How do I find help when I am handcuffed by anxiety
Anxiety can be very restricting. It drips or pours fears into us; some of which may seem utterly unreasonable to the outsider, or even ourselves, as we trudge our way through daily life trying to make the best of things; trying to just function. We may realise that we are living under a dark, cloud-filled sky, a place where the sun dare not shine, with handcuffs restricting our movement. Over time we may learn to adjust and live with the restrictions and fears, and even make excuses for not doing things, but the handcuffs that restrict us are always there, keeping us, making us, even defining us.
We may look upon it as a way of self-protection keeping ourselves in a safe, controlled environment, but the walls that keep us safe are fears; fears of what may happen, fears of the worst case scenario, even fears of fear. It can lead to frustration, self deprecation, anger, despair and depression, to feelings of being lost, an outsider, someone who just has to live with it, someone who always has to make excuses to a world that just does not understand, a world that seems happy and easy functioning, a world that has no place for the fearful anxious little people who cannot even do the simplest things without anxiety. How can someone who is handcuffed by anxiety even consider contacting a therapist?
It is understandable to feel anxious about some things like going for a job interview or giving a presentation, standing on the side of a pool about to do your first dive, or taking the wheel of a car for the first time. It may be suggested that these times can actually be good for us as we come through the other side feeling we have accomplished something, having worked through the fears, achieving despite the anxiety. However, for people who suffer on a daily basis with generalised anxiety or severe anxiety, doing even the simplest things can be difficult, even impossible.
In a world of constant movement, a world of constant demands, a world of constantly having to measure up, a world where people don't have time or space to even notice the anxious, a world where people don't expect you to be anxious about the "little things", it can be easy to get sucked into deeper and deeper despair, with nowhere to turn, no one who understands, no one who knows what to say or do to make it better. It can become a lonely and desperate place.
We can reach a point where we know we need to change things. We know there is something not right, we know we want more out of our lives, we know we need to take the handcuffs off and live the life of our hearts longing. As we watch the world go by, our friends enjoying themselves free and able, alone and less able, we know that we must do something. Again I ask how can someone who is handcuffed by anxiety even consider contacting a therapist, and what could they do?
I understand. I understand, as a person who has had many years living with severe and generalised anxiety, I understand how debilitating and overwhelming it can be, and as a therapist I understand how therapy can help. Feeling empowered enough to make contact with a stranger and feeling able to talk openly about what is happening for you can seem like two massive unreachable mountain tops, but you CAN get the help you deserve, you CAN find the answers, you DO NOT have to be handcuffed by anxiety, you DO NOT have to live a life defined by being an anxious person.
Finding a counsellor
These days there are many counsellors and ways to find counsellors. On the Counselling Directory, each person has a photo of themselves and a profile you can read about them and how they work. Contacting a therapist can seem daunting, but I always feel it is the most important step in the therapeutic process as it is the first step in empowering us to movement and change. Many counsellors can be contacted via email or text as well as phone calls. If phone calls are difficult for you, texts or email may be the easiest way to make contact. Contacting someone does not mean you are bound to have therapy with them. It is important to find someone you feel comfortable enough with and contacting more than one counsellor is fine; in fact it may be the best thing.
So - decision made that things need to change, decision made to seek a counsellor, and decision made to contact counsellors. Once you have reached this stage you have done so much good work for yourself. Next there is the counselling itself.
Many counsellors can now work with you online or via email. There was a time when it was thought this was not as effective as face to face counselling, however recent studies and thinking suggests this is just as effective. For those of us with anxiety issues, just knowing this can be helpful.
The thought of expressing our anxiety issues and how we are affected by them may seem a step too far; it may be helpful to know that any good counsellor will not see your issue - they will see you as a person. Working with you as a person and not your anxiety will maybe help the first step in disassociating with the state of anxiety. Talking in a safe, comfortable place without judgement will help you.
For all reading this and thinking about seeking help, know you need not be on your own struggling. There is hope, change can happen, and finding a counsellor to listen, help you explore the issues and find ways to help live a less or even non-anxious life is possible. I wish you well.
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About Paul Smith
Currently in private practice in the Salford area for the last 8 years I have seen how counselling and talking therapy can help with anxiety. Having led a life of entanglement with general and severe anxiety issues I understand personally how it can affect us.