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Thread: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!


    First of, thank you so much for the kind words! I was definitely at an advantage in this case because this period of particularly intense health anxiety had a clear beginning, middle and (I hope) an end! So it was a lot more easy to structure in an accessible way! I just hope to be able to help others in any way they can to find something of a resolution to their own problems, however suspicious a notion such a thing is when it comes to anxiety; I don't think it ever really goes away entirely.

    I'd like to write more about anxiety-related stuff because, of course, "write what you know" and all that. And while I definitely think treatment/management styles vary in application from person to person, I'd like to quickly reiterate something that I did find useful and which I think others in a similar situation might. It's probably not new advice or anything - this place is an incredible resource, filled with people speaking a great deal of legitimate wisdom, so it'd be naive to consider this untrodden ground - but it certainly can't hurt to explain it as I experienced it.

    It's very important to capitalise on the moments during which you manage to escape the doldrums of panic and fear. A frustration I've had throughout all my life is that I can't ride for longer on the buzz I get after having fought off an anxiety attack. You know that great rush of relief you feel when the nausea passes? That weird, liberating euphoria after having survived a journey on a bus with no toilets? Or having managed to stay in the very long queue at Asda, despite all temptation to drop your basket of six Pot Noodles (unless that's just me) and run away? An elation so grand you can scarcely relate to the you from mere minutes ago, when you were paralysed by this manufactured and baseless fear.

    So much of my time trying to rationalise and cope with anxiety has been dedicated to trying to hold onto his moment. Last year I finally mustered the courage to go to the dentist after several years. I was very fortunate in that I called for an appointment on a day there had been a downpour of biblical proportions, meaning that many from out of town had canceled their own appointments. This meant that, rather than wait for countless fretful, nerve-filled days, I could go in to be seen immediately. I had no time to worry. Apart from in the waiting room, of course, wherein I did the usual panicking. I've gotten pretty good at disguising my anxiety (at least, that's what I hope) but inside there was a war raging. The great twenty-minute war of '18, at the end of which there were no victors. Yes, I had managed to not throw up or run away but I aspire for greater things than that.

    The appointment went fine. Nothing to report, as suspected. What I had feared was an abscess that was going to somehow grow into my throat and choke me to death was nothing at all. Thus, I got to enjoy the buzz of redemption. One that went on for longer than expected. I felt not only fine but good, and empowered for days afterwards. After all, what was a trip to the supermarket compared with one to the dentist? If I could survive that small waiting room, in which children were being very loud and which seemed to be lacking a bathroom with suitable distance from the surgery, I could certainly survive a shopping queue. I had no obligation to stand there and buy my basketful. I could leave whenever I wanted. I am, after all, an adult. In appearance, at least. And while the same logic could apply to the dentistry - who was going to FORCE me to fulfil my appointment? - there was a certain etiquette to observe.

    I rode this high for as long as I could. I packed in as many activities and outings in this period as humanly and financially possible. For a week, maybe two weeks, I could recall with true fidelity the texture of my panic in the waiting room and I could bask in its absence. I could gloat to my past-self as he suffered and enjoy the freedom of being away from that kind of environment. At least I wasn't there in that waiting room anymore. At least I wasn't him.

    But, as you all know, these highs don't last forever. In fact, they don't last very long at all. And therein lies one of my biggest frustrations with this petty, maddening affliction. That I can't somehow bottle and administer this feeling whenever the need arose. Thus, I did make an effort to experiment during this bowel-themed bout of anxiety.

    This amounted to little more than trying to record any positives I could get during this period. This typically involved, grim though it surely sounds, keeping something of a bathroom diary, revolving around making sure to note down instances during which I felt good about the situation, fleeting though they may be. To documenting times when I was bereft of even the most abstract and imagined symptoms, so that I had a resource to which future-me could refer and take heart. I was, after all, operating under the presumption that symptoms of genuine cancer did not fluctuate. They did not disappear when one felt a little bit better. They were there to stay. So this became an exercise in trying to preserve through literature these moments when symptoms momentarily subsided and small bursts of relief blessed me. So that I could remain aware that I had not, in fact, been suffering from bowel problems for a solid three, four, six, ten months - indeed, there had been times when the perceived symptoms left. Funnily enough, these moments of alleviation coincided suspiciously with uplifts in my mood and while I knew this deep-down, to have this pattern in writing and to effectively have evidence of this pattern in the past, I found rationalising things a lot more easy.

    This is probably best demonstrated when thinking about the, uh, stature of my poo. When I went through periods during which it seemed too thin, I could simply look back to an entry from a few weeks ago, read about a time I had a very relieving, significant output, and understand that this was something that was coming and going. I was able to better rationalise my fears when I could so easily remind myself that these "symptoms" had not been going on for quite as long as it sometimes felt.

    I certainly didn't make entries every day. That, I feel, would have defeated the object of the exercise, which was to be selective. Record only the good and forget the bad, unless you are able to write in a way that productively diagrams the bad. Keep a list of occasions during which your fears were contradicted, date the occurrences and you'll hopefully begin to see a pattern. Or, at the very least, you'll be able to look back into the recent history of your affliction and understand that things aren't bad forever. Try, hard and contradictory though it may sound, to obsess over the good rather than the bad.

    There is no real science behind this and I might be able to explain it in a more succinct way - perhaps in bullet point form - after I've thought about it some more. I also appreciate that this worked for me because of the specific nature of my worry: I was frightened by not pooing/narrow stools and worried that the more it went on without resolution, the more chance there was that I had bowel cancer. That there was something in my guts, blocking the crap transit. By beginning to document the initially rare times when things were going normally, I was quickly able to recognise that I had actually pooed very normally quite often even if it felt like I hadn't. And honestly, even one normal poo would contradict my constant worry because, as far as I understand it, tumours don't just make way one day before returning the next. This relaxed me and, wouldn't you believe it, there were more and more entries being made to my diary until I could once again take for granted the normality of my toilet visits.

