I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog this week. In real life, I have fallen off the radar too. This is a scary post to write. We are living of an era of increased transparency about mental health. There is a lot on social media about talking openly about the struggles we are happening, which I read and nod in agreement. Yet, here I am, a hypocrite, unsure whether or not to write about my own experience. Well, here goes: this week I finally went to see my GP about my anxiety…
I have always been a worrier, but since having kids, it seems to be getting worse and worse. About three months ago, I made an appointment to speak to my GP about how my anxiety levels were sky rocketing. Ironically, the idea of discussing my anxiety with a medical professional was giving me worse anxiety than I had ever had in my life, so I made the decision (in the waiting room) that I would just ask her about a lump on my finger instead. A few weeks later, I made another appointment, but then cancelled it. On Wednesday, I went online to make another appointment, fully aware that I would probably end up cancelling that one too… unusually, there was an appointment available for the next day. I knew that if I booked it I would have to go. Because, of all the things I worry about, letting someone else down is probably up there at the top.
I booked it. Then promptly vomited from the stress.
So, probably several years after I should have, I finally went to see my GP about my anxiety on Thursday.
I described to her how I feel, and gave her some examples from the last few days:
I woke up at 6am, and even though we didn’t need to be somewhere until 11am, I already felt physically sick at the possibility we might be late.
There is an article in the news about a boy drowning on holiday, and I start losing sleep about our upcoming holiday (at a place with a pool). I vow that I will not take my eyes off the pool area during the day, and that I will check multiple times throughout each night that the doors and windows are locked. Any excitement about my holiday quickly dissipates and I start dreading it instead.
Normally I would drive to the GP, but I feel sick about there not being a parking space, or there being unexpected roadworks to make me late. Instead I walk the 40 minute walk. Even though I get there 20 minutes early, I still worry the whole walk that I will somehow be late.
In a moment of feeling ‘normal’, I arrange a play date at my house for Monday. I then spend all weekend on edge because of the house being untidy. I start resenting the kids for making mess. The utility room acts as my sanctuary where I go to sob several times a day because everything feels so out of control.
I am scared the GP will just tell me that I am being silly. Or to come back in six months if I’m not better. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She heard me. She asked me what I want the future to look like. Diagnosis: Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I have started taking a daily 20mg dose of Fluoxetine (a generic form of Prozac). It has only been two days so far, so it’s too early to see if it is helping. What I can say is that just opening up to her and being listened to has been hugely beneficial. Later the same day, I was at the counter at the Post Office when the systems went down, and a huge queue slowly formed behind me. This would normally be my worst nightmare – my chest would tighten, my cheeks would flush, my heart rate would sky rocket. And yes, those things did happen… but now that I have a diagnosis, I was also able to rationalise with myself in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do before. It’s not your fault. No one blames you, and if they do, they are just being unfair.
I am seeing the medication as being like my arm bands whilst I learn to swim. They will keep me afloat whilst I explore CBT, meditation, exercise and other avenues to manage my anxiety. Hopefully at some point I can take my arm bands off. But there is no shame in being on medication long term either. I don’t know what the future holds but I am looking forward to it an awful lot more now. I was also given a list of helpful resources, one of which is the free CBT available on Living Life to the Full, which I am excited to get started on this weekend. I also found some more great tips on managing anxiety here.
So, if you are feeling like I do and you are scared to talk to a medical professional, or you feel like you are wasting their time – remember, that is your illness talking, Please speak to someone – I am so glad I went to see my GP about my anxiety.