Causes of anxiety attacks - reader's trigger was death of father and a 7 hour brain tumour op....

by Marg

... Then my best friend left. I didn't know what was happening to me which led to me being in hospital. I was living with a deep down feeling of fear, like flight mode, it just grew and grew into a panic attack that I couldn't resolve. Mind you, I had no idea at the time what was happening and thought I was going to die.

I have had to survive for most of my life on my own - through my teenage years, through having a family, through abuse and numerous other things that I thought of as being challenges in life and thought I was getting through them, feeling self confident and strong.

Now I hit my menopausal years and felt all that slipping away. Where did I go?. On the top of that I was diagnosed with a frontal lobe tumour and before I could take it in I was going through a 7 hour op. I was told because of the position that it would take 3 ops but when I came out of it they said to me that they took it all as I would have only lived another month and I would have died. Even this didn't deter me. I set about rehabbing myself. Nothing was going to stop me from walking straight and driving. I wanted my independence back, as my support system let me down and I was now on my own. Then WHAM!!!

A feeling of wanting to run away from myself - a fear I have never experienced before. I just couldn't bring myself out of it, usually I can convince myself out of or into anything and not having that control scared the Heck out of me and still does. Flight mode I guess it is called and all the time before this I was in survival mode and most of my life has been survival and fight modes.

This flight mode is the most debilitating. It is always there this feeling. I have been able to cope but there are times that it takes over so I tend to start to panic which in turn scares me. I then try every thing to distract myself but then I end up taking a calmative to help me if all else fails.

I was always a half glass full person and still feel this is in me but this anxiety/ panic side can have a life all its own. It won't win I will come through it, I just don't know when.

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Aug 23, 2014
You are very resilient!
by: Jude

Hi Marg, when it comes to causes for anxiety attacks the challenges you’ve been facing would certainly be near the top of the list. You have amazing resilience to have been through everything that life has thrown at you but are only now experiencing anxiety and panic.

Each of us seems to be born with a certain capacity for absorbing stress. When we’ve experienced lots of stress over time and have not had any means of releasing it, we absorb it - a bit like a bucket filling up. When the bucket is nearly full, with the next stresses it can start to overflow and produce symptoms. For some people it’s just a few more ‘drops’ of stress, for others it may be a major life challenge like you have experienced. The only thing to do is to start finding ways to empty the bucket!

This time though, it’s not a matter of fighting but of letting go. Your poor old nervous system needs to learn to relax and let go. Yoga nidra, meditation, yoga are all good ways of unwinding stress. Start doing things that are soothing and avoid the harsh and jangling. Be gentle with yourself. I am sure you can get through this.

Take care and good luck with your recovery,

Aug 23, 2014
by: Marg

Judy thank you for the explanation of the bucket, such a basic way of thinking about it, I found it helpful. I can't see the forest for the trees sometimes. I am also looking at the tiger and it is already turning into a kitten. Thank you.

Jan 08, 2015
Anxiety revisited
by: Margaret

Well I was doing ok, was letting drops of water out of my bucket. Then Christmas came along. All was going well then out of the blue my brother decided to blow up and I seemed to be his target, why I don't know and still don't as he has decided not to talk to me or return any of my communications. I must admit I seemed to be very calm about it for a while which surprised me, but now am fighting my battle again. Have tried once again to contact my brother but he is choosing not to communicate. I did everything for him, cooked everything for the family Xmas lunch, so don't know what happened, he just started yelling. Again am fighting my demon. Swimming helps but nearly lost it and went into panic mode so took meds to help calm myself.

Am I going to have to live with this all my life?

Jan 10, 2015
Hi Marg,
by: Judy

This is just what they call a hiccough. It's only been a few months and it sounds like you've been doing well, but it will take a bit longer before your usual stress resilience is back to normal. There may be occasions from time to time, when stress is high, where you experience a bit of a setback, but this doesn't mean you will be anxious your whole life. It does mean though that you will always need to be mindful of your stress levels and take action when they're getting a bit high - check out this page) which has some warning signs to look out for so that you can take some preventive action.

Just keep doing what you have been doing and I'm sure it will all settle down again soon.

All the best,

Dec 20, 2017
by: Marg

Hi Jude, I am still 'surviving' and have been told and I realized that I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. There are many many triggers unfortunately. My brain has decided to remind me of things I have had to survive through that I never forgot but keeps giving me slide shows of the last (from 14yrs old now 55 = ) 41 years. Unfortunately triggers are increasing. I now have a gp with understanding and if I have doubts to whether it is 'real' physical or my body flighting I can be reassured. I have knowledge that helps me know what is happening but doesn't make it any easier going through the worst of it. I just keep as bust as possible and if really crippling I take a tablet that calms the body while I deal with the mental. At times it gets so hard. I am trying to move on and stay out of the 'survival mode' but I don't know anything else. How do I get out of this mode when I don't need to be in it, I seem to be stuck, how do I relearn a lifetime of survival.?

Hi Marg,

Life can be very tough. There's no denying this. I would suggest that you ask your gp for a mental health plan - this will give you about a 50% rebate on help from a psychologist (in Australia). I feel like you could really benefit from some ongoing one one one support. Choose your psychologist carefully though - if you can find one who uses ACTherapy that would be perfect and EMDR can also be very helpful for those who have suffered trauma. I don't believe you will suffer forever. I truly believe you can start to feel better - though the tendency may well always be there which simply means knowing yourself and your limits.

Take care,

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