I believed my family would die if I left a light on - one man's fight with crippling anxiety disorder
David Clensy meets the Bristol man whose “life was made a misery” by anxiety disorder
FOR Grant Nichol, growing up with a debilitating anxiety disorder, was “at times like a living nightmare”. From as young as he can remember he was crippled by self-imposed irrational rituals – such as thinking his family would die if he didn’t turn off the light switch when leaving a room.
It reached a point where the rituals – a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – dominated Grant’s life.
“I don’t know what caused the anxiety in the first place,” he says. “Perhaps I suffered some sort of trauma as a baby that I don’t know about, but for as long as I can remember I’ve had these impulses.
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“At its mildest it would be foot-tapping, then there were all sorts of other things all the way up to believing my family would die if I left a light on.
“Of course on one level I always knew it was irrational. But you do these rituals because it seems to ease the feeling of anxiety. I’d sit there unable to relax unless I performed whichever ritual it was that was dominating my thoughts at that time.”
Today the 29-year-old, from Westbury-on-Trym, who works as a pensions advisor in a Bristol call centre, has almost entirely overcome his anxieties, after undergoing an intense programme of therapy known as the Linden Method.
“Things really got bad when I was about 20,” he explains. “I had a lot of stress in my life then. I’d just started my first real job, working in a busy call centre. That’s when things really reached a head.
“Apart from the rituals and tics, I began to experience physical symptoms of anxiety – pains in the chest. I would convince myself that I was having a heart attack, and I would rush to A&E to be checked out. I would be wired up to an ECG machine, and the doctors would tell me that my heart was fine and send me home.
“But it was making my life a misery. I lived in a constant state of anxiety – often convinced I was dying. But my GP just told me that anxiety was very common and prescribed me some anti-depressant drugs, which I took, but I was a bit baffled, because I wasn’t actually depressed.
“If anything, that made things worse, because then I was anxious about being labelled as a depressive.”
Throughout his childhood Grant was able to keep his most severe symptoms hidden from his friends, and while his family knew about them, there was little they could do to help.
“I certainly didn’t tell any of my colleagues at work about the condition – the first most of them will know about it is when they read this piece,” he says.
“But you can’t go into work and tell people you’re suffering from anxiety. Depression is quite well accepted now in the workplace, but if I went into work and asked for time off because I felt anxious, I’m sure I’d be told to pull myself together.”
Grant tried hypnotherapy, but found it had no effect on his panic attacks, and a period of cognitive therapy, suggested by his GP, also seemed to make matters worse.
The technique – a form of psychotherapy in which the sufferer is encouraged to actively focus on the things about which they are anxious – had the effect of focusing Grant entirely upon his predicament.
“It became, at times, like a living nightmare,” he says. “But then I came across Charles Linden after searching online for ideas.”
Charles Linden developed his “Linden Method” to allow him to overcome his own anxiety disorder. The system has now been used by more than 155,000 around the world, for the treatment of OCD, panic attacks, agoraphobia, and other debilitating psychological disorders.
“I was just seeking reassurance and I was desperate,” Grant says. “When I found Charles’ Linden’s method, I knew that there was hope. For the first time, someone really understood what I was going through because he, himself had experienced it too.”
Grant underwent an intense period of therapy at Linden’s Worcestershire base.
“It’s a process of focusing on the positive aspects of your life,” he explains, “and Charles explained to me that there wasn’t something intrinsically wrong with my mind. In fact my disorder is the result of having creative intellect.”
Grant is now putting his experience to good use, helping others to overcome their issues.
“I have done a year’s training to be a Linden Method coach myself,” he says. “I’m still working for the pension company during the day, so this is something I’ve had to focus on in the evening. But it means a lot to me to be able to pass on this technique to other people going through similar problems.”
Grant’s guru, Charles Linden, author of controversial bestseller The Linden Method, said: “Grant is now a fully qualified Linden method coach and we are delighted to have him on board. Like me, Grant was in a very dark place and truly hit rock bottom so he totally understands the catastrophic effect that anxiety can have on your life.
“The difference is, he now knows the route out.”
Grant said he is now able to “fully live his life” for the first time.
“I still get moments when I feel stressed, particularly in work. But now its rational stress. It’s stress when there is a reason to be stressed. I used to feel anxious even if I was on a day off. Thankfully that has now all gone.”