UNDERSTANDING IS 'EVERYTHING'
Do you feel like you're on a downward spiral and you can't get out of it?
In the past, I have experienced these attacks and they have lasted hours/days/weeks with temporary periods of relief, when I think I have worked out what I have been doing wrong. This, indeed, stopped me in the past from seeking medical help because I was determined to sort myself out. At University, I was literally desperate - lonely and terribly depressed even though I had a girlfriend, as I felt really stupid for the way I felt and didn’t say a thing, not even to her or my parents. The headaches I got were immense! In fact, the main reason for this was that I had a lot of doubts about our relationship, and could not cope with the 'mental torture' which ensued (see also 'Dealing With Dilemmas/Grey Areas' Ch 6).
So how did I get through all of this? Well, believe me I have had setback after setback, but have been determined to sort myself out. I did seek professional help/contacted the 'Phobics Society/No Panic' and also started talking to those 'close' to me. This was very difficult, as we all know, but I was desperate and had to do it. In my case, being a perfectionist certainly did not lend itself to talking, as I found out, you have to be pretty desperate to do it, but if you establish a trust - it can become easier.
Nevertheless, I still found my condition re-occurring, but knew there were specific times when I felt enormous relief and these tended to be when I had hit rock bottom or near it, and it would then seem clearer what I was doing. This gave me hope even though I didn’t quite know for certain what was making me feel better. As I will frequently make references to, confusion was a major part of my problem.
Later on, I remember in my mid-twenties going to college for a year to do my teaching qualification and having had a cough for weeks. I worked myself up into a frenzy thinking I had Aids - it was very much in the news at this time - and eventually had to go for a test – there was no other solution to my mental pain. I remember going across the road to the phone box at 4 in the morning to ring a helpline as it was constantly on my mind. I then had a test which came back negative – but I wasn’t ok after this – actually I was just the same anxious wreck from minute to minute, second to second, every day until I would find some solution to escape the pain, as I was in a downward spiral of what I would call negative inadvertent, self-harming thought.
Anyway, back to solutions – when I felt terrible at this point in my life – I went to the local book shop to look for anything on depression, as I was sharing a flat with college friends and was near breaking point, keeping a brave face – I don't know how! The book I got was about not worrying and living your life one day at a time. I thought good idea and tried to put it into practice, as the author recalled stories of people who worried so much that one actually went in to hospital and was on their death bed, because of their suicidal state and despair at being unable to escape worry. Then, as a revelation, came a remarkable recovery because they 'gave in' and waited to die. As a result, they actually started to feel better!
So what was happening here? This is very much how I have sometimes felt when I have got so low. You eventually give in and funnily enough start feeling better. It’s a very scary thing – what I would compare to walking off a plank, not knowing what you’re going to hit below! As you will see rock bottom is really a state where we know we really can't battle, or tense any more. We are literally mentally and physically burnt out - and, as a result, give in and stop fighting your thoughts! We just cannot continue with the intense fighting, or running way from any of our thinking. However, just a soon as I had started to feel better, I was then back into the mind race of fighting to clarify/question why I felt better (see also 'Fighter/Flighter' Method of Recovery Diagrams ...MORD Ch 1). Clearly, I needed to understand what I was doing that kept moving me back into that intense explaining.
This is also my main focus for the solution to my problem. I think the author of that book touched on a very important solution, but himself may not have truly understood why that person felt so much better. Indeed, we all worry and that is ok, but I saw this patient as having a much deeper problem of sheer devastating obsessive panic, or as you will see later, a secondary, not primary problem. We simply don't understand what is happening to us, so we inadvertently become agitated by our negative experiences and then try too hard to eradicate, correct, or run from negative thoughts/feelings after they have 'been and gone'. However as you will see from the recovery page - there is a very subtle 'overlap' into that head-talking mind race, where we try too hard to control it all - post the event.
So out of all of this, came my strategy for recovery through the pain of my experiences and now this idea of what makes us let go and this was actually calming back to flow, but without that panic interpretation that this had to be complete or absolute. I, indeed, had felt better when I had given in, no more fighting (or for those flighters - no more running from their discomfort). I realised that I would react to certain thoughts, or feelings of stress, uncertainty, anger, nervousness, confusion etc by inadvertently making an issue of them, as I thought they were wrong/needed investigating and would basically feel very uncomfortable with them.
There was a real tendency/temptation for me over-control these feelings after the event, in an attempt to gain clarification. As you will see in the 'Recovery' section in each chapter, there is a very distinct process where you tense up and force yourself into this secondary panic - 'post' the cut-off point from them – and if you're aware of this process, you can then understand there is no need to push yourself into this - it is more 'effortful' - hence the feeling of relief during those 'rock bottom' times. Character make-up certainly doesn't help i.e. you may have a tendency to be intense/self-doubt/be sensitive/want everything to be right, or you may be a real worrier, so I had to understand why I was prone to this type of secondary reaction anyway.
The feeling of relief, knowing I don’t have to react to these feelings anymore, is immeasurable.
"Thanks Will, I think this is going to be the thing that is going to lead to my recovery you know! I have tried all sorts of remedies in the past but i can just tell this is the one as the relief i feel when i dont fight is incredible.... its the same relief i feel when i have hit rock bottom and given in to the fight, yet its better as i dont have to hit rock bottom to feel it! You are a remarkable person, if one good thing came from all you suffering it is that it has and will bring the end to the suffering of so many people. Thankyou"... Jen (see 'Book Reviews')
Whilst having to accept 'not' everything is straightforward in life, there is no need to make an issue of this – which, again, is what panic is – a secondary need/desire to check OR run from your primary/natural thoughts and controls. We simply need to avoid lurching in to that mind racing head-talk/analysis and we will stay with our imperfect, but natural calmer flow. We will then avoid putting our foot back on the pedal to any 'momentary' stress that we have just cut-off from - no matter how frequent this is in the early days. It is understanding this single errant mind process and setting us on the less effortful road to recovery.
On Wed 24/09/08 6:50 PM , Jimmy sent: Will, I received the book and am just about through it. It is very helpful as was Paul Davids book and website. I live in the
On Fri 26/09/08 5:39 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org sent: Hi Jimmy many thanks for your kind comments and great that this has been of some help - you know it inside out as far as I can see and that thoughts are 'only thoughts' and that ...when our anxiety is heightened, we can then be prone to further intensity and forced 'post cut-off' investigation. This panic reaction is erroneous, though we think it's the only way to control our pain. Always feel free to come back, as I am always here if of any use. cheers Will
21/6 Hello Will, Thank you once again for all your help. I realise now, I slipped backwards after a good few up days & perhaps got a little over confident, so the last day & a half I have been doubting myself & started the intense questioning again, or as you say doing instead of not doing. The release I had from the constant worry was a lovely feeling & a welcome relief, so I will strive to understand your method for alleviating anxiety/panic. Many Thanks C
21/6 Hello Will,
Thank you once again for all your help. I realise now, I slipped backwards after a good few up days & perhaps got a little over confident, so the last day & a half I have been doubting myself & started the intense questioning again, or as you say doing instead of not doing. The release I had from the constant worry was a lovely feeling & a welcome relief, so I will strive to understand your method for alleviating anxiety/panic. Many Thanks C