Dear Donagh, I hope you can help me. I suffer a lot from anxiety and its been growing on me for a couple of years. My parents are always at me to go out and enjoy myself, but even the thought of it tenses me up. I'd love to go out just as I used to when I was younger, but I just can't build myself up to it. I read you website and your answers to peoples questions, and I like them. Is there any word of advice you can give me? Thank you. Miriam
P.S. I'm 26 and I live in Dublin. You may know some place where I could get help.
Dear Miriam, I’m happy that you wrote: even writing an email is a kind of going-out. I'm sure you have no shortage of people to advise you: most people are quicker to give advice than to find out what’s going on. I once saw someone give instructions to a girl who was trying for the first time to make a pot on the potter’s wheel. He was full of advice, both positive and negative. But the reality was that he wasn’t able to do it himself - which was soon evident when he sat at the wheel!
So I won't presume to give you advice, Miriam. But I can put you in touch with people who have the same difficulty that you have. They are the only ones who can understand you deeply and help you. I made some enquiries and I discovered that the Recovery programme is very active in Ireland, with 27 groups, 15 of which meet in various locations in Dublin: Abbey St., Beaumont, Blanchardstown, Clontarf, Drumcondra, Eccles St., Killester, Marino, Swords, Bray, Clondalkin, Deans Grange, Quarryvale, Rathgar and Tallaght. The programme has been in existence since 1937, and active in Ireland since 1971. It’s a non-profit organisation whose purpose is to help people with nervous and emotional difficulties, through methods and coping techniques learned at weekly meetings. These meetings are led by trained leaders who have themselves recovered through the programme. The atmosphere of the meetings is very relaxed and supportive, and you can bring a friend along with you, if you wish. For more information you can ring 6260775, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Recovery Inc., PO Box 2210, Dublin 13. The website address is http://indigo.ie/~recovirl
There’s a great line in one of the psalms: it says that God “surrounds us with cries of deliverance.” If we could always do that for one another…! There are many whose hobby is surrounding us with cries of alarm, peddling fear and discouragement - not only individuals, but sections of the media. We all have to arm ourselves!
There’s a great book by Pema Chodron entitled The Places That Scare You (Element books, HarperCollins Publishers, 77-85 Fulham Palace Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB). It’s not Recovery literature, but it’s one of the best book I've read in a long time. It is full of ‘cries of deliverance’ from a woman who knows what she is talking about.
I took your question and my reply and ran them by someone who has experienced (as far we can tell) something like what you are experiencing. He got great help through an online programme (www.onestepatatime.com), presented by a psychiatrist who went through panic/anxiety attacks, and specialised thereafter in the treatment of anxiety/ocd disorders. The approach in both Onestepatatime and Recovery is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The built-in difficulty with going to meetings, my friend said, is that someone suffering from anxiety is likely to find the very idea of meetings a threat! But until you feel strong enough to venture to a meeting, there is a lot of help you can get through reading and online. “The good thing [about Onestepatatime],” my friend wrote, “is that he has online meetings and hundreds of small courses/workshops that are a complete recovery step by step - a guided chat room focus group and weekly newsletters. They also have online trained psychiatrists who can give a one-to-one e-therapy…. The only way through is by fully understanding why one’s symptoms are happening, what's causing them, and taking the necessary steps in manageable chunks to desensitise / alleviate and eventually completely free yourself from the loop. The real issues are frequently just below the surface…. You learn so much about yourself in the process.”