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Archive for March, 2012

High Anxiety (album)

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Scratching, tensing my muscles, trying to control my breathing (usually by hyperventilating), stamping my feet, blinking quickly, rubbing my eyes, getting out of the situation as quickly as possible. The list of ‘safety behaviours’ are endless – there are probably some I don’t even know I do.   Built up over years of trying to control the anxiety and panic attacks.  Built up one behaviour at a time, as each behaviour proves insufficient against the wave of anxiety so another one must be found to control it further.  Built up until eventaully the bricks have surrounded me and I cannot escape the anxiety or the avoidance behaviours that keep me locked in.

“This week I want you to not do any of these behaviours.  When you feel anxiety, just let it happen.”  These were the words of my cognitive behavioural therapist this week.  It’s that simple.  Yet if it’s that simple why haven’t I done this before? If it’s that simple why have I been wasting my time on these behaviours for years?  Logically, I have known for some time that these behaviours don’t stop the anxiety; that it was probably making it worse, so why didn’t I just stop?

If you’re a councillor and know the biology and psychology it is that simple, or perhaps if you have never had a panic attack it is that simple but the truth is that, despite what I know rationally when I am sitting here now, I also know that when I feel even slightly anxious, I completely believe that what I feel is going to cause me to die.   If you were falling, would you not put your hands out in front of you?  It’s that simple for me!

That is not to say I’m not going to give it a go.  I will try to just let it happen when that nervous feeling whirls around my body. I will try to relax my hands rather than clench them, try to breathe normally rather than hyper-ventilate, try not to twitch, not to scratch, not to fidget or run away.  At best that’s going to take some practice, at worse it’s going to be impossible.  Never the less, I will try as hard as I can – let’s face it –  the behaviours aren’t helping so maybe not doing them will.

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