A blizzard is on its way where I live and it is reminding me of a great lesson a past blizzard had taught me. There are opportunities for lessons everywhere, even in the weather. It goes like this…
There was a time when I could not be alone. My anxiety and panic was new, and it was terrifying and I required a constant rotation of friends and family by my side forcing me to avoid my scary thoughts and feelings and use them as false sense of security. I was unable to feel safe by myself. I feared my thoughts would put me over the edge, that I would go crazy, and I needed someone always. I was single at the time living alone so this meant spending a lot of time crashing on the couches of others. The nights I did have to spend home were torture. The funny part is, this couch hopping actually made me feel worse because I would tell myself that this would make me feel better and naturally it didnt. They couldnt jump in my head and untangle the mess of thoughts and they could not go in and soothe my frazzled nerves. So it actually frustrated me because deep down I knew I had to learn to be my own safe harbor. I knew that nothing anybody could say or do or how many people I surrounded myself with could fix my panic and anxiety disorder. The only thing it did bring me was a tiny sliver of peace knowing if I went crazy someone was there to make sure it didnt get out of hand.
And then a blizzard was coming. A state of emergency, snowed in for days, stock up on essentials, better get a good shovel and snow boots, hell of a storm. I knew I would have to be alone. I had to do this and what better way then when you cannot leave and nobody can get to you. It was exposure therapy at its finest. I could in theory go be snowed in at someone else’s house but I decided that this had to be done. I told myself that if it broke me, if I went into a crazy anxiety panic downward spiral from it then at least I tried. I faced the fear of being alone with my thoughts and unpleasant feelings.
And something miraculous happened. When I did not have the option to run, when I did not have the option of calling someone over, or getting in my car to go somewhere I was forced to deal. And I had zero anxiety or panic the entire three days. I mean ZERO. In fact it was a turning point for me. Those three days restored my confidence in myself and my strength and let me know I can overcome this, I can learn to deal. I am stronger than I think. Facing the fear shed light on it, it was not so scary. Having the options in the past made it easy for me to crumble and cave. Having no choice was like a switch in my brain went off.
When the snow outside started to melt, slowly so did my symptoms. Facing a fear head on and the regaining of confidence from doing so is a powerful thing. I diminished it to nothing just by facing it. That was the end of running to other people’s house. I slowly started not getting anxious on my drive home from work knowing all the co-workers and conversation and busyness of the day would be gone and it would just be me. I didn’t fear weekends without plans, or weekends with plans. It really was the start of the healing. And that little bit of confidence gave me the strength back I needed to do other things to help the healing process that I was too burned out in the anxiety cycle to focus on prior.
Is there something in your life you are avoiding or running from that you can attempt to face? Think about it, even if it is small it is worth a try. You may relapse at times ( I did at certain points) but to less severity and still with the knowledge that I have and can get past it with real life proof of that.
I don’t know about you, but I imagine most anxiety sufferers are with me on this, most of my anxiety and anxious thoughts come from future, unknown, things/events that may or may not happen ( they usually don’t happen in my experience). The majority of my anxiety is anticipatory.
And sometimes it is about the past. Rarely if ever is it about the present moment happening live in front of my very eyes. When it is about the past it is usually about me getting upset about the fact that I have had anxiety breakdowns and then I tend to judge myself and then it jumps forward to the “What if” I get so bad again? I cannot remember a time I was anxious about what was happening. I live anywhere from 1 day to 50 years in the future. I rarely live in the day I am in ( sad). Even at my worst when I experienced depersonalization and extreme anxiety and panic to where I could not function, I still was focused ahead thinking “What if I feel like this forever?” Instead of tackling the triggers and symptoms of the day I was focused on the “forever” thought which led to more panic and anxiety. Rookie mistake.
Visualization techniques really work for me. So for times when I find myself anxious about something not happening, that may never happen, or has happened already in the past, I visualize the signs you see at the mall on the directory with the arrow that says “You Are Here”. It is how I remind myself that I am right here, I am not in the future nor the past, this is where I live. Right here. I had to do this a lot today, and that is okay. Having a visual helps me focus on something other than thoughts. Anytime I would find my mind wandering forward I had to repeatedly say ” You Are Here” and snap my focus back to only the things going on right now, right here. The past is gone, I cannot change that. The future can be greatly impacted by my outlook and perspective today so the very best anyone can ever do for themselves is make themselves awesome and strong in the present, and it will carry over into the future.
This works for me, maybe it will work for you when runaway mind is determined to predict the future and get there much faster than necessary. You Are Here