Anxiety & Me: having the BBC pay for therapy is nice, but is it real?

Oh hey, me again.

I watched the BBC programme last month called Anxiety and Me featuring Nadiya Hussain and I thought I would write a blog post about it, because I know my opinion is so important and people live based on what I say (I'm joking, just in case you can't sense the sarcasm there)! Just for anyone who is new here (hi!), I have been diagnosed with Anxiety since 2015 but I think I've actually had it for a lot longer than four years.

Overall, I thought it was great. I thought it gave a really good understanding of how Anxiety can feel for someone, and even my boyfriend of nearly 4 years said he learned more about the illness and how it can make me feel. So clearly, it was very informative and clear. I loved how raw and real it was: I started crying after the first five minutes because it hit me so hard. (Disclaimer: I'm going to openly talk about things that happen in the programme so if you wanted to watch it first go and do that now!)

At the start when Nadiya and her husband are going through the symptoms of Anxiety, and discussing the fact that she has never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness, she pretty much ticks every box, as do I. What hit me though was when she said she can't actually remember not feeling anxious or worried, because I can't either, but I had never actually realised that. I always thought my Anxiety started during secondary school as a result of the bullying I experienced, and I'm sure there was a time when I wasn't worried; I didn't come out the womb being anxious about when I was going to get fed and when I could sleep, but you know, as far back as I can remember, I can't recall a time where I wasn't worried or anxious. It was at this point that I kind of realised that I may have had Anxiety for a lot longer than I thought.

So Nadiya goes to see a counsellor/therapist whatever you want to call it, and he confirms the thought that she has Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Before she went into the room, she had to fill out one of those GAD7 Anxiety/PHQ9 Depression forms that we all love. She said just filling out the form made her anxious and I completely agreed with her. When I used to have counselling, I used to dread filling them out.  Nadiya then goes on to disclose how she was as a child, being inconsolable when her mum would leave just to go to the shop (another part that reminded me of myself), she would count everyone she knew on her fingers because she thought that if she didn't, they would die, and this counting-on-her-fingers action has now become a habit where she taps her fingers together when she's anxious: even her sisters didn't know why she did this because she had never spoken about it. This was just one example of how Anxiety can completely consume your thoughts and make you think the worst is going to happen - a child thinking if she didn't count people in her head at night, they would die. She then went on to discuss her first memory of a panic attack and what she believes to be the trigger of it all. She was horrifically bullied, like I was crying (again) just hearing of her experience. The children in her primary school would physically and verbally bully her because of her skin colour: they shut her fingers in the door so many times her nails fell off, the first panic attack she remembers is after they had flushed her head down the toilet. It's just horrific. As a result of this, her counsellor suggested that maybe she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder too. I think this was a really positive thing because it reminded people that it's not just men that have been to war who can experience PTSD, but anyone can experience it after going through a traumatic experience.

Another interesting thing was when Nadiya went through the behaviours she uses to try and keep her anxiety at bay, and this section was quite amusing to me because my boyfriend just kept saying 'that's you..that's you..you do that too..that's you'. Something both Nadiya and I do to try and quiet the anxiety down, is control everything. She makes plans for everything, she has lists of lists, you look at how she organises her wardrobe and it looked just like mine: organised by type of clothing (i.e. jumpers, trousers, shirts, etc.) and then by colour within those sections. Luke and I were both laughing (not in a mean way) because it's literally what I do! If I feel that I'm in control of the situation, and I know what to expect, I feel like I can keep my anxiety quiet for a moment, but then as the counsellor went on to ask Nadiya, 'what happens when you're not in control or plans change?' and the answer was the same for both of us: we panic. So although in our heads, the control stops us from panicking, it can actually be the cause of panic when something unexpected happens. It was interesting as well, because the counsellor asked her what she does when she feels a panic attack coming on. Nadiya said that she concentrates on her breathing, and then he asks her to show him what she does. She starts doing it, and hates it because it makes her feel like the panic attack is coming so she stops. This was a good part because he said doing that doesn't always help, sometimes it's better to just let the attack happen because once it's over, you're okay and I completely agreed with him. Whenever I've had a panic attack, whoever I'm with always tells me to try and breathe and focus on breathing, and I know they're trying to help, and what else do you say to someone who's hyperventilating? But it just doesn't help, I'd much rather just accept the attack, let it happen and then start to feel better afterwards, than try and keep it all contained like a volcano that's ready to erupt because if I try and keep it in, it only comes out 10 times worse later.

