Most people don’t automatically think they need therapy for anxiety. If you’re questioning whether you might, read below and see if you can relate.
What the F is happening to me?
So you’re sitting at your desk. It’s 8:39am and you’re dutifully staring at your computer screen, desperately willing your brain to focus. You have your project management meeting at 10, you need to finish up the presentation, go over your notes and check in with your boss before that happens. Totally doable. If you could just FOCUS.
Why can’t you focus? Jesus Christ, don’t screw this up! You have plenty of time, so just do the work already. What’s taking so long?
You crack your back, take a sip of water and again return to the screen. You’ve always had anxiety, but lately it’s gotten bad. It’s like you can’t do anything without your anxiety shoving it’s way into your brain and taking over. Most days you can grit your way through it. You put on your big girl panties and just deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. “It’s fine!” You think to yourself. “I’M fine! If I can just make it through this next week, then it will be better”. Except, it doesn’t get better. If anything, it continues to intensify. It’s never lasted this long before. And, last week, you even had a full-blown panic attack. You haven’t had one of those since graduating. WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING!
The Never-Ending Overachiever Loop
Lina (not a real name. #confidentiality) is in her late twenties, and by all measures of outward success, seems to have her shit wired tight. She’s got a kickass job doing work she believes in and which provides her a fairly cushy life. She has a doting boyfriend that dreams with her about all their exotic future travel plans. She’s even calls her mom or one of her siblings on a weekly basis to check-in. The only catch is that she’s on the brink of burnout. “I know I should probably invest more time in self-care or whatever, but that just feels wasteful. It’s like I have this giant checklist in my head and unless I’m actively working towards checking things off: get an MBA, learn German, get top-blocked on my work eval, run a 7min mile, etc, then I’m not doing enough. Except that the list just keeps growing. I never hit a point of feeling enough“.
When Maddie came in for therapy, she was quick to dismiss her anxiety as not particularly problematic. “I mean sure, it’s there, but I can function.” After a few weeks however, the truth started to come out. “I keep finding myself in situations where I need to make a decision and I can’t. I feel paralyzed with indecision. It could me something as minimal as picking out what we’ll have for dinner or something major like figuring out where I should go to school. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to make the wrong choice. There are these expectations for myself and I’m so afraid that if I don’t meet them, everyone will see me fall short. I’ll be a failure.”
Everything is Awful
Jenny sought therapy for her anxiety when she realized it wasn’t just magically going away on it’s own. If nothing else, it was getting worse. “I mean, I’ve been anxious my whole live, so it’s not like anxiety is new, but this time it just seems to be getting worse. It feels like I can’t do anything without experiencing a panic attack. At work in meetings – panic attack. Talking with my parents on the phone – panic attack. IN BED WITH MY PARTNER – panic attack. I mean what the fuck? I can’t even enjoy normal things. That can’t be normal, right?”
Tim was doing juuuust fine with his life thank you very much. While he had anxiety before, it had been mild and manageable. Then COVID happened. Now his brain seems to be running on overdrive, announcing all the possible ways that his life is going to end in disaster. “I know it’s not logical, but I can’t stop myself. In my head, I see myself getting fired from my job. I see myself becoming destitute and not being able to provide for my family. It feels like the world is literally ending and I see visions of my kids dying. I feel paralyzed.”
Getting Anxiety Help
Alright, so this whole overly anxious feeling obviously needs to go away. You have some awesome friends, and a supportive partner, you could talk to them. I mean, I suppose you could even go to therapy for anxiety, right?
Are you F-ing kidding me? You want me to reveal to my nearest and dearest that I’ve gone bat-shit crazy? Oh, and by the way, how about the fact that they’re all trying to deal with their own stuff. I’m supposed to just dump MORE problems on them? That’s so selfish. No way am I going to burden them with my crap. I should be able to deal with this myself.
TOTALLY! You SHOULD be able to deal with this yourself. It’s just a little bit of worry. Not a big deal. Besides, you can google. You can look up things to help. So you try to get outside for a run as running has always helped before, but it’s really cold out right now. And your knee feels a little tweaky. It’s fine. You’ll do something low impact and inside like…. yoga! Isn’t yoga supposed to be meditative anyway? Except that anytime you slow down it seems your head spins even faster. Shit, and now you’re waking up in the middle of the night in a panic reviewing your to-do list for the rest of the week. And then another panic attack, this time after a tense conversation with your partner about “us”. This isn’t sustainable.
I can’t keep this up. I’m going insane. I feel like I’m on the verge of breaking down. Why can’t I get myself under control? I’m letting people down. I’m letting myself down. What’s going on? WHAT THE F IS WRONG WITH ME?! Maybe I DO need therapy for anxiety?
Therapy for Anxiety
You’ve finally concluded that if you don’t bring in some outside help, you’ll like implode in the next fortnight. You’re down to try this whole therapy thing.