How to Help K

I know so much more about fighting Ed than 18 months ago. I still struggle to do it, but I at least know what I should do. However, I am increasingly troubled by K. Her anxiety levels are constantly high, she fears death, but is obsessed by death, not just her own, or close family, but everyone she sees and meets. She cannot make any sense of life or work out what the point of even existing is. She has routines and rituals as well as irrational fears, of insects, of cat fleas or infection. I don’t know what to do to help her. Our CAMHS appointment is over a month away and I have no answers for the constant screaming terror in her head. I wish I could retreat under a duvet with her and hold her until we find help. I worry that my own level of depression means I will be unable to help. I find it increasingly difficult to get up in the mornings and while I’ve become used to the synthetic medicalised sensation that antidepressants induce, I am constantly exhausted by the effort of being OK. I need to stay strong for work and for home but feel forever distant from this person who acts her way through each day and never gets to say how she really feels.

Does anyone have any advice I could give to K? Are there any tips or strategies for reducing anxiety without the need for therapy or medication? I have tried telling her to have a mantra and to repeat it when overwhelmed. I suggest she texts me, but she says she doesn’t know how to frame basic words when in that state. My suggestion that she texts Help! Or Existential angst alert is met with a smile, but I know she will not do it. And if she did, and I was occupied talking someone else through their difficulties, it would be even worse.

Next week is Mental Health Day. Publicity will stress that every family is touched by mental health issues. Somewhere there is a family entirely unaffected – I think we have your share. Please collect it any time you like.

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12 responses to “How to Help K

  1. I’m sorry to hear K is having such a hard time! I don’t really have any tips re anxiety as I struggle a lot with that too, but in terms of the existential angst thing: for years I was obsessed with how pointless life was, which I think contributed a lot to my depression. The way I learnt to comfort myself was by eventually deciding ‘Yep, life is pretty pointless, but that’s okay. You still have to be alive, so while you are, the task is to try to get through it with as much enjoyment as possible, and to help others to get through it with as much happiness as they can.’ Sounds simple (and obviously finding enjoyment is another kettle of fish), but for some reason I find it a reassuring mantra of sorts, when I find myself freaking out about how meaningless everything is.

  2. I don’t know if K would consider it, but have you thought about hypnosis. Because it is privately accessed it is often accessible quickly and I know people who have found it helpful for anxiety. Or maybe think about acupuncture – I have found this useful for anxiety and depression.

    My daughter had substantial MH issues through her teens
    and I know the agony that you’re going through as a mother trying to support her daughters. The feelings of helplessness and inadequacy sometimes feel overwhelming, especially so when you are fighting your own battle with depression. And that is despite doing absolutely everything within your power to access/provide support

    My own coping mechanism when trying to manage anxiety is to close my eyes and visualise a very beautiful place that holds many happy memories for me and those I love. It’s not a miracle cure but it helps.

    And the other tip is to keep on what you’re doing to help K to learn to talk about her feelings and fears. My own daughter found this extremely difficult and had a long, tough battle to overcome this. Keep on loving her the only way you know how and reaffirming that love to her.

    You’re a great mum and you’ve been delivered a raw deal from life. It’s tough for the whole family when just one person has MH issues, let alone several. Keep on putting one foot in front of the other, taking it an hour, a day at a time. Things will get better and your daughters will grow into the confident, capable women that they deserve to be. I know this because mine did, despite my fears when at our lowest ebbs.
    With love and best wishes to you all.

    (P.S. You do know me, in case you haven’t realised, but under my own name in other places.)

  3. Your love for K and all the other people close to you leaps from the page. We try we fail we try again but it’s what we do – actually it’s not what “we ” do coz some people don’t ! You do , and keep at it coz it’s inspirational for others. G ( for granite )

  4. ? slow deep breaths, ? visualising a happy place. And for you – you are inspirational. Just keep on keeping on ….

  5. I’d recommend the Book Brain Lock by Jeffrey Schwartz. I’ve been reading it and find it helpful while also watching Mark Freeman’s Everybody Has a Brain videos on Youtube. What you’re describing seems a lot like Pure-O anxiety. They’ve helped a lot to understand what is going on when I am feeling super anxious and what not, to better handle it.

  6. Mindfulness is good. Also have a look at the SAM app – it’s not necessarily going to change things but I’ve found it useful to track anxiety and jot down thoughts so I know what to say when I need to tell someone.

  7. Replying here rather than twitter as I can write more

    I know this was a while ago but I have also been going through a similar thing for the last few months. Always been upset by death since I watched Casper as a kid (my initial trigger) but now the thought of it sends me into panic attack. To the point of if someone on tv says “I will love you forever” I think “no you won’t because you will die one day” and I question the meaning of everything. My chest tightens with terror at the thought. Even writing this.

    K is NOT alone in this one. The only thing that has helped me so far is Citalopram and cutting all caffeine out of my diet so when I do get wound up, I can calm myself down physically and be in control of my physical symptoms more.

    I know you had lots of replies and I can’t read them on my phone as it won’t format the peg properly but I dunno if the caffeine thing might help xx

    • Hi Carrie

      That’s interesting and I hope that when we get to CAMHS we will discuss medication. I understand her fears about death – it is so inescapable. The only person who ever made any sense about it was a person who said, Just imagine the time before birth. It’s the same thing.

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