Peter Garrison’s health anxiety journey

Peter Garrison's health anxiety journey


About twenty years ago, after a few bereavements and health scares involving family members, I experienced anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I developed health anxiety and convinced myself I was dying. Every day was a struggle; I wasn’t sleeping and wasn’t eating. I went to the doctor’s repeatedly and, eventually, I was prescribed citalopram. Over a few months the symptoms diminished and slowly I returned to my normal anxious self.

Twenty years later, there was Covid and lockdown. Prior to this, I had retired and was having a good social life with my friends and participating in voluntary work etc. Lockdown stopped all this. I was under a little pressure to help my elderly sisters who were suffering from dementia and heart disease. It was a struggle, but we got through that.

Lockdown wasn’t too hard as I enjoyed staying at home and doing various crafty hobbies. The lockdown eased and I fully expected to just slip into my old life. To my surprise, the release from lock down was the start of a period of huge anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

The anxiety was a starting point, I found that I was very nervous going shopping and meeting friends. I couldn’t concentrate on conversations and found walking around the supermarket induced panic attacks. I was convinced that everyone was looking at me as my legs trembled. I lost all confidence and started staying in, to the point where I couldn’t walk to the front door let alone outside.

Panic attacks were happening all day and I was convinced I’d lost my mind! The doctors were seeing me all the time and I was so depressed. I couldn’t envisage going on like this but thought I was stuck forever.

The doctors gave me a few different types of medication, some of which made my symptoms worse. Gradually one medication had a positive effect, and I was able to leave the house for short periods of time and walk a bit outside.

I tried hypnotherapy to reduce the anxiety and it helped me to try and remain calmer when I had panic attacks but really underneath, I was still terrified and fighting all day with these attacks.

At this point my sister made me aware of CBT offered privately and I sought help through NOSA. Within a week or so I had my initial assessment consultation. I climbed the stairs to the room with very reluctant legs. The initial consultation was about two hours and the therapist put me at ease. I didn’t feel embarrassed discussing my feelings and symptoms as the consultation was more relaxed and the therapist was reassuring. He produced a detailed individualised therapy plan and I started the actual CBT treatment.

My perception of CBT therapy is that it’s not something that the therapist does that makes you better. You are not a passive part of the process. From my experience, the therapist acts as a sounding board for good sense. He challenges your ideas by putting alternative ones to think about. You yourself, have to put effort into the process and be strong enough to challenge your beliefs and thoughts. I found that the therapy journey was not smooth. I had many days where any progress I gained was swept away by panic and anxiety. The therapy can leave you feeling uncomfortable as you are coxed out of your comfort zones and safe places.

Eventually, I reached a place where I began to understand that to fight panic attacks and anxiety attacks is totally the wrong thing to do. It just increases adrenaline, which makes the attacks worse. It is better to just accept that you are panicking and ride the storm.

After a while, the panics diminished, and I was able to do things that I wanted to do.

I am still anxious and occasionally have panic attacks. My walking is a bit wobbly and I shake with nerves at times. I am more philosophical about these symptoms though and feel more able to understand that is just anxiety and panic. I’m not going to die from it, though it can be unpleasant for a short time. My learned behaviours over a life-time are difficult to change but they certainly needed to change. This is still a work in progress.

I am taking medication still but am in so much a better place in my head. The CBT has made me understand that my approach to panic, anxiety and challenges in life was wrong. It has helped me by giving me tools and strategies to cope. I am now able to participate fully in all the things that I want to do. I never thought that I would be able to do this and feel so much happier and confident that I can cope better with life’s challenges.

all client journeys are strictly anonymous.


Jenny Hill’s anxiety and OCD journey

Jenny Hill's anxiety and OCD journey


I had suffered with anxiety for many years but it became unmanageable during the first part of the covid 19 pandemic and was seriously affecting my daily life and relationships. I sought professional help through my GP who prescribed medications and a referral for speaking therapies. I didn’t take the medications but knew waiting any longer could have resulted in a further decline in my mental health. I was warned the wait for NHS help was 6 months, so I decided to seek professional help though private speaking therapies; it actually was a year before I was contacted with NHS help.

Through an assessment, I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD and therefore CBT was the suggested treatment option. The diagnosis of OCD was a huge shock to me as I had always thought OCD was to do with being tidy and clean and lining things up in order. However, the behaviours I had which developed before the pandemic, became much worse during the pandemic and had resulted in multiple checks of electronic sockets, taking pictures to prove I had turned things off, double/triple checking everything I did that caused feelings of anxiety. During the pandemic I had to follow a strict shower and hand washing routine in the same order and certain number of times.

I started the CBT journey with a different therapist and service, which unfortunately closed down after around 5/6 sessions. However, I had started to make some progress with the OCD behaviours but not really tackled the anxiety or the root cause of it.

The service closed down but my therapist referred me on to a NOSA therapist who I then continued the rest of my journey with. I found the change difficult as it felt I was starting again and had to explore all aspects of my life to understand where my thought processes had come from and to find my belief system. However, after the first few sessions we had created a really good therapeutic working relationship and I trusted him in the process and the prescribed behavioural activities.

Over the course of the next 9 months or so I worked hard to trust the process and undertake the behavioural experiments, which exposed me to things that caused me anxiety to prove that my anticipated theory A outcome didn’t happen and that theory B was the more likely outcome, I undertook various written activities and even to created my own anxiety monster to recognise what it was doing to me.

The journey was not always straight forward and there were bumps in the road. One was work related (front line NHS work) where my job showed to be a trigger for my anxiety and heightened sense of responsibility. However, my therapist recognised this straight away and we worked through some strategies to overcome this, which I put to the test and have worked since.

I honestly feel whilst the journey was longer than most the outcome has been life changing. I am now living with anxiety but not allowing it to control my life, I fell lighter and free of the burden it was having on my life and had been for over 10 years.

Whilst the pandemic has not gone away, the way in which I am able to live with it is now manageable. The OCD behaviours are massively reduced, and I am able to recognise when anxiety is spiking and deal with the OCD behaviours knowing this is the anxiety monster trying to take back control and I don’t allow it too. I am now able to socialise again and live in the moment to fully enjoy life.

I would highly recommend CBT treatment to anyone who is suffering from anxiety and OCD; the effort you put in will pay off in the results you get at the end.

all client journeys are strictly anonymous.