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Archive for September 13th, 2011

On my blog entry entitled Adaptability and Living Life after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

but.what do u do when u find anxiety overtaking so much of your life..?i find the more i delve into all ive learned i want only the reasonable safe nest i hv created for myself at home.agoraphobia would a relief by far if i cld afford it.sadly not kidding ~ Malanie

I come at this question from two directions – the early stages and the later stages of healing.

In the early stages of healing, I needed to find ways to manage my anxiety because feeling anxiety was a “normal” part of my existence. What worked for me was learning how to do deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. Some readers have told me that these methods did not work for them and had other suggestions, such as Pilates. (Readers ~ Feel free to jump into the comments with what worked for you!)

I also had to discover ways in which it felt safe to “be present.” For me, this started by being out in nature, such as taking a walk along the beach, and from being in safe groups, such as my Sunday School class. Being present is the opposite of anxiety.

When you are truly present in your life, you are “being.” I didn’t even know what that was like when it happened the first time. I felt like I had been beamed into my life and was an active participant, not someone watching from the sidelines. It felt peaceful – the opposite of anxious.

In the later stages of healing, it is time to let go of the anxiety crutches that got you through the early years. I have chosen to stop drinking alcohol or taking Xanax during the day and, instead, allow the waves of anxiety to come when they do. (While I am still not drinking, I am battling insomnia right now and sometimes using Xanax to help me sleep, but that is a different issue.)

What I have learned is that there is no way to “shut down” the “bad” emotions while still experiencing the “good” ones. If you numb yourself with Xanax, wine, or whatever your numbing agent of choice is, you interfere with your ability to stay present, which is the way out of the anxiety. It takes a leap of faith to do this because you have to face the anxiety head on. That’s where the fire hose analogy comes in – no matter how strong the wave of anxiety is, I am the fire hose (the body), not the water coursing through it (the feelings or emotions).

You cannot prematurely move from one place to the other, so follow your therapist’s advice. There is nothing wrong with using a crutch, such as Xanax, to help you get through the early years of healing. However, don’t allow yourself to believe that you cannot survive without it. As you grow stronger and discover the beauty of presence, you can let go of the crutches and step out into life. Anxiety won’t kill you, and behind the anxiety is joy!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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