The other day I was in an anxiety group meeting. A therapist I’ve been seeing thought it’d be a good idea for me to go to these meetings, and I was a bit doubtful but decided to give it a try. It is obviously confidential and I can’t talk about things that are shared in the group, so it’s a safe place for all of us to share our feelings if we want to, but there’s one lesson I learned while sitting in this meeting.
The topic of the day was avoidance behaviors, how you get anxiety from something, like a task, a place or a thought, and you start avoiding it to protect yourself from those difficult feelings. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time how the topic was so fitting to me. It’s been my favourite problem solving trick this year, and even though I’ve known every step of the way that it isn’t good for me and only makes it all worse, I just can’t stop.
Verywellmind.com said it well in their article called “How to Reduce Your Panic-Related Avoidance Behaviors” : “…Aside from restricting your life, avoidance behaviors often have the opposite effect than what is desired. While in the short run you may experience a temporary sense of relief, in the long run, avoidance actually leads to increased anxiety.
When avoiding places, people, and events, the panic sufferer is really trying to get away from her feelings of anxiety. However, every time she escapes these anxiety-inducing thoughts and feelings, she is actually reinforcing them. She is sending the message to herself that the world is a dangerous place…”
I can relate to this so much. I’m trying my best but I’m still tempted to avoid answering to texts, calling people, paying bills, anything job-related, anything that requires me to be a responsible and social adult. I also avoid places that remind me of unpleasant memories.
I only recently realised how deeply some memories can affect you years later even though you think you’re over it. When I was 14, I was bullied in school whenever I stood outside a classroom waiting for the class to begin, so I started avoiding that and started coming late to the class. It got out of control and now, 7 years later, I still go late to meetings and avoid being too early because it gives me anxiety, even though I don’t have a reason to fear anymore. Being too late gives me anxiety too (lol) but what the heck, a broken mind works in mysterious ways. I apologise to everyone whose time I’ve wasted all these years, always being late from dates and meetings.
I also tend to avoid things I actually really want to do. Ain’t that funny? In the meeting, the professionals hosting it gave us advice how to cope with anxiety and even ways to prevent it, things we’d have to practise over and over. These things might cause anxiety temporarily but help us in the long run. Then they asked us if we’d be willing to commit and use these tricks to get where we want to go. There was a hesitant atmosphere in the room and I realised that healing is really simple actually. It is not easy but you only have to make one decision: the decision to value and love yourself enough to do the work to get better.
The people who are willing to work for it and do the work for themselves, are the ones that probably will get out of the darkness.
You can have all the tools but it doesn’t happen without your effort. It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be willing to give yourself time and attention. It is easy to keep living like a ghost, wasting your life on worries and fear. You have to fight through the procrastination and avoidance behavior temptations and DO the things you know are good for you and essential for your healing. Do the things that you fear most, then those things and feelings don’t have power over you anymore.
You have to transform yourself from worrier to warrior. It’s the only way.