Anxiety – Something to be Feared?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a wee while but the issue of anxiety came up again at the weekend on Twitter.

Before entering services I wasn’t an anxious person. Sure, I got very nervous/anxious over particular important events but for the main part, despite the seemingly nerve-wracking (to other people) aspects of my job, I didn’t very often experience anxiety.

Now? I have anxiety on a daily basis.  I wake up with that dread, the racing heart and nausea.  This to me is my normal setting now but some days it is a lot higher – it creates panic, making breathing more difficult and it causes me, on rare occasions, to vomit.

My therapist reminded me sometimes of how anxiety hasn’t ever killed anyone.  Don’t worry, she’s not being flippant or anything and it was part of a larger dialogue we have had regarding my anxiety.  Taking this at face value though, it’s true. When I started DBT I used to get anxious about being anxious. I would worry that my anxiety about an upcoming event or circumstance would prevent me from going ahead with whatever was causing my anxiety. Worrying about anxiety would increase my anxiety and then, when my anxiety reached those higher levels (involving panic attacks and/or vomiting), I would decide that meant I couldn’t do whatever it was I wanted/needed to do.

I’ve been wondering whether services have inadvertently reinforced/maintained (or even had a part in causing) this anxiety about anxiety.  In inpatient settings especially, if someone is anxious, it is something that is ‘bad’ and needs to be gotten rid of – perhaps it’s more to calm the anxiety of the staff than the service user?  A way to keep the ward settled? Even in the community just a couple of months ago, my social worker seemed disturbed by my anxiety – keen to see what “techniques” (her word, not mine – it makes me cringe for some reason) I had learned from DBT I could use.  I informed her that I had accepted my anxiety and that I am using the skills from DBT but that doesn’t mean that the anxiety is going to go away. 

I do not take medication for anxiety (I haven’t since I had to go through an extended withdrawal plan from Clonazepam through use of decreasing doses of substituted Diazepam). My anxiety is no worse now than when I was on Clonazepam (and anti-psychotic medication). Medication only masks anxiety for a short amount of time for me and reinforces the idea that it is somehow something to be feared in itself and got rid of.

Please don’t get me wrong here.  I hate having anxiety, it sometimes makes me breakdown and cry from emotional (and physical) exhaustion. It feels like a fight at times and that’s when I realise I need to turn towards accepting it again.  Yes, I need to carry on and approach situations that provoke anxiety but that doesn’t require me to fight it. Fighting takes up valuable energy and ends up with me focusing on my anxiety thereby making it worse. I approach (not fight) my anxiety on a daily basis. If I didn’t approach it, I would never leave the safety of my duvet, I would never regain a life that I’m aiming for as part of recovery.

I’m not entirely sure what this rambling post achieves, if anything. I am very interested though in the views of both service users and professionals regarding anxiety, especially with regards to the attitude that it is somehow ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’.

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About Carrie Quinn

I'm a former solicitor whose life was turned upside down due to problems with my mental health. I'm now aiming towards recovery, which to me means rebuilding a meaningful life - not necessarily disorder free.
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10 Responses to Anxiety – Something to be Feared?

  1. mcmorag says:

    I do sometimes wonder how the expectations that people lead a fast-paced, productive life in the modern, capitalist West deny those of us who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues the time necessary to work through elements of these difficulties ourselves – without the need to wholly rely on meds. But working through a bout of lower-level anxiety or depression can take time, and employers don’t like us being off. Society’s solution – speed it up with meds. (I hasten to add that I do NOT share Giles Fraser’s view that anti-depressants are unnecessary for clinical depression. Often they’re vital. But being able to ‘accept’ and ‘live with’ some anxious/depressive thoughts mindfully is possible too. It may just take more time, effort and practice.)

  2. Carrie says:

    Thanks for your comment. I’m wondering what you would consider as low level anxiety and depression? I ask because I see it as important for me to be at work if I had low level – I have low and more anxiety on a daily basis and not going would reinforce that. How do you see having time off as helpful?

    • mcmorag says:

      Hi Carrie. I suppose I would view it as lower level anxiety or depression if one COULD function at work – and higher level if one couldn’t. I speak more from personal experience of depression than of anxiety. Mind you, I suppose I’ve gone into work while suicidal, so it’s hard to say. Time off work is sometimes necessary, such as when people are unable to function adequately, but I can see how it may reinforce MH issues too.

      • Carrie Quinn says:

        Ah right, sorry I misunderstood. I thought you’d meant that people with low level anxiety/depression need time off work. I too, like you, have been at work when suicidal, etc.

  3. Took me a long time to understand that what I was experiencing was in fact anxiety. My own experience seems oddly cyclical and I can go from feeling fine one week to significantly compromised the next. I don’t necessarily fear it any more, just pisses me off and can cause issues if I need to do something at work that requires confidence, a presentation say – there is a significant difference between the “normal” anxiety I feel when well and the sludgy, slow witted, tongue tied self conscience when less so.

    • Carrie Quinn says:

      Yep, it p*sses me off as well and then I get very judgmental and critical of myself – “I shouldn’t be anxious, it’s pathetic” etc.

      Yes, I have anxiety of nausea etc every day but not the I’m actually sick type – that’s rare. How do you manage with the tongue-tie aspect? Does it go when you get into the swing of whatever it is?

      • Sorry missed follow up comments! Normal anxiety yes but not really with the sludgy state. If my brain isn’t working then there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it til it sorts itself out.

  4. Borderlion says:

    Just what I needed to read today. I’m feeling very anxious, and I don’t even know where it’s coming from.

  5. bpnana says:

    I’ve just read your current blog post and then read this one. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so I never know where or when anxiety is going to rear its not so pretty head. I wake up every day, knowing that, at some point, a thought or situation will come up that will trigger anxiety. But it’s what I do with the trigger that can turn what could be a full blown panic attack into something that I can get through without too much pain. I think you’ve made a good point about not “fighting” anxiety, but “approaching” it. I do have a tendency to want to fight my anxiety, but it does seem futile to do so. I have been approaching it or, as I sometimes call it – facing it – looking at it straight on. By doing so, the results seem more fruitful than fighting. And yes, it isn’t as draining. Instead of trying to run away, (in my mind, at least) I have to first accept that anxiety is” knocking on the door”, so to speak, and won’t go away until I open the door, and acknowledge it. It is what it is.I’m very familiar with mine! As the years go by, it’s easier to go through an anxious moment because I know I will survive it and I keep opening the door, or if I’m a passenger in a car, which is a Huge trigger, I close my eyes! I’ve developed tools over the years. Glad you are making strides in your recovery. Wishing you all the Best! Nana

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