The Anxiety Workshop

A couple of months ago I went to my local GP because of my frequent unpredictable and quite severe mood swings and anxiety surrounding unrealistic scary things that I think could happen to my family. The referred me to a local mental health service that done a kind of counselling session with me to work out what help I needed. I mentioned the anxiety surrounding unrealistic scary things, and we went into a fair bit of detail, and was offered support out of 3 options: CBT (but be put on a waiting list), an anxiety workshop/lecture, or over the phone sessions. I have anxiety when speaking on the phone and didn’t want to be put on a waiting list so I chose the workshop and the first session was last night.

It was the most boring thing I’ve ever been to. 2 hours of sitting in an uncomfortable chair (5:30pm-7:30pm, during my dinner time) is not good for someone with ADD and very bad joints. They basically rambled on about what anxiety and depression are, saying things that I already know about the physical signs of it (they seemed to talk about this more than how anxiety and depression actually makes a person feel) and what you can do to try and reduce anxiety and depression, such as having a balanced diet (which I have), exercising (which I do) and having a healthy sleep pattern (which I do). I knew that I didn’t want to go to it and that it would be pointless, but I realised this as soon as I walked in and had to fill out a questionnaire of how I’ve been feeling for the past 2 weeks. You know, one of those ones where it’s like “I have been uninterested in things that usually enjoy me” and then you tick whether you haven’t felt that at all for the past 2 weeks, you have on some days, you have half the days or you have every day. This is so they can monitor your progress throughout the workshops to see if it’s helped you, and then once the workshops are over (after 5 weeks) they give you a call to see if you need anymore help. But the thing that bugged me about the questionnaire was that my mood has fluctuated so much within the last 2 weeks that it’s impossible for me to actually work out. My mood works in cycles – for about a week I’ll be really depressed, sometimes for no reason, or sometimes something would have brought it on, but there’s really no need for it to last a week. I’ll not want to go to school, I won’t want to talk to anyone, I won’t really find any interest in things that I am usually interested in. Then the next week I’ll be so happy, excited and confident in everything that I want to achieve throughout my life. This sometimes leads to impulsive decisions such as buying an £80 skateboard or getting my nose pierced. I love these moods, I feel like I can achieve anything. But I dread when I can feel the mood beginning to shift over the weekend into that week long depression. So I guess the mood swings are a little stable in that they seem to have a pattern, but it still bothers me. I ended up barely filling out the questionnaire and my mum had to write a little note at the top saying that my mood swings are so bad that I cannot tell how I feel for so long. Yeah sure there’s a little structure to my mood swings, but there are still in between stages usually where the happy and sad stages coexist. This is the scariest and most confusing.

I was a little surprised to see that I was the youngest person in the room though. There were some young people there, but they were probably in their early 20s, whereas I’m only 17. Most of the people must have been in their 30s and 40s, but there was an elderly couple there that I was the most surprised about. I know old people suffer from depression for all kinds of reasons, just as people my age do, but this old lady was so anxious that she brought her husband along. I just didn’t know old people try and get the same help that people my age do and go along to anxiety workshops. I guess that’s another one of my ignorances tackled.

A lot of the workshop was audience participation (ironic, I know). There was no pressure to shout out how anxiety can make someone feel or how depression can affect someone’s eating habits. It was more like a lecture with the lecturers writing down lists consisting of what the audience had said. I doubt that this workshop helped anyone in that room if I’m honest. I’m only 17 and I knew everything that they spoke about, so everyone else must have known too, unless it was the first time they were experiencing a mental health issue.

I probably won’t go back to the next session as they stated that they were trying to focus on ways to reduce anxiety rather than cope with it. They did say that there would be no way to make it completely go away though, how reassuring. But anxiety for me is never going to be reduced. I have autism, high anxiety is part of the package. Plus I already know how to deal with a lot of that anxiety. I either go out and face what’s causing the anxiety, or I stay by myself doing something that I know is safe, like watching a film in my room. I like it, it works for me. I don’t need to go out and meet a friend when I’m feeling anxious – other people are half of the reason why I’m anxious all the time. Again, I have autism. If I do go back to the next session, it’ll be just to double check that I know it’s definitely not for me. I just don’t know how I’m going to be able to sit still for another 2 hours.

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