When the Idea of Anxiety Treatment Worsens Your Anxiety


Most people would be ecstatic to hear “Pack your bags, you’re leaving Saturday and going to be in Tampa, Florida, for two weeks.” I’m doing just that. I’m leaving Saturday, and I’ll be in Tampa for an anxiety treatment program for two weeks.

But I’m not ecstatic. To be completely honest, I’m slightly terrified. My anxiety has gotten higher and higher as I’ve been trying to mentally prepare myself for it.

I hate unknowns. I like to know exactly who I’ll be talking to, about what and exactly how many questions I’ll have to answer, and what questions at that. Of course. I don’t know any of those things. This entire trip is full of unknowns. My mind fills with questions, five more questions for every question that remains unanswered. What if I don’t like the therapist? What if it doesn’t help? How long will I be there?

I’m going down for a program to treat my anxiety. You’d think with the thought of something that’s supposed to help my anxiety, I’d feel overjoyed and enthusiastic with relief. Instead, I just feel even more anxious. Anxious to the point that I popped my favorite water-filled stress ball. Anxious to the point of tears. Anxiety. Always. Lots of it. Never ending. Anxiety.

What am I supposed to do? How can I ever get the treatment for my anxiety that I quite obviously desperately need if my anxiety keeps getting in the way? It would be so much easier to treat my anxiety if I didn’t have so much anxiety. But of course, that is not an option. It’s rarely that simple. After all, I wouldn’t need to treat my anxiety if it didn’t exist. But how am I supposed to handle my anxiety leading up to the treatment?

I don’t know much about the program. I know they’ll be doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention, both of which have helped me in the past. You’d think that would put some of my anxiety at ease, to know they’re doing something that has helped before, that will most likely help again. But still. my mind swirls with questions as I feel my heart beating faster and faster. It’s different this time,” my anxiety seems to whisper in my mind. “You’re different this time. This is a partial hospitalization. You’ve never done this before. This is different. It’s far away. A 15 hour drive. None of your local supports will be there.” My body reacts to my anxiety going over it again, and I feel my muscles becoming tense. “Deep breaths,” I remind myself “In and out. You can do this.”

So, for now, in the meantime, I’ll do what I seem to do best. I’ll distract myself from the things spiking my anxiety — in this case, my anxiety treatment itself. I’ll take care of myself and remember to breathe. I can’t make my anxiety go away, but I can find ways to calm myself down until I get to somewhere people can and will help me. It’s going to be OK.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was one moment you received help in an unexpected or unorthodox way related to disability, disease or mental illness? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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