Friday, 25 January 2013

Anxiety Workshop = Anxiety Provoking.


That's one word to describe today.

I attended the Stress Control class through the NHS Wellbeing Service middle of last year. I didn't really enjoy the format - some things I learned were helpful and new to me, other bits of it weren't. And I'm sorry, but reading off a PowerPoint presentation every week didn't appeal to me and certainly didn't keep me focused.

After Stress Control, I opted for some one-to-one support, along with asking to be put on a course to learn about Mindfulness and an Anxiety Management workshop. I was in a good frame of mind and wanted to keep the momentum going, and wanted to get involved with as many classes and workshops as possible.

So after easily six or seven months, I get on to my anxiety course. I was due to start last week but due to the snow, they postponed. Here's what happened...

I was at work this morning, and felt alright about the class in the afternoon, up until lunchtime. I felt anxious, nervous and wondered what it would entail. I hadn't heard too much about it, I just assumed it would be specific to anxiety and I desperately needed help with mine. After hunting online for the venue, I found it was a doctors surgery. Great. For me, as an emetophobic, I worried. I hate doctors surgeries any time of the year, but throwing me in one during the seasonal flu/norovirus periods was just another worry to add to the list. I spoke to my friends at work and felt positive though. I had waited so long for this, I couldn't throw the towel in now. My mind did work overtime - I started to wonder if it wasn't a group based workshop, and it would be one to one. That worried me - I didn't want it to feel like a trip to the doctors. I want a relaxed atmosphere. I was going to reduce my anxiety for goodness sake!

Anyway, after having to scrap around as buses were delayed so I had to run and grab a taxi, I got there five minutes early. I hated the building. I know that sounds like I didn't go in with a positive attitude but I hated it from the moment I walked in. The doors were automatic. Daft, yes, but it reminded me of a hospital. You walk in to two receptions (one on each side..?!) and there's no signs, no indication. My letter specifically said the health centre wouldn't know anything about the course details so not to bother asking. Fortunately, I saw a lady walk past who I happened to remember had ran the Stress Control class I went to. She gestured me through to the meeting room.

Well my face must have been quite the picture. I hate being trapped in somewhere. I worry a heck of a lot if I feel I can't get out. And I need to have a certain amount of room to move my legs otherwise I panic. There, in front of me, was the darkest little room they could have possibly have found. Had they not thought this through? ANXIETY. ANXIOUS PEOPLE. PEOPLE WITH PHOBIAS. These are all possibilities and yet they have thrown about 20 people into a room which lacked lighting, had one door, a poster about 'body fluids' on the wall, and chairs packed together to save on space. How I managed to sit down instead of turning around and running I do not know.

Eventually the course began. A slideshow. Just like before. I told myself to stick with it, I've waited ages for this, I am stronger now and will persevere. But then they started referring back to Stress Control. I know that stress and anxiety are linked but I thought this class would teach me just about anxiety. And I mean "teach me" not read off a PowerPoint (again). I felt completely deflated. One of the ladies running the course was quite vibrant, and she had researched more than what was on the slides, which I did find extremely interesting. I learned about some physical responses and effects anxiety has on the body which I didn't know before. But the other lady, the one who had been involved with Stress Control, no offense, but I could have sat there and read out the PowerPoint myself. I even had a copy of the PowerPoints given to me before the session. I just read along. I didn't learn anything particular. Her voice was monotone. She lacked emotion completely. I don't want to sound horrid and personal but I knew I wasn't the only person who's eyes glazed over when she started reading. People in this sector need to support us sufferers - not sit and read and seem unapproachable, perhaps even bored some might say.

The thing that really struck a chord for me, and this is quite personal, was the general age of people in the room. It mostly consisted of women (only four men) which I expected. I know the statistics show anxiety is more common in women. But then I looked round the room. I was the youngest person there. I know to some that might sound rude but bear with me!

Ever since I first had mental health issues, I have felt alone. I have always felt the 'odd one out' and this particularly shone through at school. As I have got older, I have realised that of course I'm not the only one, and there are hundreds of thousands of people like me, and who suffer in complete silence. Therapists, counsellors, course leaders have all told me I'm not alone, there's other people like me and I believe that, of course I do. But when you're sitting in the room and 98% of people are aged 50 plus, my niggly anxious part of my brain started chattering away. I wasn't the same age as anyone. I know that that probably doesn't matter to a lot of people, but to me at that moment, it did. It sparked a lot thoughts around how perhaps I was the only young person like this. Why do I feel like this at 21? What have I got to be worried about? These other people must think I have it so easy. What do I have to moan and whinge about? Typical Kim. But it was true - it doesn't matter I wasn't speaking to anyone. I couldn't look at anyone in that room and think 'I'm like them and it's okay. I'm not the only 21 year old who has struggled to maintain a good social life, to hold down a good job, who has panic attacks that crop up out of the blue.'

When I got home, I sat down with a cuppa. I put my thoughts in to perspective. I was right that I was the youngest, yes, but I DO have anxiety. I have ill mental health and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I need just as much help as someone who has been through all the experiences life has to offer, good and bad.

I've decided things need to change. Support is desperately needed for young people. There is no reason whatsoever to feel alone and I will be actively trying to change that. I dread the thought of my future children growing up in a society where they feel they can't get taken seriously until they're legal adults. I have contacted a local café this evening about holding a regular meeting group. JUST for young people. I'm not trying to sound mean and plain horrible to the elder folk, but this is needed to make children, adolescents, young adults alike know that it's okay if you don't want to go out every Friday, it's okay if you feel that some days you just don't want to do anything and have some time to yourself, and it's okay to take medication if you feel happy to do so. Things have got to change.

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