Why I Gave Up Fighting Anxiety

BoxingGlovesAt 8am every single morning a recurring note pops up on my iPhone that says “Read Me”. Once opened it reads:

“You won’t be cured today, so don’t expect to be, don’t fight for that, don’t be frustrated by that. Instead remember YOU ARE LIVING. You are enjoying moments every day. You can live alongside this thing. And remember to shrink all those fears down, they aren’t as big as anxiety makes them seem.”

I wrote and scheduled it around a year ago when I was struggling with an anxiety relapse that was threatening to send me back down the rabbit hole. It followed a pretty intense revelation that as long as I was wondering if I would struggle with anxiety again I would, quite obviously, never be free from it.

In the immediate months after Caterpillar’s birth I was quite clearly suffering from some clinical form of anxiety/depression, as evidenced by insomnia, lack of appetite, panic attacks and derealisation. Six to nine months after I was diagnosed and begun treatment those things were almost entirely gone. I was clinically “well”.

However, what was left was a draining, depressing and apparently endless shadow of the illness itself. A constant presence in my mind. An uncontrollable need to analyse my every move. An obsession with being better.

To me, better meant never having to think about anxiety again. Better meant not allowing myself to feel negative emotions in case they threw me in a pit of despair. Better meant going a whole day without once thinking of what I’d been through or feeling upset about it. Better meant forgetting it had ever happened.

Better…was impossible.

I could no more forget I’d experienced PND than I could forget I’d had a child or that I was married. It was a huge experience that is now ingrained into who I am, for better or worse. And constantly starting each day saying “I must get rid of this, I must stop myself worrying about how I feel today” was completely detrimental to genuine contentment. And I believe it was this thinking that eventually led to the relapse of my more serious anxiety symptoms.

The principle of “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and living life alongside your symptoms in order to get past them is one of the main ways I’d gotten as far as I had (find out more on this technique from Paul David’s book and website) but, although I’d successfully learnt how to use it to control panic attacks and intrusive thoughts, I had somehow neglected to apply the same technique to longer term recovery.

When you are experiencing an anxiety attack the more you analyse and obsess over every symptom the worst it becomes, and the deeper you fall, but if you can force yourself to get on with something and allow that awful feeling to exist in the background the panic slowly begins to subside.

Last year I decided to apply the same idea to my life in general and my daily worries about my mental health. Instead of focusing each morning on making this the day I recovered for good I instead focused on finding small joys in those days even if the fears still ran like a computer virus programme in the background. I put the above prompt into my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to follow my old patterns.

Unsurprisingly this technique worked for me, but it takes a great deal of practice of course. These days I hardly ever click open the note, I usually quickly hit ignore in my haste to get on with the rest of my day and check Twitter! But subconsciously that “Read Me” is a reminder to find the joy I can in each day and to not spend more time and effort than is necessary on the negative emotions and bad moods.

Severe anxiety and depression require treatment and the aftermath of going through an episode can stay with you, but if you feed that shadow with worries, analysis and investigation it will grow. When you stop trying to recover it comes anyway, naturally, sneaking up on you like a lovely fresh breeze.

Diary of an imperfect mum

13 comments on “Why I Gave Up Fighting Anxiety

  1. I love that paragraph and what a great way to think. I have never written about my experience with anxietyI don’t know why, perhaps I’m not ready?! I still have some days where the panic returns 9 years later. But those days are very few and far between now because I recognise the signs and I am kinder to myself than I was then. Loved this post! I think you are spot on, it does happen when you stop trying! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime
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  2. Love love this post its so true I completely get what you mean, when you’ve experienced mental illness of course it’s going to change you and impact your thoughts, it’s a normal reaction to the fear of going back there again. Being ill with Pnd defiantly changed me but then again being ill with any serious illness would leave lasting scars. Thanks for the post Laura it’s one I will read again when I feel anxious xx

  3. This is a really interesting tactic on tackling anxiety. I’ve written a post which goes live tomorrow on how I’ve been tackling my anxiety which is basically the complete opposite to this as it’s been facing it head on! I find it so interesting to see how different people tackle the same issues differently to get to the same outcome.

    1. Actually the two methods aren’t that different. I don’t ignore the anxiety, I just let it be there, without letting it affect how I go about my life. So essentially I reckon we do the same thing lol! Would love to read your post when it goes up. Thanks for reading xxx

  4. Exactly how I have been able to cope with my anxieties and lack of sleep too. The only way for me to get through it is to accept it, acknowledge how I’m feeling and ride it out. I’ve even learnt to tell my kids how I’m feeling and what to expect from me in those moments; ‘Mummy’s not feeling brilliant today, so I really need you to play quietly and listen to me because I may get cross quite easily’. Something like that anyway. It seems to work for us so much better than trying to fix it…’make it better’. Depression and anxiety seemed like a taboo subject when I was growing up – not something you would admit freely. It feels like this is changing and people are more accepting that it’s quite normal for people to feel this way for numerous reasons. I find I am more comfortable sharing how I feel with friends which makes life easier. Glad you’re finding your own way of coping and hopefully there won’t be any major relapses anytime soon…or ever in fact! #BloggerClubUK

  5. A very brave and inspiring post. I was steeling myself for PND (as I’ve suffered from depression before) but it never came … I’m so thankful and I’m sure it must have been tremendously hard. Your tactics sound really sensible and positive and I’m sure you’ll get through it … fingers crossed for no more relapses and well done you 🙂 #fabfridaypost

  6. Beautiful! Anxiety and depression can both be so debilitating, but sometimes you have to just roll with it and avoid pushing yourself too hard. Keep up the good attitude! You’re very inspiring!

  7. Well done you for beating it and keeping a trick up the sleeve. Little things like this works like a charm. It is easily done for wanting to fast-forward your life when all you need is a little moment like these. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us on #FabFridayPost xx

  8. Great post, I am so guilty of over analysing issues. I just love the bit about finding the small joys, I guess a few of those can add up to a good day! A really honest post, thank you.

  9. Good for you being able to get through your anxiety relapse. It gets better day by day and you just have to focus on each day being better than the one before. That has worked for me. Thanks for sharing.

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