I thought I would do a little follow up on the post I did about suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. It felt a bit like therapy writing that post, I wasn't even going to upload it as it was just intended for my own benefit. The response I got was quite overwhelming, I had messages and texts of support, messages from people that understood as they have also suffered from this and I just felt like my post helped people.
I want to apologise for not being the best blogger right now, it's hard to focus my attention on something when all I have on my mind is each hurdle I have had to overcome throughout my journey and ultimately my aim is to get better.
I wanted to let you know where I am up to now and the journey I have been on so far which I hope will encourage others to get help if they have this and also ease peoples mind if you are about to embark on the same journey. I'm not going to lie it hasn't been easy but it is darkest before dawn.
After I went to the doctors I received a letter to ring up and make an appointment for an assessment. It took a lot for me to make that phone call. I am not comfortable with making phone calls at all, after 5 days of it being on my mind I eventually made that call and it was absolutely fine and nowhere near as bad as I had built up in my head. The receptionist was nothing but lovely and my top tip would be to have a pen and paper with you to write down your appointment date and time. I think they send you a letter of confirmation anyway but it just helped me as I would have forgotten otherwise.
I was in a good place when I had my assessment as it was the day after I got back from a hen weekend in Ibiza and my mood in the summer is generally higher. I had had a really good time and managed to try and not let my anxiety affect me too much. I went for my assessment which I almost had a break down/panic attack at, I had to fill in a form which was covered in tears. The form is nothing complex it just asks you to rate certain feelings and anxieties. I would take a friend with you if you can or a family member. I didn't actually tell my family so I took my boyfriend with me, he was amazing even when I had a mini breakdown. He was even there for me when I came out of the room which wasn't part of the plan, I was supposed to meet him at his house but as he had seen me so upset he wanted to make sure I was ok. In hindsight I know that it was nothing to worry about, it was essentially just a chat which I found surprisingly easy about how my anxiety affects me and what makes me anxious. As soon as I started talking I felt at ease, even though I didn't know the guy that I was talking to he understood how I felt and was completely non judgemental. After my appointment I couldn't believe how worked up I had got over it as it was nothing to worry about. There are different types of CBT (Cognitive Behavoural Therapy) which is what the assessment is for to point you to the correct therapy for your needs. There is CBT stage 2 which consists of up to six sessions which last up to half an hour or there is CBT stage 3 where you get hour long sessions and you get up to 20 of these sessions. CBT stage 2 was recommended to me and appealed to me more because the waiting list was only a couple of weeks where as stage 3 there is at present a 19 week wait.
A few weeks later I was sent a letter to make an appointment for my first session but when I rang the therapist I was supposed to be seeing was having some time off and I got told that she would ring me. (Again that phone call was really difficult for me to make and took a while for me to gather the courage.)
A few weeks had passed and I hadn't heard anything, I always got scared as on every letter it states if they haven't heard from you after so long you will be discharged which certainly helps to encourage you to ring up. After a lot of tears Marcus rang up for me and an appointment was made with a different therapist.
I was really scared at my first ever appointment, I didn't know what to expect and I had never met the person I was going to be seeing who I obviously won't name. I think I even text Marcus' Mum I was that scared but she reassured me. From what I remember the first appointment was a bit of a blur but it was a bit of an assessment of what I find difficult and why. I got homework at the end of the session and an email address for if I needed any help or support.
I had 5 of these sessions all together spread over 3 months. They were quite brief and I felt as though there was always so much more I wanted to say and I wasn't really getting to the route of my anxiety. During session five I discussed how my mood had dipped and how that was making my anxiety worse, we decided that I probably wasn't going to reach recovery which was the end goal and that stage 3 CBT would be the next step. I hadn't anticipated that it was going to be my last session so I went and got a thank you card and dropped it off a few hours later just to thank the therapist that had helped me.
My mood progressively got worse throughout the winter as it always does and so did my anxiety. My medication helped to a point, it was the best winter I have had in a long time anxiety and mood wise but still it wasn't that great. I got a letter a few weeks later to arrange an appointment for a CBT workshop which without attending you won't be able to have the CBT. I attended this in January, there were around 12 of us all together and it lasted a couple of hours. It basically explained how to get the most out of CBT, it talked about planning goals and also talked about looking after ourselves properly
Finally a few months later in April I got a phone call which I had missed and an email from the person I had seen at CBT stage 2. They were training at the next stage and wanted to know if I would be happy to have sessions with them again. I was so happy and excited to be getting help again and relieved that it was with someone I already knew. I had 20 one hour sessions which ended a couple of weeks ago, the first few sessions I was assessed and talked about what I find difficult, the way in which I think and the things I avoid. I was in the middle of having general anxiety and social anxiety but we decided to go down the treatment route of social anxiety as this seemed worse. Be prepared for lots of homework which I actually enjoyed, say goodbye to any safety behaviours and get ready to put yourself in the situations you would usually avoid. I don't really want to go into too much detail of my sessions as I am sure everyone's CBT treatment will be different to be adapted to them and their anxieties. I had some weeks where I felt like I was progressing and couldn't wait to go in there and show off my homework but there were also weeks I felt like giving up and would cry my eyes out in front of my therapist. I feel like I came such a long way during the time that we worked together and I have been doing things I never thought I would be able to do. I am scared of going back to the way that I was so it is so important that I keep going out of my comfort zone which is something I find quite difficult. Half way through CBT I was suffering from really low moods and had to re visit my GP to have my dose of medication reviewed. I am now on a higher dose which has helped with my mood. There is also another thing I have started to do since I started the sessions which is running, I used to run when I was younger but hadn't ran for years until I was told that it could really help with my anxiety. I thought I would give it a try but never in a million years thought it would work, my mind feels clearer after I have been for a run and I feel like I have achieved something. It somehow manages to improve my mood and makes me feel more motivated. I started by using the couch to 5k app which I think is really good, I am able to see my progress and if I am unable to go for a run after a couple of days I start to miss it.
I really wish I could say that I am all fixed now and that CBT has solved all of my problems...however, the reality is that I still feel like I need some more help. I have come such a long way and am so grateful for all of the treatment I have received but I just felt like my sessions ended and I was left to fend for myself. The idea is that I am now able to act as my own therapist and review my own progress but I have no idea how to do that and how to improve my mood when it is low. My anxiety is not so great at the minute and I am finding work quite difficult. I have found it really hard to adapt from having someone there for me for the last 8 months then suddenly having nobody to turn to. There are still some strong beliefs that need working on so hopefully another trip to the doctors will be helpful in making that happen so that I can carry on from where I left off. Everyone's case is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I wanted my story to encourage people to get the help they need as ignoring it will only make things worse. If one thing that you try doesn't work then it is about finding the treatment that does, it may take longer and more trips to the doctors but it is better than giving up and feeling this way forever.