I will never forget the first time I went to speak to a counsellor. The room was small, there was a musty smell in the air, the decor was very bland. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it would be emotionally exhausting. The counsellor came to the waiting area and called my name, the 3 metre walk to the small room, in where I would be baring my tortured soul, felt like it took about an hour rather than just a few seconds. My hands were clammy, my heart racing, chest tightening, legs feeling super weak and I could already feel the tears pricking my eyes.
After signing various paperwork (confidentiality agreements etc…) the counsellor put 60 minutes on the clock and we began.
The counsellor gently asked “So, why are you here?”
My rambling started.
“Well…I am anxious and depressed…I feel like it is taking over every day…I don’t know what to do…I have anxiety attacks and I end up so upset…I had a series of strokes so I know it stems from that period…I can’t walk properly anymore and that upsets me…I feel like I am letting my son down…”
The counsellor did not look phased one bit! “So tell me about your health issues, take your time.” The rambling mode softened and I explained about my physical health, about the strokes and about the decline in my health with the chronic health conditions I had been diagnosed with. The counsellor sat and listened, taking notes which I was desperate to read!!
As we drew to the end of that first session the counsellor said “do you realise that your anxiety towards something is in fact the result of how you react to the situation? when you are going through a depressed period it is down to the way you have reacted to an event or situation?” I sat there looking slightly baffled, was I being told this was all my fault? Is that what this all meant? Surely this wasn’t what counselling was about, being told you are the problem?
It was time for the session to end, I thanked the counsellor and said I would see them the following week. I left the offices feeling a strange sense of “did that happen? is all this my fault?” Over the next few days I spent time thinking about situations that triggered my anxiety and recalling depressive episodes and looking at how I got to that place. Suddenly it all made sense. It WAS all down to how I reacted. If I could adjust my attitude towards situations would that help? All I could do was try. Over the next few weeks I gave some serious thought about my attitude. I realised that when presented with a situation, I would focus on my pre-conceived idea or feelings about what was happening and because of that I would end up extremely anxious and then the usual cycle would continue and I would then feel depressed.
- Invited out for a meal with friends
- Accept the invite but then start telling myself that people would stare at me and judge me due to my walking stick and slower pace of mobility
- Think each day about being judged whilst out in public
- Anxiety kicks in. Chest pains. Head aches. Insomnia. Quick breathing and feeling like I was going to collapse.
- Deciding the best idea would be to not go out for the meal.
- Stay home, the anxiety softening but then feeling depressed because once again the anxiety has won and I have missed out on going out with friends.
It was such a tiring situation to be in and suddenly I had this idea that maybe the counsellor was right. Over time I started to adjust my attitude to situations and unbelievably I felt so much more relaxed, The anxiety was much less and therefore reducing the depression.
Example with an new attitude.
- Invited out for a meal with friends
- Accept the invite. Look up the location and check out the accessibility
- Plan what to wear etc…
- Continue to feel grateful that despite health issues I am still able to get out and about!!
- Tell myself that having a mobility aid is nothing to be ashamed about. If having a walking stick is the difference between going out and staying in then surely the walking stick is a great help.
- Remember that if someone stares it is usually due to good old basic human nature, people see a stick and wonder what is wrong with you, like I said that’s just some peoples nature.
- Go out with friends, enjoy myself and plan another event soon!!!
So these days my diary is much fuller as I don’t hide away and let my brain take over and keep me from enjoying life. I looked at the way I reacted to situations, broke those feelings down, looked at why I would feel certain ways and I created new ways to look at things.
I now have a far more positive attitude and all because I realised that the counsellor was right. The anxiety and depression is still there and I think it always will be, however, the good days now far outweigh the bad and I seem to have a good hold of how to treat situations. My attitude to everything in my life is the key thing that contributes to how I handle things, some days I tell myself “come on, look at the positives that could come from this!”
My advice to anyone who lives with anxiety or depression is that you must take the time to assess the situations you know will trigger an episode, how do you feel about the situation? how can you change your attitude? will changing your attitude create a better outcome to a situation? Know your triggers and deal with your attitude, then hopefully you will successfully create much more balance to your life and seriously reduce the stress on your mental health.