Mental health is once again in the news, and last time I wrote an article regarding depression – something I am extremely grateful not to be suffering from! Though I have met many who do.
No – this time I’d like to say a few words about anxiety, and which is something I have more experience of. Even though it is often linked with depression, it can, and often is, a totally separate issue.
At this point I have to go into the confessional. Like so many musicians I had a protracted phase from my teens to my early 20s, of escaping a difficult childhood by taking drugs. (Yes I am a bona fide rock n roll chick!). It allowed me to distance myself from emotional turmoil. But as so often is the case, this eventually resulted in me overdoing things and I started to get some extreme anxiety attacks, to the point of thinking I was dying.
A pivotal day came where I vowed never to touch drugs again (something I have stuck to to this day). But for 2 years I continued to have anxiety attacks and my saviour came in the shape of an elderly NHS GP, a Dr Biran (I do love our immigrants) and who, when I turned up at his surgery and promptly burst into tears (SO embarrassing), told me to go home, and that he would swing by after his emergency calls and do some hypnotherapy with me.
He turned up at my flat in Leeds at 8pm and spent about 90 minutes hypno-theraping me. Slowly my hyperventilating twitching self began to calm. Amazing. I’d barely slept at this stage for about 2 weeks and was a complete wreck. He then left me with a tape of his system and told me to go through it as often as possible and every night at the very least.
This changed my life. I had tried other hypnotherapy tapes by ‘top’ therapists before, but they were complex and didn’t hold my attention however hard I tried. Dr Biran’s method was much simpler, and to this day I can use it (and have) to talk down other people who are experiencing acute anxiety. Before leaving Leeds to move back to London, I made an appointment with him and waited for an hour in the waiting room, just to give him a bunch of flowers.
After having gone through this, it was incredible how many dope smokers crawled out of the woodwork with very similar stories. Regular spliffs will give you anxiety! Sooner or later.
But experiencing anxiety is by no means reliant on drug taking, and can affect anyone at any time. A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) experienced her first attack at age 50. And of course she didn’t know what was going on. I think she was very relieved when I told her I knew exactly what was happening.
The worst thing about anxiety is that it feeds itself and thus becomes a vicious circle. If you have an anxiety episode say in a supermarket, or on a train, then just the thought of revisiting those places will spark fears of it happening again. And anxiety is essentially fear. So it probably will. Some people get to the point where they cannot leave the house.
So the cycle has to be broken, and triggers have to be identified and tackled. There are various therapies, all of which are worth trying until one of them works. If not, there are drugs – I know a couple of people who have resorted to those, and they have made a huge difference. Though coming off them can be difficult. But don’t expect an instant fix! It’s something that has to be worked on bit by bit and ‘managed’ until you look back and realise that it hasn’t happened for some time.
Of course most people have experienced minor anxiety on a reactive level, though they would describe it as ‘worry’. Like when you get an unidentified pain or symptom, and you start imagining all sorts of terminal conditions to the point where you can’t sleep properly until you get it checked out. (‘It’s only wind, Mr Jenkins..’)
Alas we are hopelessly breakable, however robust we think we are. Bits break and neurons misfire. If we’re lucky it’s just a case of pulled muscles and sore bits. But if it’s not, and you are currently experiencing anxiety, speak to someone today! If you haven’t already done so. You’ll be amazed how many people will know what you’re going through.
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