Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How We Overcame General Anxiety Disorder,Panic Attacks and Hypochondria

Aug 2015
It all began six months ago when my husband (BH) was declared a diabetic.It was a major downturn in our lives.The medicine he was prescribed did not agree with him.We got it changed and also amended our lifestyle (which was not much bad earlier),but his health continued to deteriorate.

He complained of various physical complaints.It was not long before I realized that he had become a hypochondriac--it is an awful affliction,believe me.There is no enemy to fight,it is all so nebulous.He began writing his various symptoms in a journal and it was crystal clear that his symptoms changed hue every day because there was no biological basis for them.But this did not set his mind at rest.

I had daily counseling sessions with him.He listened attentively and also read material about his condition on the net.I gave him constant company and tried to engage him by yapping about this and that.But there was something troubling him which spiked his anxiety.

Soon he began to have panic attacks and my son was asked to fly down immediately.He was a great help but BH gave up whatever little he had been doing to keep the household running,and began to depend entirely upon him.More spare time meant more rumination and more rumination meant more anxiety.He became worse than ever.

My son stayed with us for 18 days.BH was not ready to let him go but I prevailed upon him so that he could take up the reins again.Soon my daughter came and again the same story.He lost his weight,stamina and confidence at a fast pace.We all tried our best to talk him out of it but understanding that he was being unreasonable with his complaints did not in any way help him to mitigate them even though our GP too,gave him a clean chit.

Soon my daughter too,went and slowly he picked up a few of his duties.He began driving once again.His favorite physician checked him time and again,followed by numerous tests;to rule out any disease,but BH was never convinced.The complaints began to mount.We consulted ten doctors but he still feared that he had a serious disease.

I realized that he was suffering from A feeling of insignificance.He had been very healthy and active all his life but failing health and empty hours were taking their toll even when there was no other problem in our lives.He had no occupation and no hobby.He is a very good singer but not once did he try to play any music.Even when I did so,it failed to engage him.He has a background of agriculture but he even gave up supervising our gardener's work.The only thing he did keep up was,walking,but mostly on our terrace.He did not feel comfortable meeting people.

Now what can you do in such a situation?I tried to involve him in growing vegetables on our terrace but I ended up doing most of the work.Then I asked him to talk to some laborers who were working at a house nearby and ask them to send their children to our home for studying.Three kids started coming over.I went and bought the required stationary for them and we started the classes on our balcony. BH took up the eldest child who was smarter than the other two.He was well occupied for at least one hour in the morning.I think he liked this diversion.There was a goal to be met,and something to look forward to. 

Then a friend of mine suggested we send them to a government school where they will get free books,uniform and mid-day meal too.We did so and now those kids are going to a school and they are very happy.We are both very glad that they are receiving formal education but we do miss their visits --i.e,I hope BH too misses them;because he rarely expresses his feelings.

Feb 2016
It is now one year since all this started.My sessions with him continue,he listens carefully but he is just not prepared to accept the changes which come attached to advancing age.He is very sad at these changes in his personality (if you smell narciccism here,you are not off the mark).He has numerous physical complaints which I suspect,stem from his anxiety.Some days are good,some are not:(.

Oct 2016
He tries very hard to free himself from anxiety and it is showing results.Given below are the various factors which have helped him to recover :--

Our GP was a great help.He prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and also something for insomnia.The medicines were just enough to give him relief,and not make him drowsy all day long;which he would have abhorred.

Our children's support has been very reassuring.

Our counseling sessions have continued alongside.

He goes for daily walks on the road and meets neighbours.

*Does stretching exercises.

Also does 'pranayam' and meditation.

Goes to the market to fetch groceries etc,does not take the help of a driver.

Listening to devotional songs has eased his anxiety to a large extent.

Tearing a rag to shreds when the anxiety was extreme helped to cool his mind.

*Going out and visiting friends has also helped a lot.

We tried to play board games but this did not interest him much.Neither did painting or coloring.

The whole purpose of narrating this story is to share with you how difficult it is to extricate someone from an anxiety disorder and what are the various steps that can be taken.Eventually,sustained efforts do show results,as they have in our case.I hope we will soon be out of the woods.

Dec 2016
Nearly two years have elapsed since BH's health problems started.Today he is completely cured.What a journey it has been!He has quitted the sleeping pills as well as the anti-anxiety medicine.

Jan 2017
I am always alert for any signs of relapse--God forbid.BH has been a model patient,he not only listened to my advice but also put it into practice.Wht's more,he resumed his stretching exercises,pranayam and meditation as soon as he was able to.My being a counselor who was in constant attendance too,was a lucky coincidence.

In the absence of a psychiatrist,or an able family physician or a counselor,it is the family which has to
bear the maximum responsibility for the patient's welfare.Even if the patient is getting proper treatment,there are certain do's and don'ts which the family members should be aware,of when they take care of a mental patient.Later on,when the patient is well enough to join the mainstream,he needs to be coaxed and inspired to take baby steps towards normalcy.Along with the requisite treatment;love,empathy,encouragement and companionship of a family too,are therapeutic.It is a tough journey,but very much worth the toil.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Conceal Anxiety,Depression,or Any Other Mental Disorder?

