Is a prescribed drug the answer for your anxiety?

I believe that anxiety is not a condition per se, as none of us were born with it. We, however, might have become conditioned by certain life experiences, to which our body and mind started reacting with anxiety and panic as a form of defence mechanism against experiencing a trauma. This is just my subjective, biased by an empirical experience opinion, and I am aware that there are cases of anxiety related to physical dysfunctions or illnesses. Nevertheless, I decided to share my experience of anxiety with you as perhaps someone may relate to it.

Let me tell you the story...

My experience of anxiety

Having had a traumatic relationship in my mid-twenties, I developed panic attacks that were happening on a daily basis, completely ruining the quality of my life then. Growing up with a stepfather who was a doctor, I was promptly diagnosed with anxiety and given a ‘medication’ as the only available solution. There was not even the slightest consideration for potential talking therapy or further assessments. Regardless, at that time the society I was surrounded by was deeply stigmatised by any kind of psychological, let alone therapeutic, intervention.

So, there I was, experiencing the effects of the ‘medication’ for the first time in my life. Of course, it worked. My body with its lack of resilience and virginity to the benzodiazepines reacted just as the books say. It completely took the edge off of my anxious feelings and petrifying worries. It numbed my brain and nervous system, actually to the point that I felt high. Although I was not using ‘the medication’ regularly, and only episodically, I started to experience some of its inevitable and infamous side effects. My sleeping began to be very deprived and the nightmares I was having were exhausting. I often felt confused, completely spaced-out, detached and drowsy. My short-term memory was suffering, and my focus and concentration were gone. I had to make a decision to do something, to find a solution.

As at the time my life was going through a turbulent, even unstable phase, I had an opportunity to go travelling, and I did. Changing my environment, surroundings, and people around me helped immensely. Sometimes we need to do something drastically draconian to achieve something completely different to what we used to have. It was not easy at all, however, I was able to manage my panic attacks and anxiety (especially as mine were situational).

I am not entirely against pharmacological help or ‘the medication’ itself, and I know it can help in extreme cases where you feel you may die and you totally believe it. It is better to take anything that helps until you learn your ways of dealing with anxiety and you are equipped with the tools that get you through it, but just be mindful. Be aware of its side effects and the long-term effects of potentially induced early memory loss or dementia, amongst others. Educate yourself. Do not blindly believe the doctors, as some of them will still choose for you the easy option. Be diligent, be resourceful.

My personal voyage to fully 'cure' myself of anxiety was a really long journey. Not everything worked, in fact, not many things did, but I didn’t give up. We are so lucky these days to have this huge abundance of resources that can help us throughout the majority of life and health challenges. We can use a huge range of therapies, more or less alternative interventions and self-help sources. You need to remember that there is no one method that will work for everyone, as we are so unique. Yet, almost always you need to see someone else to help you. This is how we humans are wired. We heal through connection with the right person, the right energy, the right attachment. Whatever you call it, it is a profoundly personally evoked experience that sometimes cannot be explained explicitly. It just happens for us, when we are open, when we are ready and when we are with the right person. So don’t give up on your journey of searching!

What was an imperative ingredient in my healing process was the complete attention to the roots of my distress? And oh boy, wasn’t that hard! It was super hard, but it was so much harder to carry this burden myself for so many years. Once the sources of my anxiety were identified, talked about, accepted, attended to and understood, I was able to learn how to deal with the outcomes. I was able to learn new tools and apply them moving forward. I learnt how to communicate my needs and be listened to. I learnt how to accept and love myself unconditionally. It required a lot of resilience, both professionally and personally. I had to say many goodbyes, to some people, to places, to old habits. I had to open myself to new and unknown connections and experiences, but I grew through all of these and today I am able to do what I am doing with others because I have been there and I worked through it. I understand.

This is the model that worked for me. And now, at moments of heightened stress, I know how to regulate my body and its responses. I know how to navigate my energy to deal with what I can control and let go of what I cannot control. I still may feel butterflies or a tingly sensation in my stomach or chest, but this is totally manageable, and I am ok. The feeling that was brought up by being freed from all my darkness and imperfections that I was scared to disclose before was the most magical and liberating experience of all! Utterly emancipating and beautiful!

So now, when I work with those that suffer from generalised anxiety disorder or other forms of distress I ask them if they remember feeling differently before they started feeling anxious, and they all do. All of them remember. They were not born with this, and this is where our journey may begin.

My long-forgotten history of ‘the medication’ days has been replaced with practical tools learnt from many incredible people, with whom I reframed my point of reference and created my new narratives that have enabled me to grow through the challenging years of emotional distress and struggle.

Hence, despite the fact that this is not an easy ride and that this model may not be for you, do not give up in your searches for the right solution. May you find it and may you be happy.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Exeter, Devon, EX4
Written by Agatha Penney, MBACP (Accred), COSRT, Psychosexual Therapy, Supervision
Exeter, Devon, EX4

Agatha works as a psychotherapist in her private practice. Her interest lies in helping people affected by challenging family relations. Following research on this subject, she is involved in creating a platform for people struggling with loneliness and family conflict. Agatha is also completing her diploma in psychosexual & relationship therapy.

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