    I'm honestly not sure if I've done a good job of explaining this. And I really appreciate that it might not work for everyone or be compatible with the particular worries they have.

    In any case, thank you for reading fishmanpa! You're a bit of a legend around these parts so that was nice to read! And thank you to everyone for your nice feedback! <3
    Last edited by Dommy; 16-11-19 at 18:30.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dommy View Post
    I was, after all, operating under the presumption that symptoms of genuine cancer did not fluctuate. They did not disappear when one felt a little bit better. They were there to stay.....In any case, thank you for reading fishmanpa! You're a bit of a legend around these parts so that was nice to read! And thank you to everyone for your nice feedback! <3
    Does this sound familiar?

    "Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. It doesn't come and go nor does it stop once it starts." - FMP

    Great post! And kudos for discussing poo in a way that doesn't make one cringe! I especially like the way you describe your train of thought and how anxiety skews it. Having experienced mental illness in my family, your writing offers insight and knowledge to my life experience. The part about holding onto the positive as long as you can is spot on. That's good advice regardless of your mental or physical health. Sometimes, all you have are Positive Thoughts to get you through the day.

    Positive thoughts
    "Eat. Drink. Enjoy the work you do. Be thankful for the blessings God gives you in this life. Live, love and seek out the things that bring your heart joy. The rest is meaningless... Like chasing the wind." King Solomon

    The best help is the help you give yourself!

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

    Haha, yes, very familiar! I knew I'd heard that before from around here! So thank you for providing one of the founding principles of my coming to terms with recovery! It was really very useful to know.

    Thank you! Yeah, it's super tough sometimes to cling on to the positivity but it's so important. Health anxiety - and anxiety in general - is nourished by negativity. It's its defining quality, really.

    Cheers again for reading! <3

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

    Just wanted to say that this was a beautiful post and thank you for taking the time to write it out and share with others. I was on the site because even though I got an all clear last week for a pelvic MRI, I was back in that space of needing to control and worry but this time for my son. Somehow, getting an all clear for my health fears isn't enough. I apparently need an all clear for everything and everyone in my life.

    Lately my son has mentioned that he has health anxiety and I know that it's directly related to me and my fears. I tried very hard not to share those fears with him but I am able to understand now that if you are not actively working on changing your mindset it will have a way of trickling out in spite of trying to behave otherwise.

    I'm in the early stages of directly addressing this lifelong anxiety, understanding its origins and needs. It's crazy just how many layers there are! Posts like these provide me with perspective that is very hard to find when you are just starting off. Thank you again for sharing!

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

    Hey, there!

    First of all, thank you very much for getting through that big wall of waffle I initially posted, haha. It's really nice that people have been so kind to me and nicer still that people have found it in some way illuminating. So, thank you!

    Secondly, the inheritable nature of health anxiety - or, more generally, anxiety - is something that definitely concerns me too. Like detailed in the original post, I either inherited my anxious disposition genetically or learned it (or both) and so I've been ever so frightened about my own role in its perpetuation. Most pointedly, I worry that I might somehow teach it to my niece who, at age six, is around the same age I was when I first started to become aware of that kind of anxiety. Interestingly, she's the child of my one sibling who didn't seem to pick up my mum's intensely neurotic disposition but I suppose, were my niece to develop it while in the company of me and my other siblings, it would stand as that much more a tragic heirloom.

    So yeah! I definitely relate to you there in terms of not wanting to "pass on" your problems to your son. I'm not a parent so me trying to give advice seems a bit silly but I can say for sure that the one thing I would have liked is communication about the problem from a younger age. My mum was very secretive about her anxiety problems and that, in turn, made dealing with mine a little bit more difficult. Communication is key! Fortunately, we are living in a time that, while far from perfect, at least acknowledges the existence of mental illness - which is a big improvement from how things were when I was a kid.

    Just a quick final note: are you pursuing or thinking about pursuing some sort of professional help? You're already a long way into the process of coming to terms with your problems - a desire to get to the root cause of a mental illness is huge and something I avoided for the longest time, as if doing so might give my problems validation - and are very well-placed for some professional assistance. I say this in particular because an important part of my CBT sessions revolved around what you mentioned there: changing your mindset. One of the most helpful things about the therapy (at least, in my experience) was distinguishing the stages of panic and working on methods by which one might interject and disrupt this pattern and you're definitely in a good position to explore that kind of treatment.

    In any case, thanks again! And good luck!

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    Re: The Complete Chronicles of Dommy's Experience With Bowel-related Health Anxiety!

    Hi Dommy,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response! I also struggle over which is the culprit for generational anxiety, nature or nurture. Anxiety and OCD are present in both sides of my family. I kind of feels like there wasn't a chance that I wasn't going to have one if not both.

    I am actively working with professional help for my anxiety and ptsd. I haven't done CBT but have looked into as an option. I've had great success with mindfulness and anxiety specific therapies. It's a long process though. There's a set of workbooks on this site for eliminating anxiety which I found to be helpful and I started using an app called Curable which is geared towards people who deal with chronic pain and/or process their anxiety somatically.

    I'm working very hard to keep the lines of communication with my son open and to not fall into dreaded "what ifs". Looking back, my mom's strange blend of optimism and "expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed" really screwed with my head. She doesn't have HA but she did get unhealthily invested in her kids' health. That definitely set the stage for my overreaction to all things health.

    I figure that if I start with a place of awareness then I am in a somewhat better than my mom and my former self. Anyway, thank you again and best of luck with your self-work!

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