Have you ever suffered from anxiety or panic attacks? I had never felt so much pressure in my life until I lost a relationship that I thought would be my future “forever”. I began to develop symptoms of nervousness all the time. I felt like a balloon filled with helium that someone had just untied the end. I felt it in moments when I was trying to sleep, trying to work, and even in moments with my friends and family.
I became increasingly more distant from others and moved toward a more isolated approach. I was scared of all relationships. There was a great fear that I didn’t have a true, close relationship, anyone I could call a close friend. Anxiety finally set into my everyday life. If I am being honest, I didn’t think that there would ever be a way out of this isolation.
A break up can be hurtful, but even more painful for someone who had abandonment struggles. On the inside I was a volcano with pressure building and waiting to be released. One evening as I sat beside my couch in a broken down single wide trailer, I felt the urge to get in my car and drive. While I was driving my heart began to race, my arms and fingertips began to feel numb, and my breathing became labored. It became almost impossible to breathe; I truly felt like I was dying.
I later learned that I was in a full blown panic attack. Over the next several years they happened often. Some were more powerful than others. Some even ended with an ambulance ride and an overnight hospital stay. I truly thought this was going to be my life moving forward. I was told I had an anxiety disorder.
I disagree with the word DISORDER – I replaced it with struggle
I have never liked the word disorder. It implies that it’s permanent. While science and I agree on many things, the word disorder is not one of them. When I was told I had an anxiety disorder it took what little hope I had away from getting better. I have no hesitation stating that I think anxiety can be beaten. That is not because I think I am smarter than a doctor but from a sincere place of having done it myself!! It was not the medication I was prescribed, in fact it seemed to increase my symptoms. Counseling helped for a season. But what really helped me overcome this anxiety was training my brain with the intensity of a professional body builder. I found that the more spiritually based knowledge I had, the more I felt at ease. It increased my knowledge of myself, my future, and my direction. I made a conscious decision to focus more on the life I wanted, rather than the past I had always known. You see, I learned that a disorder has limitations and removes hope; however a struggle actually adds hope through diligence and offers a chance to create something. A struggle has the ability to grow us and a disorder implies that our pain point will always be greater than our ability to fight back.
Here is my truth over anxiety and panic attacks
I am looking back, twenty plus years later, and realized that I have lived in internal peace for many years. I begin to ask myself “how did my past anxiety shape my life?”
Anxiety, panic attacks and even obsessive tendencies can be conquered through the right steps and the proper training of the brain. The steps that I used to train myself didn’t cost me a dollar, nor were they hard to implement. They simply required focus. That’s right, focus. Please let me explain as you walk with me through these steps.
1. Neuro pathway – Think of a neuro pathway as a new highway. Our brains work very similarly. Let’s say a population is growing in a fast way and that fast growth is keeping traffic heavy and confused, full of challenges while making the simplest commute. The city then makes a unanimous decision to approve a new extension to the highway in order for commuters to get to their locations quicker. Our brains are the same way if they are bogged down with enormous amounts of trauma and experiences; it can create congestion. The city is our power of choice and the highway is the pathway that we send, affirm, move, experience, and assimilate information. I realized if I was going to have a healthy mind, I would need tools to build my own new highway. This highway would be constructed on forgiveness, choice, healthy influences, healthy relationships and, most all, focus. We need to focus intensely on our choices in order to change neuro pathways in our mind. With each choice we are choosing to either stay on the highway or take the off ramp in order to move quicker toward a life that we want.
2. Awareness – Awareness can mean many things to many people, but I have discovered that healthy awareness consist of a few key things. The first is the ability to see things as they actually are and not worse than they are. If you spill a glass of milk, you spill a glass of milk. It does not mean that you will spill all future glasses of milk. The second is being mindful of our emotions, attitudes, and self talk. As I learned to listen to what I was telling myself and become focused on my attitude, I realized it was my emotional attitude that determined the direction of my actions. Being mindful allows us to focus on our actions but reinforce them by our attitude instead of directed by it. Attitude itself is a choice; a healthy attitude breeds a healthy action, and a healthy action brings a beneficial result.
3. Roots – My good friend, Chris LoCurto, emphasized this over and over as I was going through the final phases of the healing process. He simply calls it The Root System and I have found this principle to hold true. The principle simply states that, much like an orange tree, the roots of the tree will determine whether the fruit will be fed properly. We are only as strong or as weak as our roots. A root system grounded in abuse will cause the tree to bare damaged fruit, much like the improper use of a pesticide. Abuse can result in trust issues, low self worth and limited mind set. Now that does not mean the tree is bad or incapable of bearing quality fruit. It simply means the roots will need to have the poisons removed and proper nutrition given.
4. Perception of Meaning – Our perception is something that can actually be easily changed. Let’s use the abuse example from above. Let’s say for a moment that I was abused, physically, mentally and emotionally, much like most abused victims are. In my mind I can choose a few things. Either the abuse can become my identity, leaving me a victim and also leaving me in a constant anxious state. Or my abuse can be freeing, in the sense of overcoming. As I seek to overcome the trauma, the evil act becomes less because I begin to see myself less as a victim and more like a victor. In short the meaning I give the abuse determines the direction of my attitudes, relationships, and the focus for my life.
5. The thoughts of possibility – There is no greater truth than that of increased possibility. Possibility and the belief that “more is possible” can be freeing, and will inspire new choices, and actions. Possibilities are best achieved in small, but consistent, moves and wins. For example, when I was sleeping in cars, I was not thinking of the possibility of owning a multimillion dollar business or being an author or speaking. I simply wanted a safe place to call home and consistent food in my tummy. My new possibilities were shaped by my most recent wins in life. When I got knocked down, I got back up. And each time I got back up, I proved to myself I could get back up. Before long, when I looked into the mirror, I no longer saw a looser, I saw a fighter. After I saw the fighter, I saw the overcomer, and after the overcomer the teacher!
Who do you have inside of you? What steps are you willing to take today to move forward in your life? Are you willing to believe that anxiety is a struggle and not a disorder? Can you see yourself in your mind as healthy, happy and whole? Can you see yourself as winning small battles in order to conquer a big war? I am here to tell you it is possible to move past things you may think are unmovable. I have learned knowledge, focus and choice are the makings of a massive lever than can move any mountain. Who says that boulder still needs to be moved? In some cases, like my experiences, you may simply be able to create a new off ramp and simply go around the boulder.
Anxiety always makes us feel like a victim. There is a victor inside us all, calling to us. Waiting for us to simply grab a new possibility and choose to take the first step. I am living proof that it is possible.
Much love to you in taking your next step!
In Your Service,