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What To Do for Pervasive Fear that Persists over a Year after Emergency Surgery…

01 Mar

Question:
Hello Belleruth,

First of all a huge Thank You for your products, they really work wonders. I purchased Relaxation & Wellness CD (Imagery and Affirmations) to help me with my hypervigilant state of being (Really anxious and in Fear mode most of the time).
 
I was wondering if you would recommend other products that I could use to help me get better. My Therapist suggested you to me and she was not wrong. I underwent surgery for Appendectomy on 10/31/09 and in addition quit smoking that same day after 20 years of smoking.  Life hasn't been the same since.
 
Thank you for your help.
Regards, Donald Godwin

 

Hello, Donald.  

Thanks for the kind words.  I'm very glad the imagery is proving helpful.  There are lots of possibilities for resources for you, but before I get rolling on that, I have to say that, as a therapist, I'm curious about this strong reaction, apparently right after your surgery.  (I don't think quitting smoking would do it - that just creates garden variety misery and supreme discomfort!!)

Two common explanations would be:
(a) you've been dealing with anxiety all along (doesn't sound like it from your note), or
(b) the surgery activated a reprise of a traumatic childhood hospital procedure or illness (if so, I'm sure you've been going over this with your therapist).

But if neither of these is the case, there's a third possibility that could explain this: it's possible that you've acquired PTSD from one of those rare but ghastly anesthesia reactions, where you were awake and aware, but paralyzed, and then the whole experience got deleted from your conscious mind. And since the combination of terror plus helplessness is the perfect formula for catalyzing posttraumatic stress, this circumstance could really do it.  You may never find out what actually transpired in the O.R., and you don’t have to know what it was in order to remediate it.  But at least it's an explanation that might ease your bafflement about where all this pesky terror is coming from.

Now, as for resources, anything that helps you relax at will is going to help, by  starting to train your body to override the cascade of alarm biochemicals that's flooding of your bloodstream with cortisol, epinepherine and norepinepherine (the main actors, anyway - there are plenty of others too).  So you want to become highly skilled at activating your relaxation response (or parasympathetic nervous system).



 

 

 

 

 

 

You can do this with breath work (Andy Weil has a great set of exercises), hypnosis (Relaxation Rx by Steven Gurgevich is excellent), mindfulness meditation (I’m very fond of any of these: Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation or the beautiful work of Bodhipaksa  or, of imagery I've done, the Panic Attack , Relieve Stress or Healing Trauma audios would be good.

 

 

 

 

 

The main thing is to practice, practice, practice until you become a veritable self-calming machine.  This regular self-training in settling down your overactive nervous system (no matter how it got that way... really, it doesn't matter as far as resolving this goes) is what's going to get the job done, along with the work you are doing with your therapist.

I hope this helps!  Good luck!
BR

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award