September 3, 2013

JessicaI find it exceedingly difficult to talk about my mental health with others. I worry that I’ll hear: “Just get on with it”, “Mind over matter, Jess!”, and “You’ll be fine”. On the one hand, I know these things are well-meant but I find them upsetting and infuriating, nonetheless.

I’ve experienced a lot of misunderstanding from some of the people closest to me. After having an anxiety disorder for six years, I’ve started to distance myself from this, though, and realise it’s difficult for others to understand. I’m grateful for the help and support I’ve received from loved ones but sometimes the help that means the most is the help that comes from unexpected places.

I’ve had a few more trips to the doctors than I’d like to admit

Over the years, I’ve had a few more trips to the doctors than I’d like to admit. And whilst they’re the obvious place to go for help, I’ve not very often found the doctors to be a great source of relief for my mental health. I know a lot of people have experienced indifference at best and discrimination at worst, and I’ve had a few bad experiences (mainly doctors attempting to persuade me, someone who has hypochondria, to go on medication, and one making me take Valium on the spot).

I respect that doctors have ten minutes with patients for each appointment. And I can understand how someone like me – going back about the same problems – can be frustrating. There’s the perception that people with hypochondria waste doctors’ time and fill up appointments. But it’s not a pleasant experience, it’s something that makes me feel really, really guilty.

But I’ve had a couple of eye-opening experiences with doctors that have helped to the point of making a shift in my progress - which is no easy feat in ten minutes.

Then he said "never underestimate the power of anxiety"

A few years ago I went to see a doctor after a particularly disquieting panic attack. After he reassured me that’s all it was, I got up to leave. Just as I started walking towards the door, he said “It must have been really horrible”, I turned around and I can still picture the look of empathy in his eyes. Then he said “never underestimate the power of anxiety”.

This short sentence has stayed with me ever since. Whenever I get chest pain, breathlessness or any other physical symptoms, I repeat it to myself and it helps me stay calm. I picture his expression and know with all of my heart that I can trust what he said.

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