Friday, 26 August 2016

The Anxiety Diaries: A Little Explanation & My Therapy Experience So Far

Considering my extreme issues with social anxiety and the fear of rejection/dislike/disappointing people that goes hand in hand with them - I put myself "out there" on this blog rather a lot.

People probably wonder why that is, sometimes I even wonder myself...

But I guess I see it as kind of a personal diary of my own journey as a person.

A person with mental health issues as well as a diary of a very normal mum, a writer with a drive to succeed and be heard, and a woman with interests in a great many things - because I am all of those things, in equal measure.

I have wondered over the past few days whether I should start a separate blog for my mental health ramblings and emotional posts, so as not to offend or disinterest anybody who is here only for the parenting anecdotes or how to posts. 

But no...I am not just one thing, I am a person with many layers and I don't think its necessary to pigeon hole myself for other peoples comfort.

I feel that each and every aspect of me and my life deserves my equal attention.

And that all of it has a place on this blog.

This will never be a blog only about nice days out with the kids, or only about the happiest times in my life...because that's not an accurate representation of me, and I don't see the point in putting anything out there at all if it's not a full picture or the whole truth - that's not who I am. I am an all or nothing type of person.

I suppose my hope is that other parents who find themselves spending half their time happy and thoroughly enjoying their children, and half their time curled in a ball crying and trying to control yet another panic attack will come across this blog and realise that they're not alone. 

That this is something that affects some people. There is always light and shade in our lives. That sometimes we shout about the amazing times, and sometimes there are very very dark times...and personally, I feel the need to shout about those too. Because they happen and they matter just as much. It's all part of the journey.

I published a post earlier this week in which I sort of rambled about whether I'm mentally stable enough to continue with blogging and dealing with public opinion as a result of it, when other people and their words and opinions are something that makes me crumble. And somebody commented to say "Not again" and that this seems to be a recurring theme of my blog - and they are absolutely 100% right. 

And I just want to point out right here and right now, that this WILL continue to be the case.

Because for it not to be, would mean that I was withholding the truth and not speaking of my anxiety journey as it is, and I won't do that.

As I blogged about earlier this year, I have recently been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety & Panic Disorder and am currently in weekly therapy sessions for this with an NHS counsellor.

This came about when my health visitor felt I was struggling, and referred me to the Depression & Anxiety service - after an initial consultation with my therapist, she felt that my issues were plentiful and very deep rooted and would require a more intense approach than they usually take.

So instead of the usual 6 half an hour sessions that the NHS offer, I have been put on an intensive programme of weekly hour long sessions - there has been no limit set and as it stands, I'm about 12 weeks in with no end in sight just yet.

I have a long long way to go on my journey to control my anxiety and all of the associated issues that come with it, and I can pretty much guarantee you that the little meltdown you may have witnessed on my blog earlier this week will not be the last.

Just like the panic attack I had last night over whether or not to go to Disneyland Paris despite my extreme fear of terrorism will not be the last one that Jon has to deal with, and the sobbing hyperventilating state that my therapist saw me in today when discussing the various panic atatcks I have had this week will not be the last time that she witnesses that.

I will not withhold the truth.  From my readers, or from myself.  I will not censor myself on my personal blog in any way at all.

I will write thoughts as they come to me. I will share where I am in my life exactly as it is, and if where I am and how I feel changes when things become calmer...then so be it.

I'm sorry if the repetitive nature of anxiety disorder makes for boring reading or if you're tired of seeing me say the same things or experience the same crises of confidence over and over again, but unfortunately that's just how it is.

 I live with the same repetitive voice in my head every single day going over the same old worries and fears that I have experienced countless times before.

And it does not matter in the slightest what my "sensible" head tells me,  and it doesn't matter that I KNOW I'll probably feel better about it all in a few days, and it doesn't matter that I KNOW that the opinions of others shouldn't and don't really matter.

Your sensible head always knows all of those things but it has absolutely no effect on your "emotional" head or your "Worry about all the things!" head.

This is something I've recently been discussing with my therapist, the fact that there seems to be a disconnect between my emotional side and my rational side and that no matter how aware I am of the cold, hard facts they have absolutely no impact on my emotions - leaving me unable to control them or act rationally.

Again, this is something that she is working on with various exercises and techniques but it's a work in progress.

If you don't like the repetitiveness or you'd rather not see somebody quite so open and exposed, feel free to unfollow me ... but I won't be editing myself to make anybody else more comfortable or entertained by this blog.

I am currently at the peak of my therapy, in the middle of what my therapist assures me will be the very worst part.

We've started Exposure therapy.

For the past week, I have had to write 5 minute long pieces encompassing all of my very worst fears - write about them in great detail, as though they were happening to me right now, and make them as frightening and believable to myself as possible.

