Anxious about anxiety!

A few days ago I had a first encounter with a lady who suffers from deep seated anxiety, It had to be a brief encounter for we were just trying to ascertain if the skype connection, through which we were connecting, really worked or not. She is in Europe, a recent (two years) immigrant from South Asia, educated person, in her late forties. I also wanted to establish a face-to-face link before we could sit peacefully to communicate, at a later date.

In the course of those approx.11 minutes of my communication with her (which I never understood why they became so long, just to fix an appointment) she was so restless it was difficult to focus on anything she said. This was how the talk went typically-

First of all, instead of facing me or looking up at the camera of her hand held device, she kept on holding it at such an angle that I could only see her eyes and part of the nose and covered head, as though it was a veiled impression she wanted to convey to me. So you can imagine I was talking to someone who was seemingly talking to someone else, not me! I have conversations with people via the skype from all parts of the world and we always get a sense of looking at the other person directly, even though they may not be lookign at the lens of the camera but the computer screen. She kept on holding me, as though, ‘below her chin’. People do not understand how much their body chemistry conveys to another!

Secondly, instead of realizing whether this was a real call to communicate her distress, she simply started off, without a prelude or a warning. Even if one goes into the consulting room or home of a person, you may have to wait awhile before you are invited to communicate. In your own anxiety to say whatever you want to, you cannot be unmindful that the other may not be yet ready to hear you out. They also want to be ‘present’ for you, not just physically be there. I was unwell. I told her so. But she did not seem to care- her own distress was paramount. It is all consuming, so much so that it made her ‘berserk’ and possibly a bit selfish too!

Healing is such a complex, multivariate phenomenon and not accomplished by just rattling your story out to someone who is lending their ears. I told her that I work in a three pronged manner- whatever it was I told her. She seemed to not be listening! Can anyone really help such a person? She was in therapy with another young person and had a few (seven-eight!) CBT sessions with her. Am not sure how CBT can work with anyone apart from social anxiety or minor ideas like that. Anxiety or a generalized anxiety disorder or possibly chronic anxiety. Can people understand that the times we live in produce an anxiety in everyone in general? And to deal with it, we have to create meaning in our lives, make connections with the world around and slowly intergrate in the milieu we are in.

Moving from one part of the world to a completely different world is definitely very alarming for anyone, especially in their middle age years. So to work out through that maze one has to be able to put the finger on the right and convergent causes, and not look at the continuity of life experiences on a continuum and catastrophize every experience, because we will have to continuously adjust to life, at every stage, no matter what. Building reserves, resources is very essential.

And equally important it is to go, look for support, identify your support mechanisms and stick to them for awhile. She thought she had a good rapport with the young woman who gave her CBT. When i asked in what manner she benefited, she said it was yet to ‘get over’. Does anyone really benefit from anything if the signs of it do not start showing in the first couple of meetings itself!


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