Service User stories
When I think back, my mind has always had a tendency to worry! To hold onto thoughts that have caused me so much anxiety, and, to be honest it has been quite exhausting! It’s surprising how our minds become so programmed to a certain way of thinking that even we ourselves think this is ‘normal’ and very often think ‘well, that is me. I will never be any other way’. I now realise that this kind of thinking (which I have become very good at!) isn’t normal and shouldn’t be something I accept as part of my personality.
I always feel it is quite strange how I would talk about my worry as if it were something that someone else or something else had inflicted on me. Extra baggage that I have been carrying around for years!
Realising that certain ‘lows’ in my life has led me in the past to become in a terrible state, I have now become more adept in trying to cope with these ‘lows’ by keeping my state of mind in a much more healthier state than it has ever been before, and accepting that the over-thinking (which always leads me into unnecessary worrying), and to firmly take my mental state by the hand and begin to make some changes!
We tend to spend so much time taking care of how we look, how we dress, the food we eat but for me, never did I once make the connection that all of these things are inextricably linked to my way of thinking. Why on earth had I kept my mind in a separate box for all this time?
2014/15 has been one of those years when almost, anything, and everything seemed to go wrong. The loss of two beautiful family dogs, my Dad became poorly, an accident, which left me with multiple broken bones, work related problems and our house sale falling through at the very last minute! How did I cope with it all? On the outside, although feeling sad and tired, I would try to put on a brave face, mainly because I had the idea that ‘this is how I should behave’. I almost felt a failure if I showed that I couldn’t cope and apart from some tearful occasions, as one situation happened, I just moved onto the next situation BUT inside I felt in a chaotic state! For most of the time my heart was beating so fast, hands sweating, headaches, dizziness and my inner voice filling my head with so many negative thoughts. ‘What if, what if, what if’ was almost constant. Having experienced these feelings off and on for many years I tried my hardest to put up with it all. I assured myself that ‘things would get better’ but I had no tools in which to make that happen. Instead of getting better, in my mind, things were getting a whole lot worse!
I’m not entirely sure what ‘tipping point’ made me seek the help of my GP and Sandra at Steps to Wellbeing but I knew that I was so tired of my life and how I was only existing from day-to-day in my own comfort zone. Whenever this zone was challenged, perhaps a meal out, a day trip or talks of a holiday, I would carefully come up with all sorts of excuses so that I could avoid doing anything which I felt would cause me any kind of anxiety. All I would say to myself was ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I could really do without that’ and so to avoid any further anxiety I would always refuse any invites etc to lead a normal life. I didn’t stop to consider that all I was doing was keeping the vicious cycle of anxiety going. I needed to accept that my feelings of sadness were normal and that the past year was just life experiences that do happen and instead of thinking ‘oh poor me, this has really upset me, and caused me so much anxiety’ I needed to step back a little, separate myself from the NATs that were continually controlling my life and fight back!
Seeing my GP and Sandra was a first step for me taking some kind of control. I felt pleased with myself in seeking the help and for once I wasn’t looking at accepting help as a form of defeat but a form of liberation. My journey to re-discover my own mind and start to take back my life was about un-ravel.
By talking to Sandra, I began to realise that my thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms, together with all of the situations within which they occur, all affect and interact with each other. Telling my GP and Sandra how I was feeling, being open and honest about my feelings and what I was struggling with meant that I was then given some practical steps and thoughts to begin practising. Within a very short space of time I began to feel so much better.
Instead of worrying off and on throughout the day I set myself (through Sandra’s advice) a worry time. During this time I would think about my day, what I thought I needed to worry about and then move on. Interestingly enough as the weeks passed by my designated worry time just became ‘less and less’ and surprisingly enough I wasn’t worrying unnecessarily throughout the day. When the NATs did raise their little heads, I told myself that ‘I wouldn’t worry about that right now, but I would later during Worry Time!’ When I felt the symptoms of anxiety I would accept that ‘this is normal’ and ‘to go with the symptoms’ let them reach a peak, as these feelings would begin to come down and go away. I think this was one of the most powerful things that Sandra did explain to me. Put to the test this is exactly what happened! Fight or Flight, to me was always ‘Flight’ – to run away, get out of the situation that was threatening me and feel safe. This was so quickly followed with disappointment at how I had resulted back to my normal use of avoidance. I was so fed up with this! Even though, the symptoms of anxiety are sometimes quite unpleasant I now fight back!
Since working with Sandra and my GP I am feeling much calmer in myself. I am no longer approaching a day out, trip to the dentist or those everyday life experiences that are normal seen as a disaster but something, that although may still seem a challenge I now change my way of thinking and it does work!
Recognising my problems has made a big difference in how I see them. One of the first steps in working with the problems that I do have is to externalize them, to see them as separate from myself and not something that is me! When I now feel anxious, I am now beginning to understand that anxiety is separate from me. Anxiety is like a big, bullying chaotic mess that stands behind me whispering ‘what if?’ questions which makes me question and doubt myself. I can think of so many times anxiety has lowered my confidence, caused low mood and stress. I am now fighting back! Instead of letting my anxiety build a very negative image of myself in my mind, I will now say things like ‘my anxiety is playing up today’. Taking this attitude is actually helping to promote a higher self-esteem and making me feel almost ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ is perceived to be!)
The idea of change may be hard to imagine and it does involve keeping at it and trying not to slip into my old ways. It is not going to be a simple fix as making changes is a challenge but I will continue to strive to put into practice all that I have been supported to do. My desire to want a happier more fulfilled life is my goal. When times are a little tough or those NATs try to bully me I feel I now have the tools in which I can apply to keep me on track. It’s almost like my own little survival kit. You can’t see it but I know that it is there!
I had forgotten who I was …… the person who could do things without fear, but I now know that she is still there. She may feel a little groggy at the edges some days but she has never gone away. I want those fearless days back and I will get there!
At the beginning of my typing I headed the page as Worry and Me – this immediately conjures up in my mind how my worry controls me and how internalised this sounds. At the end of this write up I will change these words to Just Being Me!
Service User experience feedback can be found below: Mark's Story Rachael's Story Zoe's Story Kim's Story ...
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