Guest post: Mary's story

Anxiety: A Half Life

I am thirty years old and I have had anxiety since I was fifteen; I’m assuming there must have been some kind of trigger but I’ve never been able to pin it down to one specific moment in my life. Perhaps that’s not important anyway.
            Anxiety feeling out of control but having to be in control. It’s being afraid but being unable to name the fear.
            I have had anxiety for fifteen years but it feels like forever, I can’t remember how it feels not to have anxiety anymore and I’m terrified this will always be my life. For the last ten years I have been agoraphobic, for six months out of those ten years I couldn’t leave my bedroom, for the last two years I was making progress, getting out with my husband, visiting family – I even made it on a bus!  - but then three months ago I was in town with my mum and had a BIG panic attack, you know the kind where you think you’re going to pass out and be sick? Lovely! As you can imagine I was devastated, it was the first time anxiety had made me go back home in two years and since then I’ve been struggling to do the things I was doing so well at...walking the dogs, going out to town with a I did what I should have done a long time ago – I asked for help.
            I had done this once before in my old town but the mental health service was...less than helpful. I was basically told if you can’t get in to see us we can’t help you – not very helpful for someone suffering with agoraphobia!
            Luckily the new county I live in has an excellent mental health service and I was put on medication, which after a bit of trial and error began to work and appointments were made for me to begin CBT which best of all could be done over the phone!
            I have been on Fluoxetine for a month now and so far I’ve had CBT three times; I’ve learnt that when I thought I was doing well I actually wasn’t because I was using ‘safety behaviours’ such as my MP3, bottle of water, tissues and always having someone with me which meant I wasn’t letting my brain deal with or learn how to cope with anxiety. So now I go out every day without any safety behaviours, so far I can only get to the top of my street but it’s such an achievement for me and my therapist is really happy with my progress; my next aim is to get to the shops by myself and then I’ll be going in a shop, alone for the first time in...far too long!
            It’s hard and it’s horrible because the only way you can get over it is by letting yourself feel the anxiety which is the hardest thing in the world. It’s like if someone was scared of snakes and the only way for them to get over the fear was to stand in a bucket of snakes for one hour...but will it be worth it? YES!

Mary Hoyle