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paralyzed by anxiety

Community Member

I've struggled with anxiety & acceptance since i was 9 or 10. I'm now 43, my life has disintegrated right before my eyes over the past 2 years. I've lost my job, my marriage (which was marred by the anxiety & my self deprecating thoughts & actions) my only son now lives with his mother in another country & I have no access to him as he has had all lines of communication taken away, his mother has been less than discreet discussing my "failures", something that always really irritated me during the marriage. I left the country we were all living in after suffering the crushing pressure from the very hostile separation. It ruined me financially and emotionally. My heart is broken.

I' m afraid to do anything, have spent 7 months here, dwelling on what I could have done differently, worried out of my mind about what I will face next. The past 3 months or so, I've been completely paralyzed by fear, panic, worry. I don't want to go anywhere, have withdrawn from family, avoid relationships completely, avoid starting anything new for fear it too will fail. It's a huge, compounded mess.

I feel like I'm a complete failure, my mind is racing with thoughts of past unpleasant dealings, failures, arguments, what I could do differently & feel hopeless & helpless trying to make sense of it all. 

Most recently, I've found myself sobbing uncontrollably, without warning, usually when I see a picture of my son, or think of some of the things him & I would do together. I get chest pain, am short of breath, nightmares, chills & sweats, can't concentrate, have lost all interest & enjoyment in life. I have lost hope of being happy again, mainly due to the despair of not seeing my son, possibly ever again. I haven't been able to find work, not that I feel like I could even manage to work with all my worry & physical decline over the past 3 or 4 months. I stopped exercising, I just watch TV, read news online (which really irritates me & makes me ever more cynical), I typically get up in the morning, have breakfast, shower, then sit on the couch most the day until I get dinner. I was working out 5 days a week & was extremely fit a year ago.   In my previous job, I saw a lot of violence, images & video of brutal homicides, assaults, rapes & the job was very stressful.

11 Replies 11

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hello Heartbroken dad, you must feel as if your world has come crashing down on you. You sound like you miss your son terribly, how old is he?

Let me start by saying you are not a failure. Your old job sounds highly, highly distressing and would take its toll on anyone in that situation. 

From what you describe in your last paragraph, you sound understandably grief stricken and suffering from some of the well known symptoms of depression and anxiety.  One of the good things I read is that you are still taking care of the basics - you are getting out of bed, showering, eating.  That may sound like not much, but those are major achievements when in the middle of a big slump like this, take it from someone who knows.

I wouldn't worry too much about finding work just now, you need time to recover and think about the next phase of your life, and possibly seek advice on access to your son when you are ready, as I don't see why you should be cut out of his life regardless of what has happened in your marriage.

Does anyone in your family here, or friends, know how bad things are for you at the moment? You need people to talk to and support you through this.  It would also be highly recommended that you go and see your doctor as soon as you can to talk about the depression, see what he/she recommends regards possible medication and referral for some psychologist sessions so you can talk this through with a professional.  I think there would be a lot of unresolved emotion from your old job that you would need to talk about regardless of whether your marriage had ended, that is a lot of nasty baggage you have inside your head and I really feel for you.

Hope you will write back to us and tell us more about how you're doing and we can talk to you some more. A lot of us understand what you're going through and can recognise these horrible feelings.

Community Member

Hi Heartbroken Dad,

Sounds like you need some help. You do not mention if you have spoken to your doctor. Have you tried writing down your thoughts? I have found that this has helped me to make sense of what is bothering me. Try and have some hope. Being anxious can make us over estimate how negative things are.

Best wishes,


Community Member

Hi Jess & Grateful, thanks for the replies & suggestions. I can only paint a small picture here of all that has happened.

I've had 10 friends die in 3 years, some from cancer, tragic accidents. heart attack & most were young, not much older than me. I feel like the stress of my life is taking a huge toll on me, like I'm anticipating death some days. I visited a hospital a year ago for stress / panic attack & was warned by the Dr that I could have a heart attack if I didn't manage things better. I feel so helpless, like I can't even put 1 foot in front of the other to start making positive change.   My anxiety is controlling my life. It has contributed to serious bouts of depression too. I wonder sometimes if all the negative experiences I've had since 9 or 10, which haven't really been resolved fully, have combined with the massive emotional loss I've experienced in the last 2 years and  feel like I may even have PTSD a lot of the time.   I've seen a counselor a handful of times in the past 2-3 years to work on several issues that were presenting, including anger issues. I was attending therapy while also taking meds for anxiety & depression, which seemed to work pretty well. I stopped the meds almost 2 years ago & counselling a year ago because my insurance lapsed once my job ended. The the nasty separation, child custody & financial ruin hit me. I can say that the anger hasn't been a problem in over 2 years now, perhaps because I feel like I have no energy left to fight for anything. I feel completely broken. The problems seem so big & so many now that even the things I learned in counseling seem so ineffective in starting to manage my issues. I have made an appointment with a GP to get a plan, psychology referral and most likely start the meds again. Even getting a medicare card seemed like a huge roadblock, so much so, I procrastinated for 6 months before I went in.I feel absolutely defeated, worn out and unable to muster the strength to put things in order, or to start over.

