Anxiety and panic are so overwhelming, that even when you know anxiety isn’t the only thing you’re feeling, you can’t name what those other things might be. You can’t pinpoint them, and you certainly can’t get to them, hold onto them, or catch them as well as you catch anxiety. Long story short: there’s a profound difference between feeling overwhelming panic and feeling okay. And you can’t cure panic or anxiety by thinking your way to okay.
What’s the Reality of an Anxiety Disorder?
The reality is that it takes me no effort whatsoever to achieve a state of terror so foreign to most people that they cannot understand it at all. Immediately, from out of the blue, I can be literally afraid for my life.
And as I shake, quake and cry, people tell me to “Calm down!”
And then after my body stops reacting to profound terror, after I’ve calmed down and can offer a weak smile, those people ask me why I haven’t gotten over it with positive thinking, or hypnotherapy, or medication.
I am taking advantage of all the therapies offered to me and coming up with some grounding exercises of my own. Anxiety doesn’t go away because you try really hard to make it leave.
Then I think about those insistent individuals who believe in the It’s-Just-In-Your-Head Method of Curing Panic. I want to say, “Think about how much you love your child,” and pause a few seconds. Then I’ll say, “I don’t believe in that kind of love. It is just in your head and you could quit feeling it if you wanted to badly enough.”
How does that sit with you, Mr. and Ms. Convinced It’s-All-In-My-Head?
So three panic cures that miss the point are:
- Just calm down!
- Why don’t you have that under control yet?
- I don’t want to be bothered by you and the stuff that is just-in-your-head.
Easy Panic Cures Do Not Exist
Don’t believe me? Then Try This
Stop feeling whatever you’re feeling right now. Go on, put some real effort into it. Feel something else. Now.
What’s that? It isn’t that easy? Give you a minute? You don’t have a minute. Feel something else, immediately. Or else!
Or else what? Or else I will stand here and act as if your efforts aren’t good enough. I’ll let you know that it’s ridiculous you can’t turn your emotion off on the flip of a dime. That you should have learned this by now.
In the sweetest of revenge, you’ll have a real panic attack (don’t worry, it won’t kill you–you’ll just think you’re about to die). You’ll get to experience the magnificent sensation of heart-pounding terror combined with an inability to breathe, and a sense that your emotions went through a combine harvester. You can’t think, or move, and you really really want to feel something else. Now. Immediately. Like I’m telling you to do.
But you can’t move, or think, or function coherently.
Gee, it is really too bad that you don’t have that skill down pat yet.
You should be able to stop feeling what you’re feeling, while simultaneously thinking AND believing that the house is going to fall apart should you not check that the oven is off, twice.
But really, why didn’t I work harder to get over this panic attack nonsense? Oh, that’s right: I have. All those 11 zillion other times I’ve tried not thinking about the elephant in the room, right after I’ve been to therapy to help me realize there’s a bloody elephant in the room.