Living with anxiety,depression,O.C.D or any other mental disorder is an excruciating experience.It sets you apart from the rest of mankind.You feel worthless,weak and inferior.No wonder you try to hide this condition from others.In fact you may take time to even acknowledge it to your own self.But this secrecy,the attempt to project that everything is fine,has dire repercussions.So many things can go wrong if you do not open up about what is ailing you.
  1. Firstly,mental turmoil can make you absent minded,forgetful,unreasonable,irritable and easily provoked.These characteristics have the potential to sour relations.Others do not know what you are going through and therefore they may hold it against you.
  2. Secondly,when you keep your feelings bottled up,your tensions mount and this can worsen your condition.
  3. When you disclose your illness you are likely to get more emotional support from those who know.
  4. They can make life easy for you by sharing your burden in everyday chores or helping you with your visits to the doctor and subsequent treatment.
  5. Long term stress is sometimes responsible for the onset of diseases like hypertension,skin eruptions,gastric ulcers,thyroid disease,diabetes and even cancer.It is best to nip this possibility in the bud by seeking treatment.
  6. By admitting that you suffer from a mental disorder you will be piercing the veil of stigma which is responsible for so many like you suffering for long periods without any treatment and going downhill to a state beyond redemption.
  7. Once you have revealed what ails you--you don't have to shout it from the rooftops,but only let it be known on 'need to know basis'--you will be relieved from the stress of having to put up a brave front at all times.
I cannot sign off without saying a few words in defence of those who conceal a mental disorder.When someone realizes that he is losing control over his emotions and reactions he feels very inadequate and unworthy.He fears that if he were to divulge the state of his mental health he would be branded as abnormal or a mental patient--both of which are synonymous in general perception.

It is possible that some,who are not genuinely attached to you may fade away from your life after disclosure,because they do not know how to handle this situation;but it is also likely that you may get more emotional support from the people around you.

A disclosure at the workplace can be dicey,it can cut both ways.You might benefit from reasonable adjustments being made to suit your condition,but an ambience of gossip or stigma too,cannot be ruled out.It is also a fact that the unemployment rate in mental patients is higher than average.

On the whole this is a very personal decision which ought to be preceded by a serious evaluation of the pros and cons of revealing or concealing.

But what cannot be pushed under the table is,the caution that when you realize your efforts to cure yourself are not bearing fruit,when your whole schedule goes haywire,you lose interest in things which earlier engaged you,it is time to seek treatment.Do not prolong your self-imposed isolation.The earlier you come out,the quicker will be your recovery.Choose the professional with whom you are comfortable,but begin to live.Life will be rosy once again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Simple Ways of Training The Brain

Our brains work best when we work out strategies,meet challenges,learn new things and solve puzzles.With the passage of time such activities diminish and the brain becomes lethargic.We become creatures of habit-afraid to try anything new.We fall into a rut and our days follow a fixed template.This not only makes us forgetful and lack-lustre,it can also set a stage for Alzheimer's Disease.

Like every part of the body the brain too requires exercise to stay supple.Even simple changes in our lifestyle can give excellent results.Here our a few of my favorite methods:--
  1. Meditation-The topper on this list has to be this esoteric science which not only improves the brain's function but can also relieve anxiety and depression.
  2. Learn new things-it could be anything from playing a game or an instrument to learning a new language.
  3. Use your non-dominant hand for more activities.
  4. Do what you find difficult,and you may be pleasantly surprised.This new-found confidence will encourage you to explore new territories.
  5. Try to memorise at least some phone numbers which you frequently use.Check-how many can you reel off at this moment?
  6. Play some brain games like Sudoku,Scrabble,Crossword,Rubik's Cube or Chess.
  7. If you come across a new word while reading,look up it's meaning and test your memory the next day.
  8. Do some mental math for basic calculations instead of reaching for the calculator.
  9. Before going to sleep,recall all that you did after waking up in the morning.
  10. Make slight variations in your morning regime.For example you could take a brisk walk instead of doing aerobics.Or take a new route for your walks.Or just sit down in the lap of nature and do breathing exercises.
  11. Walk backwards for a while,and also on your toes.
  12. Take sufficient sleep-the brain repairs itself while you are sleeping.
  13. Avoid intoxicants and take a healthy diet.
  14. Juggle balls.This seemingly innocuous activity has many health benefits.
These are simple measures but they will produce gratifying results if practiced diligently.Your learning abilities will improve-there will be faster learning,longer retention and quicker recall.You will become more alert and better able to concentrate.Forgetfulnes will be a thing of the past.You will feel more confident and your self-esteem too will rise.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.How about telling me what works for you?