This is extremely hard to do, and just writing about the fears has my heart racing and my palms sweating...and after each writing session, I end up sobbing and struggling to catch a breath. And I am always completely and utterly exhausted. Infact this morning, after writing my fears out last night, I struggled to wake up...I was completely drained.

And so, when those HuffPost comments cropped up last weekend,  I was already in a very emotional state.

Perhaps if they'd come at a different time, when I wasn't in the middle of exposure therapy and my emotions already so heightened, I could have brushed them off more easily, who knows.

But on this particular week, they broke me.

And that's ok.

And it's ok to talk about the fact that it broke me, and have a meltdown about it, and share that it makes me doubt everything about who I am and what I do.

Because that's how it feels in that moment.

That doesn't make me weak or attention seeking or stupid (though my mind might tell me it does), it makes me honest.

Do I want to allow those feelings to stop me from blogging or writing in general? No, of course not.

Just like I don't want the social anxiety and panic to stop me from going to the supermarket or answering the phone....

And 99.8% of the time, I DON'T allow it to stop me from doing those things, I go out and do them anyway despite how I feel... but some days, it's too much. And  I choose to let it win that day, and I stay at home.

And this is just the same - most days I don't let the anxiety about writing and fear of negative comments win, I press "Publish" anyway, and I tell myself I don't care what anyone says - and I'm proud of myself for managing to do that despite it being incredibly difficult for me to do -  but somedays it wins. 

And some days I tell myself it would just be easier to just throw away the compute and delete this blog and forget it all. That my writing is over with. That I am never doing this again.

Thankfully, those feelings don't usually last.

But that doesn't make them any less real at the time.

At the moment, I feel that sticking to my own blog is the best option for me right now - I won't feel up to publishing anything on the Huff Post or any other platforms outside of  MY BLOG for a while - and that does make me sad for myself. Because the writer in me wants to get my voice out there, I have things to say and I want to say them out loud and in public...not just whisper them in my own room.

But it's the right thing for now.

This afternoon, my therapist worked through every thing that's happened this past week with me.

We poured over my fears and worries about going to EuroDisney, we talked through my nerves and lack of desire to go to London for the MAD blog awards, and we talked through those negative comments on that HuffPost piece and how it made me want to stop writing and blogging.

We talked about why that had happened.

And, like she always does, my therapist peeled away those layers again and again...until eventually we got to what she calls my "Core Beliefs".

My core beliefs about myself are not positive ones, we discussed how - at the end of the day, no matter what - I feel worthless and unworthy of anything good happening to me.

And she discussed with me how these core beliefs probably came about from the bullying I experienced from my peers growing up, how they had been continually reinforced through an abusive relationship, and how it is these beliefs that everything comes back down to when you peel away those layers.

And she discussed how, because of my core beliefs, I have trained myself to filter out anything positive and to focus only on the negative...infact not to merely focus on the negative, but to actively seek it out. And then use it to bash myself with, and reinforce my own belief that I am worthless and unworthy and stupid and all things bad.

And so, instead of ending the therapy when the Exposure sessions are done with - she feels that there is much more work to do, and we will then be moving on to something called Compassion Focused Therapy - with the aim of building my self esteem and self worth, and my ability to feel compassion towards myself.

As with any kind of therapy, I'm going in to it with an open mind and a lot of hope.

And blogging about it all as I do may seem like being overly negative or attention seeking or crying wolf, but there are reasons that I do this...

I do it to help the many people who suffer in the same way and read my blog for that reason to see that they are not alone and that many people go through these ups and downs too.

I do it because sometimes it just feels better to put it all down somewhere other than my head, and sometimes it helps to hear how other people look at things from a different perspective...

I do it because, by allowing myself to be vulnerable on this blog and talk openly about everything I experience, I have made connections with people that have benefited me greatly...

This blog has recently even introduced me to a person who found me because of my mental health posts and got in touch with me as she lived locally, and has now become a friend...something I didn't have a great deal of around here, something that has helped me to become more social and allowed me to have more fun.

And when I get words of support from regular readers - people such as Lily, and Erica, and Emma. - people I have never met but who show a level of understanding and care regardless of that, it helps me to realise that the positive out there in the world far outweighs the negative, and that some people are good for no ulterior motive.

And those people that I have met or know well through the blogging community, people like Alex, and Liza, and Katy and Stephanie and Kate and Sian, help to put things into perspective for me when they talk to me about their own experiences and thoughts...because they can do that with a level of understanding that my partner can't give to me, because he doesn't blog and he doesn't quite get it all.

So  I can't promise you that I won't have another meltdown in a week, or a month, or a year.

That's just the way it is.


If you're interested in hearing more about the anxiety therapy I'm undertaking, please take a look at my video below - I am sharing my therapy experience on my YouTube account incase it's of use to anybody else in a similar position.

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