“Each patient carries his own doctor inside him”
If you have an infection you go to your doctors and get antibiotics.
If you fall over and break your wrist you visit your local accident and emergency centre and get it set in a cast.
If you suffer from crippling anxiety and feel like a panic attack is only moments away each time you leave the house you……….well what do you do?
When it comes to mental health issues the answer is never as simple.
Physical conditions, on the whole, have a symptom or symptoms and a known plan of treatment.
Problems of the mind are just not that straightforward.
What works for one person may not work in exactly the same way for another.
The problem is compounded further by the fact that mental health issues are often treated as secondary to physical ailments. Not least because the majority of health services, doctors and hospitals the world over were set up primarily to deal with physical conditions.
In recent times the help available for mental health issues has got better. The stigma is slowly being lifted and more time, money and research is being spent in these areas.
However, the majority of those who suffer with anxiety and panic are often left feeling frustrated and alone when it comes to seeking help.
I can only speak for the help available in Britain, but in my experience it was pretty poor and played no real part in my recovery.
Let me explain.
My experience when seeking help
I was 20 and at University when I decided to first seek help by going and talking to my GP.
By then I had been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for over 6 months and still had little understanding of what was going on inside my mind.
The consultation lasted all of 5 minutes and I was simply told that everyone feels anxious from time to time and that I’d just grow out of it.
As you can imagine I left feeling I had just wasted my time.
It wasn’t until my third visit three years later at a different doctors’ surgery that I eventually got an acknowledgement that I needed help.
The doctor I saw was just about to fob me off again and usher me out the door when I started to think that this meant I would always be this way. I’d never be myself again.
These thoughts sent a wave of panic over me and right in front of him I had a full blown panic attack, sweating, shaking the lot.
Once he had helped calm me down he decided that he could refer me to a specialist for help.
After leaving I felt angry that it took him witnessing my panic attack for him to do anything.
I was referred to a specialist for EMDR treatment which is aimed at helping you process the specific event which brought about the onset of panic attacks and anxiety.
Although a specific event had triggered my first panic attack the anxiety had been bubbling away for a while before that and the treatment did nothing for me. In fact it just made me feel anxious when doing it.
Finally I tried a self referral scheme for those suffering with anxiety and depression. I had about 12 consultations with a mental health professional and although chatting things through was good to do, it did little to help.
There was no specific advice and guidance on what I needed to do and 7 years after I’d first become anxious and prone to panic attacks I felt like I’d not come very far at all.
I realised that if I was ever going to feel better it was going to have to be me who helped myself.
When I look back at it now I realise this is the way it would have needed to be no matter what help I had received.
So if you are one of the lucky ones who finds a mental health professional who really knows their stuff, wants to help you and can set you on the right path don’t expect it to just be ok from there on out.
No matter what help is available to you it will always be 80-90% down to you.
This is not their fault, nor is it yours. It is just the way the mind works, only you are in there and only you can make the difference.
It’s all part of the anxiety and panic conundrum, where the thoughts of anxiety and panic not only make you feel the way you do but they stop you from doing what is required to feel well again.
Should I seek help?
Never ever be ashamed of what you have and that you do need help.
Talking to someone about it and the acceptance of where you are is an important part of the process.
My warning here is that you not must not expect that by doing so everything will just be ok. If you go into it with all your hope pinned on the person you are seeing it is likely you will end up leaving feeling very disappointed.
If nothing else it will help signify the starting point to your recovery.
Even if you do talk to someone who seems like all they want to do is get you out the door as soon as possible, do not let it deter you.
Recovering from anxiety and panic will likely be one of the most important things you ever do and just like many things which fall into that category they very rarely come easy.
Also be wary of any doctor who just wants to write you out a quick prescription for some pills. It’s the easy route for both you and them.
Always remember the aim is to stop the anxiety and panic, not to just try and mask its symptoms by numbing the brain.
For those with health anxiety who believe they have all number of physical problems then it is also good to get these checked out.
However, if the tests come back negative you must then move on, and I do not mean on to the next condition you think you have, but move on to removing the real causes, your anxiety and panic.
If you go into a check up knowing you either won’t believe the negative diagnosis or will start to match your symptoms to the next condition you find, then why are you going in the first place?
If this sounds like you, then you need to realise that it is a big indicator that is it all in your mind in the first place.
What else should I do?
For me the most important thing was knowledge.
To begin with it was understanding what was happening to me and why I felt that way. It was also the knowledge that there are millions of other people out there who are going through exactly the same thing as I was.
However, once you have this knowledge and receive some comfort from it, it will do little more to help you.
The knowledge you must thirst for, is that of how to feel better. How to change your thinking, challenge your thoughts and actions and how to change your attitude and mindset towards your anxiety and panic.
A lot of my knowledge comes from the books I recommend in my useful resources section, a lot also comes from my personal experience and ability to deconstruct my thoughts and feelings to work out what caused me to feel the way I did.
The ability to be mindful, to be able to understand yourself and spot and stop what is causing you to have a bad day plays a key role.
Next comes the putting it into action and being patient enough to give it the time to work. This website already contains a number of posts with actionable techniques to stop anxiety or a panic attack, but very few will give you instant results.
This is again down to the workings of the mind and the time it takes to reprogram and learn the new better habits required.
My final piece of advice here is to find someone to whom you can be accountable. A good friend or family member who you trust and who you know will be there for you.
If you do not have this it is very easy to make excuses and let things slip. Once you understand what you need to do you need to have someone who will help push you to achieve it.
This isn’t critical, if you have the determination and good will power it can be achieved alone. For the most I did, but during the darker days having someone there to help break those thoughts of negativity and get you back on the right track can make all the difference.
Although I never used them, support groups may also help. My only concern here is that you may be brought down by others and end up feeling more lost than before. This is only something only you can decide if it is right for you.
In the end you are the problem and the solution, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
More than anything you must have a desire to not let anxiety and panic attacks limit what you do.
If you decide to take the easy route and shy away from most of the world, then you must expect to look back with regret that you did, and you will.
I hope that you don’t.
Instead look to get as much help as you can, but be alright with the fact that it really comes down to you.
It’s just the way it is, and that’s ok because you’re the best person to help yourself.
If the help you do receive is as poor as I found it, do not let it change your commitment to what you have set out to do.
It will just require a little more on your behalf to find out what works best for you.
As always it comes down to choice, you just have to make the right ones, over and over again.
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