Hello readers, in this article, I will be narrating the story of my client Madhuri an anxiety patient, in layman language to help you in understanding what anxiety is.
(This is an imaginary story based on several true stories).
Madhuri used to get scared of almost everything. She used to avoid normal day today activities like travelling in buses, living alone in hostel, eating junk food, giving stage presentations, participating in social events, etc. She told her friends, that everything scares her. She falsely perceives danger everywhere.
She used to feel restless and switch from one task to other task by leaving all tasks incomplete. She used to rush.
She used to get “what if” thoughts in mind about almost everything, like, “what if someone snatches? what if someone kidnaps me? What if I become ill? what if everyone laughs at me? what if I don’t perform well?”
Very often, she used to suffer from physical health issues like headaches, gut discomfort, diarrhea, nausea, body pains, etc. None of the doctors could diagnose her with any physical health abnormality. Medicines couldn’t cure her condition.
Before coming to counselling, Madhuri always thought that she was helping herself by keeping herself alert, not exposing herself to dangers, avoiding tasks that makes her feel anxious, etc. But that is not true. Actions that Madhuri did by thinking that they are self help strategies are part of her anxiety! This is the most horrible thing about mental health issues. Mental health issues deceive that sufferer and make him/her believe that acts that he/she performs because of mental health illness are self help strategies.
Her friends thought that they were helping Madhuri by laughing and invalidating her fears. Understanding that fears are not real has to come from within as a result of experimental learning. Friends making an attempt to force her to do something that she cannot do only worsened her condition.
Madhuri got exposed to chronic stress in childhood. She saw physical violence and underwent episodes of abuse. Once upon a time, her living conditions were really horrible. Now she is falsely perceiving dangers everywhere because she got habituated of perceiving real dangers in her past.
There is significant change in Madhuri after she started taking counselling from me. She became more confident, stopped avoiding tasks, her physical health improved and her quality of relationships improved. All changes happened after
- She learned new relaxation methods such as mindfulness meditation, JPMR, breathing techniques, etc.
- She started facing her anxieties. Previously she used to escape or avoid activities that makes her feel scared. But she learned that it is impossible to prove to herself that her fears are not real until or unless she exposes herself to fears and finds out what happens.
- She started maintaining a journal. She learned how to figure out if there are any biases and errors in her thinking process. By being an observer of her own acts, she corrected herself and became more and more objective.
- She dealt with unresolved conflicts and childhood trauma. She talked and wrote about her trauma with my help. Some people can’t process trauma on their own. Their attempts might even backfire. She never explored her trauma before coming to counselling. She always tried to bury the past. But during counselling she learned that burying facts can only worsen the mental health. The day when we starting talking / writing / sharing / processing trauma, conflicts get resolved and her mind became healthy.