The “what ifs” of anxiety and life

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Yesterday did nothing to help my ambition to morph into a sloth. It wasn’t until late into the evening that a moment of clarity struck.

It’s hard when you’re dealing with a daughter with anxiety. It’s even harder when you, yourself also suffer from the same condition. Most of the time my anxiety is under control. I manage to get through the big stuff in life. Yesterday I found myself at the mercy of that demon “what if”.

How I think the world should work and how it does are rarely the same. Being aware of this, I have tried to pre-empt certain outcomes, but a few situations have managed to trick me. One was being fairly convinced that a university would help a student find a part-time job. Unfortunately-wrong. At least no part-time job that a student with anxiety would be able to do. Everything available is suited to people who can deal with other people. There was me naively assuming that someone somewhere would throw a job my daughter’s way that would involve filing in an office somewhere or putting books back on shelves. Nope. No such help exists despite emails being fired off to places claiming to be able to help. No jobs for students exist on campus and any jobs they can help you find are customer-facing ones. Bang goes the idea of my daughter earning a few quid a week to help out with her food bill. Never mind, by the end of two of them going through university, we’ll all be in debt. And I’ll be worth more dead than alive. That’s a sobering thought many people have. The maintenance loan she gets doesn’t even cover the rent for her room. That’s the reality of university in the UK.

Then there’s the situation of dealing with the actual anxiety itself. Anxiety is a sadistic bastard that breeds and spreads from one sufferer to the next. So, when my daughter is anxious, I have to try to “man up” (difficult because I’m a woman, I know, I’ve checked) and try to calmly resolve the situation.

Yesterday started with me going to the doctors for me. As is customary with the NHS at the moment I had to negotiate which blood tests I was eligible for. Even when blood tests come back as abnormal, that doesn’t mean the NHS will provide treatment. All they say is you’ve had this blood test before and it was abnormal, there’s no point in doing it again, it’ll be abnormal again. OK and the treatment for that? Nah. It’s not critical enough to warrant treatment. Often you have to deteriorate into an acute situation before the NHS will act. It all about money. Anything chronic isn’t a concern unless it can be diagnosed with a blood test and even if it can you won’t be treated unless it becomes life-threatening. Or with my blood clots, it gets treated at the point I lost some vision. Quite often a patient needs to go outside of the NHS and pay for a diagnosis from some of the same doctors who also work for the NHS. Without a private appointment, some of us don’t have access to them. I don’t have the money to fund this.

Sorry, slight digression, so I negotiated my blood tests. And from next year I’ll be on my own as I’ll only be eligible for one because of the blood pressure medication I have. The family history of diabetes will not get me another HbA1c, my history of blood clots and stroke will not get me another cholesterol and my history of acute fatty liver of pregnancy will not get me another liver function test-these would be a waste of money. Is it because I still haven’t finished losing weight? Would a slim person have a better chance? I have 2st (28lbs or 12.7kg) to go before I’ve finished; I’ve lost double that already. There has been talk in the past of the NHS withdrawing services for people who are overweight. I’m working on it. Will I become someone they approve of before they say no to even more things?

So, I was already quite rattled when I came out of the doctors. (It’s never comfortable, it’s a different doctor in the same room where I disclosed a sexual assault as a teenager only to be completely dismissed. The NHS has no procedure for that and as I was assaulted by a female doctor in the local hospital-disclosing did not go down well.)

My daughter with anxiety won’t go to the GP she has at university because I’m two hours away and not there to go with her. I spend hours a day texting her if necessary. She won’t make phone calls. Some days it’ll be a brief text conversation. Although she functions academically, can do her own washing and do some of her own shopping, there are things she refuses to do. Going to the doctors on her own to ask for a new medication is one of them, being in the shared kitchen when flatmates are in there is another. She has a mentor, but we’ve found out the mentor’s job is to make sure the mental health condition doesn’t affect her grades. Right, so basically make sure the university looks good. Counselling has now been offered. Good. That may be a step in the right direction. However, she saw the school counsellor every week for two years with limited success. We’re heading into the realms of medication. There are only so many years a mental health condition can be left to fester with barely any progress before you head into the world of SSRIs, no matter what you might think of them. And frankly, albeit selfishly, I’m not sure how much more I can go on with the constant worry of her mental health condition almost a two-hour drive away when I have health problems of my own to deal with. She’s eighteen, it doesn’t get better when they’re legally adults. It only gets… different.

In hindsight, I wish I had suggested going to the doctor to her during the summer holidays before she started university. It should have been something that was put in place before she left home. However, with the reports linking suicide in young people with SSRI usage, getting a prescription was something I wanted to leave to the last possible minute.

How is this for a system? At 2.30pm, on the day of the week I want her to have an appointment, but one week earlier, I have to remember to book an appointment for me. (Because she’s no longer listed as a patient at the family surgery.) 2.30pm is when the appointments are released for that day the following week. If I don’t get in quick enough, I won’t secure an appointment. Then when she’s home from university for a month, I can take her to our family GP, register her as a temporary patient, even though she’s been under that surgery all her life until September this year and we can talk about medication for her. But… what if because she’s registered elsewhere, there are no records to refer to when I say “she saw you two years ago, you said either see the school counsellor or the alternative is SSRIs” and he says, “oh, we don’t have those records any more they’ve been sent to the new GP.” The receptionist implied yesterday morning that the records were sent to the new GP. So, I spent a fraught few hours waiting for callbacks to see if a temporary patient had any hope of receiving a prescription for a mental health problem. The moment of clarity came when I realised why I was so worked up about this. It took my entire day from me. A year ago, in the process of getting her disabled students allowance for this condition, the school counsellor wanted her to have hypermobility added to the reasons for the DSA. We went to the doctor and told him this. The consultation ended without him examining her. Later in the week, I received a call saying he couldn’t include it because it wasn’t in her notes. That was the point of going for the appointment in the first place. However, once again seeing a different doctor in the room where I first disclosed the sexual assault threw me a bit and I let the consultation end without having the necessary diagnosis made. It’s not rocket science, you can see a hypermobile joint just by looking at how far it extends in the direction it’s not supposed to. So anyway, two to one, we know I asked him for a diagnosis and he says I didn’t which was why I ended up in a state of “what ifs” yesterday. What if he says again that he can’t do anything because he has no knowledge of the situation. Despite doing all I can to make progress on things, sometimes it just doesn’t pan out and I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language (as my mother used to say).

Time will tell, either the appointment here will go ahead, the notes from two years ago which they checked are still on the system will be read and medication will be prescribed or… to be honest, I’m out of ideas. There’s not much I can do from two hours away but I know something has to change.

But what if…

On a positive note, I’ve just got back from having an armful of blood taken at the hospital where I was sexually assaulted over thirty years ago and I did not wrap my walking stick round anyone’s head. Today was probably a decent day.