Thursday 31 January 2013

Sermon #3: the anxiety-busting course that left us in stitches

Carrie Arnold's 3rd point on her excellent and informative list is: 3. Anorexia often brings "friends" in the form of co-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although it makes recovery more complicated, it doesn't make recovery impossible. Staying healthy means managing both anorexia and any other mental illness you might have. So the topic for my #3 sermon is: anxiety and how an anxiety-busting course helped Ben, but not in the way it was supposed to..!

As well as a co-morbid depressive order, Ben suffered from anxiety. Extreme anxiety. So we were booked onto a 12 week course on anxiety, held at our local in-patient unit.

On arrival we all had lunch. Or at least everyone had lunch except Ben, because he was the only participant with an eating disorder; the rest had varying degrees of OCD. Faced with an NHS sandwich spread, chips (fries) and crisps (potato chips), Ben just couldn't face it..

Afterwards, the young people would be whisked off for their session while the parents sat in front of a flip chart and someone who talked to us about the ins and outs of anxiety.

At the end we all met up together for a practical anxiety-busting session.

It's this, I'm afraid, that had me in stitches.

There we were, sitting on upright, uncomfortable plastic chairs, while one of the course leaders began to read from a meditation script.

Now, this is something that some people do better than others.

What you imagine is a soothing, soft voice that gradually lulls you into a sense of calm as you slowly drift off into the garden, beach or wherever they would like you to visualise yourself, as you begin to relax... oh so deeply... R-E-L-A-X.........

What you don't imagine is someone who sounds as if they're deliberately reading from a script... almost like reading from an auto-cue except that they've forgotten their glasses and can't make out the words very well... or a bad telesales call... or a schoolchild reading aloud in class from a book they hate...

I'm sorry, but I could help but find this absurd - and very, very funny.

That, and the curious way the parents' course leader handed round chewing gum at the start of each session.

Very odd.

Did these sessions cure Ben's anxiety?

Not in the way they were supposed to.

However Ben and I were coming out of these sessions in fits of giggles... like naughty schoolchildren...

All the way home in the car we'd laugh our socks off. I remember tears of mirth streaming down my face.

Considering that this was during Ben's deepest, darkest phase when we were at loggerheads most of the time... suicide threats... leaving home threats... evil ED rages... especially when in the car together... and I had tears streaming down my face every single day, but definitely not tears of mirth... this was brilliant.

For a short while, on the drive home from those absurd sessions (which we quit eventually), I felt as if I had the 'old Ben' back.


  1. Reminds me of Dr Arrogant, our most awful of psychiatrists who solved nearly all of the problems of family disunity caused by years of AN and poor reaction to the treatment thereof by providing us all with someone to loathe. We were, and still are, all on the same page on the subject of Dr A!