I would never have had such a successful recovery from anxiety if I hadn’t developed a healthy relationship with it.
In the beginning, my anxiety was a looming “thing”… a very bad presence that was always there. My relationship with it was “attacker/victim”. Anxiety was the attacker, and I, the victim, and it stayed that way for several months. That relationship did nothing to help me in my recovery and I knew it would have to change. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I had to find a way to start looking at it differently.
I decided I had to get to “know” anxiety so I could form a real opinion about it, that wasn’t solely based on the very bad impression all the horrible symptoms were giving me.
I opened my mind to the idea that maybe there was something underneath all of those awful symptoms…something very logical, that made sense. And lo and behold, after doing a lot of reading and talking to people, I DID get to know anxiety. I learned why it was there and my relationship with it changed. It was no longer “attacker/victim”. It became “protector/grateful person”. It changed everything for me. That is when I started getting my life back.
In my twenty years of living with anxiety, there are a few different anxiety relationship “types” that seem to be the most common.
I see a lot of people who are in the same attacker/victim relationship with their anxiety that I used to be in.
I also see a lot of people who view their anxiety as something to battle and fight against. Their relationship is that of attacker/warrior.
I see a lot of people who view their anxiety as a mental illness and their relationship is that of disease/patient.
I am not here to tell you what your relationship with anxiety should be.
However, I do want you to at least make sure that the relationship you have with your anxiety is working for you.
- If you are in a victim role and you are not getting any further along in your recovery months or years later, its time to consider another perspective.
- If you have been hating your anxiety and fighting it and no progress in the “war” is being made, ask yourself if it might be better to try looking at things a different way.
- If you have tried medication after medication and none of it is helping, consider opening your mind to the idea that its time to step back, start at the beginning again and consider this from another angle.
Whatever your relationship with anxiety is, you should never feel trapped or “stuck” – not long term, anyway.
Everybody has their relapses and their periods of time when they feel frustrated and nothing is getting better. However, I encourage you to not accept that as your “norm”. You should never feel hopeless or “beat down” day after day, month after month. You shouldn’t simply accept living with the same symptoms long term without any improvement and feel as though you will never have a “normal” life, like your friends have. Things shouldn’t be progressively getting worse as the months and weeks go by. You should never feel that things will never get better or that you have done all you can do.
Those are all signs of a very toxic relationship, wouldn’t you say?
Even if you are of the opinion that your anxiety is entirely beyond your control, that does not mean that you have to feel victim to it or threatened by it for the rest of your life. Changing your relationship with it, CAN make a difference in your life if you give it a chance.
Real anxiety recovery requires a healthy relationship between you and your anxiety – a relationship that gives your anxiety hope that you are getting stronger and healthier because ultimately that is all your anxiety wants, and that gives YOU hope that you are getting stronger and healthier. You guys are in this together. You both want the same thing. And you have to find something that works for both of you – in whatever way that is.
If you notice your anxiety symptoms improving and you are starting to feel in control of your life, that is fantastic. Keep doing what you are doing, because you have found something that works for you.
However, if you feel your current recovery plan is non-existent or not working for you…..if you spend your days wishing and praying that somebody would just take all this away for you because you don’t even have the tiniest little flicker in the dark to give you hope, then do yourself a favor and open your mind to the idea that maybe you are on the wrong road and that you need to turn around and go back to where you started, with a whole new map.
Educate yourself. Read book after book on the topic of anxiety. Talk to a doctor. If you have already talked to a doctor and you still aren’t improving, talk to a different doctor if you can. Talk to other people with anxiety. Ask questions. Look for professional counseling if it is available to you.
When taking in new information, take note of what makes SENSE to you, not just what you emotionally respond to. Lock your emotions in the closet when you are learning about and trying to establish your relationship with anxiety.
Look at your anxiety disorder with a rational mind and let your very smart brain help you make sense of what anxiety is, why it’s there, and what the best way to treat it is.
That is the key.
As you read and learn, you will know what makes sense to you and what doesn’t.
Go with those instincts. Those instincts are what will help you form a HEALTHY relationship with your anxiety that grows and strengthens as YOU grow and strengthen.
There is no one way to look at your anxiety that works for everybody. But that doesn’t matter. You only need to know the way that works for you.
Keep looking until you find YOUR way. It will change everything.
For more information on anxiety disorders visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of American (ADAA).
Please note that this post is speaking to those living with GAD and Panic Disorder. It is not intended for more complex forms of anxiety such as PTSD, or anxiety which stems from any form of abuse or trauma.