Personal experiences of counselling and psychotherapy
I was having panic attacks
I went to see a psychotherapist because I was having panic attacks at work. Every time I had to lead a meeting or stand up to say something, I could feel myself go red, and my throat would go dry and my hands start to tremble. Sometimes my heart beat so fast I thought people would see it beating in my chest. It was awful. I was cross because I felt like my own body was holding me back and the more I tried to do something about it myself, the worse it got.
My therapist started by explaining her approach to working with anxiety and ‘panic disorder’ in particular. She said she would use a multi-pronged approach to unearth the root cause, help me to understand why I was fearful and also suggest ways to deal with the awful symptoms. I discovered I could trace it back to something that happened at school and we talked about what happened then and what had made it worse. I learned about the fear response and how adrenaline works (and how panic is a natural normal reaction that has just got out of proportion). She also gave me tasks to do in-between sessions, which gradually got harder and harder as the weeks went by.
I gave a ‘Goodbye’ speech for one of my assistants at work the other day. I scored it as a 10/10 on my Fear Ladder, but I did it. In the old days I might well have called in sick to avoid another public humiliation, but it went OK and I survived. I know from the other tasks I’ve done that as long as I keep doing these things it will get easier every time.