To all you sufferers out there!!!! You’re not alone!!! I’m trying to convince myself the same thing!!!
My name is Jen. I’m 34 years YOUNG (this is me trying out CBT methods). I live in Edmonton, Alberta and have all my life. I have been riding the anxiety train for over 3 years. Why, you ask? Well, it’s definitely not by choice (who chooses to feel like they are dying every day?). I lost my mother to lung cancer on December 28th, 2013. The 2 years I had with her from the time of diagnosis leading up to her death, I developed a pretty severe panic disorder. This resulted from trying to make sure her life was as financially secure as possible. She did not have any other health coverage other than Alberta Health. She did not have any money. She did not have a support system besides myself and my sister who lives in Vancouver. Her quality of life become a mission to me.
The impact of the diagnosis brought me to my knees. Now, I was close to my mother but not in the chummy ‘she’s, like, my best friend’ kind of way. We had sort of reversed roles of mother and daughter whereas I became the mother and she the daughter. This dynamic had begun much earlier than her diagnosis but naturally amplified when she became ill. My father and my mother divorced when I was 8. My mother was left to fend for herself and her two daughters whilst coming from a limited educational background. She, early on, suffered a severe bout of depression landing her in the hospital and remaining somewhat emotionally absent through my formative years. This naturally has had an impact on how I cope with the waves of life. Meaning, my coping mechanism is to repress. And to become fiercely independent. And to never ask for help. And to never cry. NOW, I have come to realize how damaging this behavior is and at this point in my life try and change it. But, it’s only through a series of horrific panic attacks, hospitals, a lovely cocktail of pharmaceuticals, multiple EKG’s, physiological symptoms (the tingling, the numbness, the stuck in a dreamlike state, the heart palpitations, the insomnia, the fatigue, the hyperventilation, the unfocused monkey mind, the dry mouth, the gut rot… and the list goes on) that I have come to realize… I need to retrain my brain.
Mom’s death has lead to post traumatic stress. I relive her death and illness every day with an array of flashbacks and massive mood dips. I mourn her loss with never ending sadness, feeling my emotions tighten their grip around my whole being. I not only mourn the loss of her, but of what our relationship could have been; before she got sick and if she had not gotten sick. I feel ill thinking about how she will not meet my children or be witness to my wedding. She’s gone… and there is nothing I can do about it. She did not go gracefully. Death isn’t graceful. It’s a shockwave. She couldn’t understand her illness and did not come to terms with her imminent death and fought the entire way to the bitter end. Some may argue this is commendable to not give up hope and to remain a fighter but to me it was traumatizing. I cannot help but think what a difference it would have made if she had said “this is it, Jennifer. I’ve made my peace”. However, it’s not who she was. She was French. She had joie de vivre. She had passion. She should have lived and prospered and taught me how to do the same. She was beautiful inside and out. Playful and neurotic and had laughter that was contagious.
She also drove me bat shit crazy. Couldn’t open her soul up and be communicative. Her neurosis inhibited her in a lot of ways and I always vowed to never be like that. Little did I know…
Her legacy is everlasting and I’m still completely stuck on how to manage my life without the guidance of my mama. Work in progress I suppose…
Fast forward. In March of 2015 my father phones to tell my sister and I that he too, has got cancer. Rectal. Stage 3. It’s in the lymph nodes. We don’t have a clue what the prognosis is. All I know is he needs a giant surgery and then chemotherapy to follow after. Chemotherapy at the institute that I have avoided vehemently since the death of my mother.
Um. What in the fucking shit? A break… a break would be nice. This is far too soon. I know this is life and all that grand shit, but come on.
My father. Chinese and conservative. Our relationship can be described as contentious at best. We had a decade of barely speaking to one another. But, we all know that all of that has to go to the wayside when something of this magnitude comes up, right? Well, that’s what I believe anyway.
He started chemo in June. He almost died in August. Chemo was too much for him. He became dehydrated at a critical level. He was admitted on the same unit my mother was, in the room next to hers. I had a giant breakdown in the hospital, naturally.
Now, I know there are many people out there that have suffered far worse than I. I also know there are many people out there that suffer under less frightening conditions. The question is; how do we gain the knowledge to get us to a place where coping does not have to be accompanied by such terrible symptoms of anxiety and depression?
For those of you who have suffered all your life with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder; how do you cope?
My story is not more special than anyone else’s. I’m putting it out there to see if I’ll gain introspect through the eyes and ears and mouths of others.
And, so it begins…