Post-Stroke Panic and Anxiety

11 April 2019

It still blows my mind that strokes are often pain free, you'd imagine having a blood clot stuck in your bran and depriving it of oxygen would be painful but it's not. If I wasn't panicking at the same time because I knew that something bad was happening I would go as far as to say that it's sort of relaxing in a sick way, the tingling sensation and the feeling of drifting away was almost like some weird state of mediation (that my Mum kept kept interrupting with instructions like, "lift your arms above your head" and "smile for me"). It's the after affects of stroke that hurt, I wrote about my life post-stroke last month here

I'm still living in stroke-limbo, I've some of my heart tests and I've got a consultation back in Stoke tomorrow that I'm nervous and excited about. Since last month I've also started therapy; I was (still am I guess) suffering from anxiety (a common side affect of stroke). I've never had anxiety before, I've felt anxious about certain things but the difference between feeling anxious about something and having anxiety are massive and something that I feel often gets confused. I was living in a constant state of panic, adamant that another stroke was going to happen, or a heart attack or that somehow I was going to die or get locked in or end up with severe brain damage and unable to recognise, let alone look after Fred. This fear was unhealthy and causing me to be permanently angry, I was lashing out at Luke 'for not caring enough' every time he tried to reassure me because any reassurance wasn't enough, I was snapping at my Mum for not having the answers to absolutely everything and I was miserable, just moping around the house being a stroke victim, hating my life. 

I was physically suffering too, the signs of panic and anxiety are heart palpitations, breathlessness and light-headedness - I was getting these when I felt stressed and worried about something but also out of the blue, in the middle of Asda when I thought I was feeling alright. This lead to more panic and more anxiety and because I didn't know thats that what it was, I immediately thought that it was the symptoms of an underlying heart condition and that I was obviously going to die which lead to...yep, more panic. I was trapped in this cycle of being scared, having symptoms of panic and not having a clue what to do. It took a chat with my cousin to make me realise that I might be suffering a bit mentally and need some help with processing it all. Everyone agreed that my feelings were understandable and totally justified but I wasn't that nice to be around and it wasn't healthy for anyone. 

Things started to look up 

When I identified that I wasn't coping and that my symptoms were more indicative of panic and anxiety, I immediately felt relieved. I cope best when I know whats going on, the fear of the unknown and not being able to control situations sets me on edge and that stroke-limbo situation wasn't doing me any favours. My mum contacted the Community Stroke Team and told them that I wasn't doing to so well and I arranged a session with a therapist to look unto some CBT and other methods of coping. Having that chat with the therapist on the phone just to arrange the session made feel better and the following week before the planned session was amazing. For the first time since the stroke happened, I lived. I didn't wake up with a feeling of dread at the pit of my stomach and I barely noticed any palpitations. I lived for each day and made the most of the nice weather, I spent time in the garden, took Freddie out, got coffee and went for a drink with my Mum. At the end of each day my back and shoulders were aching because seven weeks of tension and stress was finally letting go and my body was relaxing rather than being tense and uptight. My Mum said that I was nice to be around and she was getting 'good vibes' from me, Luke wasn't hating being in my company because I'd stopped lashing out and snapping at him. Things felt good. 

I started therapy and it was good to talk to someone who could understand what was going on in my head, we came to the conclusion that I'm a bit of a control freak and the lack of control as well as knowledge of the future unnerve me and make me stressed causing me to react. The addition of having lots of questions that I know can't be answered yet doesn't help not to mention the fears of it, or something worse happening again. I've started to think more rationally now, I had a vein raise up in my arm last week and although it definitely made me panic, I took control of the situation, called 111 and received the clinical advice that I needed to put me at ease; deep down I knew that the vein was just a raised vein but there was a niggling voice at the back of my head saying "it's a blood clot and it's going to travel to your brain and cause another stroke and kill you", rather than cry and panic, I took control of the situation and managed it. 

