Anxiety doesn’t just mess with how you think; it causes long term damage to your body and your brain. It shortens your life. And, if you let it, anxiety can kill you.
I had all kinds of reasons why I thought I shouldn’t get help: I ought to be able to fix it myself. Needing help was weakness. Other people needed those resources more than me. Who would understand? This is who I am.
Really, I was afraid. I was afraid to call my insurance provider to get preapproval. I was afraid of being told there was nothing wrong with me. I was afraid treatment wouldn’t work. I was afraid it would.
Eventually I started thinking of suicide too often. (!?) I had people in my life I did not want to hurt or abandon. I had memories of loving life to my core.
- Read: I read a lot. These three books were the most helpful: What You Can Change and What You Can’t by Martin Seligman; The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis et al.; and Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic by Reneau Peurifoy.
- Look for help online: There are a lot of support groups and places to go for advice. Check out the adaa.org to start.
- Research options for treatment: I was fortunate enough to have insurance that covered behavioral health, so I found the therapists and psychiatrists in my area that were on my plan and read everything I could find about them. If you don't have insurance, there are low cost and government funded treatment options. Mental Health America is a good place to start.
Real change only came when I learned how to consciously relax my body and my breath. Doing these two things saved my life.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a simple exercise where you tighten and relax different muscle groups in turn. I had no idea how tense I was until I learned how not to be. This is the recording I listened to over and over, until I had it memorized and could guide myself through it: Progressive Relaxation.
Abdominal breathing. I would do the progressive relaxation exercise and then lie on the floor, set a timer for five minutes, place my hands on my stomach, and practice deep abdominal breathing.
I had to constantly, consciously override the cranky, judgmental bitch fest in my mind telling me I was wasting time, doing nothing, get to work you slacker! Eventually, it worked and that voice subsided.
I was not only able to release some of the tension and the pain it caused in my body, but I could step back from my thoughts and see them for what they were, surprisingly irrational! Calling the insurance company was not setting myself up for rejection. Getting into therapy was not a complete waste of time.
It hasn’t been a short or easy road, but I’m happy now. I wake up at peace with myself and you can too. I still practice progressive relaxation and abdominal breathing, and I teach them in my yoga classes. I also make house calls.
You do not have to suffer.
Om peace peace peace.