Take a moment to read Jessica’s story and notice how anxiety closed down her life.
Jessica, Jess to her friends, had started to feel bad some time back now. It was a darkness that seemed to haunt her. She would find herself agreeing to things she didn’t want to do. She was scared that if she didn’t then her friends would walk away. She suddenly lacked the confidence that she had as a teenager and now always seems to be saying sorry when she spoke.
Jess knew that her thoughts weren’t right; her mind was racing like it was going 100mph. Yet she felt trapped like there was no one to tell. She feared being told that she was mad or the sad sympathetic looks that her confession would generate. So Jess withdrew, further and further into herself and her flat, the only place she felt safe.
So the story might have ended here, if it were not for Jess’s manager Sharon at work. Noticing that she was not performing as well as she used to, he had a chat over a cuppa. Jess knew that she hadn’t been doing so well and being faced with someone actually talking about failure was too much she dissolved into tears. Sharon, quickly recognised that something was wrong and helped Jess to contact both the Employee Assistance helpline and to get in contact with her GP. Sharon followed up by talking to Jess, and encouraging her on a regular basis.
Although she needed some courage she took up the offer of counselling and went to see a therapist. It was hard facing up to her feelings and risking being vulnerable with a stranger no matter how well meaning they were. Yet Jess knew that the alternative was to lie down and let anxiety control her life for the next 40 years unable to be the person she wanted to be and live life to the full. Her therapist encouraged her to be honest first with herself, then with others. Slowly the thoughts that had been so toxic to her sell-belief lifted and she was surprised to learn that she could stand up for her values and boundaries, she even had a new word in her vocabulary: “no”
Jess’s story is not an uncommon experience of anxiety. Something small can start it off but anxiety is toxic to our self-belief. Its not that you are unaware of what is happening but somehow you feel powerless to do something, anything to change the path that seems chosen for you.
There seems little option, conflict seems like a bad and a risky thing so you go with the flow and slowly you sink. Often there is a moment when something has to change and if you can find enough inner strength to get started then then the momentum can take you down the road to health. Notice in Jess’s story the difference that the support that Sharon made. The fact she notice and encouraged. She helped and checked all made a difference. Counselling made a difference too giving the perspective and challenging the unhelpful processes and thinking.
Jess? Well Jess is feeling much better and out with friends most weekend. She still has anxious moments, but now she can manage her anxiety and get on with her life.