Sometimes, during counselling and during life, one is lucky enough to experience a moment of insight and understanding which suddenly occurs, allowing things to slot into place and make sense – a moment of clarity if you like; a lightbulb turns on and changes the way you view yourself and your experiences and your responses.
As a 23 year old I recall having one of these moments when receiving counselling for totally different reasons to why I am receiving it now. 15 years later, however much older and wiser I think I am and however much self-intuition I have worked hard on fostering, I am still learning basic things about myself – and I had one of these light bulbs moments this very week.
My last blog was about PTSD and my realisation that for the past year I have lived in a perpetual state of fear. This week I realised that this means that anxiety is a fundamental part of my way of thinking and my diagnosis. It sounds a fairly minor realisation – not really a game changer or anything catastrophically important, and you may think that I would have had the emotional intelligence to have understood this long ago (clearly I don’t!!).
But for my own self-awareness, it’s quite big. I have always thought that the major part of my diagnosis was depression, and that anxiety was a very minimal part of how I felt, if it was even there at all. But – and here’s the lightbulb moment – if my PTSD is really just fear born out of trauma, then my fear is really just anxiety. Anxiety that those traumatic events might be repeated again.
I never felt I suffered with anxiety because – apart from the occasional time, like when I was stuck half way up a waterfall which was half way up a mountain – I have never had frequent panic attacks, I am fairly confident and assertive, I am not nervy or shy, I can generally cope on a day to day basis with leaving the house, holding down a responsible job, I have no trouble getting off to sleep at night. These are the things I would associate with anxiety being a significant part of a person’s presentation. Which of course – despite all the stuff I have done for Mind, my professional background, and members of my family living with anxiety – is a massive and completely inaccurate stereotype. Doh. Each week at therapy when I have had to score myself in terms of depressive or anxious symptoms (which incidentally I HATE doing) I have always felt confused as to why I score so much higher for anxiety than for depression.
It is suddenly all fitting into place but what a long time it has taken. Five years on from Ian’s death I feel like I am at a beginning point where I can finally start looking at how the anxiety I feel affects me, my friendships and relationships, my parenting, and how anxiety is the very thing which causes me to feel depressed. I have realised that I feel pretty much constantly anxious – so much so that I have normalised it and don’t notice it – and the major depressive crashes I have experienced, which I thought were the vast majority of my mental health problems, have actually occurred after sharp spikes in that constant, underlying anxiety.
Well bugger me!
So, now it’s time to adjust to a new perspective and work on reducing these spikes in anxiety to prevent any further major depression. Easy peasy….!? 😕
Till next time,