I have had a really difficult couple of weeks. I’m coming to the end of two years of therapy and, as someone with tough past experiences of endings, I’ve been dreading it. Then, after my psychologist and I were slowly beginning to put plans into place as to how we would spend our remaining weeks together, my care coordinator announced that she would be leaving. I sobbed and sobbed. This was less because of sadness and more because I didn’t think I could cope with it. I had already told myself that I wouldn’t manage the end of therapy, so doubling what I would have to deal with surely meant catastrophe. But, you know what? I have proved myself wrong.
The endings I’m so anxious about are still to come, so I can’t predict exactly what I will be like when they happen. However, what I have been able to do is put strategies in place that allow me to cope in the moment. In spite of initially thinking that the future was enough to tip me over the edge, I told myself that I would cope. I honestly believe that, in life, we generally have a say over whether we cope or not, as well as what we use to do so. That’s not to say that we manage without the help of others or that we don’t become recluses for a time when we’re wracked with anxiety. But in my choice to cope, because the alternative was a downward spiral that would mean hospital admission or worse, I took back some of the control that I felt I had lost. I couldn’t stop the NHS from limiting my therapy to two years or my care coordinator getting a new job. I can choose to live my life though and to make decisions that make that life worth living. I can tell myself that I can turn my future into what I want it to be, whether that be having a career or a family or going travelling.
Two days after I was told of my care coordinator’s imminent departure, I was due to meet fellow Safe Space writers, Jo and Faye. I haven’t been in a social environment where I would be meeting and chatting to people in two years. Anxiety has grown so big in my mind that I had convinced myself that I would never again be able to meet people: they wouldn’t like me, I would say something stupid, it would just be too much for me. Perhaps it’s because I felt I had nothing to lose after the week I was having, but I went to London and met Jo and Faye and… it was brilliant! I was without a doubt that meeting people was never something I was going to manage and, once again, I was proved wrong.
If the last fortnight has taught me anything, it is that even when I am utterly convinced that something is impossible, that it’s not something I can survive and that I’m not resilient enough to cope with it, life so often has other ideas. There is very little that I can’t do. I won’t be Queen of England, nor will I be an international athlete. But when life hits as hard as it can and often in unexpected ways, I find a strength that I didn’t know I had and I become creative in discovering ways of coping.
This isn’t a post for me to big myself up and say, “Look what I can do.” It’s to say, “Look at what we all can do.” I have put off so many opportunities because of the messages of fear I was telling myself. Perhaps you’re doing the same – avoiding meeting people who could become great friends, not going to an interview because you decide you would never be good enough for the job, dreading the future because it looks so much bigger than your limited emotional resources. But I truly believe that you can.
Sometimes we need the support of others, whether it be friends or therapists; sometimes we need to take time to cry because a relationship is ending; sometimes we may feel terrified when we try something new. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter how we get there. It just matters that we get there in the end. So as I dare myself to take greater leaps of faith and to trust in my own capacity to cope, I wonder if you will join me. What do you tell yourself you can’t do? Maybe it’s time to see that you can.