Monday, 19 September 2016
I have spent a large portion of my life being anxious.
When I was a child, I would get worried sick when my father was late coming home from work or my mother didn’t pick up her phone when I called her more than once.
As I grew older, my worries became more centred around who I was and what I could achieve: Was I good enough? Could I achieve all the things that I wanted to? No matter how many times I would ace an exam, I just couldn’t seem to shake these feelings (amongst others…).
Throughout my undergraduate and master’s degrees, I remained convinced that I was the worst person in my class and that someone would finally realise that having me in the course was a mistake, an oversight: How had they confused my application with the other one from that other student? How was I even in this university? I would get so worried about exams and my performance that I would lose all perspective and forget all the wonderful things that were going on around me.
A few years ago, I started having anxiety attacks: the thought of travelling by underground (which I had to do every day) or plane would fill me with terror. For a year, my bag was packed with natural herbs to help me relax and my Spotify was filled with playlists that would help to focus on my breathing. More than once, when hyperventilating on a train stuck between two stations, I was forced to blurt out to the person sitting next to me: “I am so sorry, would you mind having a conversation with me? I am having an anxiety attack and need to be distracted.”
I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a very open family where I was encouraged to speak very frankly about my fears and anxiety. My mother is a psychotherapist and the result was that I got the support that I needed, both within my family and outside it. My anxiety was not clinical (i.e., I did not need drugs) and I have been able to live a normal life with it — a lot of people do. However, having someone to talk to about how uncomfortable it felt, and as a result of that, learning exercises and tricks to deal with my anxiety, which has hugely improved my quality of life.
I would be lying if I said that I am now completely careless and worry-free, but I can definitely say that I am now able to recognise and (sometimes) refrain from going down a spiral of negative thinking. Most importantly, underground and plane travel are now a completely fine experience during which I no longer have to focus on my breathing and spot the one person in the carriage who is most likely to help me if I drop on the floor and stop breathing (which, by the way, has never happened…).
However, getting support was not always easy. As I started working intense hours, it became harder and harder to stick to my psychotherapy sessions.
For starters, they were expensive. Given that I was choosing to do this and that it wasn’t prescribed by a GP, I had to pay out of pocket, which is a hard thing to do when you are a young professional trying to cover rent and stay afloat in London. Secondly, I often found it difficult to find time between my long hours at work and my daily commute. Lastly, I felt embarrassed; beyond my close circle of friends, I didn’t want to tell people that I was anxious. What would they think?
As I navigated my way through these issues and anxiety in general, I learned that I was not alone. So many people around me opened up about their anxiety attacks once I opened up about mine, and I learned that the feeling of “being in the wrong place” was a common one (impostor syndrome anyone?).
However, I was an exception in terms of the help that I had received. While I managed to overcome the hurdles to get help, many people were not able to get around the time, money and stigma elements that separate us from our mental well-being.
The belief that there should be a way to jump these hoops is what motivated me to start YourMind, a place where people with non-clinical anxiety and depression can get cheap help, both in the form of therapy sessions and in the form of exercises and tools.
If you are interested in hearing more about this, please feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com or leave a message in the comment section below.