Calming the Nerves

It’s a shame we don’t deal with anxiety on the first day of MHFA training, because we could have just stood me at the front and said, there you go. Last Thursday, the first day of my first ever course as a (trainee) instructor. I felt so sick in the morning, after not a great deal of sleep. I couldn’t even drink the tea my mother made for me, let alone cope with breakfast. Sweaty palms, palpitations, a feeling of utter panic.

We understand anxiety at times like that. Before doing presentations, going for an interview, meeting your in-laws for the first time. Things you maybe would rather not have to do, but you can’t avoid them, and you want it to go well, you want to make a good impression. It is one of the few times I think I managed to get someone to understand the way my depression / anxiety can manifest physically, was when I said, remember how you felt before the last interview you went for. Now imagine you feel like that, or worse, all the time, and you don’t know why.

Or you know why, but you know your anxiety is out of proportion to the stimulus. You logically know the probability of the bus crashing, or you vomiting in the street is low, but you cannot overcome the fear and panic which the thought of it induces within yourself. And you beat yourself up, because you know you “should” be able to do these things just like everyone else. You assume everyone else would laugh if they knew how ridiculous you were.

Well. If only we were all as perfect as other people think we must be. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems, and who’s to say that a quarter of that bus load (or more) aren’t also in their own personal hell as they go to work. Maybe they’ve got a little way further in finding a way to cope. Maybe that’s why their music is so loud, or they won’t meet anyone’s eyes. Maybe that’s why that guy got off when it got too full. Maybe it’s not the bus that bothers them. Maybe it’s the tube, or taxis, or answering the phone. Anxiety is ubiquitous, problematic anxiety is common. You are not alone. And there are many ways to begin finding a way to cope and live fulfilling lives, from medication, talking therapies to self help and relaxation techniques. Don’t give up hope!

As for me, I pushed through the horrible pre-course nerves, stumbled my way through the first bit, and eventually found my rhythm, and you know what? I really enjoyed it. A day helping a group of engaged, interesting people learn about mental health and how to help someone who isn’t doing so well. Magic. Day two today, wish me luck!

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