June 16, 2015
Wall of Faces
Thank you for sharing your various coping mechanisms with anxiety and what I am assuming are panic attacks. You seem strong and grounded with this disorder that plagues me as well. You must have a wonderful support system! I’m not quite as far along as you are in the process of gaining back control when the anxiety and panic set in, although I am light years from where I started. I would love to learn meditation but the thought of it scares me – when I have an attack I physically freeze but my mind is running a million miles an hour. The fight or flight response kicks in and I hyper-analyze the “why” the panic attack is happening, then it is a downward spiral. So meditation, being alone in my head and focusing on my thinking, frightens me. How do you learn how to meditate with anxiety? I too end of telling people around me (if I am in public) “so sorry I am having a panic attack I have to go” and only 1% of people truly understand it, while I feel like the other 99% think I am exaggerating and don’t understand why I can’t just snap out of it. If someone has never had a panic attack, they don’t understand. What do you do then?
First of all thank you for the response and feedback, and for sharing with me your own struggle. I truly appreciate this. It is wonderful to hear about the progress you have made!! This alone shows the strength in you and in all of us. I do understand exactly what you describe in the anxiety being escalated to panic, and often times it seems as of it goes straight to panic. I too feel like most people don’t understand or look at us as if we are making too big a deal out of it and we should just stop. How I have learned to manage this is gaining insight into where it comes from. Typically anxiety comes directly from fear, most often associated with the future and what we may or may not have control over. Guilt and depression often come from the past. Either situation removes us from the here and now, living in this moment. But then, how do we let go of worrying and anxiety? The meditation I am talking about does not require us to sit and think or be alone with our thoughts, although that is a more advanced and in depth form of meditation. Mindfulness is the opposite, it is more action and behavior oriented, focused on the immediate experience of whatever it is we choose to do. So when we freeze and our mind is running full tilt, we take purposeful actions to distract those running thoughts. For instance, I could choose to go wash the dishes, and I purposefully focus on slowing down…, distracting my mind to washing each dish. I pick one up, I notice how it feels in my hand, I notice the way the soap feels on my fingers, I notice how the sponge feels in my other hand and what it feels like to wash the dish with my other hand and sponge. I pay purposeful attention to what the water feels like coming out of the faucet or when I reach into the sink full of water. Just notice it. It is like slowing down to fully enjoy our food rather than eating so quickly and distractedly. If our mind wanders back to whatever is causing the anxiety/panic, we allow it to do so, without chastising ourselves for going back there, be ok with the fact that it wandered because this a natural function of the human mind (Acceptance), and re-focus right back to the immediate thing we are doing. Folding laundry is another example. For me, when it comes to other people I had to find acceptance that most people do not understand, and so if it kicks in and no one there is someone who gets me, I just let them know I have to go, I don’t tell them why. Then I may reach out to someone who does, who understands that I just need to let them know what is going on with me. As we go I had to learn to be patient with myself, there is no construct that says it has to go one way. We are all unique and move along our path at our own pace. Often that preset expectation of how we think it should be going or how well we should be doing is feeding our anxiety. I try to stay away from should, musts, oughts, because they are absolutes/perfection and leave no room to be truly human. There is so much more I could say, but these are the main points. Please let me know if you have any other thoughts or feedback and I hope this helps.
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