Carole, a former health care worker and hospital clinical officer from Leicestershire, had coped with several health problems during her life, including cancer and a hysterectomy. She had always seen herself as someone who other people turned to for support.
Then, 18 months ago, she experienced a nervous breakdown. Here, she tells us how Reading Well Books on Prescription has played an important part in her ongoing recovery.
'Scared of being scared'
I'd been experiencing severe anxiety for several months. Even though I had come very calmly through past experiences of ill health, like cancer, I found myself scared of being scared about getting ill. I would find that, before I knew it, attacks were starting. I had no way of stopping them and they felt overwhelming. I'd always been a strong person and I felt lost and a failure.
I went to my GP with lots of worries and preconceptions. I thought she wouldn't believe me, but despite my fears, she was wonderful. She really listened to me and didn't try to undermine the terror I was feeling, or prescribe any sort of instant fix. Instead, she suggested that I read a book about anxiety from the Reading Well Books on Prescription list - Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic: A Five Areas Approach by Chris Williams. She explained what the book covered and suggested that I give it a try, and that she'd help me alongside it.
Visiting the library
I waited a whole month before I took my book prescription along to our local library in Sileby. Our village library is small and friendly, but as I handed over my prescription, I remember thinking that the librarian would be yet another person who'd know I hadn't coped.
But the library staff were wonderful. While I was there I mentioned that I felt in the Dark Ages with my computer skills. The librarian signed me up for lessons and showed me how I could find other books on wellbeing.
Getting started with the book
I brought the book home and felt quite excited about getting started. I'd always been a keen reader of fiction, but this book seemed more like a study book. As soon as I started reading, I felt as if the author knew exactly how I was feeling, and that continued all the way through.
The book explained how anxiety can be triggered. I was afraid of so many things: tablets had alleviated my depression, but it felt like my anxiety had got worse. I was so scared of illness. A part of me knew it was irrational, but it was very real and present when it was happening, and it was coming from me and wasn't under my control.
Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic helped me to analyse how I'd coped in the past, and to understand how the weight of coping can suddenly get too heavy. Both the book and talking with my GP helped me understand that it is OK to be frightened when you have something like cancer.
The book also gets you to write things down. It's as if you're talking to your own mind: acknowledging what's inside it and accepting that, if you have anxiety or depression, what you are thinking and feeling is OK. It's normal - a part of your condition.
One exercise that really helped was to write a letter to yourself that you'd like to open in ten years' time. I wanted to tell myself to be well.
I also found it really helpful to be able to take the book home and work on it in my own time. The fact that it got me doing some of the exploration and understanding work made me feel as if I'd got some control back. In fact, I found myself looking forward to reading it, and I went on to renew it for another three weeks.
Armed with coping tools
Recently, the wonderful GP who'd given me my book prescription left our local practice. But I didn't panic: I now feel that I have some coping tools, together with an understanding of what's happened to me. For example, recently I was cleaning my teeth and I noticed I was spitting out blood. All my anxiety symptoms around illness started - shaking and feelings of panic - but some words from the book came to me and I was able to tell myself that "this will pass".
When I got my book prescription, I was scared. Recovery is not easy, in fact it's really hard work - but the book and my GP's support has made me accepting of the condition I have, and has given me an understanding of what is happening in my brain.
Find out more about Reading Well Books on Prescription.
Leicestershire County Council's communities and wellbeing outreach worker actively promotes Reading Well Books On Prescription locally. Find out more about health and wellbeing services in Leicestershire Libraries.
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