COLIN | I thought I could outsmart my anxiety
My name's Colin. I'm in my sixties and it's been more than years since anxiety started to impact my life.
I'd always been shy, especially as a teenager. I worried a lot about other people's approval. I feared failure. I couldn't say no and hated any kind of conflict.
I had my first panic attack when I was in my mid-thirties. A job was causing me a lot of stress and I felt constantly overwhelmed. On the outside, I appeared calm and highly effective in my work. On the inside though all I felt was raw fear.
It felt like there were two versions of myself. On one hand, there was Col, who was calm and rational. And on the other hand, there was Colin who would always jump to the worst-case scenario in any situation.
If there was a project at work, Col would say, "we have plenty of time to meet our deadline." But then Colin would answer, "but.. but..."The doubt gnaws at me.” The conversation would go back and forth, and more often than not, Colin's voice would get louder and louder and shout Col down.
It wasn't just at work where I was experiencing this kind of stress. It was in every aspect of my life. If I was running late, Col would say, "It's fine, it happens to everyone." But then Colin would respond, "No, it won't be. You're letting everyone down.” And it would go on and on.
I thought I could beat it through sheer force of will and intellect. I researched strategies. I read self-help books. My wife had encouraged me to see a counsellor and give medication a go, but I thought I didn't need medication, not me.
My turning point finally came when I was at the doctor's. Hang on I thought, I've been taking medication for my cholesterol for years. Why is taking medication for anxiety any different?
The stress has not stopped, but my medication helps free up my mind to apply my coping skills. I did, and I still do a bunch of other things to stay well. I garden, I exercise regularly and I volunteer.
I used to think I could outsmart my anxiety. I have come to accept the difficulty in controlling my anxiety and that's what recovery means for me. It's not a cure. It's a way of living well with the condition.
I'm Colin and Col, and that's my story.