Reply to previous email

Hi, as ever sorry it has been over a week since I got your last mail. I was out of town last week so didn’t get to my laptop much! Let me start by saying that I think it is fine and normal to feel more anxiety as you recover. That is not because you are getting more anxious but because you are noticing the lesser, background tension that was present before but masked by the more severe anxiety. People, including myself, hated this low level anxiety more than the major stuff, because it’s so constant, so ever present. The good news is that when you accept it, it goes away of it’s own accord unless you need to deal with some area of your life which is keeping you tense (low self-esteem, trouble at work to home etc etc).

Definitely the relatively short time you have been suffering from anxiety goes in your favour, and body symptoms are scary to us all! Great to switch off that hypochondria! I would say that I am a bit more of an optimistic person than I used to be, but it’s not like I have made major changes to my personality. I still don’t like getting up early on a cold day, remember we are not aiming to become super heroes here, just normal folk who take life’s ups and downs in their stride.

Self trust can be a hard thing to develop, I recommend just giving yourself permission to feel how you are feeling. If you accept not trusting yourself, you will probably trust yourself much more quickly! Odd feelings are again very natural, very irritating, and totally harmless. (I blogged about them here, if you wanna read it.)

The fact that you go anywhere and do anything is inspirational. This alone could see you through anxiety, but with developing the right attitude you are unstoppable! Scar thoughts are common, I have heard of people fearing they will harm themselves or their children just by losing control. Fear of losing control and doing something “crazy” is a common symptom but like the rest it’s just a hollow shell. Nothing about anxiety will actually make you do that. If you, or anybody you know, actually ever feels like they want to harm themselves or others (as opposed to the common anxiety symptom of fearing you might) it’s obviously important to speak to someone pronto. I’m sure that isn’t the case with you, especially as your recovery is going so well!

So that leaves us with the problem of fearing panic while talking to people. Perhaps you could give me a bit more info on this…talk me through a scenario and describe exactly what happens, then let’s see if we can’t get to the bottom of it!

A reader’s email

Once again, thanks for the response. Again, another positive to add to my life 🙂 Things this week have been once again – going very smoothly. I find myself now in just an anxious state. Weird too, because when I was dealing with the anxiety and panic before I never really picked up and noticed the symptoms of just being nervous – I know I hear alot of people tell me how common it is to feel alot more anxiety while you’re in the process of recovering. Very true, and yes, very frustrating. The part I hate the most is the constant rearranging of negative thoughts. When i feel nervous I start questioning – and that’s the habit I have to get out of. Although as scary as it might be for me to admit, things are going all to well – and maybe I’m just freaked out because i’m not used to it going this way….not used to changing myself and my attitude. It’s hard work that I pray pays off in the long run. I heard alot of people say their anxiety and panic was a blessing in disguise because it made them improve their lives for the better – and once again, I’m hoping the same goes for me. Yes, it’s been months since I’ve had an attack – but the lingering anxiety just reminds me all to well and I’m trying to learn to let myself be not and to stop obsessing over my thoughts. The more positive I become, the more natural it’s feeling. Now I’m kinda left with a stomach ache time to time when I’m feeling anxious. I never let it get to where it used to be….

I haven’t dealt with this all my life, so I look as that as a plus. It’s only been a short few years and I think it was all the mistake of scaring myself over body symptoms which led to my first attack – since then – all down hill from there – although when I was on medication I was feeling good, but …. now I know how medication masks only the symptoms and doesn’t really fix the TRUE problem. Learning the coping skills and becoming a more positive person is what’s MOST important. Do you see yourself as a much more natural positive person now? Since I don’t have those odd feelings at all really more and the panic symptoms I find myself feeling all to open and strange sometimes – I guess I wonder where they all went, although I know I really don’t care anymore. I just have to learn to let go. The more so what’s …the less it matters. It’s learning to trust myself, and that’s where I’m having the hard time. Trusting myself and my body. I have to realize that I am my safe person, and that right there takes time and practice!!

