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Severe Anxiety and Panic Disorder

by Emma
(Yorkshire, UK)

Four years ago I decided I wanted to move to Canada, on my own. I had been there on vacation several times and loved the place. So I applied for my residency visa and after waiting 3 years I got accepted to live in the province of Nova Scotia. Anyway last August 2010, I was all set to move across there, on my own, leaving my family behind and because I was so anxious I freaked out, had a massive panic attack and could not do it. It was almost like I had an emotional breakdown or I came as close to this as I ever want to anyway. I ended up being sick for several weeks with high anxiety, stress and a bout of depression, because I felt like I had lost my dreams. Anxiety and Depression are illnesses, that I would not wish on anyone and do not want to go through again.

I know, that I was suffering from acute anxiety and high levels of stress at the thought of moving 3000 miles away from my family and that leaving my family was the main cause. I am very close to my parents/family and it felt like a bereavement, as I knew I would not see them very often. They cannot afford to visit me and I would not be able to see them more than once a year. At the moment I see them at least once a week, as they only live 2 miles away and I am very close to them. Anyway a year on, I am thinking of trying to give this another try, as I feel I would regret not going and trying, and I do not want to lose my visa and do not want to have any regrets, but I am unsure as to whether it is the right thing for me, as the anxiety is back and I am struggling to keep this under my control again. The symptoms of anxiety/fear are dreadful and anyone who has never had this just cannot understand. Last year my symptoms were: A feeling like I was losing myself, my confidence was and still is at an all time low. I am not happy in myself anymore. I had muscle aches in my arms, neck and shoulders, I got tension headaches all the time and could not sleep. I was very emotional a lot. I was shaking all over and I felt nauseous. My stress levels were so high the doctor had to bring me down with medication. Now, the muscle aches are back and I am not sleeping properly. I have read lots of self help books on anxiety and how to help myself and having spoken with a counsellor and done the anti-depressants, but nothing seems to help. I am trying to control my thoughts and feelings, which is what causes the negative spiral of thoughts, but I feel like I am headed back to how I was last year and the anxiety is still there and I feel like if I keep pushing myself I am going to have another breakdown. I do not have anything, except my parents where I currently live and feel like I don't really have a life. And believe me, I have tried to do this, I have joined clubs, the gym, internet dating sites and go to work and go to meditation, but still nothing. Everyone I know has partners and kids and do not want to invite someone new into their lives. I know my parents are not going to be around forever, but even this knowledge does not help. I have friends in Nova Scotia who would help me, but they are not family. Nothing seems to help me with the decision. I keep thinking that I can travel on my own without any fear, worry or anxiety, but the thought of moving so far away on my own is so hard and I do not know what to do. I had the thought that I could give it a go for a year or two and if I did not like it come back, but even that makes me anxious, as it means giving up everything. I know deep down that I do not want to be away from my family forever/permanently, so am wondering if this is the right thing for me or not. However, I want to meet new people, make new friends and maybe even meet someone special to share my life with, but feel this will not happen if I cannot make some changes and breakaway from my comfort zone and start something new. But moving away from everyone I love is so difficult.

Am I making a mistake, moving away from family, giving up a decent well paid job and taking a huge life changing risk. Is this the right thing for me. I really don't know anymore, but I don't want to be on my own forever. I am 38 years of age now and have not had many relationships and do not seem to be able to meet anyone near where I live. I want to have a life of my own and meet someone, but I know I will miss my family so much and just feel like I cannot cope with the anxiety anymore. To anyone suffering from this awful illness called anxiety, I completely understand and sympathize wholeheartedly.

Reply from Sound-Mind.org
Hello Emma,
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Moving far from family is very difficult especially if you are close in your relationships. One thing I do want to say here is, as long as you look for anxiety, you will find it. Anxiety/fear is something that we will always feel from time to time, especially when doing new things. Moving far from home and in your case, 3000 miles is a great distance - enough to cause stress and anxiety for anyone. I think the point here is to realize that fear and anxiety will always be fear and anxiety. We all have the choice to either allow it to dictate how we will live or we can choose to do what we want in spite of it. Truth is, we should never make decisions based on our anxiety. Making decisions based on fear is rather self-limiting and self-defeating and if you allow fear to tell you what you will and won't do, then this will surely effect your quality of life and self-confident/esteem. I, personally do not see a reason why you cannot do what you want to do. Sure, there will be anxiety and fear along the way but this is normal. The problem lies with you telling yourself that you should feel no fear at all or that your anxiety is unacceptable. Now, because of your experience with anxiety, panic and depression, you question your ability to care for yourself being so far away from family. This to is also normal. Anxiety always has us asking those "what-if" questions that lead to the most horrific scenarios. The only way to overcome fear and anxiety in this situation is to do what you want to do regardless of your fears. You must make the choice to step forward in spite of how you feel and have faith that you are a strong, smart person who is allowed to be adventurous in this life. Of course, you are the only one that can answer the question on whether or not this is the right thing to do, but be confident in the fact that no matter what you choose to do, you must be sure that you actually WANT to do it and you are not allowing fear to make that decision for you. One last bit of advice, don't go looking for anxiety because you will find it EVERY time. Accept it for what it is and nothing more and don't give it too much power. It is true that anxiety always follows the same predictable patterns, once you understand this, you will understand that the answer is always the same. Ther is a way out, and in this case, it is walking through it, rather than avoid it.

Best Wishes,
~Susan

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