Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Overcoming Anxiety

For every problem in life there is a spiritual solution, at least that’s what Wayne Dyer says. My major problem right now (well for years) is with anxiety.  I hate that I have it.  It was probably born when I was 3 years old and first started experiencing sexual abuse.  Withdrawing and retreating became my coping mechanism.  At that young age you have no coping skills, so whatever you learn becomes a pattern grooved into the brain and eventually becomes habit and second nature.  So when difficulties arose the only way I knew how to protect myself was to retreat to a place within where nothing could touch me. 

It wasn’t a happy place, it was just a place within, where the outer world didn’t exist.  No pain, no trouble no fear, nothing.  It was my escape.  I often times describe it as being in a catatonic state.  It was my shield.  But I don’t need to go to that place anymore when things get stressful or there is anxiety. Anxiety happens when I feel extremely vulnerable and overwhelmed.   I don’t mean to disappear and fall off the face of the earth, but going inside is the one thing that has “saved” me from unbelievable pain.

I don’t want to react in this way any longer.  It is hurtful to those that care about me.  What I realize more and more these days is that I was retreating from abuse and abusive people, the people in my life now are not abusive, yet I am still reacting to the situations with the same response.  It is maddening to me sometimes that all of this began at the age of 3 and I am 34 years old and still working on breaking these old patterns.  I’ve been in therapy for several years now, and I’ve broken through some major things, but this didn’t occur over a few weeks. It happened over a 12 year period and the patterns are deeply engrained.  But I am encouraged, I know that they can be broken/shattered!  Some things may not go away, some feelings of anxiety may continue to occur. However, I know that from overcoming the flashbacks that I used to have of the abuse, that at some point not only does it occur less, but my response to it can be changed by my own effort. That is what I’m working toward right now, changing my response to anxiety.  

So the first thing that I am becoming aware of is of course my breath.  Through my yoga practice I see that one or two things happen when tension or anxiety about something occurs.  I either hold my breath and stop breathing or my breath becomes short and shallow.  When that happens, I am no longer in the moment. That is where the thoughts started to repeat like a broken record and the anxiety becomes my truth, not just thoughts that are roaming around in my head, but they are my reality.  Now, if I could just continue to take this yoga thing off the mat I’d be able to see that: 1. this is just a story on repeat, 2.  I can change that story by replacing it with something else and 3. Affirmations are always helpful when overcoming negative/destructive thoughts or behavior patterns. 

When I was having flashbacks of being sexually abused my therapist told me to remind myself that I was safe and no one could hurt me, that I was fine.  It took a lot of effort for me to do that in the midst of what felt like day time terror, but I did it.  I overcame those severe anxiety attacks and if ever they were to return I’d know what to do to defeat them again.  This same thing I must apply to the less severe anxiety.  I can use an affirmation to help me become present and out of the loop of the broken record.  I feel like this is a tendency that I must overcome because it has a very negative affect on my relationships with other people.  I am truly a dedicated person and I’ve never seen myself as running away from my problems, until now.  I spent years hiding in my self-created sanctuary.  That story has been on rerun for far too long and I am determined to write a new chapter in my book of life.

This is yoga off the mat!

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to the anxiety but I have to admit for a whole lesser reason than yours. My reasons pale in comparison but you sound as if you have got yourself together and are strong enough to see this through. I wish you good luck and inspiration on your road to recovery.