- Posted April 19, 2014 by
Vancouver, British Columbia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
How You Can Fight Back Against Anxiety
"This is your problem, don't burden people with your issue."
This is the statement that I heard daily for 15 years as I struggled in silence while living with anxiety. Feelings of fear, isolation, and frustration were daily occurrences because when you don't know what to do, you feel helpless and helplessness leads to despair.
That statement, to "not burden others with my problem," the one that kept me from disclosing my anxiety and getting tools and suggestions to fight back against anxiety was never said to me by anyone, it was all my thoughts that became beliefs. In my experiences, the most damaging form of stigma you can face is self-stigma. It's reinforced daily, you cannot escape your thoughts, and it drives up your resistance to open up and share by creating catastrophic, feared scenarios that you believe will happen if you did seek assistance in getting help.
This is what drove me to my darkest place because I had a reinforced belief that telling people would result in a loss of everything I cared for. I would lose my job, my family and friends would think I was "messed up" and wouldn't want anything to do with me, that finding a partner would not happen, because who would want to be with someone that is "damaged goods."
When you're in this situation, it's tough to break the cycle and get out because as the darkness builds, you begin to lose hope. I had lived like this for 15 years and was then 29 years old, and it became scary, as the thought of spending the next 40-50 years living like this was a future that I wanted no part of.
For many men, present company included, when struggling, we continue to spiral downwards until we hit a dark spot, then fall a bit more until we hit bottom and that's when we're ready to open up and get the help that is needed to regain control.
For myself, fear and pride were the primary drivers in not opening up earlier. Reflecting on my situation, sometimes we need to crack as it breaks open our resistance and become ready to be vulnerable and seek the help that will shift our life to the better.
As a stress management coach, I see this daily with many prospective clients. They take the first step in seeking help, then when it comes to taking further action, delays come in and all progress stops. Fortunately or unfortunately, the reality is that for these men, it's often a waiting game for their situation to get even worse until they have the pain needed to be ready.
As often as men say that it's "their problem and they'll deal with it alone," this is generally the furthest thing from the truth because someone living with anxiety effects the entire family. Withdrawing from others with isolation, often in front of the TV or computer, looking for the escape, getting easily upset and angry for no apparent reason, and losing the desire for activities that you used to enjoy are all common occurrences for someone struggling with anxiety and not knowing what they can do about it.
If any part of my story is similar to what you're experiencing, please carefully read these points:
1. You are not alone
Anxiety is such a common situation, especially in today's society. You're not isolated, you're not messed up, or damaged goods. There are millions of people that have lived with anxiety and have learned to reduce and control it, you can too!
2. You have options
We are in an information age, with resources everywhere. Look online for anxiety reduction tips and you'll be amazed at how much information is available.
3. Take ACTION!
Action is the quickest way to feel empowered and make the shift to fight back against anxiety. Take the information you're finding and begin by making a couple quick lifestyle changes that will reduce anxiety. When you begin taking these steps, you start building the muscle that demonstrates that there's been a shift, that you're now in control and anxiety's reign of terror is being challenged. Anxiety's days are numbered, keep taking action and express gratitude for your shift.
The picture I posted is meaningful as it demonstrates the mindset needed to win the fight with anxiety. I was asked to participate in a charity fundraiser for the Easter Seals where we rappel down a 20-storey building to raise money. When asked to join, I was excited as I had made a shift to be in control of my daily anxiety, but the thought of rappelling down the building found many of the anxious thoughts and sleepless nights come back. I viewed this as an opportunity to see how far I had come and so I did the event with a great deal of nerves and hesitation. The result was victory...I DID IT!
Then the next year comes around and I'm asked to participate again. So I already proved to myself that I can do it, why do it again?
After giving it some thought, I understood the opportunity that was present. Yes, I did it last year, but it was with tremendous nerves and anxiety, this year my mindset would be: How comfortable could I be doing it.
When fighting back again anxiety, this is the mindset that's been most beneficial for me. First is seeing if I can do it, doing it again to see how comfortable and confident I could be doing it the next time. This does provides a gauge to see how far you've improved and reinforces the belief that while situations can be uncomfortable, they can be achieved and turned into a fun outcome by making it a challenge to see how comfortable you can be when doing something that used to provide feelings of nerves, stress, and anxiety.
Take the first step and fight back against anxiety!