A Bad Experience
When I had my breakdown I went into talking therapy hoping it would get me back on my feet and back to life as normal in maybe a few months or even weeks. I was wrong.
What actually happened was that talking at length about every single traumatic event I could remember, from early childhood to present day, not only compounded the trauma, but also reinforced (or, more likely, created) my anxiety disorder. It also taught me to blame, which takes you in very much the opposite direction to healing.
In the very first session, I opened up in confidence and spoke for about twenty minutes, after which my therapist told me I had one of the worst cases of chronic anxiety and panic disorder she had ever seen. “Can you help?” I pleaded, to which she replied that she could.
This was the reassurance she obviously felt I needed, unfortunately the statement preceding it had already caused so much lasting damage that it would take nearly two years to undo.
So much power in one sentence – until she said that, I’m pretty sure there was no anxiety disorder (it was only occasional up to that point), but there certainly was by the time that session ended.
I Thought I was Broken
I left her office feeling a mixture of hope and despair. I was broken but someone said she could fix me. But I hadn’t been broken before, so how had this suddenly happened? So many questions that she would never answer in the four months I was seeing her.
Looking back now, it’s obvious that talking therapy was very much the wrong choice for me in that situation, but to know that at the time would have been very difficult for me and even for the therapist. I could argue that her specialising in anxiety and having never had a problem with it herself ought to have been a red flag, but that’s the wisdom of hindsight for you.
There are many different forms of therapy out there, so bear in mind that diving head first into traumatic events from your past is not only extremely unpleasant, it may also be completely unnecessary. Some forms of therapy tackle trauma with much less discomfort than others.
Choose What’s Right for You
Like medication, therapy works differently in different situations. In my experience, no matter what the cause of the anxiety disorder, the recovery process is generally the same and it starts with the realisation that you are not broken, coupled with the acceptance of the way things are and the belief that they can get better – from this point you can start to make progress.