Anxiety and Setbacks

What are they and why do we have them?

One vital part of understanding recovery is recognising that we will have setbacks; they are part of the process involved in becoming the person you once were. Recovery does not always work in straight lines and can be an up and down affair. Once we realise that fact it can help us tremendously as too many people let these times throw them back into total despair.

What is a setback?

A setback is not to be confused with feeling a little up and down throughout recovery; this is normal. I went from having no good days to having good and bad days. I was very happy with this as it proved to me that I was moving forward. I would describe a real setback as a period during which you feel you are back to square one and that everything you have gained has gone. You feel as empty and lost as you have ever done, scrambling around again for answers and questioning everything once more.

Setbacks are all part of the process

When you finally find the answers to anxiety and have a better understanding of it, you may feel an instant relief. You begin to understand that you are not going crazy and that so many others go through the same thing. There is no need to have a constant daily battle with yourself, fighting to be the person you once were, putting on an act, studying and worrying deeply about how you feel. You realise and have glimpses of the fact that the old you is still there and that you just got buried underneath all of your symptoms. You also finally understand why you feel this way and what kept you in the cycle, so things get easier. You may feel a freedom that you have not felt for some time and everything seems rosy. You feel you are finally moving forward.

This was me after finally understanding my condition and starting to reverse this process. I started to make small steps to becoming the person I was before I suffered. I had some days of real clarity, clear thinking and freedom, almost like I could touch the person I once was. I started to live more, smile more and feel more and more like the old me. Then, wham, I felt like I was back to square one, I even tried to recreate how I felt previously, but nothing worked, I started to question everything once again "Why did I feel so good last week and now back to this? What have I done wrong? This is me forever, I will never be free".

These were just some of the statements that had me worrying again and trying to think, fight and scramble my way back to how I felt the week before. I was back to 'googling' symptoms, filling myself with self-pity. I had basically returned to the full anxiety cycle - but why? Because for some stupid reason I thought I could crack it in a few weeks and that all these years of suffering through a lack of understanding would simply disappear.

So, what did I learn?

I learnt that my body needed to go through many cycles before it was free, that I would have to feel flat and anxious before true balance was restored. Yes, the feeling of freedom last week was great, but now I need to make way for another release to happen. I realised that when I felt anxious once again my body still needed to purge some more anxious energy. When my mind started to go busy again, it still needed to release some more of its momentum. This process was not going to be a bliss process, in fact it would be like a detox process and not very pleasant at times. All I could do was to stay open towards it. If I felt anxious, then fine. If I felt down and flat, then fine. If I felt detached, then fine. It did not matter what the first words in the sentence were, the last part was always the same - it's fine.

So setbacks were actually a good thing. They were the result of my mind and body freeing up old energies and going through a process of rebalancing. They were just doing what they needed to do to heal. All I could do was step back and allow them to do so, however unpleasant it felt. Previously I had spent years trying to interfere and manipulate my experience, fix myself and it just made things worse, this was because I was getting in the way of the healing process, I wouldn't let it happen, I was always trying to shut it down and not feel what came up.

This is what true allowing is. It is accepting that you have no control and just leaving it to your mind and body to heal themselves. To truly heal and recover, a drug addict has to go through a period of withdrawal - a detox. This is the mind and body's way of getting the toxins out of the system and in doing so it feels unpleasant. But without this process, there is no recovery. It does not mean because it is unpleasant that something has gone wrong. Your mind and body are just going through the process they need to get rid of the toxins. The addict has zero control over this process. All they can do is sit back and wait it out. Whatever they do will make no difference. It is the same thing when recovering from anxiety. You have to go through a process of feeling uncomfortable as all the old anxious energies come up to be released. To reach peace you have to go through a period of non-peace. My theory is that once you finally allow yourself to feel the way you do, all the past energies come up and the mind and body releases so much and then, for your sake, it takes a break and goes into another stage of release. This is exactly how it felt to me and is the reason that I felt freer than ever after what I refer to as a setback, as a big chunk of anxious energy had left me.

So truly understand that setbacks all part of the process and that in fact they are a good thing, as when you feel this way, you know your mind and body are releasing some old energies. Sometimes when we are in the middle of a release, we may feel we have lost our knowledge and understanding. Trust me, we haven't. All the progress and knowledge is never lost. Once this period of release is over, all the knowledge and understanding comes back. It is just like the sun hidden behind the clouds. Once the clouds part the sun will come back out.

How long a release lasts is not important, what is important is your attitude and willingness to allow it, no matter how long it takes.

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