Posts Tagged ‘Agoraphobia’

It has been a while since I have posted and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m more busier – without the gripping anxiety I was feeling every time I thought about going anywhere – I’m able to do things and visit people I didn’t think I would be able to ever again. Maybe it’s because i feel guilty – I know there are others out there who are where I was a year ago – I don’t really know what to say to make it better. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to remember – by reminding myself that I have anxiety will I create more anxiety?

What I do know is that it’s a bit like being a drug addict – you always need to fight against the urge to “freak out”, remember what you have been taught which some days is easier said than done. Recently it has been harder.

Last week I had my first full-blown panic attack for about six months while I was at the supermarket. It didn’t last too long and I was able to sit it out and then carry on with the shopping and not leave the shop which I have done before. While this in itself is quite small and insignificant I know that this is where it starts. If I dwell on this incident, next time I will already be anxious when I get there so the symptoms will be worse and harder to ignore.

So I have to remember what I have learnt, remember that I can be strong and remember that I don’t want to be chained to the house again.

Therefore, I will be posting my tips on how to overcome anxiety – to help me remember but hopefully it will help others to

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The feet of a tightrope walker.

The feet of a tightrope walker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About 10 weeks ago I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with some trepidation (how far were they going to push me?), with some relief (I had been waiting for a long time), but mainly with an expectation that this had to work because I knew I couldn’t continue down the ever narrowing path that I had got myself on.  Now that it’s over, has it worked?

Certainly, I am no longer avoiding things: I do the food shopping, I drive to and from work, I have had my haircut at a hairdressers, I have even driven on the motorway (something I haven’t done for 10 years).  I experience less panic attacks, and the ones I do experience are shorter and less intense.  From outside it has definitely worked.  In the first two sessions the therapist had me hyperventilating to prove that it wouldn’t hurt me, that I was bringing on the worst of the symptoms myself.  Then we started doing things I didn’t do – she took me to Tesco and on the train.  I had homework every week:  I had to welcome panic attacks without any safety behaviours (see if they were as bad as I thought), I had to not avoid things, I had to record everything down in diaries.  I responded very quickly and I have got my life back.

Yet the underlying anxiety I have hasn’t gone:   I still have knots in my stomach that tell me I have something to fear, or feelings of guilt over… I don’t know.  I still feel tired from the daily effort of coping with anxiety.  I still cannot have a panic attack without some safety behaviours; even though I fight it, there is something in me that doesn’t believe 100% that my panic attacks won’t send me mad or hurt me.  I still have to actively avoid avoiding things rather than just go about my daily life.

From the point of view of my therapist I am a complete success as I am in charge of my anxiety now.  “You were never trying to get rid of the anxiety symptoms, just look at them differently,” was how she reassured me at our last session.  However, from my point of view I feel I am stood on a tightrope and it wouldn’t take much to lose my balance and find myself falling back into avoidance behaviours and round the clock anxiety.  At the moment it takes a lot of energy and guts to keep walking along the tightrope because there is part of me that wants to jump off – in some ways it would be easier.

Despite this, I am going to try my hardest to stay on the tightrope and continue to walk along it albeit slowly because what CBT has done, I believe, is kick-start a recovery.  It has not been a miracle cure I so wanted it to be, but it has given me enough knowledge of my condition to shrink it slightly.  It is now up to me to continue to shrink it further because actually I would like to get rid of the symptoms of anxiety.  Will I always be susceptible to anxiety? Probably.  Will I always have to work this hard at it?  Hopefully not.  Has it worked?  It’s too soon to say.  Would I recommend CBT to others?  Definitely.

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