• We have just changed our forum software and are still tweaking things. You can log in using your existing user name and password. If you spot any problems please let us know by posting in the Feedback and suggestions section of the forum.

    Watch this short film to find out how to use the new forum!

Hello anxiety my old friend

N

Narsil

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2019
Messages
7
Location
Italy
#1
Hello everyone! I decided to join this forum after a month of severe anxiety. I'll describe my situation in detail, hope it can resonate (and to get some advice!)

I have been suffering from anxiety and panic disorder since I was a teenager. And since I was a teenager I also dated the same perfect man - but the two things are not related, anxiety came first. Anyway, now I am 27 and we have been together for 11 years (I know, it's crazy), even though 8 of those were long-distance. We changed cities a lot, some years we were just a two-hours train ride and would see each other every weekend, but in the last 3 years I was in London and he was in Italy so the long-distance was really challenging. At some points of the relationship I developed severe relationship anxiety, with periods when I was extremely clingy, jealous and convinced he didn't love me, and wouldn't be able to think of anything else, imagining him cheating on me constantly. None of that was true, of course. He is a wonderful person who truly loves me and has always understood me, supported me and forgiven all of my anxiety-related madness. He's a psychologist, so knows how all this works.

Last year he moved to London to try to make it work. His English is average and he couldn't find a job in his field, started working at Pret-a-Manger and became increasingly depressed. He felt like he was worth nothing and wouldn't get out of the house. His sex-drive was zero. Living in London with him was my dream and I wanted with all my heart for it to work, but I could see him suffering and eventually after six months we agreed he needed to go back to Italy. I was devastated but I managed to find a very good job in Rome and followed him six months late. When I got the job and announced I was leaving I was really sad, because I love London, and that lack of excitement for finally reuniting with my boyfriend started to freak me out: a horrible, intrusive thought got stuck in my head, that i don't love him anymore.

At first it was popping up only when I was particularly stressed by the move: in just a couple months I had to leave my flat in London, leave my job, move countries, find a flat in Rome, start this new exciting but also high pressure job, and also move in with my boyfriend for real this time, after so many years apart. The stress level was high.

I moved to Rome, in this lovely flat we chose together - but he actually moved in only a couple months later, cos he was working in a nearby city and had a few months notice. At that point I had forgotten my initial anxiety and just couldn't wait for him to come.

But then he moved in - and I had the biggest anxiety attack of my life. I was sick for 12 hours straight, vomiting and trembling, convinced 100% I didn't love him anymore and everything I did up to that moment was total crap and a lie. It was terrifying, I never experienced anything like it before. I immediately seeked help - I am going to therapy and we are trying to understand what's happening. It's been a month now and the intrusive thoughts are torturing me daily. When he's with me I'm okay, I can even be happy sometimes, enjoy myself, and we still have great sex, and I still tell him I love him and firmly believe it. But it's like there is a voice in my head constantly saying 'you're faking it'. I talked to him about it and he thinks it's the pressure of all these changes and the fact that maybe I haven't gotten over sacrificing my London dream. He is being so helpful, meditating with me every day, listening to my ramblings without ever losing his cool. He keeps telling me whatever it is, even in the worst case scenario, we will be okay, together or apart. I am so greatful for him - he's my person and my best friend and I cannot stand losing him. But I keep thinking I am faking it - that I don't love him, that I don't want this life, even though it's all I dreamed of for so many years, for us to close the distance and get married and have kids and stay together forever. In 11 years of relationship I never once doubted my feelings for him and it's killing me to look at him in the eyes and not always know how I truly feel. The more days pass the more I struggle to separate what is real to what is not real, and I re-play old memories in a negative way that is making me feel like I stopped loving him long ago and didn't realize. It's incredibly painful and I am constantly looking for some kind of relief - I hope I find some here.

Thanks everyone for listening!
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
342
Location
California, US
#2
Hi and welcome! Thanks for sharing about your life and what you're struggling with. It appears you're really having a hard time with anxiety and that it's derailing your life - an exciting life, from your account.

