How many times have you heard the words “Just Calm Down.” ?
Are there any words that a person with an anxiety disorder, especially panic disorder, hates more than these?
I’m just giving you some food for thought today readers. I know I have talked about this before, and I will probably write 20 more blog posts about it before I am done. I think it is THAT important.
I want you to take a moment to consider that when you are feeling anxious or panicky or keyed up, and somebody says these words to you: “You need to just calm down.” ……..maybe….just maybe….. there is some truth to what they are saying.
If somebody were to suggest that possibility to me 20 years ago when my anxiety disorder first erupted, my head would have whipped around and lasers would have flown out of my eyes as I said “How dare you?”
Okay, that’s not true. I was way too timid to ever do that, but I would have been thinking it.
I used to spend most of my days either having panic attacks, or carrying on about something or another that had me really worked up and feeling anxious. And I can’t recall EVER trying to calm myself down. Ever. I looked to others to make me feel better – that was my natural reaction. That was the reaction that felt right to me. I wanted reassurance. I wanted somebody to fix what was wrong. But rarely did anybody attempt to do that for me. Usually I just got told to calm down.
I hated it.
Family members used to say it to me all the time. And it was usually not in a concerned, gentle way. It was always in that exasperated, annoyed, eye rolling kind of way. If you have anxiety, you probably know the exact tone I mean.
It’s as if what they were REALLY saying was “Would you just get a grip? You are SO ridiculous. Why don’t you grow up and quit being so whiny all the time?”
And every time I heard it, I felt belittled. I felt misunderstood. And I felt like nobody gave a damn about me. It really hurt. Why did nobody care enough about me to fix me? Why could nobody see how awful my anxiety was and give me some sympathy and some hugs and a solution to my problem?
I would usually just end up leaving the room with my eyes burning with tears, feeling ashamed of myself and stupid for having believed that somebody might actually care enough about me to help me. (Melodrama is my specialty).
Now, as I look back over the course of my life – my thoughts on this have completely changed. Now that I am healed from nervous exhaustion and looking at life with clear eyes and a clear head, I can see that they were all right. I really did need to “Just calm down.”
It KILLS me to say that. It really does. I hate being wrong. I hate being in any situation that would allow my mother to say “Told you so!” in her sing- songy voice. But the truth is the truth, and MY truth is that I was overthinking, I was over-stressed, I was too dependent on other people and I really needed to calm myself down and stop freaking out all the time.
Now, I wish that my family and friends had said it to me more often instead of less often – although in a tone that wasn’t so condescending. Truthfully, I wish they had walked up to me, looked me dead in the eye, put their hands on my shoulders and said “Look at what you are doing to yourself. You are so worked up you aren’t thinking clearly. You are interpreting everything wrong. You need to rest and slow down. ”
I needed a mental “jolt” and I think that maybe hearing those strong words in that matter of fact kind of way could have been the wake up call I needed. I’ll never know.
But another truth is, that I can’t expect people without anxiety to understand what to say to somebody WITH anxiety or phrase things in the exact way to make it through our “wall of defense”. What I got was what I got, and looking back now, I wish I had gotten off the defensive and listened to what was really at the heart of what they were saying. I wish I had said to myself “Okay, yes they are being jerks and yes that stings to hear. But is it true?”
It never occurred to me to look at it that way.
I want to make sure it DOES occur to you.
“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges.”
– Bryant McGill, Author
Living with anxiety is a very intense experience.
The non-stop drama and constant anxious feelings are very powerful and it feels very much like these feelings are happening TO us, as opposed to happening BECAUSE of us. We want to react to all of it. That is what feels natural. But we need to take a huge step back and look at the bigger picture and see how our big reactions to everything are only making things worse.
I do not mean that in a “blaming” way. Blame has nothing to do with anything I say in this blog……EVER. It’s about taking ownership of your anxiety disorder and accepting responsibility for your role in its creation and the role it currently plays in your life.
This is what empowers you!
I don’t want it to make you MAD and defensive when I tell you that you can control your emotions and calm yourself and your life down.
I want you to feel relief…..and be GLAD!
I want you to think “Thank goodness! Here is somebody telling me I have reason to have hope that I can get my life back!”
Anxiety disorders are not spider webs. Once we find ourselves in the middle of one, it doesn’t mean we are stuck there, no matter how severe our situation is.
I am here to tell you that there is not one single second of your life, where you are not in complete control of your anxiety disorder.
Once you get that message, and it really sinks in, your time in the weird land of Oz will end and you will find yourself on your way back home again.
You DO have the power to stay mentally calm. You DO have the power to not over-react, no matter how intense your fear is. You DO have the power to say to yourself “I can handle this. My knees may be knocking and my voice may be shaking but I can handle myself and I will not fall apart.” It may be extremely challenging at times to use this power, due to mental fatigue and being overly sensitized, but it is ALWAYS possible.
No matter how intense your fear and panic are, you never lose the power to say “This drama is doing nothing to help me. I am going to keep thinking only slow composed thoughts until these feelings pass.” Even if your heart is pounding and you don’t believe these words, the power to think them and say them is still there. If you utilize that power, consistently, you WILL eventually start to believe your thoughts and your panic and fear will become easier and easier to quell.
Where does this belief that we can’t calm ourselves down come from? Why do we so readily accept it? I put a lot of thought into this question and I realized that nobody had ever told me I couldnt’ calm down.
Not one doctor ever said to me “You need to face reality. Never again will you be able to calm yourself down. There is no hope for you.”
There was no tests performed on me that showed my brain was broken. There was no date or statistics that told me I was terminally screwed and unable to stop panicking for the rest of my life. There was not one shred of evidence that told me that I was not in control of myself at all times.
I formed that conclusion and came up with that belief all on my own.
That was all me. Every bit of my belief about my anxiety condition came from a lack of understanding about the condition itself, and a complete lack of faith in my brain, body, and mind.
Once I realized that, I made up my mind to start my journey to mastering calm. I watched YouTube videos. I read books. I read inspirational biographies from people who had overcome adversity. And I every time I felt fear and anxiety creep into my thoughts and feelings, I practiced staying in control of myself. It took a long time, but eventually I became really good at it. Not only did I learn to stay calm in stressful situations and keep my panic under control, but it got to the point where I no longer had to TRY to do this. I just simply quit reacting. It became an automatic response. If you choose to start believing in yourself and open your mind, you too can practice your way to mastering calm. It doesn’t mean you will never be upset again. There are times in life when we all struggle. It just means that it takes something that actually deserves a strong response, to get a strong response from you.