I often here people saying that recovery becomes harder – or even impossible – if you’ve suffered too long with your anxiety problems. This is simply not true. In this podcast episode let’s take a look at why this is a misconception that you’re going to have to leave behind.
First – Anxiety disorders are not degenerative diseases that progress and literally degrade your physical or mental capabilities over time. Many people fall into the trap of using terms like “illness” or “disease”, which leads them to equate their anxiety problem with ailments that do get worse over time. Anxiety disorders are cognitive and learning errors that lead to bad brain habits. Habits are not progressive diseases. They are just habits and they can be broken.
Second – The past does not guarantee or predict the future. This is a logical mistake that ALL humans make almost daily, regardless of the presence of anxiety or panic. We think that what happened yesterday is a good indicator of what will happen tomorrow, but his is not true. We can look at examples in sports, gambling, and the financial markets that demonstrate this logical error that leads us to predict the future based on the past. The key word here is ERROR. You are not a cork bobbing powerlessly in the ocean at the mercy of the currents. You have influence in this process. Your “anxiety past” is the result of the reactions and behaviors you’ve engaged in when anxious or afraid. Your anxiety future will be based on a NEW set of reactions and behaviors. The past is one system. The future is an entirely different system based on new actions, reactions, and understanding. The past does not guarantee the future or predict it. You can influence the future by making changes. You are NOT chained to the past.
Third – You have not been going down stairs or digging a hole continuously for the past however many years. There is a limit to how much you an avoid, escape, fight, or soothe yourself. Once you’ve dug your hole, it doesn’t get deeper. You don’t spend 25 years digging. You dig, then you spend 25 years jumping in and out of that hole repeatedly. The hole doesn’t get deeper. It just gets used. You have not been walking down stairs into the pits of Hell for 25 years. There are only so many flights of stairs needed to get you into your avoidance zone. You just keep going up and down them repeatedly. There are no more flight of stairs to climb up than there ever have been. We just “feel” like we’re digging a deeper hole or continuously walking down stairs, but this is incorrect. Our perception, once again, is wrong.
These are the three reasons why no matter how long you’ve suffered with your anxiety issues, you can still recover. Recovery does not get harder or impossible simply because of what’s happened in your past. Please understand the perceptions and logic errors that have lead you to think this, and work to leave them behind.
A word about confidence and belief.
The length of time you have suffered with your anxiety problems may erode your confidence and self of belief in yourself. This is true. But this is not a unique situation and virtually EVERYONE that goes through the recovery process deals with these issues. The past does not make you a failure. It does not make you less than or incapable. The recovery process itself is an exercise in building confidence and a sense of competence so please do not interpret your lack of confidence as confirmation that you’ve “suffered too long” to get better.
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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)