Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Diagnosis: Anxiety

Diagnosis: Anxiety

You may have noticed I've been a little quiet recently. This is because I have been struggling with something, something that has been on my mind so much, I couldn't think of anything to write about. But today, after trying for a couple of weeks to get an appointment, I went to my doctor, and I had my worst fears confirmed.

I have a mental illness; I have anxiety.

As I've been talking to a number of people recently about my struggles - experiencing several panic attacks a week for unknown reasons - I thought I'd come to terms with the idea that I might have anxiety. It seemed to fit, and seemed most likely. But I was also hoping it was something else. I've only started having panic attacks more regularly since being on the mini-pill, Cerzette, so maybe it was a side effect. But then I was told no, this is anxiety - and it upset me far more than I expected it would.

My mum, dad and brother either have or had depression. I was the well one. I was the one that was ok. And now I'm not. Now, they're going to worry about me, too. It's not that I felt I've let them down, but that I'm putting more on their plate.

Also, although I know having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, I felt like I failed at something. I've failed at being well. I've become another statistic to add to conversations about mental health. I've made that number, that percentage, that statistic rise. But I can see the irrational thoughts there. This isn't my fault, this isn't something I've done wrong, it just is.

And then there's the fear. The fear that has been with me constantly lately, but has now doubled. Although I've not experienced it, depression is something I know, something I understand. This - anxiety - I have no idea about. There has been a pattern to my panic attacks - they start as I make my way into work - but there's no real reason for them; I have no stresses or worries about my job. So, as there seems to be no real reason, I've been scared that I might have one some other time. That it might be worse next time. That I might not be able to calm myself down next time. That anxiety might make an appearance in some other yet unknown way. I've been scared of my own body, my own mind, and I still am. I have spoken to friends who also suffer with anxiety, and they've told me about their experiences, but yet, I still feel clueless. I still feel like I don't know what might happen, how my body will react, what rabbit hole my mind might take me down.

I can't tell you how scared I am. This is not something that can be easily fixed; it's not a cut in need of a plaster, it's not a broken bone in need of mending. There's no real end in sight. I feel like a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the next... I don't even know. Panic attack, or worse. And I've been scared that if what I have is anxiety, what if it gets worse? What if it stops me from doing things? What if it stops me living my life? This time, it took my doctor to point out the racing thoughts that can lead to panic.

However, as upset as being told I have anxiety made me, there was also a huge sense of relief. That first step has been taken. Someone who can actually help me now knows, and is helping me to take the next steps. I have the info for a an NHS organisation to self-refer myself to, to either have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and/or talking therapy, depending on what they decide is the best course for me after an assessment. I have advice of things I can do myself; the types of exercise that would benefit me taking the ease with which I hyperventilate into account, and advice on relaxation and mindfulness. And I have medication.

I know some people are dubious of anti-depression, and the ease with which doctors give them out, but I requested medication. There's a five to six month waiting list for CBT and talking therapy, and it's unlikely I'll have my assessment for four to five weeks. Almost every day, I am struggling with my anxiety, fighting off the panic attacks, trying to keep myself calm. Every day. Six months feels like a long bloody time right now. Hell, five weeks feels like a long time. I want something that's going to help me now, because I'm really struggling, and I just can't go on like this. I requested medication to try and keep things at bay while I wait to hear about CBT and/or talking therapy. I need help now. Also, I was already taking an anti-depressant to help with migraine prevention - I'm just replacing it for one that will still help with migraines, but also my anxiety.

Despite my fear and sadness, I feel like such a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm no longer trying to fight this on my own. And I feel so encouraged that my doctor was impressed with how I've been coping so far; despite the pattern of having the attacks on my way to work, I've still gone into work each shift, knowing I'm likely to have an attack. And when I've struggled while there, I fight to calm myself while there, instead of going home even when I felt like I couldn't make it through the day, just trying to make it until my next break. Apparently, this is a big deal, that, I'm fighting, that, as my doctor said, I'm not letting it beat me.

There's no light at the end of this tunnel. This isn't going to go away over night, if at all. But I'm now glimpsing some sunshine through the clouds, even if those clouds are still grey and heavy. I'm doing something, and I'm no longer doing it alone. I'm getting the help I need, and I feel so grateful that I am now doing something to get better.

I'd like to end this post by pointing you in the direction of Kathy of I am Kathy B's post On Anxiety, and Laura Jane Williams' post My Home over on Superlatively Rude, posted only today. These posts were so helpful to me; a reminder that I'm not alone, and to be kind to myself. This is an illness, and not something I can control; there's no blame to lay at my feet, and I should be gentle with myself as I try and make my way through it. Also, Kathy recommended Anxiety For Beginners: A Personal Investigation by Eleanor Morgan to me, which I'll definitely be buying, so if you've been experiencing anything like me, you might want to check it out.

N.B. This is not a post with the intent on seeking sympathy and attention. As I've said, my family have suffered/suffer with depression, and I have always believed that talking about mental illness is important to irradicating the stigma surrounding it. Also, knowing people know how I feel, have experienced similar things, has been such an unbelievable help lately, and I owe the people in the post linked to above so much. It helped me to know I'm not alone, so I'm hoping that by talking about what I'm experience, I might also be able to help others.

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