You're receiving counseling which is fantastic has it been helpful in your efforts to cope? Have you explored CBT, I found it quite helpful in my efforts to cope with anxiety. Finally, any medications you might try to reduce symptoms so you can focus your attention on therapy?

Glad you found us and I hope you find a little peace and rest.
 
N

Narsil

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2019
Messages
7
Location
Italy
#3
Thank you Bizzarebitrary. My therapy is CBT, but my therapist wants me to focus on my negative thoughts every time they occur to try to pinpoint the cause behind the thought 'I don't love him anymore' - so I can't take medication and I can't avoid them... But they are literally driving my whole mind and body into a breakdown. Sometimes when I'm with him he manages to distract me and I feel okay for a while, and I feel good during sex, but that aside my mind is obsessing over this thought and finding evidence everywhere. I am so scared that I will convince myself it's true and I will fall out of love with him, like a self-fulfilling prophecy
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
342
Location
California, US
#4
Hi @Narsil I'm sorry to hear you're suffering so much. Of concern is that you say it is driving your body into breakdown.

When I suggested medication to help you cope, I wasn't suggesting a means to mask the problem (reoccurring intrusive thought) but rather a means to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. You need not wait until a panic attack to treat physical anxiety symptoms with meds and it may help you to concentrate on CBT. Something to consider.

Would it be helpful to continue the dialog here about what may be causing this anxiety? Sometimes writing about it awakens realizations. If you decide to continue to write here are some questions to think about, answer any or answer none. Write whatever you feel like.

You and the man you love were living apart for so long. Now that you're together, how does it compare to your dream of what it would be like?

Leaving London for Rome sounded like an upheaval for you. Were there people there, places, organizations you relied on for support which are now absent?

Were your concerns about leaving London heard by your partner?

You mentioned you were a teenager when you fell in love and now you're any adult. If you could go back in time and visit the teenage you, what might you say to her or do?

Hope you're doing okay today.
 
N

Narsil

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2019
Messages
7
Location
Italy
#5
Thanks, this helps immensily - i will think about medication. Yesterday my therapist told me she thinks there are two triggers causing this anxiety:

1) I didn't want to leave London but I did not say it to anyone, not even to myself, so now I feel trapped in a decision I have taken without really listening to own needs

2) I don't know how to 'be' with him in the real world. Our long-distance relationship was very romantic and passionate, we would miss each other a lot and when we saw each other we would be so intoxicated with our love. It was inebriating every time. So now that it's all so settled, I don't know how to feel or how to act and how to find space in the relationship, and I'm in a constant state of distress so I evaluate my every move as something that I 'need' to do because of what I think this period of our lives should look like.

Now she says I need to study my behaviour around him, and see if sometimes I feel pressured by my own expectations, or if I am not giving myself enough space to feel what I'm actually feeling instead of what I am supposed to be feeling.

To answer your questions:

1) I had probably toxic expectations about how living with my bf was going to be like. I thought I would be walking on sunshine, and have sex every morning, and just be in love like when we were teenagers hiding in all corners of our high school. Partly my anxiety is putting a strain on our time together, cos I cannot really enjoy anything while I'm in this state, but also I don't think it would be like that even if I wasn't anxious. It's just not realistic and I'm understanding it only now...

2) I left a lot of things in London that I miss - friends, a job I felt comfortable and safe in, but also an equilibrium I had fought to find for a long time. I thought I was going to take it with me wherever I went, but maybe I was wrong.

3) I spoke to him about my concerns only after the move was already in place - I didn't realise I had some concerns before. I felt the need to try this, to just do it. Now I see I was trying to rip the band aid off, but I didn't consider the consequences this kind of impulsive decision were going to have on my mental health in the long run.

