Mental Health Training

Managing Wellness, By Jane McNeice

Posted by on 11 Feb, 2019 in Mental Health |

Managing Wellness, By Jane McNeice

Some of my followers will be aware that I have life long experience of managing Generalised Anxiety Disorder, of the high functioning type. It’s a significant part of my frame of reference and something I’ve shared openly in my blog and training courses. My family tree has a significant pattern of mixed anxiety and depression and of varying degrees in severity, so as to causes I suspect these relate to genetic pre-disposition, personality type, and environmental factors – biopsychosocial influences if you will.

As someone who has been coming to terms with this aspect of myself over my lifetime, I have tried and tested a number of different interventions in an attempt to ‘cure’ my symptoms, to eradicate the discomfort it has so often created. It’s taken a long time to be able to say that my condition is ‘managed’. I’m not symptom free, but no longer view this as necessary. In fact my old self didn’t even recognise that it was ok not to be symptom free. Like many people I viewed the medical model as central to all solutions, and held it with such a regard that it blinded me to the possibility that interventions might in fact come from outside of it. Interestingly the key to managing my anxiety to a level I can cope with (most of the time), comes from both the medical and social models of recovery.

Management of my anxiety has included some specific things, primarily acceptance, and also recognising that therapy isn’t a ‘fix all’ for mental health difficulties. There have also been other key interventions to my survival. These interventions include medication for the gastric consequences of my anxiety, which in and of itself created a vicious cycle of fear, panic, and anxiety for a great number of years. The gastric problems ruled my world until 2007, and on my birthday that year I was given the most valuable birthday present ever! This present turned my life around to a point that I could envisage doing things that up until that point I’d had to avoid due to the gastric difficulties I’d encountered. The prescription medication (which I’m pretty sure my GP didn’t regard as a birthday gift) is still required today, and is taken as and when I need it to manage the physical consequences of my anxiety. It’s extremely effective and allows me to focus on other things outside of my physiology. The second intervention (and gift) has always been there, but only in recent years have I regarded it with the true value of it’s worth. This intervention is reading. As someone who manages anxiety, I live in a world that is on high speed in my head. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’m an introvert who spends a lot of time in her own head. I over-think, over-prepare, over-worry, and can all too easily fall into catastrophic thought patterns until I check myself. I am equally guilty of ‘feeding the beast’, which I have learned to tame, but at times I forget this. The gift of reading however does something magical to all of this chaos in my head. I absolutely regard it as a gift and here are the reasons why. Reading gives me:

  • Respite, a cessation to the whirring – my mind slows down for the time that I am reading
  • Relaxation – I simply can’t get anxious with the level of relaxation I experience when I read
  • Lose myself – when I read I share the lives of other characters to an extent that I’m embedded in their world not mine, an escapism
  • Isolation – I’m an introverted personality type, I refuel when I’m alone. When I read I’m also re-fuelling so that I have the energy required for a world and vocation that is much more extrovert than me
  • Learning – as a self-confessed Philomath reading teaches me something new with each book that I read, I am absorbed in the learning that it provides – new ideas, words, and theories which enrich my life and mind
  • Comfort – when I read it’s usually in the comfort of the places I feel safest e.g. bed, armchair, usually with a cup of tea, need I say more? Yes, make that Yorkshire tea, I’m also a proud Yorkshire woman!

Between medication, reading, and less notable coping mechanisms, I survived, just like many people struggling with mental health difficulties. I survived to the point that my Anxiety could be managed. Knowing that this is possible, I encourage those who are struggling with mental health difficulties to think with a very open mind about what can help, try out different interventions, and please don’t be disheartened if one intervention doesn’t work for you, or straight away. Think of interventions as a menu of options, choices, opportunities – because most of the time you are the expert in what will help you to feel better. Of course you only know the things that you know, and sometimes we need someone to show us the way, to explain the menu and its ingredients, for example, a medical professional, friend, colleague, Mental Health First Aider, or otherwise. I wish all those who are finding their way, all the strength and tenacity to do so.