It was time for me to talk.
Read Sarah*’s story of her journey with anxiety, and how realising that the time to talk helped her to regain her voice.
Having suffered from symptoms of anxiety since my early twenties (or perhaps even late teens), recognising what it was and finally vocalising all of these complex feelings gave me a world of relief.
It started during university, but I can’t pinpoint exactly when. Some people report a triggering event that marks the start of their symptoms, but for me, it wasn’t like that. But that’s ok because no two people’s experiences or symptoms are the same. I guess it was a culmination of things that had happened in life, either consciously or subconsciously, but I first started noticing myself worry about general things that other people wouldn’t even think about. Normal daily tasks and duties would stress me out, and I would find it very difficult to cope. A simple drive across a familiar area to a familiar place would have me checking out for the parking, worrying about getting a parking ticket, and somehow even catastrophising about getting into a car crash and passing away. It sounds a bit obscene, but these thoughts were frequent, intrusive and sometimes frightening. And this is just a minor example of spiralling thoughts and worries. They could be much worse and more disruptive than that. I often didn’t want to leave the house, as familiarity made me feel less stressed, and I missed lots of social events and became very withdrawn from my friends. In addition to these, I would sometimes get physical symptoms including feeling or getting sick, and feeling generally unwell. It’s funny how your mind and body affect each other. The symptoms made my personality very rigid, and things had to be done a certain way to put my mind at rest and ease my stress. I didn’t even realise all this at the time, I just always felt anxious, on edge, and irritated.
After a particularly stressful day, someone close told me that I deserved to give myself the chance to live without these symptoms. I hadn’t spoken explicitly about my experiences with this person previously, but clearly my behaviour had changed so much that it was noticeable. Just having someone listen and recognise that this behaviour was different gave me the courage to reach out and accept what was going on. I immediately spoke to my parents (people who I trust), and with their support and the relief of realising what was going on, I was able to go to my GP and get access to talking therapy for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I have had a few rounds of therapy now, trialling different strategies such as counselling, CBT and internet-based CBT, and a few years on I feel so much better.
I have strategies to help me cope with bad days and periods of stress, because as with any health condition, these times leave you more vulnerable to symptoms appearing. But for the most part, treatment has left me able to live a pretty normal life (whatever that means). So if you’re struggling, I would strongly suggest that you wait no longer, and let Time to Talk day inspire you to start your journey to recovery and reclaiming your health.
** if you’re not ready to start your personal journey of healing yet, you may instead want to take active action by taking part in mental health research. Taking part in research and joining those with similar experiences can help you learn a lot about your disorder, and more importantly for me, I know that I’m helping researchers understand more about my disorder, to help those suffering in the future.