I’m sat upright at the end of the bench, my heart pounding with a clarity I’d never experienced before. ‘It’s just the pent-up energy from the lift’, I told myself. But the sensation intensified and everything seemed to go silent around me. My heart was the only thing I could feel. Scared of what it was, I left the gym and headed straight home.
The feeling remained with me for the next few days and, as much as I tried to get on with life as normal, I couldn’t help but be distracted by its presence. It was constantly lingering in the background while I chatted with my mates or when I was trying to focus on my work.
A week later, I had my yearly health check. Everything was fine – my blood pressure, cholesterol levels etc. But I decided I had to tell the consultant about what I’d been experiencing.
She proceeded to ask me a series of questions about my lifestyle, my job and my home life. And she gave me a diagnosis: anxiety.
Until then, I’d always thought of anxiety as something else. Something that was crippling through fear. I suppose I was experiencing some similarities with this definition, but I felt like my symptoms were related to over-exertion and tiredness more than anything else.
Two weeks later, I started talking therapy, something I’ve now been attending for the past 10 weeks. At first, the sessions were focused on exploring my life up until that point – my career, my life experiences and my family upbringing. Over time, I’ve been introduced to psychological techniques to help me analyse events in my past as well as my everyday life.
For me, I’ve always been obsessed with the future and where I want to be. Part of that is being very rigid and structured in my approach toward reaching my goals – something I believe is rooted in my upbringing.
I’ve never had a strong father figure to look up to so my life up to this point has felt like trying to learn how to be a man. With that has come a constant fear of someone trying to take something away from me or me not matching up to what I think I should be. It’s instilled a belief in me that emotions are weak and that I need to be strong at all times.
The talking therapy has helped me analyse this way of thinking, specifically to break away from this rigidity, to be more present in the ‘now’ and to enjoy the process.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get waves of my symptoms and they can affect me so much that I feel almost paralysed. I still have a lingering sense of fear in me that it can kick in at any minute and as a result, I’m tempted to cut myself off from social interaction at times.
But having the opportunity to talk things through with someone who understands my feelings has been very comforting and has let me know I’m not alone. It’s helped me realise that this is all in my head, and now with the techniques I’ve learned, I can deal with my symptoms whenever they arise.