I am frequently contacted by people who are suffering with anxiety disorders. If you can relate to this and you are currently struggling with your mental health, you are far from alone: a recent World Health Organisation study concluded that, at present across the globe, anxiety and depression contribute to 40% of disability. That is a huge number of people who are suffering.
When Jas first came to see me for help, her anxiety symptoms were so severe she felt like she was constantly scared. Sometimes she felt so depleted, she struggled to get out of bed to attend college. Every day life felt like a struggle.
Jas has very kindly answered some questions about her anxiety and how she came it with The Thrive Programme®. It has been such a pleasure, working with her and seeing her progress. I hope that you find her answers, insights and explanations useful and inspiring:
What was life like for you before you went through The Thrive Programme® (TTP)?
“Life before Thrive involved a lot of me living in fear. My anxieties always came first, over anything. Any ambition or challenge, I would always put anxiety first. As you can imagine, this left me incredibly limited. Life felt pretty plain and unfulfilling. I would constantly tell myself “I can’t do it” “I don’t want to do it” – even though I knew in my heart of hearts, I didn’t want to live like this anymore. Discovering Thrive is something I’ll never forget, it has taught me to just go for it in life, and don’t hold yourself back. As a young woman, I’ve been slowly but surely getting my life back, instead of living in such fear almost 24/7.“
When your symptoms were at their worst, how did they affect your life?
“Sometimes, my symptoms of anxiety were so bad, I pretty much couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think about anything but the anxiety I was putting myself through. I was scared of leaving the house, and was constantly awaiting the next symptom of anxiety to come along and scare me. I was almost fearful of my own mind, and the kind of thoughts I could conjure up when my symptoms were at their worst.”
Had you tried other ways of overcoming your symptoms before TTP?
‘Yes, I tried CBT. This helped slightly, as it was someone I could let all my feelings out to, but my anxiety wasn’t getting much better. We did a lot of dwelling on the past, which I didn’t like at all. I wanted to look towards the future. I was assured on my first Thrive consultation that Thrive was all about the future! No more thinking about how crappy the past has been, but all about how fantastic the future can be.”
How would you describe going through sessions of TTP to someone who was new to the programme?
“I would describe it as a challenging, fulfilling, and life-altering process, where you work through your anxieties with a consultant and you are provided with the mind management you need to alter the way you think. Of course, there were times when going through the course was not easy. I had blips, many blips, scary blips! I’d sometimes sink so low I thought I couldn’t get out! However, you always get out. Things always get better, which is what Thrive taught me. Thrive taught me to reflect on blips as positively as possible. Blips mean you are trying, they do NOT mean you have failed.”
How did you find working with a Thrive Programme Consultant®?
“I loved working with a Thrive Programme Consultant®. I would look forward massively to sessions, whereas when I went through CBT, I was more scared of those sessions. I would come out of Thrive sessions feeling amazing, and even more excited for the future. Me and my consultant worked through the Thrive book together, and I would chat to her about any specific worries, and we would set challenges too. We formed a great bond where I felt comfortable telling her anything, and she taught me to reward myself when I overcame an obstacle, and to think very powerfully about it too.”
Was there anything in particular that you learnt that stands out in your mind because it really made a difference to your progress?
“I always think of how I was taught to process blips differently. I used to really berate myself after creating anxiety or having to leave somewhere early because of anxiety etc. My consultant taught me that there is no use at all in being so mean to yourself. We are our own worst critic, but we don’t always have to be. Now if I have a little blip, I think ‘That’s okay. I tried my hardest, there is always a next time. I am proud of myself, and this is another step in overcoming anxiety for good’ instead of ‘I am never getting over this. I’m such an idiot, why can’t I be like everyone else?’.”
How is life now?
“Life now is so much better. Of course, I still have bad days, I still don’t think I could fly to Australia tomorrow and do a sky dive, but, I can get on an hour long bus journey on my own, and feel perfectly fine. I can walk to a supermarket on my own, and feel perfectly fine. I can go to University in September, and feel so excited. I try hard to challenge myself every day. Do one thing every day that scares me. Some days are certainly harder than others, but that’s okay. As long as you are always trying.”
What achievements are you most proud of yourself for achieving since going through TTP?
“I would say – Applying for University, going on a stage in front of a crowd of people, volunteering at a hospital, achieving A-Levels I am extremely proud of, going for job interviews, getting public transport on my own, sleeping away from home, going to parties and social events. There are so many achievements I can think of that Thrive has given me the push to do.”
Do you think about the future differently now? If so, in what ways?
“I am excited for the future rather than scared. I look forward to how unpredictable life is. I can’t wait to see how much further I come in terms of my mental health. I’ve accepted I will have blips and bad days, we all do! I’m not so scared of things going wrong anymore, mistakes are actually fine! We all make them. I cannot wait to meet so many new friends, and have so many new experiences (and I won’t be shivering with fear in the corner anymore!)”
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about going through TTP?
“I would say you should do the programme, and all it has to offer. I even think people who don’t suffer with their mental health should do the programme! It has given me a new lease of life, and my mind will never be the same again (in a good way!). Even when my friends are going through tough times, I’ve told them some words of wisdom from the Thrive book, and they’ve told me it’s always improved their mood and their outlook. If you connect fully with Thrive and challenge yourself, you will emerge out of feeling trapped in your own mental health. You will be challenged, and that can sometimes be tough, but it is completely worth it in every way.”
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