I think everything now is what a memory – and yes, the memory still haunts … that’s where I need to work at. The memory of the feelings, all still very real sometimes, and some very strange thoughts I keep getting which I know aren’t real and true, but when I’m anxious, you couldn’t convince my mind of that!! Again, like I said, I go everywhere – I’m not going to stay strapped down to my bed in my room and locked in my house …. I wouldn’t do it for the life of me – if I have to panic and die while I’m out at somewhere, then SO BE IT 🙂 Which won’t happen, but you know what I mean. I’ll give you a good one though – one thing that I think needs the most working on is my interaction with people. Now remember, I was and still am a very friendly sociable person … but when I started having panic attacks I used to get nervous around people – I think I was always fearful of letting my thoughts get to me, fearing I’d have to run away, start sweating and just have my heart pound out of my chest while talking to them …. horrible thoughts! But it’s been all to much a reality to me while dealing with all of this, therefore it makes me very nervous around people sometimes. But I will tell you, it’s all a thought I know this – why isn’t my head understanding it? I practice it alot more now – especially here at work and with anyone …. I shouldn’t have to feel that way, it’s not fair to me…..because I enjoy talking and I don’t like being fearful of what COULD happen, which I know never WOULD. Would you have any idea on how to get rid of that? That’s one thought I try to talk to my therapist about, but I don’t really think she’s helping in that aspect. I’m not afraid of people – I just get afraid of panicking in front of them – I just hope with the dwindling memory of all of this, that will start to fade itself….and it is…I find myself alot more comfortable now, but I still have my moments.

Well, like I said, I definitely feel now that recovery IS possible! I used to freak myself out so bad sometimes that I would never get better – i had scary thoughts of killing myself too – not even images of what I would do or how i would do it – just anxious thoughts of that…and that only! I read though that it’s common for people with anxiety to have fearful thoughts like that. I think I was afraid to trust myself – I was afraid at one point that I’d never be normal again and I just would go crazy and do it. I’m just glad that the thought makes my stomach turn and doesn’t make me smile! Then I know I’m NEVER going to do it!!! 🙂 The thought still runs in my head sometimes … but, I think it’s just testing me at this point … it still makes my stomach hurt, so I’m still scared of it. I just hope this all evens out eventually….it’s so exhausting!!!

The power of desensitization

People that suffer from anxiety and panic attacks often seek out those instant painless cures which are in the majority of cases nothing but a dream. More often, getting over panic and anxiety requires a bit of hard work. Sometimes, in manageable stages, you have to experience some of the unpleasant symptoms and emotions you have been avoiding. This is known as exposure. To my mind the label “exposure” doesn’t help as it makes it sound like a form of torture. It’s not. Exposure can be relatively quick and easy (I’ve seen a woman cured of a life long bird phobia in a couple of hours). It can also be incredibly rewarding, when you see what you have achieved, and what you have stopped avoiding. Often after well managed exposure your mental image of the phobic stimulus is very much changed, and you feel much more able to approach it again with confidence.

Another plus for exposure is that it gives a great boost to your self-esteem. Not just because you have started to beat it, but because you can now see how you will in fact make a complete recovery. The previous conviction that success was untenable is now reversed.

There are pit falls to exposure which you need to be aware of. Firstly, set backs happen. Note that I used the word set-back and not failure. It is important to approach exposure with the attitude that it is OK to not feel great, it’s not a test of your skills, more an experiment the results of which are equally interesting and useful either way.

Secondly, do not run before you can walk. If something seems to big stop, and break it down into small chunks. That way you will, bit by bit, break down old barriers with maximum success. If you jump in at the deep end you may well swim and be very happy, but you run the risk of dropping back into fear. If that happens read the advice on setbacks here, dust yourself down, and get on with it.

Advice on getting over anxiety

Glad to hear you have been surrounding yourself with positive people, I think it really rubs off and is mutually beneficial. I also think it’s beneficial to mix with negative people IF you can encourage them, as I think all the encouragement you give them is also encouraging and reinforcing to yourself. But if they bring you down, avoid!

First about your treadmill experience. I think your feelings were totally acceptable given the circumstances and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over them. Literally millions of people get in a state over palpitations and now you have coped with it. Claire Weekes might argue that you could, if you felt comfortable, repeat the experience with a new “so what?” attitude, and really feel the palpations and listen to them subside as your body recovers from the exercise. Whatever happens, just accept whatever you think or feel and let it be there.

Stirring up old thoughts might not be a bad sign. I personally believe that panic attacks and phobias are your unconscious minds way of protecting you, and as we start to ignore that protective force we sometimes seem to drop through a layer. So old thoughts that come up are maybe closer to the root of your initial problem. I would be inclined to keep a note of those thoughts and explore with either a professional or a self help technique like EFT. (Go to a pro if they are traumatic), also feel free to tell me about anything that you want, sometimes it’s easier when the person is a faceless computer on the other side of the world! I think that without the CBT/Weekes element it’s very hard to overcome anxiety/panic, but maybe without dealing with some underlying thoughts it’s also hard to completely rid yourself off it. I may of course be wrong on that, it’s more of a hunch than anything scientific.

