It Is All In My Head

Anxiety is a common symptom for people living with MS and can frequently be overlooked. This week, read Robert Joyce's first MS & Me blog addressing and dealing with anxiety.

Robert Joyce
01 Mar 2018

Anxiety can paralyse you; make you incapable of doing the simplest task. Something happens inside my head that turns me into someone else. For me, it has presented as a knot in my stomach. Twisting and turning, making the thought of eating unbearable and unthinkable. I can feel my hands shake and my headache goes into orbit. Nobody enjoys this and for people with MS that have emotional triggers that bring on a relapse, it has a secondary consequence.

A few months ago I had uncertainty about my finances. My work had dried up and I couldn’t see how I was going to resolve my situation. I felt that the shifting sands that are normally associated with my MS had now strayed into my economic life. Sleeping was difficult and my gut was making itself a main player in the drama that is my life. I was transfixed.

When I realised that this was happening, which did take a few days, I switched to a different person. Standing outside myself, I could see that I was in trouble and needed to take effective action to prevent this from taking a further turn into depression. Fortunately, over the years I have developed a technique that reboots my emotional state allowing me to start over.

The first step is to write down what I am feeling. I find using a pen and paper much more effective than using my laptop. I think it is partly the physical act of taking the emotion in my head and placing it on a page that I can touch, turn and even crumple.

Once I have my emotions on the page I then examine what is causing them. A narrative approach is best, as it causes you to really understand what is the cause of the emotions.

Now I re-read what is on the page and objectively see which of these causes I can take action that can resolve the issue. You will find that some of these are beyond your direct control. If this is the case they need to be discarded. Thrown in the bin. There is nothing to be gained by obsessing on something over which you have no control.

At this point you have, I hope, a list that you can take ownership of and that you can change positively. You might need to break these solutions into smaller, bite-sized, pieces that are achievable. These will be milestones.

In my case, I had completed this exercise within a few days of the start of my anxiety attack. Since then I have been taking steps to fix my financial angst. Because I took control of the situation and I have achievable steps that I can see being completed, I no longer suffer from this stagnation. I was freed from its hold.

Having a chronic illness has an impact on you physically and mentally. They can often overlap and when either, or both, change, your world becomes uncertain. This technique has, for me, helped me avoid falling into despair. In effect, liberation from my anxiety is "all in my head".