I hope that at the time of writing this blog that you are all working towards your own recoveries and that the content of both my website and my blog posts is in some way helping you to make sense of the way in which you are feeling, and helps you to begin working towards your own recovery.
This month I would like to blog about full recovery, what I believe it is and what I think it feels like using my own experience of coming through Panic to the degree of in my case slipping from one panic attack to housebound right back to a 99% panic free life, which I would say I would enjoy now.
"Are you fully recovered now?" and " what level of recovery are you at?" and " what do you feel like now day to day" are questions that I get asked through the website time and time again as people try and make sense of their own feelings or work out where they feel they are in regaining their own quality of life.
I think its also quite normal to go through a stage of trying to compare yourself to others, because in some way I think thats like trying to give yourself a bench mark of where you think you may be at and where you feel you still need to go.
Firstly, If I could give one tip it would be to drop the comparing yourself to others, In a positive way if you are further towards recovery yes, this could be a good thing as it can give you the boost that you need. However, if you are still way back and struggling then this can be turned into a negative and make you feel like your own efforts are pointless and that you are a long way off ever feeling like yourself again. This is about you and your own journey, you are unique and no one or nothing else is you. Its about finding a positive way in which YOU can move forwards and gain the tools and help that is right for YOU to achieve your own recovery from panic. Source information from positive sources only that will serve to help you and move you forwards, do not wallow in negative sources or spend time with people who just want to wallow in their symptoms and make no effort to regain their own quality of life. Incidently this is one of the reasons that I refuse to have a forum on the "Its just a feeling" website, I want my site to be a positive experience full of hope and motivation to anyone who reads it, not another reason to feel bad and hopeless about the way in which you are feeling.
So what is realistic recovery from panic and what does it really feel like?
I can only speak for myself here and talk about my own recovery process, but I am more than happy to share my own thoughts as I hope to help anyone suffering from panic work towards their own recovery, helping you to get well again is something I am absolutely passionate about.
Full recovery to me is when unhelpful panic no longer bothers you enough to be significant in your life, and you no longer pay it much attention because its just not important. You begin to fill your life with life again and so your panic loses its power and falls by the way side.
By unhelpful panic I mean feeling panic in situations where it is not normal to feel panic, when there is no "real" danger. Situations such as, driving your car, having dinner with a friend or maybe just doing your shopping.
Its not realistic to feel no panic at all in your life, there will always be situations where it is appropiate to feel some feelings of nervousness or apprehension like before a job interview, so recovery from panic DOES NOT mean that you become completely panic free and never feel anxiety again. This is really important to understand.
Also once you really understand the role of the Amygdala properly you begin to understand you can not erase your memories or in fact who you are. Your life experiences however bad or good are stored in that part of your brain as part of you, its who you are and you cannot change any of it. Part of recovery from panic is understanding this and learning that you need to form new better memories moving forwards. You cannot change your past, but you do have an influence what happens from now and its never too late to start. When you stop trying to rid yourself of something that is now a part of you, instead deciding to work with it, you will find it becomes insignificant and then it will go away.
Remember recovery from panic DOES NOT feel good in the short term and is not supposed to, remember you must trigger panic to recover from it, thats the whole point.
Once this panic starts to diminish, then is the time to begin your maintinence program, begin to fit exercise into your daily routine, adapt your diet avoiding food or drink that will stimulate your nervous system etc etc. Its not just about getting well, the trick is to stay well. Once you have suffered Panic symptoms and know what it feels like then you would be very foolish to just think it will never come back. Awareness of yourself and knowledge of your symptoms and how panic works are key. You must continue this new way of living and awareness for the rest of your life.
Ok so how am I now?
Well I would say I am 99% recovered. I have the knowledge I needed to get better, and I have slowly built up the confidence I needed to stay better and be quietly aware of myself as a person, my feelings, my actions and very importantly my triggers. I know that what I developed became a habitual behaviour and I had to work hard to develop new habits and now work to keep those new habits - rather like an ex smoker does.
Like an ex smoker who would always have the urge to smoke, I am acutely aware that I could have a tendancy to panic, so I'm always quietly aware of myself. I did get to know myself very well in the years that suffered and I grew to like that person and respect her.
Panic Disorder is there in the background however these days I dont pay it much attention as I no longer want to dedicate my life and all my time to something which made me utterly miserable, I try to develop my new habits all the time and choose filling my life with "life" again over dedicating it all to Anxiety and Panic. If it trys to drag me into a setback, I just allow it to do its thing around me if it wants to, while I carry on living my new better life, it soon gets bored and fades away again, leaving me stronger and happier.
The times it trys to come back have become less and less, it no longer holds that significance in my life as I just dont pay it attention, I work hard to the the person I want to be and refuse to put work into being the person I was.
I stopped trying to rid myself of my panic, instead deciding to accept where I was and work with it. That single action alone began to change my life.
Overall, I work hard at my maintenance program, I exercise, I eat well as I can, I like myself, I am not afraid to say what I need and want, I bother with people who genuiely care for me and choose to avoid negative people or in fact any negativity.
Finally ( And this is important), I am very aware I always have a choice, and I think things through. Will this choice keep me where I want to be, or will it be a bad choice for my own development going forwards?. I am always aware of my end goal.
Choices dont just have to be about panic and if you turn upto a situation or dont, choices can also be life choices that can send you in the wrong direction and in turn begin to cause stress that can encourage panic to rear its ugly head.
There are lots of factors which make up full recovery, and yes like anything in life , you get nothing unless you work for it.
" dont wish for it, work for it" Is a very good mantra to have in mind.
However, once you achieve that level of recovery and life quality back then you will see the fruits of your labour and working to maintain it will not seem so bad. It doesnt feel great at first but the rewards in the long term are priceless.
There is no miracle cure for Panic symptoms, but it absolutely is possible to achieve a fantastic quality of life once again and feel panic free.
I am living proof that it is possible to recover from about as bad as it can get.
I'll blog again soon,
Wishing you all health, wealth and much happiness,