Nadiya tries to understand the cause of mental illness, Anxiety is particular. She goes to a university where they're studying twins to have the old nature vs. nurture argument when it comes to Anxiety: is it in our genetic make-up or is it purely down to environment? Ultimately, they think it's environment, but I'm undecided on this. One side of my family have experienced mental illness quite frequently, and I can't actually think of that one trigger which started my anxiety off. I was talking about it with Luke and we said maybe it's because when I was a baby/toddler my dad was at work all the time, like leaving before I got up and coming home after I went to bed, so in those years, my mum and brother were the two main attachments in my life. I used to idolise my brother, I followed him like a shadow, but when I was 4, he just got up and left one night and didn't come back. I have seen him a few times since but it's not a positive experience and I have no relationship with him now. As a result of this, Luke said maybe that was what made me cling to my mum even more because I didn't want to lose her too, and it made me scared to lose anyone else. I don't know if this is the reason behind all my problems, but when I saw a counsellor, she did say that it could be the reason I get so attached to people, and especially back then when I was getting messed around by guys, the reason why I couldn't cope when I was getting left for another girl. Who knows? 🤷🏼‍♀️

Nadiya then goes on to talk about her experience with medication, albeit it, a negative one, but goes to speak to another GP and someone who has used medication in the past. I can't really talk about this but because my medication was more for my Depression rather than Anxiety, but medication is definitely a scary thing. I didn't know if it was going to work, I didn't know if I was going to end up using it forever, but it definitely helped me. So up to this point, I was enjoying it.

However, the part where I got a bit annoyed was at the end. Nadiya goes back to the therapist and he shocks her, takes her completely out of her comfort zone and tells her they're going to get a train into London. Now I get it. I get Immersion Therapy: you know, if you're scared of spiders, hold a spider and you'll get better; but this isn't how real therapy happens unless you pay for it, like the BBC obviously did for the programme. And I get that this was for a programme, to raise awareness, but Nadiya didn't actually seem to get much 'therapy', she just got thrown in at the deep end. So I cried again, because if someone just said to me 'right, we're going to go on holiday today and we're going to airport right now, and you have to get in every lift possible while we're there', I would just have a meltdown. Yes, Nadiya said whilst she was on the train that she was fine, she FaceTimed her family when she got to London and she was happy she did it, but will it change her behaviour in the future? I doubt it. She even went onto say near the end of the programme that she hadn't felt that anything she had done in therapy had helped at this point and she still feels the same as ever. It's a long process, I get that, but the majority of us are on a 6-week (minimum) waiting list for counselling, and when it comes, it's not in some plush, fancy therapy room, it's in a tired, spare room in a NHS-owned building. It did make me realise though that although I had counselling for my Depression whilst I was at uni, and it helped massively, I never really addressed the Anxiety, so maybe that's something I will investigate a bit, but then again, maybe I won't.

So overall, I enjoyed the programme, I thought it was a really positive thing to do to raise awareness, especially in those who have no knowledge or experience of Anxiety, and for those who maybe feel like this but have never been diagnosed or received help for it. I just think it's important to remember that this isn't the therapy you get offered as a 'normal' person and there is no quick fix.

Let me know what you thought of it if you've seen it!

xo//

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Comments

  1. HEYYY girl I finally figured out how to comment (through my laptop LOL). Thank you for being so vulnerable and open about your experiences and fears of your past, as well as now. I've never seen this program, but I loved the way you interconnected what was happening there, and how much you related to it with your personal stories. I died in the line "I didn't come out the womb being anxious" LOOOL!
    I feel like I got to know so much more about you, and I'm very sorry about the things that have happened in the past. It got me really thinking about why I'm so freakin' attached to people! And omg Immersion Therapy sounds so scary, I'd be super nervous to face any of my fears by just jumping straight into them! Thanks for your honest thoughts and bravery on opening up, I love you!!!

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