It is May 2017, over ten years since I was first diagnosed with anxiety. From the initial symptoms and the not knowing what was going on, through to being prescribed medication, referrals to a psychologist for CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and a psychiatrist, then to reducing medication, it has been a hard journey. However, I can testify that it is nearly two years since I have taken any medication and even longer since I have experienced any panic attack or other symptoms of anxiety. I praise God for my healing, and I praise Him for the way He carried me through it at the time I had it.
Yes, sometimes now things can cause me to worry or stress. Such is life. However, when stresses and worries occur, they no longer lead to the downward spiral of an anxiety attack. Things that used to be a problem for me, such as train journeys, going to the cinema, large shopping centres, talking to new groups of people are now normal experiences that no longer cause anxiety either when they happen, or thinking about them ahead of time. I may worry about what I might say to a group, I’m still not keen on public speaking, but these are normal fears and don’t require professional medical intervention.
The practical skills I learned in CBT, together with a supportive worshipping community and prayer have given me the ability to return to a normal life. Well, at least what is normal for me!
I wrote this in February 2013:
I can say that for the majority of the time anxiety is now something I used to have. It was so controlling of my life that every waking moment was consumed with the thought of it. But it did gradually fade away. I get the odd anxious thought from time to time, but I recognise those as what they are – just thoughts – and I don’t give in to the negative downward spiral that I used to descend. I’ve found distraction the best remedy, and if I feel anxious then I start to focus on the thing I’m supposed to be doing.
Four years later that has continued to be true.
In consultation with my GP, I reduced my medication over a number of years. I was prescribed Mirtazapine and was on 45mg a day when the anxiety was at it’s worst. I found it difficult to reduce the dose and I had temporarily had some major anxiety symptoms when I did. But they did not last as long. I went down to 30mg for 5 out of 7 days and 45mg for the other two. Then just 30mg for a time. Then alternating 30mg and 15mg, until in June 2015 I stopped taking any medication altogether.
This was a very slow and gradual reduction, as I say, in consultation with my GP. The side effects of Mirtazapine withdrawal can also include anxiety and panic attacks if you try to reduce too quickly. Some people are happy to stay on the medication, but I wanted to come off. I guess I see it as a way to return to normal. It took longer to reduce the medication than I’d hoped, but that’s ok. I’m just so grateful that anxiety no longer controls my life.
I used to see anxiety as this unwelcome presence in my life. I had some training in counselling a few years ago and was chatting to the trainer about it. He suggested it was perhaps time to downgrade my thoughts about anxiety and now I view it as a minor inconvenience if I ever get the feeling. That has helped and most of the time I forget I even had it so bad.
So today, over ten years since I was diagnosed, anxiety is no longer part of my life. I offer this as an encouragement. Thank you for the comments you leave here. I hope my experiences can be an encouragement and a source of hope to you. Everyone’s experience is different, but I urge you to keep with it. Remain hopeful and pray.
If you are suffering with anxiety now I pray that you will be released and that God will sustain you and bless you as you go through it.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).