“I hope it really does help you to write it all down Bex.” read the message I received on Whatsapp from my Mum two weeks ago.
“It certainly helps a great deal.” was my response.
Whilst there was a great deal of truth in my reply, as writing has long been a source of therapy for me, it doesn’t always prevent anxious thoughts from filling my head.
Unbeknown to my mum, when she sent me that message, I had already made an appointment to see my Dr.
Since the start of 2022, my head has become a little bit like the game Minesweeper (if you’ve never heard of Minesweeper, it’s a computer game where you have several blank squares, some of which have hidden bombs underneath them. The aim is to clear the board without hitting a mine)!
My head was full of anxious thoughts, ready to blow if I put one foot wrong.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt anxious, of course. There have been countless times, particularly over the last few years, which have caused me to go through periods of stress and anxiety. I’m not talking specifically about the pandemic, although that may not have helped!
In the past, I had found ways of coping. I essentially created a health & wellbeing toolkit that I could dip in and out of anytime I needed a little bit of extra help.
This time, however, felt different. I found myself in a vicious cycle, and I didn’t know how to break it. My brain seemed to be skipping over the ability to be rational.
My concerns were predominantly health-related. Every slight ache or pain, my brain convinced me in an instant that it was something sinister.
One of the health issues started to cause me quite a lot of concern at the beginning of the month, so I decided to get in touch with my GP surgery. As I filled in the online appointment form, I found myself letting the receiver of the booking know that I wasn’t sure if these were actual aches and pains or whether they were psychosomatic.
The day after I received that text from my mum, I headed to the Doctors surgery and sat down to talk about the issues I had been experiencing.
I had felt a weight lifted off my shoulders as soon as I sent off the appointment request, but as I sat talking to the Dr, I began to feel even lighter. Despite having self-diagnosed myself with anxiety over the years, it was such a relief to tell a medical professional.
The Doctor referred me to a physio for my aches and pains and a psychotherapist for my anxiety.
I had an initial call with the therapist last Monday, and they have now referred me for 12 weeks of therapy on the NHS. They also recommended that I self-refer myself for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), but understandably, there is a monster waiting list for that.
In the meantime, they’ve sent me a list of recommended distraction techniques, and I also have the option to go on medication if I choose to.
One of the techniques I’ve been relying on the most is some simple breathwork. I breathe in to the count of four and breathe out to the count of six. When I start to feel those anxious thoughts creeping in, I use this technique, and in no time at all, it has me distracted, making me focus on my breath rather than the anxious thought. Before I know it, I’m thinking about something else entirely different, such as what to have for dinner that evening or an idea I might be pondering for my latest work project.
I sometimes wish I wasn’t so self-aware, and I don’t mean that in an egotistical way. I’ve spent a lot of time over recent years getting to know myself better and discovering what makes me tick.
Whilst it’s been pretty unsettling being so self-aware, from the point of view that I’ve been conscious that my mind has been behaving differently from how it has in the past, I’m incredibly grateful that because I’m so self-aware, I knew something wasn’t right. I knew I needed some additional help to get me through things.
Whilst it’s often tough to let people know that something is wrong, sometimes the only way to feel yourself again is to do something about it.
I love my life, and I’m disappointed that this particular bout of anxiety has made me worry about things that I have no control over.
I find it reassuring that my brain knew I needed that extra help, and I’m glad that although I may need to wait a while for my therapy to begin, that help is not too far away.
And I’m looking forward to bouncing back stronger than ever ☺️