Being guarded against panic is normal, if you can accept being guarded in the same way you accepted symptoms then it will soon pass. You will probably just say to yourself one day “oh, I haven’t felt so guarded this week”. Try and let go of wanting to be rid of it.

People say it takes a lot of time but remember you are not them or an average, you are you! Claire Weekes claimed six weeks was possible and I am inclined to agree, it all comes down to not caring, to going with whatever comes up in the knowledge that it is harmless. I think sometime she talked about it as being like interference on a radio, just a bit of crackle in the background that will go away, or stop bothering you.

My recovery was not dissimilar to the way you are working. I feel that I learnt to accept the symptoms and indeed I haven’t had a panic attack for a long long time and the thought of having one doesn’t worry me too much. It’s hard to know when recovery equals a cure. I don’t think about anxiety or panic in my everyday life unless I am working on this website, so I think that’s pretty much a cure-state, although I couldn’t put my finger on a time and say “that was when I was cured”. I still do meditation, coz I think it keeps me feeling balanced. Of course not having anxiety doesn’t mean you don’t have things to worry about, nor does it mean you are 100% positive super-human. You still feel life’s ups and downs, in fact you feel them more so, as I think anxiety is quite numbing. You said that you are starting to feel things more and that is good! My anxiety used to be quite heavily linked to blood sugar, but now I can eat irregularly if work demands and not feel any symptoms or problems. Sometimes when I am stressed however I do need to keep my meals and snacks regular. I think I am lucky that I know that helps; colleagues who are under equal pressure to me are not able to help themselves in that way, remember that what you are learning now is with you for many situations in your life and future.

As for the underlying issues involved with my anxiety, general insecurity mostly, I think I am still working on them through my meditation. Again, I would say I am generally very happy with my life, but sometimes feel a little niggling absence, which is the remainder of my anxiety. I am torn a bit between accepting it as part of me and trying to resolve it. At any rate, the days when I used to fear anxiety and panic when I left my house are but a distant memory.

When you worry about getting worse not better, remember that it is your choice and will only happen if you give too much credence to symptoms which you know to be worthless. Claire Weekes thought setbacks were a part of recovery, and I wrote an article about it on my site coz I had several setbacks. Just keep going!!!! The setbacks I had always made me stronger and made me improve more than I had before, so don’t worry about going backwards. I don’t want to slander people that haven’t made and progress, but I get the feeling that they are people who are convinced that the answer lies outside them. They wish it would go away but won’t try and change their attitudes.

Reply to Panic Attack Email

Here is my reply to yesterday’s email.


It sounds to me like you’ve been going great guns at dealing with your panic
attacks! I think that’s great and I would love to publish an article by you
on my site. I think you could inspire a lot of people! Just write about
whatever you want that would be most helpful to others. Also, with your
permission I would like to put a few extracts from your email in my blog and
discuss them a little. If that’s cool with you let me know if u would like
your name mentioned or withheld.

I think what you have done with your recovery is great, but I will add my
two-cents worth just coz you asked! 🙂

You said :

“Anyways, so I know there is no cure for anxiety, but you can say now that
you’re recovered from dealing with the constant strain of it?”

I would argue that there are many people who are cured, as they no longer
have any symptoms or have it interrupt their lives. So if that is the case
how can they be said to still have an anxiety disorder? Ok, so the human
body always has the capacity for the flight or fight response, so its always
there. And maybe if you have had anxiety or panic attacks in the past you
are more in tune to those feelings and might recognise them and label them
as anxiety or panic, where’s others might just see them as the outcome of a
stressful situation. But that does not mean you have an anxiety disorder.

If I were you I would believe that you can completely overcome this. And it
sounds to me like you are well on the way! Perhaps the idea that there is no
cure is a little negative thinking creeping in?

You said :

“I just think I’m afraid of losing my mind or reverting back to my old ways”

Anxiety and panic never make people lose their mind, it only ever makes them
think they will lose their mind. I dunno if you are religious or not, but
whether you believe in evolution or creation someone or something went to
great lengths to make the flight or fight response into a highly effective
mechanism in almost all living things to protect them from danger. It is
effective because it makes you feel very very very unpleasant. That is why
it is so good at making you run away from danger. When you try to ignore it
you are going up against god/4 million years of evolution! But you can win!
Because although it is unpleasant it is harmless, and i mean totally
harmless. It is the worst feeling which can not ham you at all, all other
nasty human feelings can harm you, like the sensation of being burnt by hot
food, and make you act coz its physically dangerous. Flight and fight is not
dangerous at all. It just is specially designed to appear that way to make
you move. It is also always temporary. As your body recognises that there is
no danger god/evolution comes on your side, and quickly calms you down. The
less you demand it the quicker it comes. The old paradox!