Having medically trained friends and family really helps too, after the raised vein I somehow convinced myself that I had high blood pressure (a leading contributor to strokes) raised veins can be  sign of this as well as palpitations and light-headedness, dya see where I'm going with this? My niggling thoughts started to spiral and before I knew it I had put a blood pressure monitor in my Amazon basket. I started talking to my friends about my worries about my blood pressure and Nurse Lauren, without me realising, clearly identified what was going on and managed to distract me from the blood pressure thoughts to the point where one we'd finished chatting about babies and whatever else, I'd completely forgotten about it all. This was when I realised that I needed to take time out and practice mindfulness like my therapist had suggested. 

Mind full or Mindful?

I always considered mindfulness to be a little arty-farty and not very me. Sitting and colouring in isn't really my vibe, nor is meditating when I have a thousand worries on my mind because I'll just overthink them but mindfulness isn't just about that. In context to my recovery, I have a lot of worries and thoughts that need processing, some are really rational like 'how the hell are we going to pay the gas bill' and others are rational but also spiral out of control such as 'what will happen to Freddie if I die? Will Luke move to Hemel? I don't want Freddie to not see his cousins here, what about the cats? OH MY GOD THE CATS! Will Luke be ok? What if he never reads Hairy McLairy to Freddie? He won't keep the cats' When that kind of thought came to me, and spiralled I would often race down the stairs and blurt it all out at Luke who wouldn't have a clue what I was on about or what the emergency was, probably say the wrong thing to which I'd lose my shit over and have a go at him for. These days, when a thought like that starts rearing it's head I distract myself, I have a bath, paint my nails read a book or start cleaning to take my mind of it and give it a break from worrying. 

These methods are working really well for me and I've come to learn that mindfulness is about being in the moment and present rather than worrying about what has happened and overthinking and stressing about what could happen. I'm over the anger and I'm almost over the worry; I'm at a point in my recovery where I'm happy to be alive, for however long that might be and I'm going to try and enjoy every day that I've got left rather than just exist (still worried about the cats though).


  1. You're amazing, Issy. It's like PTSD really, isn't it? Counselling should definitely be part of your post-stroke treatment plan xx

  2. I'm really glad you're making it through :) I have thankfully never been through having a stroke but can definitely relate to anxiety - CBT, meditation, mindfulness and even ASMR are all things I'm committing to at the moment and I think it's helping!

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

  3. I'm sorry to read that you're having such a tough time Issy. Anxiety can really be debilitating. You are amazing and things will get better. Try not to be too hard on yourself. xx

  4. I am so glad you're feeling better. You are amazing! xx

  5. You are so strong, and things will get easier I am sure!

  6. Great post - I am so sorry to hear about your stroke! As someone who also struggles with anxiety, I cannot imagine what you are going through... I hope you are able to stay courageous to get through this! Thank you for sharing!
    -Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? The Chic Cupcake

  7. Issy, how you've handled this whole situation is inspiring and to hear how you're continuing to make the best of things and working on mind over matter with the mindfulness tactics etc is another way of showing your strength x

  8. Love you Issy, you know my love of Mindfulness already - I cannot recommend it enough in all situations in life, you are doing incredibly well on your road to recovery - and I couldn't be prouder of you! (and Your cats are okay!)

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  9. Issy, you're an inspiration - you've handled the whole situation so well and you're doing so much better than you probably think you are!
    Em x

  10. You're such an inspiration, Issy! I can only imagine how anxious you must feel some days but you're doing so well! xx

    Maiya |

  11. You're such an inspiring lady Issy. I can't imagine how I would handle something like that happening to me but I hope I'd handle it just as you are. Keep going and don't be too hard on yourself lovely.
    Chantelle x
    The Girl In The Tartan Scarf

  12. You are my inspiration, the way you've handled all of this is so admirable and I just want to give you a big squish xx

  13. Wow you have been through so much, but your positivity and outlook is inspiring. I always thought mindfulness and meditating wasn't for me but I started slowly 2 minutes each night then 10 minutes etc. Now I couldn't be without it. But you seemed to have found what helps you. I must agree cleaning helps me to calm down too. xxx

  14. You’re doing absolutely incredible and your attitude throughout has been so inspiring.

  15. You should be so proud of yourself, honestly the way you've handled all of this is incredible x

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