The following is part of a series told from the first person documenting their experience with anxiety and the therapeutic journey. Our hope with this collaboration is to help people understand at least some of the faces of anxiety and how it can present itself. This is not meant to be factual, but rather experiential and anecdotal. Do not consider this as the end all of what the experience might be for everyone. The therapeutic journey and path to better coping is different for everyone. We hope you find this insightful and helpful.
The human mind is very complex, hence why some individuals will spend their entire lives devoted to understanding its functionality. Your brain is the powerhouse of the body. Yes we need oxygen to breathe therefore our lungs are relatively useful in the grand scheme of things. The heart perhaps plays a rather important role in our everyday living as well, however the brain in all its glory, sits inside our skulls and controls all these subconscious processes vital to life. Understanding the way the brain works, and more so how humans think and respond to the world around them has proven to be a task of great challenge for me. What can be even more difficult is trying to understand your mind when any neurological divergence is involved. For myself, this divergence includes bouts of anxiety, panic, and simply put “overthinking”. If you are brave enough to read on, although I don’t expect this blog to in any way be scary but I mean who really knows… my intention is to try and share my thought process and experience with anxiety in relation to my everyday living. Alongside that my experience in participating in therapy, beginning a journey to a healthier mind.
I’ve heard in many cases that “admittance” is the first step to healing. Recognition that you may need assistance in any way can sometimes be the hardest thing to accept, however it most often reaps the greatest reward. For some people that means hitting “rock bottom” or going through such a low point that they have no other choice. Now everyone is different, so my experience alone cannot be used as a general example or basis for anyone going through anything, but who knows, perhaps someone reading may relate.
For myself, my rock bottom became evident by physical and mental changes that those around me noticed before I did. I always felt I was pretty good at “keeping it together”, I was wrong. Late November, 2020, I was going through many life changes which impacted me heavily in a negative way. I believed I was carrying myself well, but those around me thought otherwise. I specifically remember a co-worker pulling me aside and asking me if I was okay, explaining to me that I was supported in the workplace and if I needed help that they would be willing to help me. That was my rock bottom. It seems almost as if it would be the opposite. A co-worker compassionately offers help and that’s “rock bottom”. Well for me it was, it was the realization that I was not okay, and I certainly wasn’t good at hiding it.
I believe that anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, reflecting back on some of my habits it's evident that anxiety isn’t something new. I’ve been a nail biter for as long as I can remember, despite working in health care I nibble my nails whenever I feel a greater amount of stress or anxiety. Tugging at my hair, preferring to keep the door to whatever room I’m in open, and exit seeking (subconsciously locating the exit to any space I find myself in) are all anxiety driven behaviours for me. Reading them like this you may think it seems almost obvious, however it’s not like that. These were things I simply did/do instinctively or without a second thought, growing up I just thought they were weird traits of mine. Now I understand that these activities were what my mind used as coping mechanisms almost, to deal with anxiety regardless of if I was having the characteristic anxiety attack (which did happen on occasion).
Anxiety looks different in each individual who lives with it. Regardless, anyone can be helped if they so choose. I decided to begin speaking to a therapist because I knew the way I was feeling wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. I was struggling with changes, and acknowledging things in the past that I never truly recovered from. Opening up to a therapist was going to be hard, telling someone you don’t know well your deepest thoughts can be a huge barrier to getting the care you need. A part of my was incredibly nervous, and skeptical if attending therapy would do anything at all. Typically being someone who avoids conflict and confrontation, I realized this was something I couldn’t avoid, I couldn’t run from it because running from myself was not an option. I needed help, not only that but I wanted it.
My first session was something I wont forget. What I expected and what actually played out were two totally different things. Being that the only therapy I’d ever seen was from scenes on television the whole expectations versus reality scenario really happened. I expected a dark room with a long black couch, one of those metronome things people use to practice music. I expected unique and eclectic decorations and dramatic music to be playing in the background. What I actually stepped into was a peaceful environment, lots of light, simple decoration, soft classical music, and a very welcoming therapist. The couch however, was there just a little smaller, and white. For those wondering, I did take my shoes off and sprawl out on the couch like people do on television. There was something comforting about treating the space as if it was part of my home rather than a therapists office. I remember thinking to myself once I arrived that this would be easy. It would only be a matter of time before I was “perfect”. I figured I would be good after a few one hour sessions I figured I had already done the work by making the decision to attend therapy.
What I quickly learned was the “work” was just beginning, though something inside me knew it would be worth it.