Firstly I would like to introduce myself. My name is Paul David and I suffered from every form of anxiety and panic for 10 years. My recovery came from a meeting with someone who had a full understanding of this condition, in fact he taught me more in one hour than anyone else was able to teach me in 10 years.
With this persons help I was able to recover within a few months. My recovery came because I was given a full understanding of my condition. This is the only way to recover in my opinion. When you know why you feel like you do this takes the whole fear out of your symptoms, it stops you going round in circles everyday trying to find answers to why you feel like you do. It gives your body the freedom to recover. Just like a broken leg or a cut your body is wanting and waiting to recover.
After my recovery I then went on to study the whole panic and anxiety subject in full, in this time I not only realised how much rubbish was spoken on the subject, I was also shocked to find out how many people actually suffered, I knew I was not alone but I could not believe how little information there is out there for a condition for which millions around the world suffer from. This is why I decided to dedicate my life to helping others, over the years I have been asked many questions from people who suffer and below I list the most common ones. Q.1 I feel so strange and out of touch with the world around me. Am I going mad?
No, you are definitely not. You may feel as if you are, but this is just another offshoot of anxiety.
Anxiety is not a mental illness. These feelings cannot harm you and there is nothing to worry about. This feeling of strangeness has a totally logical explanation. It comes from the constant worrying about how you feel as you search your mind for answers to your condition. Your mind has become tired and less resilient through watching yourself and worrying about your symptoms, day in, day out. It has been bombarded with worrying thoughts and becomes fatigued. Just as our limbs can tire, so can our mind. It craves a rest from all this introspection of oneself. In fact these feelings of unreality are your body's way of protecting you from the onslaught of worrying thoughts.
Your mind has a safety mechanism that protects against all this, causing us to feel strange and not with it. It is crying out to be left alone and just like a broken arm will heal itself so will your body, you just have to step out of the way and let it. The main thing is not to dwell on how you feel. These feelings are temporary. Constantly worrying about ourselves and how we feel is the very thing that keeps this feeling alive and when we learn how to stop the habit, it will disappear. Once we are able to change the pattern of our worrying thoughts, we can reverse these feelings of strangeness.
You are bound to worry if you don't know why you feel like you do. That is why again 'understanding' is the key. This is one of the questions I have been asked more than any other. I go into more detail in my book as I know that it is a symptom that needs special attention. I found this feeling of detachment very hard to accept and understand myself, but when it was explained to me in full, I was able to rid myself of this disturbing symptom.
Q.2 Why do I feel better in certain situations and not in others?
This is a very common one and it all comes down to how you think in other situations. For example, you may feel better in the safety of your own home rather than at a family gathering. There is no difference in both of these situations, the only difference is in the way you think. You are the same person and it is not the situation that makes you feel worse it is your thought pattern.
You may spend the day worrying about going to a particular function, setting your body up to be anxious on arrival and then blame it on the situation you are in rather than the thought pattern you have created during the day while at home. You may get there and then also worry about making a fool of yourself, spending the whole time tensing against how you feel and creating more anxiety. Do you see how we do this to ourselves? It is not the situation, but our perception of the situation that causes us to feel worse in certain situations. You are merely doing it to yourself with your thoughts.
You must just accept how you feel wherever you are and in whatever situation you find yourself deal with yourself and not the place. Sometimes a place may hold certain memories of failure, which makes us feel anxious, but this soon passes when we learn to accept how If you truly accept how you feel in every situation and stop all the "What if's" and other negative thoughts that just increase anxiety, you will find that although you may feel uncomfortable at times, nothing bad is going to happen to you, and in time your reactions lessen until you feel more able to cope, day by day.
Anxiety loves avoidance, so take it's power away and move forward and embrace these feelings of fear, even if you're in a situation where you feel you have failed in the past. Avoiding symptoms just does not work, as you must realise by now. I was taught to let all feelings be there, not to avoid them but to go through them. This worked for me, I had faced the demons head on and realised this was the only way to stop fearing them. I ignored my body's instinct to avoid and started to embrace how I felt, I moved towards the feelings of fear.
