Bucket lists seem to be all the rage nowadays. I put anxiety recovery at the top of mine a few years ago. Because while traveling to Europe would be a dream come true, living a life free of the burden of panic attacks and anxiety would be the biggest dream come true that I could ever think of.
It’s not that I don’t have other dreams and aspirations, because I do. But recovery from anxiety had to be my number one goal in order for me to be able to live my life to the fullest.
In my younger years I begged and pleaded with doctors to make me better. Every night I would say the humblest prayer to God to please take my suffering away. I said rosaries and novenas and prayed to relatives that had passed on to please cure my anxiety. I wished upon stars and blew out birthday candles all with one wish: make my panic attacks and anxiety go away.
Around my 40th birthday a few years back I decided I’d had enough with anxiety. I didn’t want to waste one more day wishing my life away or begging and pleading with someone or something outside of myself to cure my anxiety attacks. And besides I was getting older.
So I asked myself: Why was my life so incredibly hard? Why did I suffer so much over the years?
I was functional and never became agoraphobic to the point of being house bound. But anxiety and the threat of panic attacks loomed large in the background of everything I did. It was a constant in my life.
I had panic attacks daily in high school and at every lecture in college. When I went away to graduate school, my anxiety came along too. I took my anxiety with me every day to work, every day at the cafeteria, every night when I went to sleep, and every morning when I woke up. I took anxiety with me every week at mass, to every soccer game, every movie, every trip to the store, every concert…
Heck, anxiety was in the background of every milestone in my life- I walked down the aisle on my wedding day with anxiety, had my baby shower with anxiety, went through pregnancies with anxiety, and raised my daughters accompanied by anxiety. Etc, etc, etc…
After mentally running though the details of my past, it became evident to me that I was always looking for anxiety cures and anxiety relief from something outside of myself. Whether it was from a doctor, a therapist, bargaining with God, or in a bottle of pills, never once did I think:
I was the most important denominator in my anxiety recovery.
I did have days when the threat of panic attacks lifted. These days were glorious. Sometimes it happened on a Sunday when I worked at the hospital when there weren’t as many doctors and administrators coming in. To be able to have a day at work without anxiety symptoms and just feel “normal” and not scared – now this was the stuff dreams were made of. This was like a slice of heaven
I decided once and for all to give my very best effort to overcome panic attacks and anxiety.
Like every person who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, I’d had these wonderful reprieves from it. It was delicious.
And I wanted more.
I recalled a few times in my 30’s when I was able to wean myself off my medications and live anxiety free for awhile. During these times I was actively practicing yoga. I was also meditating in the mornings before work. But looking back honestly I remember I didn’t stick with it. Soon I was taking the easy way out and going back to being overmedicated and numbed out on pills.
Living numb on pills was easy, but it was not the way I wanted to live. There was no depth of emotions or spontaneity. Life was lived in a haze.
I Began My Anxiety Recovery
I knew that in order for me to get my life back, I was going to have to face my fears and stand up to anxiety. But I also knew I had to do it gradually. I needed to be super gentle with myself. I’d suffered enough through the years. My recovery from anxiety would be as painless as possible.
I did make marked progress with the Panic Away program. It is a wonderful program and it takes some determination to use the 21-7 Technique, but plain and simple, it works. (You can read more about it here.)
I also got back into meditation in the morning. I purchased some anxiety self hypnosis downloads and I used them. Over and over and over again. I keep my favorite books on hand for reference and for when the going gets rough.
All this action is the cornerstone of anxiety self help– I am helping myself with things that work for me. And then I press on and live my life
Is one thing going to make me all better?
I’m not that naive anymore to think that any one thing (book, tape, program, etc.) will cure me of anxiety. My anxiety recovery is a day by day process that I must walk through alone.
But this also doesn’t mean that I have to try every blessed thing out there. I don’t have that kind of time and frankly, my attention span can’t handle it.
So I constructed my very own anxiety self help tool box of things that work for me.
What if doing yoga or listening to self hypnosis isn’t for you? That’s ok, it doesn’t matter. But find what is for you. Find a few little things that work for you that you can incorporate consistently in your life in order for you to recovery from anxiety.
I have far more good days now than bad days. I can say that I have true joy and spontaneity in my life today. Life is sweet, even with bumps in it.
Learning that my attitude was key was one of the greatest gifts for me. In a way, it’s as if all the prayers of my youth were answered. Because the I alone hold the key to my anxiety recovery. Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz could always go home but she just didn’t know it until Glenda the good witch told her.
But Anxiety Recovery is so Hard
I get that. Believe me. But nothing, NOTHING is as hard as living every day waking up with anxiety, dreading panic attacks all day, and living in a bubble because everything is too scary. Nothing is as soul destroying as wishing days and weeks and months of your life away because you have social anxiety or panic disorder or agoraphobia or whatever brand of anxiety it is.
Both you and I are wearing our own ruby slippers you know. I am finding my way back to the real me, the Jill that is happy, joyous, and free from anxiety.
And you? Is overcoming anxiety on your bucket list? Why don’t you dust off your anxiety tool box and start using your tools?
Put your anxiety recovery at the top of your do do list today.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
I wish you peace,
ps. Is your toolbox empty? Choose an anxiety elimination program that resonates with you. Or you can start with my Simple Anxiety Self Help Road Map. Either way, get going. Your wonderful life is waiting for you!