I’ve been thinking a lot about my anxiety recently. I look back with a smile on my face that no, the house didn’t burn down, I didn’t delete important work documents by accident, and nor did I die of that terrible incurable disease that had manifested only in my head. I smile because these all felt so real, and now they don’t. I smile because I finally feel like myself again, something I never thought was possible.
That may sound dramatic, but when you go about life (notice I don’t use the term living here) plagued by unwanted thoughts of ‘what if’, second guessing and catastrophising my every move, I really did hit rock bottom. I stopped looking to the future and instead feared it.
‘How did you come out the other side?’ is something I’m asked a lot. In truth, every day I have to keep an eye on my mental health and manage the obsessive thoughts in my head. I still tell myself mantras, learned in therapy; like ‘just because I thought of it doesn’t mean it will happen’ and ‘I can’t control it by thinking about it’. To be honest, I couldn’t even put my finger on what exactly worked, since I tackled it from all angles, just desperate to be myself again – quitting alcohol and caffeine, then starting therapy and finally the ultimate taboo – medication.
Growing up in a family where my mum was more likely to give me a tea made out of bark than take me to the doctor, it felt daunting but I knew I needed to go. What were these meds going to do? Would they make me feel like someone else completely? And this would mean my anxiety is real as it’s written down on paper. Being thrust a prescription with no reassuring eye contact from the doctor didn’t help either. The tablets stayed un-taken, but as the sleepless nights continued and anxiety loomed over every day enjoyments, I knew I had to do something about it. Calling my doctor, I explained my situation and was referred to a lovely specialist. She explained it all to me and said that I was to come back in 6 weeks for a chat.
The anxiety didn’t settle overnight, and I can’t remember when it happened, but I started to look ‘back’ on my anxiety – a testament to how far I had come.