Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is mental health awareness week, and the theme is anxiety.  This is something I have had a lot of personal experience of - in fact, sometimes it seems as though most of my life has been ruled by anxiety.  It is the most innocuous sounding condition, something you might be forgiven for thinking is not really a condition at all, but rather a fact of life. 

That is how I used to see anxiety, even when I was pretty much crippled by it.  I thought it was just a horrible, but necessary, fact of my life.  I told myself that I was just a shy, nervous sort of a person.  I thought it was normal to worry about every possible eventuality, every single day.  It felt like a kind of preparation, just in case the worst happened.

And the worst did happen, several times.  That sounds rather dramatic, but it's not an exaggeration - I have had some really difficult times in my life.  But a lot of them were, strangely enough, due to the anxiety - the three nervous breakdowns which resulted in being sectioned and in traumatic forcible treatment being a major case in point. 

If only I had realised that I didn't have to live with that degree of panic and of fear. If only I had known it was faulty thinking, and that I could be taught to recognise that fact and to reason correctly instead.

I got it all so wrong.  I thought that I had an over-active imagination and that was why I couldn't even go for a walk without seeing an attacker around every corner.  I thought I was highly strung.  I cursed myself for my problems with blushing, told myself I was a fool.

Anyway, it's all over now, and I don't make a habit of wallowing in it, and that's not what this post is about.  I really try not to live in the past.  But I've been on Twitter quite a lot over the last few days - partly, if I am honest, to publicise my book.  I am so pleased and proud that it is doing well again, I know it is a good and useful piece of work and an enjoyable read and I want it to continue to sell.

The by-product of being on Twitter so much is that I have had a lot of laughs, some interesting conversations and 'met' (in a virtual sense) some fascinating and lovely people.  And since my interest, and special subject, is mental health, a lot of those people are currently suffering. 

I want those people to know, beyond doubt, that there is a way through.  That they can, and will, heal fully from emotional distress, and come out the other side, stronger as a result.  It may take time, but it will happen.

I remember all the times that I felt so alone, and so misunderstood.  The internet is a great force for good in that way - especially for people suffering from mental health problems, who can now seek and find support so easily.  I often marvel at how things have changed.

We have to continue that change.  We have to keep pushing on, pushing through our difficulties and helping others to do the same.  We have to keep supporting each other.

Since I have been anxiety-free (most of the time, at least) my life has been a thousand times better.  I could not have conceived that I would change to the degree that I have.  CBT helped me, and I am sure it will help others too.  It seems like such a simple thing now, although I know it took many years for me to reach this point.  I hope it won't take as long for others.  I was a tough case!  (I was also helped to recovery by various other factors, but the CBT really did target and dramatically reduce the anxiety).

So I want to say to all those people I have recently met through Twitter - hold on, keep strong, you will get better.  Anxiety can be tackled and it can be beaten.  I promise. 

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