As it is National Psychotherapy Day, I wanted to share my own experience of suffering from anxiety and undergoing therapy. 1 in 3 people suffer from anxiety and I'm not doing this post as a preach or a 'poor me' plea but simply so people that may be suffering know they aren't in it alone. I unfortunately didn't think that anyone else had ever suffered from anxiety, even in this modern world there is a fair amount of stigma around mental illness so people find it taboo. This meant I bottled up my initial stress, therefore my anxiety and stress came out in different ways that I then got more worried about (this will be explained later!)
I had quite a difficult second year of uni, my flat was one of the main problems. EVERYTHING BROKE!! This sort of thing stresses me out because I'm very cut throat and like things being sorted. Unfortunately another thing was the dynamic of the three of us that were living there wasn't quite right due to three is a crowd and all of that! I think I never felt at home and as a Taurean this a big deal, I was never relaxed, the space wasn't my own and it was really cold. The only time I was settled, relaxed and generally myself was when my boyfriend or friends from home came to visit. I used to hate heading back to the flat and tried to stay out at work for long hours so I wasn't there. However I didn't want to leave the flat for nights out either so I was getting myself into a vicious stress cycle that I couldn't get out of. My uni grades were also sliding because I was working so much. The only positive from working was I was getting money but in London that money wasn't going anywhere and I ended up getting an overdraft and paying so much on the flat I had no money to have fun even if I had wanted to!
For people that know me, they knew something wasn't right. I'm normally bubbly, relaxed and generally happy and I was turning into a shell of a person. My stress started to come out in aches and pains throughout my body. This made me stress more and more and I convinced myself I was dying....this seems dramatic but it was true. I convinced myself I had a brain tumour, because I could see black spots. (something that I discovered later to be completely normal!) I kept going for eye tests and they couldn't see anything wrong (adding more stress!) I had blood tests, these all came back clear. This wasn't enough for me and I convinced myself the doctors didn't know what they were doing as I felt they were disregarding me. At one of my worst weeks I went to the doctors twice and the hospital once, my legs turned to jelly so I went to a&e and guess what...they couldn't see anything wrong. I was contacting my mum everyday, I was so upset and my family were worrying more and more as none of us knew what was wrong. This was adding not only stress to myself but people close to me. We were all starting to think the doctors were wrong because they knew as well as myself that I wasn't just making it up. On my second visit to the doctors that week, the doctor I had been seeing was off sick. I ended up with a new doctor who made me fill in an anxiety questionnaire, I scored 19 out of 25...this is an exceedingly high score. She gave me medicine to help try and fix my anxiety, she warned me it would initially make me feel worse and it did, I panicked and I stopped immediately as it woke me up and made me think what the hell am I doing!! She also got me in contact with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who quite frankly saved me.
A lady who I still to this day haven't met sat and listened to me every two weeks for a fourty five minute phone call. This was the best time for me. I could sit in my pyjamas and talk about my feelings....lush! She slowly made me feel like I wasn't crazy and after about 4 sessions I decided I didn't need her anymore on my own accord, this was amazing! I was slowly going back to my old self and if someone had said those two months before you will be fine Sophie, I wouldn't have listened. I managed to control my anxiety with reading and colouring. I bought myself a sketchbook, a colouring pad, books and new pencils.... this completely changed me. I found it relaxing and in funny sort of way I was settled like how I was as a child. Once I could understand anxiety myself I started to open up to my family and friends about it. I spoke to one of my oldest friends about it and discovered that she had gone through a similar situation...phew I'm not alone!
If you are going through this then please don't hesitate to get help, it was the best thing I did and talking about it is therapy in itself, it doesn't have to be to anyone but even in a diary. Find something that you can focus your mind on and you'll automatically feel better. I was someone who never understood anxiety and if I'm being honest thought it was a cop out from social situations. I am always seen as a tough cookie and I wanted to maintain that image. Don't maintain that image, please, please, please do talk.
I also wanted to use this post as a thank you to my lovely friends, family and boyfriend for listening to me for those horrible six months plus. I also wanted to thank the doctors who helped me along the way (even though they will never see this!) I also wanted to apologise for wasting doctor time and this is something I feel very guilty about, I was stubborn enough to not think I was anxious so please just go and talk!