About 1 in 5 of the people has excess anxiety. We nearly all hide it if we suffer it, but inside feeling the knot or churning of worry in your gut, a tight chest and shallow breath, racing thoughts, feelings of overwhelm and stress are often the reality.
If you’ve felt like this for years can it really get better?
I can remember anxiety from before I was four years old. My earliest memories are of being painfully shy, always afraid of new people. As time went on I lived with that knot in my stomach and second guessed myself all the time.
I had a deep doubt about my abilities and self from an early age. Concentrating in school was hard as the anxiety and fear distracted me. That re-enforced those feelings. My age 5 I ‘knew’ I was a failure, not as good as everyone else, and felt even worse. It was an odd feeling. I’d fight for attention and try to hide that I felt bad, but deep inside it pushed my behaviour. I didn’t try much as I ‘knew’ on a gut level that I wouldn’t succeed.
That was a pattern that continued through life. Trying, but holding back. A self fulfilling prophecy of not quite succeeding. As time went on things got worse. You stick out when you’re twitchy and nervous. School isn’t the easiest place and bullying is easily attracted to the anxious kid. That just compounded the issues for me.
By the time I left school a 18 I was having panic attacks around going into classrooms. I booked a course in University College Dublin three times, I paid for it twice, but I never made it in the door at that point of life. Each time the anxiety would kick in and I’d find a good excuse not to go. ‘Too tired – wouldn’t get much out of it’, ‘better to do it in six months’, ‘it was the wrong course when I think about it’, and so on. The anxiety will protect the ego with a series of excuses. It doesn’t want us to give up our anxiety as it’s trying to help us avoid bad feeling. Classrooms felt bad so I was pushed away from them just like I’d be pushed to get away from a burning building. I was even getting panic attacks at times.
Life continued to be limited. A few areas went OK, where the anxiety was lesser, but always the over analysis, re-running conversations, worrying about what everyone thought, and feeling like I couldn’t succeed was there.
That stayed the case for decades until I accidentally found a therapist who could help. I wasn’t looking for change, in fact I ‘knew’ that I couldn’t. Life was just hard and I kept telling myself I needed to try harder, that I was lazy, and stupid. She was really clear on one thing. While she could help me she couldn’t change for me. That was fine, I didn’t expect change anyhow, just to get a piece of paper at the end saying I’d done the therapy.
Bit by bit things surprised me. I found myself sleeping better, no longer taking hours to drift off, I began to worry less often, and life got easier. Instead of seeing all the ways something could go wrong I saw a few ways things could go right.
Bit by bit life improved. It wasn’t instant. It took several months, but looking back at it that was amazingly fast compared to the 30+ years it had been building with me!
I even went from terror of classrooms to where I now love to present to a crowded room. I could never have imagined that. Sitting at the back with no intention of taking part was almost impossible for me in the past, but now I present seminars, speak to community groups, and love every second of learning and presenting.
Success came easier, life changed wonderfully. I can say with absolute certainty that anxiety can change. It can be reduced. It can be overcome. It can stop ruling your life.
In thousands of clinical sessions I’ve seen the same thing happen for others too. You have to want it, you have to commit to change. But it can happen!
Here’s a few of my favourite comments from other former fellow sufferers of anxiety:
“I think more about pleasant things now, I don’t over-think”.
“I dealt with my past. I laugh more. It’s real laughter. I didn’t laugh like that for years”.
“I can read books again, I sing and enjoy music. I don’t need any medication to breath deeply”.
“ I’ve started to live again. I have the tools and techniques I need to live a happier life”.
“I feel equipped to deal with situations that would have stressed me out previously”.
“I am a more positive person and feel more comfortable in my own skin”.
“I feel much less stressed and my anxiety levels and really decreased. Its great!”
“Being more calm in myself, putting things that matter into perspective and setting goals to achieve these, feeling happier, confident more in myself “.
“At last I can be in control of myself in crowds, enjoy a night out”.
“I feel so much more grounded and content”.
“There have been huge changes in the last few months – more conscious of myself and less conscious of others”.
“Putting into practice the different techniques has really helped to make life easier. I feel less anxious and happier”.
“When I began therapy I was experiencing 5-7 panic attacks a day… …After just 7 sessions I have not had a panic attack in months”.
“My anxiety is reduced 85% and I feel more confident in busy areas”.
Keep looking for the right way for you!
Never give up!
Change is easier than you think!