has changed.
So, why am I here? Well over the past 6 months, I have started suffering with terrible health anxiety, or as it used to be called, hypochondria. Despite me managing to get on top of my anxiety, my mind doesn't seem to want to let go of it and I find myself racing away with thoughts about my health. Now, every headache I have is a brain tumour. I get an occasional tingling in my face sometimes which I know can be attributed to anxiety or a trapped nerve, but to me that's the start of a stroke. I have a cough for a couple of days and I'm convinced I have lung cancer. My arms get tired easily and all of a sudden I'm diagnosing myself with MS. If I have a stomach bug which causes unpleasant bathroom episodes, and all of a sudden I've got bowel cancer. I'm now convinced again that my PVC's (which I still have but are less frequent) are heart disease and I'm on the cusp of a heart attack. Over the past 6 months I've diagnosed myself with more diseases than I've got teeth (and I've got all my teeth!). If you looked at my web history you'd be forgiven for thinking I'm studying pathology!
Could it be that my mind is so used to anxiety that it's now creating more? Did this health anxiety stem from the general anxiety I was suffering from? Can it be overcome? I'm fed up with convincing myself I'm going to drop dead tomorrow and worrying about leaving a son without a father, and worrying about how my family will pay the bills and keep a roof over their head when I'm gone. I want to embrace these years and live them fully, without fear of cancer, or strokes, or locked-in-syndrome, or heart attacks, or MS, or any of the other multitude of ailments I've been convinced I've got. My doctor is fed up of seeing me, I'm fed up of seeing him, and my colleagues have stopped listening to me when I tell them of my latest disease! Can CBT help? I don't want to go onto any meds, as these forums seem to be full of horror stories of medication and withdrawals from them! My worst fear is that this will bring back the anxiety I was suffering a year ago. I can't go through that again. It's a long way down from my top floor window and I'd rather just use it to admire the view! Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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