As many of you know, I saw a therapist at the middle/end of last year after I spent the weekend in hospital waiting for a psychiatrist to evaluate me. I was in hospital for depression/suicidal thoughts, but the main issue I worked on with the therapist was my anxiety.
I had had CBT previously for my anxiety, and it had helped me go from being completely housebound, to being able to go out as long as I was with a ‘safe’ person. The therapy I had last year was not CBT, I’d say it was a more general approach, and it was magical; I was able to walk around towns alone, I didn’t have to deal with a pounding heart & excessive sweating every time I went bowling with the expats, it was a total revelation. I was cured!
Only it turns out I missed a key fact. That fact is that my social anxiety was cured. My social anxiety really kicked in after I was sexually assaulted, and I had mistakenly named it “anxiety,” thinking that before the assault I had not had anxiety at all. I was wrong. Looking back now I can see that I have always had anxiety issues, the social aspect was just an add-on, but because I have always had them I didn’t realise that they were abnormal, or indicative of a mental health issue. How have I suddenly realised this reality? Let me explain…
Today my mum brought up the option of my learning to drive again. I’ve tried before, both in the UK and here in France, but never took my test. This afternoon we saw some friends and, during conversation, mum mentioned that I might start learning to drive again soon. Naturally this led to some questions and offers of help and advice from the friends, and I explained why I had never taken my test and my anxieties around driving. It was a harmless conversation, and yet my heart pounded harder and harder as I explained why I hated driving, until one of our friends did the “calm down” arms. At that exact moment I realised that I still have anxiety.
Since then I have been thinking about why I thought I was cured, and that’s when the realisation dawned that my natural level of anxiety is high enough to be considered an illness. I don’t remember a time when I was not anxious, not conscious of every terrible scenario that may, possibly happen. As a child I didn’t like to go to friends’ houses to play, even less to sleep over. If I did sleep over I would stay awake until everyone else was asleep before allowing myself to nod off, and I would wake up as early as possible, before anyone else was awake. Why? Fear. Fear that if I was asleep and others were awake they would hurt me, play a prank on me, talk about me. I have always been afraid.
Of course, because it has always been that way, that is my normal, and that is why it was only when the social anxiety arrived and began to affect my life differently that I thought I had a problem. That’s also why, once my social anxiety left, I thought I was fine again.
It’s a bit of a sucky realisation, not least because I have gone from thinking I was cured of anxiety, to realising that I have actually just always been in such a high state of anxiety that I didn’t even realise it was an issue. Having said that, at least I have had the realisation and now I can, hopefully, deal with it.
I have a psychiatrist appointment at the start of February, I intend to mention to them that I do still have anxiety, along with depression & BPD, and that I want that to be taken into consideration when we discuss medication/treatment options. Honestly, I don’t really hold out much hope for a medication, or combination of medications, that will actually combat my problems, but you never know, miracles can happen!