Tackling Anxiety Disorder and Avoidance
I didn’t beat anxiety. I learned to live with it and face it for what it is.
The very first time I experienced an anxiety attack was on a 50 foot bridge across a pond connecting two buildings at work. Utter fear. Loss of control. Since that, I haven’t been over that bridge in over two years. That was the start of avoidance. Avoid what makes you feel out of control.
Over the past two years the avoidance circle grew. It’s not always a conscious process. Your brain makes sub-conscious connections between situations. What was once normal becomes anxiety ridden in ways that surprise you.
I’ve had 4 EKG’s and multiple doctor visits because I thought I had some deathly illness. I did not. That sense of doom is part of the illness. I went from a public speaker capable of speaking in front of thousands to being incapable of walking outside the exterior of my house. All in the span of two years.
It was an innocuous trip to Toronto in early May when I raised the white flag. Not defeat. The flag saying I needed help. This was now out of control and I could no longer function.
The second after you meet with your primary care physician (who hopefully is as awesome as mine), start the hunt for a therapist and ask for recommendations from your primary care physician. Don’t expect it to be covered under insurance at anything other than a minimal level. Don’t put yourself on a waiting list. Tackle it. Just do it. It’s in investment in your future.
As for the meds. Yes, adjustment is horrible. Had to do it twice. Started out on too low of a dose. Won’t kid you. You feel worse. Hang in there.
Now for the therapy part. Cognitive-behavior therapy really does work. For me it was mainly exposure therapy. Every day I pushed myself to do at least one thing I hadn’t been able to do in months. Yes, felt very anxious, but it was a controlled anxious. The dial in fact does not go to 11. Did I shake uncontrollably and/or feel massive heart pounding…absolutely! Do it again and again and again and again until you feel utterly bored. You revert from fear back to normalcy for that activity. It does work.
I’ve now made both my psychologist and my primary care physician cry at what I’ve been able to do in three months. I’m driving to work, back to being able to shop and on my way to getting back on a plane.
Hang in there and good luck. You can beat this. You can get your life back!
Enjoy little victories. Every day I congratulated myself. Sometimes for something as simple as going to a store and not using a cart. Celebrate your little victories.
As for me, I’m still working on it but I'm on the right road.