Counselling made me think - I think what I'm feeling is grief/loss

Sorry I have posted quite a few times this week, it's not been an easy one. I guess my problem right now (my problems change quite frequently) isn't really anxiety, but the feelings that my anxiety seemed to be stemming from - pain. A very visceral pain in my the pit of my stomach that I just couldn't identify. A pain that just seemed to be floating around in my gut, sometimes making me feel vaguely ill-at-ease, sometimes stabbing me until I just wanted to sleep.

I started counselling a few weeks ago at a non-profit charity and when I talked (gleefully) about the way my life was during a period when I was happy for about eight months, and I talked about how I used to be 14 years ago before any mental health problems truly kicked in, I was asked how I felt about the youth that has been robbed from me (too ill to enjoy my adolescence and most of my 20s so far) and parts of my personality, which seemed to have been battered out of existence (although I still believe they will reemerge), like my high energy lifestyle and assertiveness.

At the time I said I didn't know how I felt, and I was being honest, I couldn't connect any feelings to the thoughts, but I've been feeling awful today, so drained and upset and ill, and I finally pinpointed that what I am feeling is grief. I'm grieving for a lifestyle I once had, I'm grieving for all the opportunities I was given that I eventually had to turn down because I couldn't cope, I'm grieving for all the things I've lost because I've been too ill, and I'm definitely grieving for the loss of my youth. In fact, I'm surprised I didn't realise that straight away because I think about it so often!

I feel like it's a good thing that I've finally identified what I feel, but I'm so exhausted. Even just identifying that emotion has made me want to just sleep the next week out and I know I can't. I have counselling tomorrow and hopefully that will help.

My big fantasy, that I've had for a while, is being able to draw a line under all this and say - ok, that's done, time to move on. I want to make up for all the lost time. My daydreams usually go along the lines of me having an excuse to move to another city, meet new people, have a new job and just be a new me. Kind of the way it was when I went to university - a totally fresh start. It did actually help when I went to university, after all...

But because I'm a little older now and have responsibilities, it's unlikely this will happen so I'm going to have to find a new way to start afresh. At least I now feel at the stage where the mental illness is actually, really over. I don't believe I am mentally ill anymore. Now I really do think I'm just in the stage of mourning what that period of mental illness took away and yearning for a fresh start so I can put it all behind me and move on.

I guess I wrote this because I wanted to talk to someone about it. Has anyone experienced similar feelings because of the way mental health problems have affected their lives?

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  • hi, i often reflect,especially in my awaking early hours,how i got to where i am,with nervous anxiety. MY whole life,i have been quietly nervous about all kinds of situations,but managed to keep a lid on things,and now im in my fifties,its like it has decided to get the better of me,at a time of life when i am feeling so vunerable.im not alone,married,2 teenage boys at home,and yet it feels that no-one understands what i go through.i hide away,or shut down,as i call it,until i feel strong again. today is not a good day for me,perhasp tomorrow will be.

  • Hi anxiousrecoverer. Have you talked about this your counsellor? It just seems to me that you are trying to go too fast. To get 'there' wherever that may be. I do not believe you have ever been 'mentally' ill. There is, in my opinion, a great difference between mental illness and an anxiety state. 'Mental illness' covers a multitude of complaints. GAD covers only one. Nerves!

    You want to recover your high energy lifestyle and your assertiveness. Do you? It may be that is what caused the problem in the first place. Boy! High energy AND assertiveness use up vast amounts of nervous energy and that, in itself, can cause the anxiety state. Can sensitise you. You are 'grieving' for the lifestyle you once had. No wonder you feel tired. Grief of any sort is draining and you have been dwelling on this for a long time. Your big fantasy sounds good. BUT YOU CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM YOURSELF. Any new City, any new job will still have YOU there. You have to cope with yourself in the situation you are in at the moment. Then, having done that, you can go anywhere because you will no longer feel the nervous symptoms and can overcome any problem because you have learned to cope with YOURSELF. Your past lifestyle is gone. The opportunities are gone. But you can LEARN from them. We humans go on making the same mistakes over and over. We sit on a hot stove, get burned, then go and do it again. Do not repeat the past. Let us know how you get on with the counselling. Very best of luck. jonathan.

  • Thanks Jonathan. I'm not sure anxiety was really the main problem with me. I don't feel anxious at the moment, for instance, just depressed. The anxiety came on relatively late for me, I started off with eating disorders for the first six years then the anxiety began when I was getting over the eating disorders. As I started to be able to cope with eating normally again (relatively recently) the anxiety has been tailing off, but I've been left with the exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness, having lost so much of my life so far. The main problem was the eating, but that in itself is a symptom of either depression or anxiety anyway, and a lot of my anxiety was connected to my weight and food. I agree that I can't run away from myself as well, it's just a feeling that all the problems I've had are the 'old me', if you see. I kind of feel like I'm back and I'm becoming me again, and I'm definitely way too impatient to make up for lost time, but the pressure of ageing is on me. Ok, I'm only 26, but I feel like I've got a lot to catch up and I'm going to have to do things like get married and have kids in my 30s if I want to beat the biological clock, which feels like it's leaving me too little time to live it up! Yeah, that's definitely thinking too much into it!

    I do get what you mean, though. I'm going to talk to my counsellor about it tomorrow and see what she thinks.

  • I identify totally with what you describe. I was anxious and ill at ease with myself from childhood onwards (probably depressed without realising it) and then at the age of 25 I suddenly became very ill with anxiety, depression, panic attacks and agoraphobia following some major life stresses. I am now 39, nearly 40, and all the things I have failed to do in the past 15 years makes me feel very sad. While all my friends have been working, travelling, getting married and having kids, I have done none of those things (apart from a small part-time job) and have had very few relationships. It has left me feeling a sense of loss, a sense of having missed out on normal life, because I have been trying so hard just to manage my symptoms and the day-to-day routine of a life ruled by anxiety and fear. I think it's great that you can go through this moment of self-understanding and also remember to forgive yourself. Tell yourself you didn't choose to do this to yourself, your eating disorder was not something you wished for, but it happened. Forgive yourself, don't beat yourself up, and take the necessary steps to move on to the next phase of your life. And yes, it IS draining, but it passes.

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