How anxiety counselling got me back on track - and prepared me for life with Mr Miner

| Share

Hi! I'm Sarah Long. I arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met my Mr Miner soon after. We're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (or DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. I came out here as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

A few weeks ago I found myself in the pub, looking at the menu and trying to decide what dish would be most filling.

To most of you this wouldn't sound strange or remarkable in any way ... a bit greedy perhaps, but nothing to write home (or a column) about!

The reason I shocked myself by trying to decide between steak and pie is that usually I would be searching the menu for the exact opposite: a salad or maybe soup, but definitely not a steak.

Now, this isn't because I'm trying to lose weight or because I’m a vegetarian. At home I eat anything and everything in sight.

Take me out for dinner, though, and it's a completely different story. That's because eating out makes me incredibly anxious!

I know what you're thinking. What the? Why? And the truth is I have no idea. I can't remember when it started and I don't know why eating out - so pleasurable to so many people - brings me out in a cold sweat.

You might also be wondering why I've decided to tell you about my weird restaurant phobia, and what on earth is has to do with being a miner's girlfriend.

Well, if you've been on the Mining Family Matters chat forum lately you might have noticed that anxiety is a common theme. So too is the brush-off that feeling anxious is just "being a bit silly".

Many of us with a loved one in the mining industry feel anxious at times: that unexplainable weight in the pit of your stomach when they leave; the uneasy nervousness or broken sleep while he's away; or the tears that well up without warning mid-shift when you can't speak to each other.

You might see it in your partner, too: the dark mood that comes over them the day before they go back to work; or in their frustration at the smallest thing towards the end of their break.

I am not going to claim to be a psychologist (I'll leave that all down to Angie!) But I would like to share my own experience, because the thing I find hardest about anxiety is thinking you're the only one who goes through it.

My anxiety caused depression during university and it got to the stage where I could barely make it through a lecture without thinking I would have a panic attack. I was prescribed anti-depressants, but slipped through the cracks without any counselling.

The anti-depressants were great. Although there's a bit of a stigma surrounding their use, I know they can be very helpful when combined with counselling.

Without counselling, though, I inevitably slipped back into my anxious ways with no guidance on how to stop it all. Then, one day my GP noticed my previous prescriptions and suggested I try preventative counselling.

On my first session with the counsellor I could barely talk. My tongue felt thick, my stomach churned and my palms sweated while I tried to stop my knees from shaking – even anxiety counselling was making me anxious! She told me that I was probably just an anxious person. Surely that wasn’t going to help?

But 10 sessions of counselling later and I felt like a new person, able to control my anxiety to such an extent that I booked a round-the-world trip alone. (The trip incidentally brought me to Australia and a man who works in the mines – something to really feel anxious about!)

When your partner is away, it is easy to bottle up how you feel and not want to burden anyone else with your problem. And you also don't want to burden your partner with your problems during their break.

Still, it's important to talk about it. Take it from me, as someone who has been there - you are not alone, it is not stupid to feel anxious sometimes and a problem shared really is a problem halved.

I still get anxious when Mr Miner is away. On the first day of a long time apart, I often feel like I just don’t want to do anything. His stint away just seems to stretch out on and on in front of me. The day before he leaves I find I just can't quite relax, but I know that this is normal.

It's OK to feel anxious about being apart, because I know it will feel so good when we're together again.

More from Sarah:

If you've got a question for Sarah or would like to tell your own tale about mining life, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!