TV presenter, life coach, counsellor and Master NLP practitioner Anna Williamson has just published her second book, ‘Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety’. The book is aimed at parents coping with a newborn, focussing on mental health and anxiety, while offering suitable coping strategies and practical advice. Anna caught up with us this week to talk to us personally about her own experience with anxiety. The following interview is a very honest account on her journey and how she navigated her way through.
Anxiety is the world’s most common mental health condition, and mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain with nearly one in ten people meeting the criteria for diagnosis.
As somebody who has managed an anxiety and depression disorder for well over a decade now, and on the flipside, now as a therapist offering help to others experiencing similar feelings and challenges, I know only too well how life limiting it can feel to experience a mental health issue.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate
It’s important to remember that mental health, as well as physical health, isn’t discriminatory. It doesn’t care who you are or what you are. Anyone can experience a mental health blip at any point, and it’s important to know that it is never your fault. That might sound like an odd thing to say but so many people feel guilty and struggle with negative feelings, shame and embarrassment for something which really can affect anybody, and often for no or any reason really.
Recognise the warning signs
My experiences of dealing with panic disorder and GAD were created by work stress, people pleasing, and emotional stress caused by a dysfunctional relationship. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve recognised the warning signs months and months before I had an emotional breakdown, which was when finally, I did actually get help.
My warning signs were generally feeling low every day, and a bit flat, dreading each day and not knowing why. Feeling lonely and yet having lots of friends and family around. Generally obsessing about things which I hadn’t done in the past such as leaving work at a specific time, going to bed early enough and choosing not to go out because I was worried about the next day ahead.
A combination of medication & therapy
When I finally was brave enough to ask for help (which incidentally was the best thing ever), I benefited from a mixture of talking therapy and medication. The medication in short-term years, which was a benzodiazepine, helped me to calm down and reduce the intense anxiety I was experiencing pretty much 24/7. Talking therapy was absolutely key in me learning about my triggers, what I needed to change, re-evaluating how I felt about myself and other people, and putting in place effective goals to be able to move forward positively. I also need to learn when to stop and relax. Often easier said than done.
I am a firm believer, as a lot of practitioners are too, in a combination of medication and therapy to treat an anxiety and/or depression condition. Medication alone I don’t believe to be helpful. Once the medication is perhaps removed, the underlying issues will still be there. It’s therapy that helps to move you through this.
Anxiety disorders can be totally reversible, it’s important to remember that just like a physical illness, a mental illness can also be effectively treated. I don’t believe in ‘curing’ mental illness, I believe ‘managing’ it is a more sensible way to view it. If we talk of cure it can often cause us to feel pressure to never have any blips again, which in the grand scheme of life isn’t realistic as we all hit bumps in the road that can challenge us at one time or another. The key is to recognising when we need to take some mental health TLC for ourselves, and to accept that it’s okay if we need to take some time out when things get tough.
Anybody can experience anxiety and depression, however there have been links made to it being genetic and hereditary in some cases. There is a history of anxiety in my family, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have experienced my own challenges with the condition as well.
According to government statistics, 10% of children and young people aged 5 to 16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet a whopping 70% of these children who experience mental health issues have not had appropriate intervention at a sufficiently early age. Children that have experienced trauma can go onto experience further mental health issues if not treated, early intervention and support is key.
As I know myself first-hand, living with a mental health condition can seem daunting, even scary at first, but it is important to remember that it isn’t anything to be frightened of, help is key, and talking about it absolutely essential. The more we all keep talking, the more we will remove this ridiculous stigma around it.
Written by Anna Williamson.