Coun­selling changed my life”

Glamour (South Africa) - - Life/Mental Health -

Says Youtu­ber Louise Pent­land, 32, aka @sprin­kle­ofglit­ter.

“Over the past few years I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced hor­ri­ble bouts of anx­i­ety, usu­ally when I travel. I hate be­ing away from home and the fa­mil­iar­ity of my sur­round­ings. Per­haps it’s a con­trol thing. I’m not sure, but it brings on a fear of feel­ing trapped.

When that mo­ment hits, my whole body tenses up and my mind spi­rals, think­ing the worst – that I’m not safe and can’t get home. I start crying, my breath­ing is all over the place and, in ex­treme cases, I throw up. It’s an ex­haust­ing process, but be­cause it didn’t hap­pen all the time, I thought I could ‘live’ with it.

But ev­ery­thing came to a head af­ter my mar­riage ended. Life sud­denly felt so dif­fer­ent – and hard. I had a ter­ri­fy­ing panic at­tack at home and rang my friend. “Am­bu­lance,” I kept try­ing to say. She un­der­stood in­stantly. “You’re safe, noth­ing is go­ing to hap­pen, you are not go­ing to die,” she re­peated, un­til my breath­ing sta­bilised.

Af­ter that, I de­cided to seek coun­selling, I went once a week for six months, and I’d rec­om­mend it to any­one. When we feel anx­ious, our thoughts are all over the place, but my coun­sel­lor taught me to think more ra­tio­nally when I feel over­whelmed.

Now, when my ‘fear’ strikes, I use the STOP method. First I stop and take a deep breath. The brain can trick us to think we’re in dan­ger, but deep breaths help slow a speed­ing heart rate, which calms us down. Next, I ob­serve what’s go­ing on in my body (Am I in pain? No.), re­mind my­self I’m safe, then pro­ceed: just keep go­ing. It sounds sim­ple, but it works for me.

I ad­mit that in the past I was guilty of think­ing peo­ple who felt anx­ious should just ‘pull them­selves to­gether’. But it’s not that easy. Anx­i­ety is more com­mon than we realise and it man­i­fests it­self in a thou­sand ways. Some­times you can’t even pin­point why those feel­ings come about, but they’re real and can be de­bil­i­tat­ing.

But it’s pos­si­ble to cope and over­come anx­i­ety. What I learnt through coun­selling has changed my life, but there’s also med­i­ca­tion and other ther­a­pies. Any help starts with a con­ver­sa­tion. As for the bigger pic­ture, whether it’s a low-level hum or a full-on panic surge, anx­i­ety is noth­ing to brush off. And it’s not a choice.

Trust me – no one wants to feel this way. Ac­cept­ing my anx­i­ety, seek­ing help and just giv­ing my­self a break was the best thing I could have done. My ad­vice? Lis­ten to some­one’s strug­gle; open up about your feel­ings and keep the men­tal health con­ver­sa­tion go­ing.”

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