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husbands anxiety & my guilt - Carers UK Forum

husbands anxiety & my guilt

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Thought of posting for a while and really bad day spurred me on. Husband has been extremely anxious and depressed for last 18 months getting worse since Christmas. Is on antidepressants (for 10 weeks) and having private cognitive behaviour therapy (4 sessions). Some days almost good and others he goes plummeting and says he just can't help himself, feels so awful. One of problems is his anxiety is often health based and over last year has been a fear he has dementia. No evidence at all except he occasionally forgets names of places or people at times. I try to be sympathetic and accept his anxiety but feel totally drained and although I have stepped away from being the one to make suggestions, help with tasks suggested in CBT , guide him though relaxation and controlled breathing I am distressed at the change in our relationship and way of life as he rarely wants to do the activities we have always shared. It is just so hard to accept that he can be wasting his, and my life over something imagined and that he seems totally unable to accept any amount of reassurance he is given by professionals. I know I should give him time for the treatment to ,hopefully, help but if I voice any frustration he then says he is frightened I'll leave him and how can I stand being with such a misery etc . Just to vent some of my feelings freely will be such a help.
Jean, hi - I understand a bit where you're coming from. My SIL has something I'd never heard of till my bro mentioned it, which is GAD - Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Basically, you worry and fret over everything in a quite 'out of proportion' sort of way. SIl assumes the worst, worries about family, dogs, money, health etc etc etc. Goes into denial (ie, that she needed a hip op, until she's crippled with a stick!)(and finally has aceepted she needs a new hip!).

Personally, I think a two-pronged approach may be what's needed. That is, dividing the anxieties into 'real' ones with a discernible risk, and 'un-real' ones (or perhaps, ones that one can do nothing about - eg, will nuclear war kill us all!)

With the former, when it comes to health risks, again, I do sympathise. I'm a cancer widow, and one of the things that hit me like a sledge was the brute fact that (a) only early cancer is usually 'curable' and (b) early cancer is nearly always non-symptomatic and (c) nearly all the symptoms are statistically far more likely to be something trivial.

That makes it ideal to worry about!

One of the things I've found is that GP's, when faced with someone coming in saying something like 'Doctor, I'm worried I may have cancer' tend to 'automatically' go into what I call 'There there' soothing mode. They say things like 'I'm sure you haven't.' or 'It's very rare you know' etc etc. And pat us on the head and send us home.

Now, of course, yes, we probably, statistically speaking, don't have cancer. BUT we might. And people like my husband die of it. People die every day of it (etc.)

So, what I do is take matters into my own hands, and do as many checks as I can myself. I get all the NHS available screens (bowel/breast/cervix), and then I add on (unforunatly I have to pay!), a full body CT scan (eg, Lifescan), every five years (they don't do more ofte because of the radiation, and anyway, yu don't really need one any more frequsntly )(well, mostly!) (there are ALWAYS exceptions - but the odds on those really, really drop down!)(and become the same as 'I may get run over crossing the road).

There are similar checkups you can get done for heart disease (as well obvious NHS ones like bp etc)

Now, all of the above fall into the what I call 'reasonable anxiety' category. If we are worried that cancer might be developing 'secretly inside us', then we can do these checks, and find out that either (a) no it isn't or (b) yes it's started but it's very small, so it's very treatable/curable. It's the basic principle of all screening.

If that is 'all' it would take to calm your husband down, then maybe think about doing them??? (Cost IS a factor, unforuantely, but if it gives peace of mind???)

However, when it comes to 'unreasonable' anxiety, about things that are very, very, very unlikely to happen, OR that we can do nothing about anyway (eg, nuclear war!), then we have to learn to 'live with danger' and that requires mental alteration by whatever method works. Even something as 'simple' as religion can help. eg, If God wants me dead by a sudden tree falling down on me and crushing me, well, he will, and there's nothing I can do about it. But if he doesn't want that, then I'm safe'.

I'm not trying to trivialise 'dread', because it can indeed possess us and torment us (especially at 4 am in the morning!). But I do think that perhaps discussing with your husband just what it is he is so fearful of, and whether those fears can be set aside by actual tests and preventative measures (eg, exercise, good diet etc), then you may find at leaset that the 'burden of fear' is reduced.

That said, when it comes to health, he could simply 'move on' and start worrying about something else ......

But, I would definitely point out that GPs are trained to dismiss the 'worried well' (Mainly because it's much cheaper than sending them for scans!)(they'll do bp monitoring because it's so cheap!)
Hi jean welcome to the forum ,My advice would be similar to Jenny's focus on the worries that you can do something about ie although it is something i don't know a lot about I believe one of the best ways to prevent you getting or slow the onset of dementia is to keep physically and mentally active i would try and use this to get my other half to do more this would be good for you too and will take his mind off his worries .Good luck it must be very stressful seeing him suffer like this and look after yourself as well because if you don't you can't help him.this forum is a great place to let off steam .
Julie x
Thanks for the comments - both helpful. I'm looking at helping myself and not trying not to feel so upset at the 'pointlessness' of his anxieties. He found a web site on GAD last year and was thrilled as it did seem to describe his long standing problems. It is only more recently that he has started to move on from the endless checking of symptoms and finding labels to trying to move forward and learn how to deal with the anxiety and recognize it as such. Further tests would probably not be helpful in his case as he has moved through so many possible health problems and each time he is reassured about one he moves to another as well as having the more general anxieties . Today is another day and I feel it is easier to decide what I can and can't do and when he is more positive it gives me a lift. The fact he is accepting help now means we must both accept the slow progression that is bound to have down days as well as the ones to treasure when both of us can be more positive. Thanks.