Often I’m asked the question, “How did you know that you were on the right path to ending your Generalized Anxiety Disorder and panic attacks?” I always give the same answer. I took responsibility for my anxiety issues. I had done a lot of research over the six years I struggled trying to find answers to the terror-filled existence I was living. Through my research, I ran into many answers to why I might be experiencing anxiety and panic disorders. Some of those answers were genetics, my childhood environment, or simply how my brain was wired. My frustration grew and I started taking out my anger on everyone from my mother and father to my friends that I had growing up, even my ‘creator’ who had intentionally wired me this way. I wanted to yell at them, “Damn you all for causing me to be like this!!!” I moped through life, playing the victim card everywhere I went. Does this sound familiar? Finally, at the six year mark, I became tired of my life being dictated by my anxiety and panic attacks, so I did something very different. I visited the children’s hospital.
The advice to do this came from a good friend of mine who cared greatly for my well-being, and was quickly running out of ideas on how I could overcome my anxiety disorder naturally. After my visit, all I remember feeling is guilt and anger. Guilt because the kids I had seen that day were ACTUALLY suffering from the many things I feared, and anger at myself because I was much more miserable than they were. I had a new perspective from that day on, a realization that some people in this world actually DON’T have control over their problems and some DO. We have control over our problems, and we should be happy about this news in regards to our mental health. I immediately stopped being a victim and playing the blame game, and I wanted to remember this realization about control for ever. I went and got a tattoo on my forearm that says, “All power is from within, and is therefore under our control.” I wanted a permanent reminder that I DID have a choice in the matter.
As I consistently did throughout my recovery from anxiety, I turned to my sport of choice. If things weren’t going my way and I was losing a tennis match, I had two choices. One was to send my racquet flying into the trees and accept defeat like I sometimes did, or two which was think my way through the match and give myself a chance to win in the end. Choice one was always the easy way but choice two, although an uphill battle mentally, physically, and tactically, was always much more rewarding – win or lose. Comparing my struggle to a tennis match made me realize that I had the same two choices in my life as well. Accept defeat or find a way through it. I had a choice in what I thought and how I reacted when my hypochondriac mind found an odd looking mole on my skin, when signs of a panic attack were approaching, or when the cycle of fear and worry began to overtake my thoughts.
Remember, certain factors such as childhood environment may actually be a reason for your anxiety disorder, but in the end when you begin to take responsibility for your issues you instantly stop playing the blame game and being a victim. Once you take the power back into your own hands , you will recognize that you ALWAYS have a choice in the matter, it just takes time to recondition yourself until desensitization begins. Here are three questions you should ask yourself once you notice that anxiety is starting to take over your day: 1) How much validity does this worry have? 2) Am I adding to my initial fears and if so, how? 3) What do I need to believe in order to head in a new direction, and what facts can help me strengthen that belief? Your choice is what to believe about your anxious state and how you will react to it in that moment.
At the end of your life, I want you to be able to look back and marvel at the way you handled your anxiety disorder. I don’t want you to look back and think ‘what if?’ This path you are heading down may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but it is the path that you must take. Take it now, take your life back, and begin giving others permission to face their own fears through your actions. They will realize through your success that they have a choice that will lead them on the path to recovery from their anxiety disorder also.
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