As I sit here in the heatwave that we’re happily experiencing in Ireland, it feels almost strange to bring up the topic of anxiety. The weather is great, everyone is out and about enjoying themselves, what’s there to be anxious about you might ask? I find it’s not quite that straightforward. I wish it was that easy for my anxiety to just disappear. The longer days can make us feel naturally better with more sunlight and getting out for a walk really helps me to clear my mind at least a little.
Everyone experiences anxiety for different reasons that are personal to them, but I imagine many can relate to where my anxieties come from. I’ve been doing a masters since last September and I moved home from abroad to do so. I’ve no regrets making the move and going for it, but adjusting to living back at home again, putting pressure on myself to do well on the course and get into a career I love has taken its toll on my mental health.
So, I decided to search online for counselling and found turn2me who provide private one to one online chat sessions with a counsellor. This was the first time I’d ever opened up to anyone about how I felt lonely in a room full of people, how I felt inadequate comparing myself to everyone on my course and how I felt like I’d let my family down. I soon learned that the feelings I was experiencing were stemming from my anxiety and depression. I feel that making this first step has been major for me. I guess everyone can go at their own pace but for me I felt more comfortable with the idea of online counselling before meeting a counsellor in person.
Following on from my online counselling sessions on turn2me, I completed an eight-week online CBT course with Aware. CBT, cognitive behaviour therapy, focuses on how our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect our feelings and behaviour. I enjoyed this approach as it helped me to think of everything in a more logical way as I try to understand why I feel the way I do. As I completed all the modules, I had a supporter who checked in on me weekly which was great. This motivated me to keep logging in and write down my feelings so that she could help me work through them.
I have recently told a few of my closest friends how I’ve been feeling, and it has helped me to feel less alone. It’s difficult when I feel so disconnected from people, but I know I’m going in the right direction with seeking help. The obvious next step for me now is to go to a counsellor in person. As I said above, I’ve felt comfortable going at this pace as I found the idea of seeing a counsellor extremely daunting. However, as I’ve now already spoken with a professional online, I have felt the benefits of just going for it and working through my most vulnerable feelings.
Through the online counselling sessions, I learned that the way I react to certain situations relates to areas in my life from the past. I hadn’t made this link before and talking it through with someone who was outside of the situation and non-judgemental has really helped me. Through the CBT sessions, I learned how my emotions, thoughts and behaviours all influence each other. It has helped me to develop coping strategies to help change unhelpful patterns in my way of thinking. When I have a negative thought, I challenge it by replacing it with a positive thought. I’ve found this 50/50 balancing of thoughts really does make a positive difference to me on the days that I’m struggling to get out of bed or do simple everyday tasks. This is a new skill for me so I’m still working on it but getting better at it day by day.
For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to mine, I’d tell them to seek help. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I had an issue but in hindsight, I realise that if you think you might have a problem then it is best to ask for help. I felt embarrassed because I thought my issues were silly and too small to waste someone else’s time. But no issue is too small. I got to a stage where I didn’t feel like myself anymore, yet I was doing well at college, had lots of friends and a great family etc. I realised that from the outside everything looks fine, but you know yourself on the inside if you’re struggling. We all deserve to be happy yet treating ourselves well can be a struggle for many of us. There are so many people out there who want to help you. It can be hard making that first step, but I can’t stress enough how much it is worth it.