I hope that anyone reading this blog is keeping well.
Today I want to talk about what makes Panic symptoms seem so so dam strong and leads us to believe that we are never going to recover from these symptoms and feel normal every again. What could be so convincing that it keeps us so firmly locked in the cycle and seemingly unable to break free?
Well in my exerience there are a number of reasons that Panic grips you by the throat and then keeps hold of you.
Its really worth understanding whats happening and why as then you can begin to reverse things and break the cycle. Once you break the cycle, I can assure you that your panic will begin to loose its grip and the hold on you that it has had for so long. You will get your quality of life back again and be on your way to your goal of being panic free.
So lets look at what keeps you locked in and what you need to do to reverse things:
Understanding the role that avoidance plays in Anxiety Disorders its absolutely vital if you want to achieve any sort of recovery from your symptoms.
Anxiety Disorders are actually called "Avoidance" Disorders. This means that Anxiety NEEDS avoidance to survive, its like its petrol. So to begin to win your own fight against your anxiety symptoms you MUST look at your own patterns of avoidance.
You need to understand what, who and where you are avoiding anything and your reasons for doing that and begin to put steps in place to stop it or at least work to reverse it.
Avoidance can be situations, people or places and sometimes when we are anxious the most important avoidance is that of ourselves, yes thats right we are so scared of our own symptoms that we avoid feeling the feelings and in doing so never learn that they can't hurt us, this just makes our fear of Panic much much worse. How do you ever learn to cope with feelings and symptoms if you never allow yourself to feel them?
So to recover from panic we need to start stepping towards anything we have been avoiding. This allows us to trigger our fear response and learn to reverse it. Its the only way.
STOP POURING PETROL ONTO YOUR FIRE.
With Panic symptoms the saying: "WHAT YOU RESIST WILL PERSIST" is very true.
Panic loves resistance as its something to fight against. Trust me I know. When you fight and resist panic symptoms they just get stronger and much more frightening, if you "just be" and allow them to do their thing around you while you do yours, they cannot stay strong and they will loose their grip on you.
The whole fear behind a panic attack is that:
(A) You don't want to have one as the thoughts/ feelings/ sensations are so uncomfortable
(B) They always seem to come in sitautions where you really can't have one at that moment
So what is the natural thing to do? YOU RESIST and fight against your symptoms, you try hard not to have them. FACT IS THIS IS WHAT KEEPS THE PANIC ALIVE!
To stop these attacks and feelings you must NOT fight them you need to find a way to do the COMPLETE OPPOSITE and just allow them to rage around you while you continue to live your life as you did before the Panic began. Yes you may need to take baby steps and yes this may feel jolly uncomfortable at first, but as a veteran of Panic I can assure you that if you work to stop your resistance the uncomfortable part will not last forever, in fact I think as your confidence grows you will find it passes much quicker than you thought it would. All you need to do is begin and practice to put these new healthier habits in place of your older destructive ones.
When a person suffers with Anxiety/Panic attacks for any length of time, they may go through thousands of attacks and always come through them without the feared outcome happening, this is because EVERY PANIC ATTACK WILL END OF ITS OWN ACCORD NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO!.
So why then if a person survives every single one without their worse fears happening do they never see that the panic is harmless and always believe they were just "lucky" each time they got through it?
The answer is really simple.
Because they put behaviours in place to "protect" themselves from the panic and therefore BELIEVE that the behaviour stopped the panic and saved them from being overwhelmed it. They never get that EVERY panic attack will end whatever they do anyway and they also never trust themselves to learn to react in a different way to whats happening and gain confidence IN THEMSELVES to deal with it. That way they would RECOVER AND NOT STAY STUCK!
I could write a whole book on safety behaviours and the role they play in keeping you locked firmly in the panic cycle. In fact they are not safety behaviours at all in fact they are very unsafe and perhaps would be more suited being called sabotage behaviours!
Again the opposite is true. Anything that you do which you feel is keeping you safe from the perils of a Panic attack is actually making you very un safe, its making your fear of the fear much worse/ and helping you avoid feeling the feelings (avoidance again!).
By not feeling the feelings you never learn that you can cope with them and you are not going to die, or faint, or have a heart attack or reach the point of no return, this avoidance may make you believe that you have "escaped" the Panic attack BUT while your immidate fear goes down, your whole fear of Panic in general goes up and keeps you STUCK lonely and terrified as you avoid more and more and get worse and worse.
Sit down with a pen and paper and REALLY look at where you are applying safety behaviours. Look long and hard and begin to remove them. TAKE AWAY YOUR SAFETY NET. As with Avoidance you must stop it to recover.
Anxiety/ Depression - being aware how much time is involved in staying that way
Finally I would like to point out that Anxiety and Depression take up alot of time. To stay Anxious or Depressed in the long term you must devote most if not all of your life to it. Does it really deserve this royal treatment when it makes you feel so bad?
I eventually had a really long hard look at myself. I knew I had to work to come out of this, just as I would with anything in life, if I just sat there waiting for the day I felt better, I knew deep down I would be waiting a very long time.
Everything you do away from your anxious or depressive thoughts is a step towards recovery. Become aware of how much time you are devoting to your condition and start to work to change that unfair shift on your time. Understand that things will not change unless you are prepared to make that shift and put effort into changing your lifestyle and habits. It does not matter how much help you get or how many hours of therapy you have, if you are not prepared to work at this yourself in the long term and improve YOU, it always comes back to haunt you and things won't change.
I hope this blog post has given you food for thought as its really important to understand that YOU may well be sabotaging your own recovery by your own protective behaviours it was certainly a surprise for me!
Good luck in your journey, I will back with a new blog soon.