The Many Faces of Anxiety: Jo's Story
Jo has anxiety. She suffered a traumatic experience last summer when a pregnancy suddenly ended. At 21 weeks pregnant, Jo was told her baby had died. Labor was induced and the baby was stillborn. She ended up in surgery to have the placenta removed and lost a great deal of blood. At the time she was convinced she was going to die. That once she was given the general anesthesia she would never wake up. Jo believes this terrible and traumatic experience triggered the severe anxiety she has suffered through ever since.
Months after the pregnancy, Jo anxiety symptoms were overtaking her life. Jo's aunt also suffers from extreme panic attacks and Jo was familiar with the symptoms as she had previously spent time trying to help her. Even though the symptoms were familiar, the symptoms continued to get worse and worse, with panic attacks occurring night and day, every day. She thought she was going crazy but hated the way she was feeling. According to Jo, she felt if she didn't seek some kind of help, she would never feel better.
During the height of her anxiety, Jo experienced derealization, palpitations, extreme dizziness, throat tightening, pins and needles, pains in her arm, unwanted thoughts, racing thoughts, shaking, nervousness, hyperventilation, uncontrollable crying, and the uncontrollable thought that something bad was going to happen.
Jo had a hard time even keeping up with daily activities; her six year old daughter was left to tend for herself. Jo couldn't make dinner, rarely ate, found it difficult to concentrate. She didn't have the energy to discipline or care for her child, no longer helped her with her homework and stopped listening to her daughter read each night.
Luckily, Jo had the support of her partner, her friends and her family. They all realized that Jo's behaviors were a sign of a deeper problem and worked with her to find help and to help her manage on a daily basis. Jo often visited doctor two or three times a week to try to overcome the feelings of anxiety.
Today, Jo still has panic attacks, but not nearly to the degree she did last fall. Today, her symptoms include dizziness, throat tightening, the inability to swallow certain foods and the fear of choking or dying. But she is grateful that there hasn't been a full-blown panic attack for four months. And even though the symptoms may appear a few days a week, Jo refuses to let the anxiety take over her life.
Jo takes medication on a daily basis to help control symptoms of anxiety and has taken advantage of psychotherapy sessions offered through her employer. She is currently on a waiting list to begin cognitive behavioral therapy.
But, according to Jo, what helped through the "worst of it" was self-help. She read about anxiety which helped her understand what was going on. It helped her realize that she wasn't going crazy and there was nothing physically wrong with her and she wasn't going to die. Jo also used holistic therapies, such as Reiki, reflexology and massage.
Jo is using this experience, especially how much she was helped by the holistic treatments to set out on a new path. She is currently training in massage, is attuned to Reiki and plans on learning many more holistic therapies to help others manage their anxiety.