When normal everyday people think about anxiety, they might think of people that are stressed out, easily overwhelmed and extremely fearful. These people with regular anxiety and stress levels of 3 out of 10 don’t realize that living a daily life of 9 out of 10 anxiety levels completely takes over each and every aspect of your life in many ways. Friends and family members of mine were the worst support team I could have had, but I couldn’t blame them because they didn’t know what it was like to be in my shoes between the ages of 25 and 31, when my fear was at an all-time high. I would be told to ‘take time for myself’ or ‘go for a walk.’ Little did they know that taking time for me meant that I was CONSUMED by this voice in my head, telling me that I needed to keep a watchful eye on the physical sensations caused by my anxiety such as body zaps, heart palpitations and awful gastrointestinal issues, just in case something went wrong and my entire system shut down.
My conversations with people were short and confusing for them, my exercise routine was non-existent because if my heart would beat too fast it scared the living hell out of me, and visits to the shopping mall or anywhere that was enclosed with lots of people of course meant I was being stared at all the time which brought on more symptoms of anxiety and fear. I had a hunter’s mentality; I constantly searched for threats in my outside world, threats to my health and well-being. Little did I know this was setting off my ‘fight or flight’ response constantly and draining me of my energy, but who cares? I was in the fight of my life and I had to stay alert. Can you believe I made a living by playing professional tennis and teaching tennis? There were days I was struck by such extreme numbness in my hands and hyperventilation that I would have to leave a group of 7 to 8 year olds on the tennis court, while I searched frantically for my anti-anxiety medications and a ride to the nearest emergency room. This was very common and I couldn’t keep a job for very long.
I was losing the battle with myself. I spent over $4000 on online cures, prescription pills, herbs, miracle panic attack techniques – you name it. Little did I know the road to recovery was within me the whole time, and I decided to stop coping with my panic attacks and anxiety disorder and start attacking the core of what was causing this all – me. I had to start changing what I associated fear to which was conversations with people, certain places, events, etc. My game plan was clear – put a system together and chip away at it. Celebrate the smallest daily victories, and stop living life purely on fearful reaction.
I needed to get to the point of what I like to call ‘no return,’ most people just ‘kind of’ want to overcome their fears, phobias, panic attacks and symptoms of anxiety. That will never fuel the change that sufferers want. Once I got to the point where I just wouldn’t accept living the way I was for one more day, I needed to have COMPLETE ACCEPTANCE and get over being a hypochondriac once and for all. I had to trust that when doctors said there was nothing wrong with me they were correct, I had to trust that my mind was playing tricks on me and all my body was trying to do was protect me from danger, that’s it. Then I introduced different techniques to myself that I used when I felt my mind was going into over protective mode. I snapped my wrist with an elastic band, I wiggled my nose from side to side, I tied my shoelaces around my ankles, I did anything I could to change the direction of where my worried mind was taking me, and I did it each and every time I felt my anxiety symptoms wanted my attention. After some time it worked wonders, people sometimes looked at me funny, but who cares, I was applying something different then my usual feared response and every time I did things started to turn in the direction I truly wanted it to go. Finally I started reconditioning a new belief to what I used to fear by placing new labels on what I used to fear. Normal people were now safe to talk to because I started to re- condition the belief that people weren’t judgmental, but instead they were ‘curious’ about who I was and what I offered, this took away lingering anxiety I had in public places and my Agoraphobia slowly disappeared. Applying these steps on your road to recovery from Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder will take patience and perseverance, but it’s well worth the wait for getting your life back just as I did.