Healing Anxiety

I live with a lot of anxiety. It’s coming to the surface now, because I’m uncovering it in therapy. It hurts now, but I know that it can be healed. I’ve healed other pain in therapy, so this can be healed, too.

Anxiety is a way of acknowledging that there is something amiss. It’s often telling us that we’re facing a lack of appropriate interaction with people who are close to us or who were close to us in the past. It can be a lack of stable love, abandonment of some kind, or actual abuse. When these things occurred to us as children, we don’t have the ability to cope well, so we create coping mechanisms that aren’t healthy in the long run. It can manifest in many ways like drinking or eating excessively, overworking, oversleeping, or so many more possibilities.

The unhealthy coping mechanisms may work for many years, but eventually they fail, and we have to find effective means to heal the underlying pain. I drank excessively for many years, but that stopped calming the pain after a while, and I had to face the pain and do the work to heal it.

As adults we can choose to heal the pain we have with healthy means. I use meditation and exercise. There are many more ways too. There are hobbies like gardening or knitting. Anything that can add serenity can work to help soothe the pain from the past.

I was very anxious yesterday about some things, and I did a good job of soothing myself. Writing that is one of the things I’m working on: acknowledging that I’m really doing a pretty good job at this thing called life. I have a nice apartment and car. I have a good job. Most importantly, I have a group of good friends, and I’m dating a good man.

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It Works!

With a sigh of relief, I can say the tools for getting back into a better frame of mind work. Yesterday, I was struggling, as I wrote. It was not a good day at all. I was stressed and not dealing with it well at all. I used the tools that I know work. I meditated early and went for a good speed walk to get my self moving. I went to the cathedral down the street for a break and for my lunch break. I was able to meditate very briefly once, but the rest of the time I just sat. I made an extra appointment to see my therapist, and luckily he had an opening in the late afternoon.

Before that session, I chatted with my best friend about my turmoil. I could easily say that I understood the cause of my discontent was in me. I knew it was. I’ve been doing all this too long to try to blame it on something around me. An AA text The 12 and 12 states it correctly: whenever we are disturbed no matter what the cause, the problem lies in us.

I really was disturbed. My negative self-talk was working overtime. The voice in my head was saying I’d ruined my life and I was worthless. I was feeling really bad.

A very important tool for me is chatting with my best friend. He’s smart about these things. I was able to tell him that I knew I was the source of all the discord inside, and he invited me to look at all the good ways I was using my tools to feel better. He was absolutely right. I was doing a lot of good for myself. I was doing a good job of taking care of myself, but I couldn’t seem to say it.

My therapist has been helping me see the exact same thing, and he is now helping me change some of the things I say to myself. Instead of saying that I’m nuts, I can say I’m feeling a lot of stress. I like this a lot more than saying happy things while looking at myself in the mirror. That never worked for me. I know it works for some people, but I couldn’t get it to stick for me. So I’m going to take the reality of the situation, but instead of using words that demean me, I’m going to rephrase it into truth that is not degrading.

Last night I took an antianxiety medicine that I have for situations just like this, and I got a good night’s sleep. My meditation this morning was really good. I got some good breaths in between the wandering thoughts, and I went for a good speed walk. On the bus this morning, I was able to chat briefly with the man I’m dating, who was my ex and now is not my ex. It felt good. It wasn’t important stuff, but the connection felt good.

There are many things we can use as tools to help us through our difficult times when we feel bad about ourselves and our lives and the world around us. These are some of the things that work for me. I hope you can find little activities that work for you.

Am I a Fake?

I’ve been at my job for three years and four months. I was on disability for eight years before that, and before that, I was hardly working for about five years. That was a long time in which my main occupation was taking care of my mental health.

It’s no surprise that all this time back on the job, I’ve felt like I was not quite here. Actually, I felt like I wasn’t really supposed to be here. The strange part is that I didn’t question the thoughts that I was out of place at my job.

It’s only been the past month or two that I’ve really felt firm in my job. I’m not faking it on the inside or outside. It took a long time for me to get to a point where I didn’t feel like I was waiting for someone to tell me I didn’t really belong here.

I’ve heard it called Impostor Syndrome. I haven’t really read anything about this pop-psychology idea, but I’ve heard of it. Basically, it’s the notion that one doesn’t really fit in with one’s surroundings. I understand that.

I can say that today I really feel like this is my life. This is what I’m doing. This is where I belong.