Eventually, I started to understand my condition so much more. I went from not been able to even mention or hear the word anxiety, to barely giving it a second thought. I mention the word 'understanding' again, because this is the key to recovery. How can you not fear something you don't understand! How can you accept something that still scares you? Q.3 Will these feelings ever go away?
Yes, they will, once you understand why you feel like you do. You can unmask the fears you hold about anxiety. There are so many myths about anxiety that it worries me just how many people are mis-informed and truly believe they will never get better, and that they will just have to live with this condition. Too many people spend years like I did, searching for that elusive miracle cure that just does not exist.
Understanding anxiety takes away so much fear out of how we feel. Every stage and symptom has a logical explanation that can be explained. With less fear and more understanding, we also calm the constant worrying it is the lack of information on the subject that keeps the worry cycle going. Constant worrying that we will never get better also adds to the belief that we will just have to live with it. Once we start to understand anxiety and use the tools we have learnt to cope with how we feel, the change can be dramatic.
In my recovery, I found that the more knowledge I had and the more I understood my condition the easier it was to accept how I felt. I started to lose fear of my symptoms and how I felt. Eventually they began to hold less power over me and I started to pay them less respect.
Like I once said to someone, "Your symptoms hate to be ignored".
It is your desperation to rid yourself of how you feel that keeps your anxiety alive. The stress you put on yourself day in day out, the constant worrying and thinking about your condition, puts a tremendous pressure on your body. Is it any wonder you stay anxious? It's time to stop beating yourself up about how you feel and give your body the rest it craves.
Knowledge is power. The less you fear your symptoms, the less they mean. This also stops the worry cycle you may find yourself in, which is the very thing that keeps anxiety going. You are bound to worry if you don't know what is wrong with you, that is why you need an explanation to help break this cycle. Q.4 Why do I find it so hard in social situations? I find it so hard to communicate with people.
How can we expect to feel part of this world when all we do is worry about ourselves. Is it any wonder we find it difficult to follow a conversation when all we are concerned about is ourselves and how we feel. It is like being two separate people, one trying to hold a conversation, the other watching our body's reaction. Is it any wonder we struggle to fit in to the world around us? Once we find the courage to accept how we feel, even embrace these feelings, we find it easier to follow what the other person is saying. We become less concerned about how we feel which gives us more time to be interested in the situation we are in and become more involved in the present. Q.5 Why do I seem to have so many bad thoughts running around all day?
The reason you seem to have your attention on yourself all day and it feels like there are hundreds of thoughts running through your mind is because of all your confusion about how you feel. You go round in your mind all day long, looking for answers, trying to find a way out of this hell. Some people may even stay up all night reflecting on the whole day, trying to figure it all out. Mostly these are negative or worrying thoughts and that's why they seem to come automatically and with so much force.
When you are in an anxious state, emotions seem to be ten-fold. Everything magnifies, a little problem becomes massive, and something that you could dismiss when you were healthy, sticks around all day. Eventually thinking just becomes automatic it becomes a habit.
All day, every day, these thoughts seem to come before you even think them. Looking at it from another angle, when people meditate, they stop thinking for hours on end until it becomes a habit and they can go all day without a worrying thought. That is why they feel so refreshed. Not you, your thoughts just carry on and on and when your mind is tired, like it is now, it grasps hold of every thought, pulls them in and they seem to stick.
Don't worry that thoughts come so often and seem so bad. These thoughts are not real, they are just exaggerated thoughts due to your overactive, fatigued mind. They hold no danger to you at all they are just THOUGHTS and nothing else.
Don't ever think, "I must not think that". Let all thoughts come, do not run away from any of them. See them for what they are - thoughts - exaggerated because of the way you feel. They can do you no harm and they mean nothing. They won't be around when you recover, so pay them no respect. Why not try following a negative/scary thought through and ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Ask yourself, "Is it really going to happen? Is this thought rational in any way?" If you do this, you may find an answer to a thought you have been so frightened of. So the next time you can see them for what they are and let them go, and deep down inside of you there is a place where you can see thoughts for what they are, you will realize they just come from habit and are just not important.
By Paul David ex-suffer and author of the book 'At Last a Life'
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