I don’t think I was told I had anxiety for a long time. I was positive I had depression. I felt down, was sleeping all the time and had no interest in doing anything.
I remember the first time I went to the doctors and him telling me I couldn’t possibly have depression because I was sleeping okay (probably too much) and I was taking care of my appearance. I remember getting home and sobbing my heart out. I felt like I had reached a dead end. I told myself that this meant there was nothing wrong with me, I still looked okay so there couldn’t be.
On reflection I do understand what the doctor was saying and I know now that I didn’t have depression so he was right. But this did not stop the seed being planted that told me ‘you don’t look ill, you aren’t showing symptoms of being ill, so you can’t be ill.’ Something that has stuck with me to this day. Don’t get me wrong, the doctor didn’t completely dismiss me and he told me to keep track of things and come back in two weeks. It’s so easy looking back and saying, yeah, I totally get why he did that now. But at the time two weeks felt like a lifetime.
So when I returned after probably the lowest two weeks of my life he told me he was going to refer me to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). He never actually used the word anxiety or gave me a diagnosis at this point so I was still completely in the dark about what was wrong with me. To be honest, if he had told me I had anxiety I probably would have laughed in his face. Anxiety? I don’t have anxiety. This is not me feeling anxious about things. There is something wrong with me!
I didn’t understand anxiety. Like a lot of the population.
Anxiety is often thrown about like an adjective. ‘OMG! I have so much anxiety about what to wear tonight!’
Yes sweetheart, you are maybe a little anxious about what to wear but please don’t throw the word about like that. Please have a thought for the 5.2 million of us who have anxiety which results in debilitating symptoms.
I am not for one second saying that people don’t get anxious and I’m very aware of the spectrum of anxiety but it just highlights the lack of understanding there can be about the disorder. And I was one of these people who lacked understanding. And after battling anxiety for almost two years I still do.
So when I eventually got my CBT therapist appointment three weeks later. (NHS waiting list.) I didn’t know what to expect. This was the first time the word anxiety was explained to me. I remember the therapist telling me about a tiger and hunters and how stressed you would get if you saw a tiger in the wild. I remember thinking, who is this woman? This is nuts. I do not care about f*cking tigers. Just tell me what’s wrong with me!
I did not understand.
I now kind of understand the physical aspects of anxiety and understand the links to stress and those f*cking tigers. It’s maybe something I will discuss in another post. But maybe not because I’m not a psychiatrist and I still feel pretty lost by it all.
So CBT did work like a dream for me, even though the tiger lady was a bit out there. It did help my understanding but there is still a lot I don’t know. I learnt a lot from blogs and from reading articles. There is nothing better than reading an article where someone is describing how you are feeling or saying, ‘you know what? I don’t have a bloody clue about this either.’
I suppose this is why I’m writing this. To say that you don’t have to understand it, I don’t think anyone really understands it completely. But what is important is accepting it. Accepting that this is in your make up and sometimes your body is going to pretend those f*cking tigers are going to eat you.
The one thing I have grown to understand is it’s often your body’s way of telling you to take a look at things and gain some understanding of you. What is bothering you. What is happening in your life right now that is maybe making your body react this way.
So yeah, it’s okay to not understand your anxiety but don’t ignore it, listen to what it’s trying to tell you and go find someone who does understand it. (And those f*cking tigers.)
(FYI, I have just been referred again to the tiger lady. Anxiety is an ongoing battle and I have admitted I need some more help to gain a bit more understanding of what I am feeling. I just hope she comes up with a different analogy…)