From a very young age, Wayne was often anxious, thinking the worst of every situation. He also tended to avoid ACTING upon problems, which emphasised his sense of helpless victimhood.
Aged 32, Wayne had been constipated from new blood pressure medication and began feeling a ‘twinge’ in his stomach. After a couple of weeks, he clearly recalls suddenly thinking to himself “I’m going to die of stomach cancer”. He also recalled feeling as though he ‘deserved’ to die.
This was despite there being no evidence of any serious disorder. The next day his brother-in-law saw him and commented “You’ve lost weight”. Wayne took this as a sign he was wasting away from cancer.
Wayne’s GP told him it was probably reflux and told him to take antacid. His psychiatrist told him it was only a one in a million chance that it was anything serious like cancer. Wayne however felt it was ‘obvious’ that he was the one in a million. He even began to make preparations in anticipation of increasing illness and death, tying up his affairs and clearing out his desk at work.
Despite all this, he still heard another voice telling him that he was being silly and over-reacting. Wayne didn’t know what to believe, but thought that believing the worst was safest.
It came to the crunch two months later when Wayne, with some encouragement from his family, worked up the courage to have a series of hospital tests to find out the truth.
‘That went well,’ said the surgeon of the endoscopy and other testes. But then he added ‘How are your nerves?” Wayne’s stomach was surgically completely normal! No sign of any tumours.
‘You drink a fair bit don’t you?’ said the surgeon, referring to blood tests that showed he had alcoholic liver damage. This damage actually had no symptoms and was only discovered because of his other concerns.
All of Wayne’s doctors advised him to give up drinking straight away. Strangely, although he had been beside himself with anxiety over his ‘imaginary’ cancer, the news that he had alcoholic liver disease did not alarm him at all!
Wayne’s real battle was alcoholism, and it took another six years before he stopped drinking! His priorities were obviously out of order.
The reason Wayne came out of this is that he (eventually) took ACTION about his unreasonable fears.
1. Made an appointment for a trained surgeon to look into his stomach and take a video of it to confirm the actual truth
2. He gave up drinking so his diseased liver could heal and regenerate.
While talking to me, Wayne was able to share in hindsight that it would have been helpful to have chosen a safe person to talk to about his anxieties who could help him overcome them sooner. Someone like a Peer Worker. Instead he chose to live with his debilitating delusion for over three months .