I worry every day that my chest pain is more than stress, that it's the worst case just waiting to happen.


Again HD, it's so good to hear you have taken some positive steps in making that GP appointment. It doesn't matter now that you waited 6 months, you have had a lot to deal with.

With all you have going on, it makes sense that the skills you learned in those handful of sessions have slipped. It sounds like it's a good couple of years since you were having any sort of regular professional help, and since then your separation has happened.  

The strength to start over will grow each day, trust me. Even by posting here you have shown that you have the will to keep going. 

Anxiety symptoms are very frightening because they can be confused with something being physically wrong with you, but your doctor will be able to do a full exam and determine whether you need to have your heart monitored or anything like that.

I think the answer to your question about, have all those experiences back from when you were young snowballed on top of everything to create how you're feeling now, yes that makes total sense. It's a bit like a plastic shopping bag, there's only so much we can put in there before it starts to break.  You need people to help share the load.

Thank you again form the input.

Unfortunately, after living overseas for many years, I don't really have a network of friends here at all & my family who do live here aren't the best communicators & cannot handle even the slightest suggestion of an open discussion of my situation and the real perils I faced, and am still to face in the future. My son just became a teenager recently and is extremely unhappy living with his mother, however, she is very controlling and will not hear anyone if they don't agree with her. He too is crushed by her oppressive and controlling behaviour & it breaks my heart that I can't fight for him. I don't want this to end up having a detrimental effect on him as he grows into a man. He needs to be able to express himself without fear of being yelled at and shot down any time he mentions something his mother doesn't like.

I hope the Dr can at least get me to a point that I have something to work towards, as well as managing the stress and anxiety before I implode. Due to the financial blows I've experienced, there is no way I can take the matter to the courts there and that leaves me like a sitting duck, which contributes to my feelings of helplessness & hopelessness. The stress became too much, which is why I had to leave. Now that I'm gone, I feel like I've let my son down too & worry that he resents me for walking out, firstly on the family & then on him entirely.

Hi Heartbroken dad, 

You are going through an extremely hard time at the moment and it sounds like you may be expressing symptoms of PTSD, brought on by your last job and also by the people who have passed away in your life recently.  Also, going through separation from your child is EXTREMELY heart breaking.  

I am not a father or a mother, but I have been completely deadend from the experience of being separated from my brother.  This feeling was completely crippiling and I was in an extremely dark powerless place. 

 I feel you know the way you are feeling isn't the way you would like to be feeling and it's really great that you have reached out for support - as it is so hard to know where to turn.  Seeing the Doctor is a great idea, you mentioned that once before you were on meds and that helped you at the time.  As our bodies undergo stress, your serotonin becomes depleted, along with other hormones and some anti-depressants help to build these levels back up in your body, so that you can function and feel good again.  

You also said that you were into fitness a year ago - that's awesome, if you can just remember that head space you were in to workout - you can do it again - it's hard to get the motivation but start slowly - maybe a little walk everyday or a run would help?  Do you live somewhere near some nice outdoor tracks? Parks? Beach? .  

Can I ask do you still keep in contact with your son?

If you feel like everything is too much, there are great meditation schools, they have them all around Australia and the world - they are run by donation and completely free - it is a silent retreat and is 10 days - but it may be worth checking out - this meditation can help you cope with anxiety, depression, PTSD and also pain.  Both men and women do it.  

Start with little steps, build yourself up slowly.  Go easy on yourself, know that in time you may be able to see your son again, when he is older - he can come see you.  Try writing notes for him to let him know how you are feeling and keep in mind that time is a healer, and in time you may be seeing him again.

Best wishes


I had my first appointment today & after a good hour, combined with notes I'd been keeping about the feelings and emotions I'd experienced over the last 6 months or so, it was fairly apparent to the Dr that there's a compound effect of issues to deal with. Predominantly anxiety and PTSD with some depression too. Dr recommended bi weekly visits for the remainder of the year for counselling along with medication for anxiety & depression. in many ways it's a relief to have something substantive to work with, in others, it presents a while new challenge for me. I wondering what to expect from here, still anxious that the issues are so serious and have been accumulating for so long that they're going to be very difficult to resolve & will require intensive effort, therapy & pharmacological remedies too. That alone makes me anxious, but hopeful too. I was wondering, has anyone practiced meditation or other alternate methods to aid relaxation? It was something that was suggested to me last year when symptoms were starting to become more evident.

I practiced vipassana meditation, u should try. Good luck, good to hear ur taking steps to help urself feel better. 


I have found meditation to be a useful practice for patience. I did Tai Chi and meditation classes and Yoga. Yoga is really good for becoming aware of what is happening in your body. It is a matter of finding a practice that is right for you. Your counselor should be able to help you with some simple breath and relaxation techniques. I also find running and walking can be done in a mindful way. Sometimes it is hard to sit still.

You have had a lot of stuff to deal with. From experience I know it is possible to get caught up in a spiral of negative memories. Although things may seem hopeless they never are. You have a plan in place for the rest of the year so you do not have to think about that all the time. It might help to just focus on one day at a time.