Friday, August 23, 2013

Dealing with Anxiety is the Same in Any Book, But Actually Doing it Feels Impossible

I happen to be one of those anxiety sufferers who has read more books than I can count, who has been to a therapist (and still goes), and has tried more than one medication.   And guess what?  It's gotten me nowhere.  Yippee!  Sound familiar?  Well not completely nowhere but when anxiety strikes it sure as hell feels like nowhere.   But if there's one thing that books and therapy have in common, it's this theme of "accepting."  A theme that I seem to fight on a daily basis.   Whether it's a book called Brainlock that deals with OCD and challenges you to use the 4 R's, which is to Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus, and Revalue, or it's Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times that essentially is based on the "here and now" and challenges the reader that instead of running away from problems to run directly towards them, or if it's Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now which essentially says there is nothing BUT now so why worry about a past and future that don't exist?  Frankly I recommend reading all of these books.  Why not?  Get as much perspective as you can.

But that's not my point.  That's not the crux of what I'm talking about here.  You see, the lessons learned in these books are all the same.  ALL the same.  They're just stated differently.  In order to deal with anxiety (life as it were) you don't seek an escape.  In fact seeking an escape or trying to remove the anxiety from your life is actually going to create more of it.  It always does.   In the book Brainlock the definition of the four R's are as follows.

Relabel - the thoughts are 'not you, it's your OCD!'.
Reattribute - your OCD thoughts as being the result of faulty 'brain wiring'
Refocus - perform an 'adaptive' behaviour instead (Gardening, sewing, some activity which you enjoy, and most people find physical activity the most effective type)
Revalue - refuse to take the symptoms at face value - they are 'toxic waste from my brain'
I hope that this will be a useful way for me to combat my OCD problems, though I know it is far from easy to combat.

So let's say you are anxious and are compulsively thinking.  According to the four R's you are supposed to first, stop, acknowledge the thought and say to yourself that it's your OCD or in my case, anxiety acting up.  Then I'm supposed to acknowledge that it's a faulty brain.  Immediately after that I'm to cease what I'm currently doing and do something else for 5-15 minutes and then come back and recognize the situation for what it was.  I bring this up because this exercise is in essence what every single book I read says.  It's message is to stop what you are doing, accept it, recognize it, focus on something else and know this is a part of who you are and rather than run away from it, live WITH it.

So it seems like with all of this reading. with all of these tools at my disposal that I'd handle anxiety better right?  Sometimes, yes.  But often times, not even close!  That my friends, is my biggest issue.  That I actually know HOW to get out of my ruts and yet my mind doesn't allow me to do so.  Or at least that's what I believe to be the case.   That's like saying "I know 2+2=4 but there's a slight chance that it doesn't and I'm gonna live my entire life with the notion of that tiny percent that is holding out on 2+2 perhaps not equaling 4."  And all along I know how insane this is and yet I keep doing it.

This is why I call my anxiety an addiction, because it is.  I cannot run away from it and it always rears it's head.  I'm always somehow getting my "fix."    So how in the hell do we deal with this?  It's one of those "no excuses, get it done" type things.   You just HAVE to do these things.  You MUST acknowledge what is wrong.  You MUST face it.  You CANNOT run away.  You HAVE to refocus and do something else.  Otherwise what's your alternative?  Thinking more and more and more and more and more and more until you are completely exhausted and have nothing left but a limp body ready to pass out from overdrive.   And when you're ready to pass out?  You'll think and obsess even more.  Me?  I don't even eat and I can't get off the computer to save my life.  I read article after article in hopes of finding some kind of answer, something external that will fix it all.  It never works and it never will.  It's that acceptance and behavior modification that actually works.  

What's scary is that this just sucks.  I hate that I have to do this.  I hate that I have this "responsibility."  This "problem" to "manage."  But it's my reality.  It's my literal situation.  I live in the unreal world of projection thinking and my projections become so real that they're real to me even though they're not technically real.  Even as I write this I can see how insane it looks.  But I know there are more out there just like me.

So keep on people.  DO THE WORK.  Make the effort.  FORCE YOURSELF.  It's the only way.  Seriously it is the ONLY way.

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