4) I would tell her to listen to him more. He was so much wiser than me from the start. He used to tell me that I didn't love him, that I loved love, and that my idea of love was somehow too intense, too fairy-tale like. I would tell him he was too cynical. But he was right: I was holding on to an idea of what love is supposed to be or feel like that is just not bearable in the long run, and the distance made it possible to keep up to my own extreme expectations because it was 3 days a month, but now it just feels like I'm torturing myself. So I would tell to my teenage self that she found someone special and that if she actually spent more time appreciating him and his mind instead of the idea of him and the idea of undying love, she would put a stronger and healthier base to her relationship. Now I will need to revisit completely my values, and see if my love for him holds on... I am terrified
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
342
Location
California, US
#6
Hi @Narsil I read your words and can understand now why you're so anxious. You're very expressive, have got some keen insights and perhaps some of that is from the good work you're doing in therapy.

The triggers thought to be causing your anxiety, they seem sensible to me but my perspective doesn't benefit from actual feelings. Can you trace the anxiety to these roots, does it feel right?

I think I understand what you mean about the romance, the intoxicating feelings. Maybe you projected some things on to him but now you're rubbing your eyes and trying to see clearly who he is and most importantly how you feel about him. I think playing "name that emotion" when you're around him is really going to help you to clarify that.

You have a solid plan for how to move forward, it is going to take some time during which you'll be in some distress. I think that is how we can best support you, by helping you be patient with yourself. Also by leaving you with some affirmations, just in case you get tempted to turn yourself into a punching bag.

1. Great doubt, great awakening. Little doubt, little awakening. No doubt, no awakening.

2. Living a full life means taking some risks and betting on love is probably one of the most human, most life-affirming gambles one can make.

3. Nothing you've done is irreversible, irreconcilable or has left you only with one option.

4. Live in your own drama and feel more than just the big emotions, excavate the smaller ones too. Maybe there is amazement, absurd amusement, sense of adventure, the joy of learning about yourself. Maybe it's a big mess - but it's such a beautiful mess! Just a part of the wonderful story of you.

Wishing you some peace and comfort.
 
N

Narsil

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2019
Messages
7
Location
Italy
#7
I don't know - it definitely makes sense, but in my head I'm in such a 'get out of here' state that my mind is convinced almost constantly that I just don't love him anymore and I need to leave, the relationship, the house, the job, everything. To do what? I don't know. I don't have fantasies of a bright future without him - only negative feelings.

When I'm with him sometimes I appreciate him so much it hurts me because damn why can't I just enjoy his company. He's so smart and sensitive and peaceful. We have fun together, and sometimes I am able to completely relax and forget about it all. But then something snaps in my brain and I go back to the distructive pattern. I try to name my emotions but every time I think 'oh I do love him, I do enjoy time with him' my brain freezes. Every time I have an instinct towards tenderness, something in me switches off and I feel panicky. It's been really hard to keep going and not surrender to it.
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
342
Location
California, US
#8
'get out of here' state
That sounds like an amygdala state - the part of our brain that controls fight/fight/freeze. It operates faster than the cognitive portions which govern reason and thoughtfulness, which is why we can react before we can think and comprehend a situation. The amygdala is meant to protect us from imminent danger and if it is, I wonder what it's trying to protect you from.

I don't have fantasies of a bright future without him - only negative feelings
What if we were to view this from two separate perspectives instead of one and consider the teenage you and the young woman you've grown into as autonomous people, each with her own needs, wants and desires. Sounds weird maybe but there's a point to it.

Call it a thought experiment. If you're able to meditate, you might try to rest your mind and just observe what notions bubble up from below.
As you hold teenage you and then adult you in mind, make a mental note of what each of these persons seem to be demanding, does it seem to you that the lists are in conflict? And finally consider what your partner seems to be requiring or requesting of you, does that list seem in conflict with the others?

The idea is to suss out a few things. It seemed to me you once suggested that your distress was at least partly due to a realization that this relationship is not as you dreamed it would be and perhaps the fantasy was far better than the reality. But you're also not the same woman you were in the days when you enjoyed the long distance relationship and as we grow, our needs change. When that happens, we need space so we can reexamine needs and wants.