I’ve mentioned in passing my anxiety diagnosis, but I’ve not focused too much on it until now – not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t really understand very much about it. I didn’t really know much about my own illness, so I didn’t feel I was able to go into any real detail about it here.
Since I was diagnosed, I’ve come across so many people who have had or still have anxiety, and it’s so brilliant that people are able to talk more openly about it. I wanted to talk about my anxiety and my journey through CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to keep the conversation going, and encourage others to talk openly and honestly about their mental health.
Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s more common than you probably think. I definitely feel more in control of how I feel since starting therapy, and I wanted to discuss my sessions in case anyone else was considering it.
After my diagnosis, I self referred myself, on my Doctor’s recommendation, to Steps 2 Wellbeing – the NHS mental health service. After an initial telephone appointment, where it was confirmed I was suffering with quite severe symptoms of anxiety, I was initially put on a waiting list for group CBT therapy.
I wasn’t sure about going to therapy in a group, and I finally rang up and explained I wasn’t keen on the idea and would rather go for the one to one therapy option. I had been told there was a much longer waiting list for this, but in fact I was soon offered an appointment (this was still around 3 months after my initial telephone appointment).
I officially started my CBT at the end of August, just before we flew out to Santorini to get married. I then had my second session a few weeks later and I had my third appointment last Thursday.
The first session was very much about getting to know each other. My therapist is so lovely, she’s really friendly, open and approachable and she doesn’t skirt around issues, which I think really helps me.
I opened up a lot on the first session, and I did treat it a little more like counselling, which I’ve done before. My therapist was very kind about it, but explained that CBT was different to counselling in the fact that it was more about being proactive and finding ways to tackle the problems head on, by myself, rather than a counsellor sitting and listening and coaxing you to speak more.
The second session was the most useful for me so far. It was much more hands on, with us completing a worksheet together on the anxiety vicious cycle, whereby anxious thoughts lead to anxious reactions, which lead to coping behaviours and then, when nothing changes, the anxious thoughts start again.
I found this way of looking at it so interesting, and it really helped me to gain an understanding of my anxiety. Some of the anxious thoughts I have seemed pretty ridiculous once I’d written them down, and it’s made me determined to gain some control back over my thoughts and behaviour.
My coping mechanisms involve hiding away from things, including my friends and family. I hate confrontation and I’d rather let the problem get worse, whilst hiding from it, than tackling it head on, which very recently nearly lost me a good friendship. I also tend to project my anxiety into anger and onto others, mostly my mum and Ed, although I also get incredibly bad road rage, and get angry over the smallest thing, if I start to feel out of control.
CBT is really helping me to understand the things that trigger my anxiety, and I am feeling a lot more positive about getting over this illness now.
The third session was a little bit of an odd one, as I was going to an interview straight afterwards and a little nervous about that. I don’t feel I gave my full attention to the session, which was evident as I didn’t get as much out of it. For CBT to be successful, you need to put the effort in, I find.
I did also end up breaking down a little in the session too as Thursdays are my worst days (it’s the day I say goodbye to my daughter until Saturday evening) and I felt everything had gotten on top of me a bit that afternoon. Crying isn’t nice, but it did help me feel a bit better afterwards to get some pent up emotions out, and I knew I was in a safe place.
I have some homework to do this week, which involves writing down each time I have a worry, and thinking about what triggered it, what the worry was about and the thought behind it. I then have to distinguish if it is a valid or hypothetical worry.
I am awful at doing homework, but I really want to try hard with this, as I want to get better and this is a step in the right direction. I have 12 CBT sessions in total on the NHS, so I’ll be writing about the remaining sessions in blocks of three over the next couple of months.
If you are suffering from anxiety, or considering CBT and have any questions, feel free to get in touch. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.