It was one evening, about 3 months into my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when I completely broke down into a uncontrollable sobbing convulsion of anxious tears that I finally admitted I needed more help than I could give myself. By that time, as well as utter exhaustion, splitting headaches and sore glands, I’d also lived with anxiety daily, feeling constantly short of breath, having heart palpitations and having panic attacks fairly regularly. I was starting to feel like I was going mad.
I’d been in initial contact with the Optimum Health Clinic (OHC) who specialise in CFS/ME/Fibromyalgia and had been seeing a therapist. I had started doing meditation, was reading up about anxiety, and the therapist was raking back over my childhood to find the source of my anxiety. Whilst it gave some relief to have somewhere to open up and let the tears flow without feeling like an idiot, in fact bringing up all the past emotions was utterly draining me. I was getting worse, not better, despite all my efforts.
My therapist, GP and some friends had all suggested anti-depressants to me (which also work as anti-anxiety) but I had completely resisted. I mean, I was someone that didn’t like taking paracetamol for a headache! I’ve always preferred to work out the cause of a pain and treat the cause rather than mask it with drugs. And yes, I didn’t like the thought of being a ‘weak’ person who needed anti-depressants and couldn’t sort myself out, myself.
Being anxious, I was also terrified of taking the meds – terrified of possible side effects and because the GP had mentioned it can increase anxiety in the short term for a few weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of my anxiety getting even worse.
But one thing I had learnt by this time through the OHC was that my body needed to be in a ‘healing’ state in order to get better. I was about as far from being in a healing state as was possible. I also knew it was hugely affecting my wonderful family and I had to do something.
An amazing friend who had faced her own issues with anxiety literally made me an appointment with a psychiatrist for the next day. I will be forever grateful. I was so scared – mainly that he would hospitalise me and take me away from the one thing that was keeping me going, which was the safety of my family and my home.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. He wasn’t remotely scary. He was kind, sympathetic, reassuring – and most of all said the magic words “you’re not going mad.”
He explained I was a “classic case” of Generalised Anxiety Disorder”. Apparently it is generally hard-wired, often hereditary and is basically a faulty switch in the brain which makes the brain over-react and switch on the ‘fight or flight’ mode when it doesn’t need to. It then looks around for what the danger is until finds something, anything, to pin it on. Ok so that’s probably a terrible, simplistic version of the science but finally having an understanding of what was happening really helped.
So yes, I ended up going on the medication and it has made a massive difference. It has given me the ability to vitally rest my body and mind, and work on developing the tools to hopefully manage anxiety myself and eventually not need the meds.
I’m by no means trying to encourage anyone to take medication. For me it was most definitely a last resort. But I wanted to share my experience in case it helps you make a decision – or just be less scared – about seeking help. I realised that, for me, accepting and admitting that I needed more help was a huge relief. Suddenly I wasn’t trying to battle something alone, and having that helping hand has allowed me to find the mental strength to really help myself.
I strongly believe that relying solely on medication, without learning how to manage anxiety yourself, and understand how you can grow and change, is selling yourself short.
But it’s not weak to need extra help. It’s strong to have the courage to admit you need help and ask for it, whether that’s medication or something else.
“Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you’d been all along.” Rae Smith