I’ve read a few posts lately by bloggers who struggle with depression and/or anxiety and the underlying theme to all of them is how they try to avoid anxiety by basically hiding from it. It doesn’t work. I know. I tried it. I suffered from horrific anxiety after I was on Paxil for about five years (the point where I reached a tolerance level and starting experiencing what they call “poop out”, when you start going through withdrawal even though you haven’t changed your dose).
I used to be one of those people who didn’t understand what anxiety was and why people got so freaked out when they experienced it … and then I learned … the hard way.
Anxiety manifests itself differently in different people, but for me it was a feeling of wanting to tear my skin off while a constant hum ran through my body. I told Derek on several occassions that it felt like I wanted to run away … from myself.
Certain places, certain smells, certain foods, and certain people made my anxiety worse … so I started avoiding those. It didn’t help. More places, more smells, more foods, and more people just brought about the same effect.
Until I “met” Ranger.
Ranger (a member of the online forum that literally saved my life) told me to stop avoiding the anxiety. My response was “ARE YOU INSANE??? … WHY THE HELL WOULD I WANT TO STOP AVOIDING IT???” He laughed at me (well … he online laughed at me).
It sounded like some sort of torture. To just let the anxiety happen and to even welcome it. WHAT ??? I thought that he had lost his mind. He told me that when the anxiety hit, that I should stop trying to make it stop, that I should stop trying to fight it and just let it happen. He said to tell myself, “I’m having anxiety right now, but it’s not going to stop me from doing what I need to do today.” He told me to go to the places that cause me anxiety and to practice just letting the anxiety happen.
Oh you can only imagine my response to these tidbits of advice. It wasn’t pretty. I kicked. I screamed. I cursed. I didn’t want to do it …. but I knew that nothing else had worked and I literally had nothing to lose by trying.
People with anxiety tend to make certainties out of possibilities. I know that I did. I would convince myself that I would have an anxiety attack if I went certain places, ate certain foods, or was around certain people … and guess what … I did. Then my mind would tell me, “You knew that you were going to have this response … you shouldn’t have even come here … you need to avoid this place (this food … that smell … those people) from now on” …. and the cycle would continue. So it took everything I had to force myself back into those anxiety inducing situations.
It took some time, but as much as I hate to admit this, Ranger was right.
…. to be continued