The feeling that I was somehow not leading a real life is not new to me. I’ve felt it for many years. Perhaps for my whole life. I always felt like I needed to prove myself. Like I needed to be something more in order to be accepted into the world. I had to work doubly hard to simply have the right to exist.

It’s exhausting. I was constantly struggling to get others to approve of my right to be here. Of course, I now realize I was fighting for my own idea of approval. Maybe what’s happened in the past month is that I realize I do approve of myself. In any event, it feels good. I feel like I can relax a little.

Today, I’m whole. I can breathe easy.

Weird

I have a weird thing going on.

I have this knowledge that I am damaged. I carry a lot of pain from a less-than-wonderful childhood and a lousy adolescence. The trauma from my early life caused me enormous problems as an adult that I’ve been dealing with for three decades. It’s no wonder that I am damaged.

At the same time however, I’m not terribly worried about it. I’m not overwhelmed with grief or sorrow.

I think the lack of negativity has something to do with the years I’ve spent in therapy and the fact I meditate. I’ve overcome some truly high hurdles. For example, I quit drinking and came out of the closet when those were monumentally difficult tasks. I survived. If I managed to live through those upheavals, I can live through this stuff, too.

So, I’m not a stellar example of a well-adjusted man. So what?

I kind of like this weirdness.

Reflecting

I had a number of really unpleasant days recently, and then yesterday morning, I woke up feeling good. The change was literally overnight. What happened? I wish I knew the answer so I could bottle it and sell it.

Here’s what I know.

While I was feeling down, I concentrated on the certainty that it was temporary. I was positive the negative feelings would pass, and they did.

In the middle of that malaise, I continued to use the tools I have to help myself feel better. I got extra help from my therapist. I used the medication I have been prescribed as directed. I continued my daily meditation routine. I ate well. I got as much good sleep as possible. I continued exercising. Basically, I continued doing the things that I know work for me.

I didn’t sugar coat anything. I was hurting, and I didn’t lie to myself pretending I felt good. I allowed the pain to have its space all the while knowing it would pass. The pain was not permanent. I was sure of that. I didn’t lie to my friends either. When asked, I told them the truth. To strangers who asked, I lied. I see no contradiction in that. It’s healthy to maintain boundaries with people. Strangers don’t need to know the details of my life.

It’s quite possible one of the reasons I woke up feeling good was that I did the work to process the memories that made me feel bad. I did that in therapy and by reaching out to a trusted person whom I could share the details with. I let it all come out in therapy, and I told the trusted person the reasons for the pain. I have learned after many decades in therapy that when I share the pain or fear, it loses its power.

That’s it. There’s no magic. I maintained my routine and kept walking through the stuff. I kept walking. One footstep at a time.

A Point of Gratitude

Today, I am grateful for the exercise I get from speed walking. I walk early in the morning after I’ve meditated. It’s still dark most mornings, and the world is quiet. It’s really nice. I walk by some gardens, and one has a night-blooming jasmine that smells divine.

I went out and walked during my lunch break, too. That’s not usual, and I got really sweaty. Still, I enjoyed it. I love the feeling of moving. It’s very comforting.

Breathing

I didn’t just walk through the stuff. I breathed through it.

Meditation has worked for me once again. This time I combined a releasing visualization that a good friend walked me through on the phone. The result was astonishing. I felt completely better. I was exhausted after the visualization from releasing all that negativity. I also have a much better view of the end of that relationship.

The visualization is not complicated. Here’s a step-by-step guide, if you want to try it.

  1. Sit comfortably, breathe evenly, and relax.
  2. Ask an angel to be near you.
  3. Imagine you are sitting in a shaft of beautiful blue-green light, and breathe it in over and over.
  4. Imagine a cylinder of white light in front of you.
  5. Imagine all the negativity in you about any particular topic. Ask the angel to help you pull that negativity out. Once it’s out, wad it up into a ball.
  6. Place that ball in the cylinder of light, and ask that it be transformed into something positive. I like asking it to be transformed into the laughter of children or nourishing rain on areas of drought.
  7. Finally, breathe more of the beautiful light you’re sitting in.

That’s it. You did it. The beauty is it can be repeated as often as you want about any topic you want. Don’t be discouraged if the negativity returns. That’s not failure. It may take days, weeks, months, or even years of repeated release for something to leave altogether.

This isn’t a race. My healing took decades. It’s worth it. I feel so good.