Anxiety: What Happens When I Don't Know What to Do?

March 3, 2011 Kate White

Managing anxiety: "Sitting with emotion"?

Totally useless chapter in The Psychiatrists' Guide to WTF is Up with My Brain (AKA DSM-IV), or are people greater than the sum of their parts?

Sometimes I get so anxious I don't know what to do, so I won't do anything. Just in case I make things worse, or my fears are true.

How do you deal with the very real issues that keep you stuck in old patterns, between a rock and a wall of ever more intolerable panic?

Psychologists talk about learning to be with anxiety. But it's an idea, a theory, and I can't always do it. If only it were that easy! Of course they really just mean anxiety comes in waves so staying with it long enough to see that it's okay, eventually, is one way to get through it, manage things.

Sitting with my feelings makes me wary. I freeze; Preferring to be on guard than caught unawares by a panic attack. But pushing anxiety off into a dusty corner with the moldering old shoes isn't better.

  • Panic isn't a good listener

I try to listen to internal cues; Do as I'm told and practice grounding techniques, or whatever. But for every anxiety coping skill I know it seems like my mind has a way to make it seem unachievable, and foolish.

I have to force myself to do things about anxiety, to cope. Because there isn't another way. It doesn't get easier with time. Comforting thought? What I mean is time is necessary but not sufficient, to cure anxiety.

Manage anxiety: Turn it on its head


Turn anxiety upside down, like a snowglobe: shake it up. Put anxiety on a mental ladder, twist things 180'; I realize there are more options than the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) lets me see. I can figure out what to do.

It's scary at the top, where panic peaks. Like all I can do is stare, wonder how I got there, why I'm up there, and isn't that a long way to fall? But in this metaphor I'm not going to fall. At worst the ladder gets longer because the fear centre of the brain (the amygdala) is lit up like the 4th of July.

When I realize how far I have to go to treat anxiety it feels too far, and like I'm not getting there fast enough. Then again, it's not like I have much better to do than try.

Imagining that it all exists on a continuum, on a ladder, stops anxiety from flooding my mind to the point I can't think.

When I feel like I can't take another step I figure, what goes up must come down.

Panic: where body meets brain

Panic's in the blood: it's a rollercoaster, and a drug. Like being shot through the heart with Dali -and complicated by every fear I've ever had. It's a trip: all these thoughts that go round and round because it's a matter of trust, to get out.

There are times that I just can't take that leap; I am intellectually aware that in all probability the things I'm concerned about won't happen, but having an anxiety disorder means you can't always access, let alone act on that. It's just knowledge. When the tide is high, when those anxious feelings rise, panic is a fortress, it's easy to get lost: in circles, in the dark.

But there is a way out. There's always another day, minute, hour. Anxiety isn't all there is, and I can treat it even when I'm scared.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, March 3). Anxiety: What Happens When I Don't Know What to Do?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Kate White

July, 17 2012 at 8:45 pm

i am not still satisfied with this article.

March, 16 2011 at 11:52 am

I hear you! Anxiety is no fun!!!

March, 14 2011 at 6:27 am

I can really relate to this article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
March, 14 2011 at 8:38 am

cheers, Nicole :)

Tony Poole
March, 11 2011 at 4:38 am

Hi kate,
Thank you for haring your insights into anxiety disorders. I find it really helpful

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
March, 11 2011 at 4:40 am

Hi Tony,
Cheers. I'm glad. =)

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