Tuesday 13 May 2014

Interview with Emily Knight


Emily Knight was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder at the end of 2011. As a result of her anxiety, she left her full time job in early 2013, and is now a freelance writer and marketer, and editor of award-winning blog www.bristolbites.co.uk.

1.       Give us some information on your condition

I suffer with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and believe I did for several years before I was officially diagnosed. The biggest trigger for me by far is my health, but I’ve learned tips and techniques to manage bad days, and it’s a lot better than it was!

2.       When you were diagnosed what help and support were you offered?

The first thing my GP did when he diagnosed me was to try and put me on antidepressants – I refused to take them. I was worried that antidepressants – although they’ve been proven to work with anxiety sufferers – would just mask the problem, and that I’d go back to being just as bad as I was after coming off them. I was signed off work for prolonged periods of time (probably just over 6 months in total), and eventually offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on the NHS.

3.       Do you see anyone today about your condition?

Not anymore. I still have bad days, don’t get me wrong, but the techniques I learned during those CBT sessions have helped me to deal with the issue.

4.       Do you feel more help and support should be offered to those with mental health conditions?

Definitely! I think many doctors are too quick to belittle anxiety, and when you feel that somebody who’s qualified to help you is making your anxiety seem insignificant, it just makes things worse. I also don’t like the fact that so many healthcare professionals just see drugs as the answer to all mental health problems: changes in lifestyle and alternative therapies can work just as well, and I think there should be more information more readily available about these different options.

5.       What techniques do you use to manage your condition?

For me, most of the ways I deal with my anxiety are in my mind. I use the techniques that I learned in my CBT sessions, and I’ll sometimes listen to relaxation downloads or mobile phone apps to try and calm me down. Sometimes, even a warm bath or reading a book to distract myself can help.

As I mentioned, the main area of concern for me is my health – it’s the worry about potential health problems that brings on most of my anxiety attacks. What people don’t realise is that anxiety has both mental and physical symptoms, and it’s important for anxiety sufferers to learn how the illness can affect your body as well as your mind. I often use the forums at No More Panic (http://www.nomorepanic.co.uk/forum) – and if you’re interested in CBT, I definitely recommend the Moodjuice (http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/) or MoodGYM (https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome) websites.

6.       Have you experienced any ignorance towards your condition?

Yes, and sadly a lot of that was at my old workplace. I was signed off work, as I said, for over 6 months – and while I’m grateful to my former employer for keeping my job open, my manager had no idea how to handle anxiety. Even going into the office caused me anxiety attacks when I was at my worst, and yet I wasn’t allowed to work from home as it was against company policy, meaning that I was simply signed off for longer instead.

The other thing that frustrates me is the number of people who say things like, “Oh, I worry about things sometimes too”, or people who just tell me I have nothing to worry about. Yes, everyone worries about things – but not to the extent that we anxiety sufferers do! It’s sometimes hard to explain just how debilitating the condition can be.

7.       What advice do you have to those who are afraid to speak out?

I’ve now got to the stage where I’m more than happy to talk to people about my anxiety – the more people are aware of what the condition can do and how common it is, the less stigma there will be attached.

Mental health conditions are nothing to be ashamed of – they’re just part of who we are. What I found was that my anxiety was hard to deal with on my own, and hard to hide from people, which is why I decided to speak out and try and raise awareness. I have family members with similar illnesses who understand what I’m going through – and while it can be hard for those who don’t suffer the same to understand, it’s a good idea to let them know if there are any ways in which they can help you deal with it, so that you don’t have to suffer alone.  

I would like to thank Emily for answering my questions and sharing her story and words of advice.

Please visit her wonderful award winning blog http://www.bristolbites.co.uk/

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