About two months ago, while I was still having cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), my Mum gave me Keep Your Cool: How to Deal with Life's Worries and Stress by Dr Aaron Balick to read because I had some serious problems with anxiety that were affecting my life. I had seen different people in the past as well - such as a hypnotherapist and a therapist at my old school- so I knew a lot about this subject : dealing with life’s worries and stress.
The book is set up like a guide to life and it uses cartoons to illustrate the points - but it’s not childish and the tone is not condescending at all. The author is a therapist and it reminded me of the way my therapist had spoken to me: it was calm and funny. You have to be open to the book because it can seem a bit cheesy to talk about emotions and try to make them funny. But the issues raised are important and the solutions are helpful. I showed it to my old therapist who approved of it and even though I’m still having some anxiety problems, the book helped me learn new tools for dealing with tricky situations.
That was the hardest part for me with my anxiety: realising that my friends didn't have the same problems as me
There are fact boxes of things to try out, like a meditation exercise, finding an after-school activity or organising how you are using your time. I tried some out; for example, here is one for writing about your worries: “The trick here is to: No 1, get it out of your head and onto your paper. No 2, put your worries away for the night so you can rest. No 3, write down anything you don’t want to forget for the morning so you can deal with it then”.
Anxiety can be really tough. Somedays you don’t want to get out of bed to go to school or see your friends because you’re just too anxious and nervous that you won't enjoy your day because you're worrying too much. It can feel like a huge weight pushing down on your body, and even though your friends try, they can’t understand what it’s like to have so many fears of ordinary things, and it can make you angry to see how they deal so well with everyday situations.
That was the hardest part for me with my anxiety: realising that my friends didn't have the same problems as me, and that sometimes life would be easier for them just because they could relax more than I could, and when things went wrong weren't immediately stricken with panic. But I realised I was going to have to keep up if I wanted to enjoy my life and get over my anxiety. I was honest with my friends, and told them why I left my private study periods early on a Thursday afternoon - to see my therapist. I told them my fears and what makes me nervous and anxious, and now they understand if it takes me a bit longer to get on the tube because I have to take the stairs down instead of the lift. I still have days when I pray that tomorrow I’ll be able to go in a lift with them or not have to know all our plans in advance so I can be sure I’m not going to be caught in a situation where I may panic, but I know i’m working towards it, and I know they support me.
Isabel Anthony is 15 and living in London