Counselling changed my life”
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.”