If you want to, you can chose to react to your symptoms and go back to your
old way (presumably avoidance and fear?|). That will be your choice, no one
else will make you do it. So do you want to react to them or let them be? It
is up to you. Don’t worry that you might go back to old habits in the same
way as you might worry that it may rain at the weekend. You can’t control
the rain, You can chose not to react to your harmless symptoms safe in the
knowledge that they will never make you mad or crazy!

You said:

“It’s so hard when you feel nervous though – its hard to keep those thoughts
at bay “

Well, I think Claire Weekes, if she were still alive, would say “Why keep
them at bay? Let them come, let them be there, let them go, accept them.”
This is a bit similar to the Sedona Method, if you go into them and let them
hover in your mind you will see through them. Learning to accept and
therefore paradoxically get rid of thoughts like these is very important.
And it sounds like you are doing really well at it!

So, there are my opinions, hope its not critical, its not meant to be! I am
just left wondering if you ever considered tackling causes or underlying
beliefs? Can be powerful and also frustrating and long winded. I found that
my anxiety turned from phobias to generalized free-floating anxiety, and
then to depression and insecurity as I removed layers. Just a thought, let
me know what you think about it. And do write that article(s)!

Write back soon!

Panic Attacks, a reader’s email

Hi, I wanted to share an email I got from a visitor to Anxiety 2 Calm. I think it’s quite inspirational, and I will talk a little bit more about what this person has achieved tomorrow.

“…Anyways, I actually had gotten two books you had recommended – Calming the Anxious Mind and the Sedona Method. I also have Claire Weekes – Hope and Help for your Nerves, I have her audio cd and I have a few other books that I like to keep in my library! Anyways, so I know there is no cure for anxiety, but you can say now that you’re recovered from dealing with the constant strain of it? I’ve been working on myself for a few months now – I started back in Decemeber but I’ve been learning new things as each month goes by. I have my ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I haven’t had a panic attack since probably December. I don’t like to count the months though – I did before but since have stopped. Its pointless and we all have to move at our own speed, as impatient as I may get sometimes with this whole thing. I even go to see a therapist, but – I think that was mind over matter more. I like going because I can spill the guts on what I’ve been thinking and feeling – but I know eventually I’m gonna have to cut the weeks shorter, way to expensive and I definitely think you can win this on your own. I’ve probably been dealing with panic for about 3 years – off and on, and like everyone else I was dropped off at the emergency room at 3am one morning because I was having an attack without having a clue to what it was!

Anyways, I was on medication for a while – but I stopped it. I figured if I was going to feel better, I didn’t need to live a life on medication. And most people agree with that. As we speak right now I am doing WAY better than I ever imagined – but of course, like always I have my doubts. I just have my nervous spats here and there – and since I had realized how important your thoughts are in this, and self esteem I’m working at that each day – and my therapist said that you’re only noticing all the anxiety and nervousness so much because you’re working at it – I never noticed it before because it all just would happen so quickly.

I’m not afraid to do anything, go anywhere – I don’t see the point of hiding, regardless of how fearful I might feel inside. I just think I’m afraid of losing my mind or reverting back to my old ways. It’s the constant wondering if this really IS getting better or if I’m just going to be stuck forever. It’s so hard when you feel nervous though – its hard to keep those thoughts at bay – although I’ve noticed my little moments barely last that long, they still freak me out – and I still have to work on trusting myself. Sometimes you just feel like a ticking time bomb, it’s odd – and although I know how these panic moments arise, and I haven’t had one in months – I still wonder. It’s weird how those moments and feelings can make such a mark on your soul sometimes.

My goal is to just get better and better. I picture myself as a steel wall when I start feeling anxious. Its like I refuse to back down, no matter how scared and weird my thoughts get. I hope i’m doing this all right. You know us anxiety sufferers really need all the reassurance we can get!!! Let me know what you think. Your website is fantastic!! I would love to do an article on your site sometime – if you’d like – because I do feel that I’m working with this and it’s going the right way ( Even when the anxious feelings want to make me think otherwise!!)”