What is the best way to get over anxiety?
This is one of the many questions I asked myself when I suffered.
Yes, I could find ways and techniques to suppress it for a while, but I never discovered that elusive SECRET to making the anxiety disappear for good.
I searched every corner of the internet and found nothing there but false hope and charlatans wanting to extract as much money as possible. I read numerous books and immersed myself in the self-help market but found nothing more than a bunch of outdated coping techniques. I visited many counsellors who only seemed to want to dig up my past. I searched inside my own head for answers and only felt more confused and lost than ever.
Then one day I just bottomed out and was utterly crushed by it all. I concluded that if the answer was not out there, then this is me forever. This search had utterly exhausted me, and I was done with it. I had to just accept that there were no answers.
Was this searching all a waste of time?
Not at all, because if I had not been through this search, then I would not have given up the battle I was having with myself. I would have never realised that the answer was actually to do nothing. It was all the doing, searching, worrying and analysing that had been the problem all along and the reason I stayed in the cycle of suffering. Bottoming out was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I said in my latest book ‘At last a life and beyond‘ that one day I looked at all my self-help books and just realised that I no longer needed them. Something just clicked inside of me, and I saw them as part of the problem and not the solution.
They were part of the problem because I had read them all to try and find an instant answer out of my suffering. That is what all the medication, counsellors, techniques, books and the searching were all about, everything I had ever done was aimed at trying not to feel or get rid of something.
Once I bottomed out and understood that this approach just wasn’t working, I thought to myself, ‘what would happen if I didn’t attempt to feel any different than I do, what would happen then?
I then asked; ‘Is all this suppressing actually keeping these emotions stored within me? Maybe these feelings and thoughts needed to be felt so they can be released. Perhaps the real suffering is coming from all the resistance and struggle towards the emotions or thoughts. Is a major cause of my suffering trying to constantly solve myself? This could be why I feel so exhausted, trapped within my own head and detached from reality.’
The more questions I started to ask, the more things became clear, I had been creating so much of my own suffering in trying to fix it
Understanding is key to overcoming anxiety
One realisation after another hit me and I could not believe I had not seen this before. It made complete sense to why I had continued to suffer. I remember how I would fight my mind in an attempt to try and make it quieter, feel calmer and think differently.
I then realised that I was attempting to solve the problem with the problem, I was trying to fix the tired and weary brain by trying to fight and think my way to a solution, and all I achieved was to tire and unsettle it further.
If the mind was exhausted, then it would show the signs of exhaustion, and it was pointless and counterproductive of me to try and change how it felt. If it was noisy and unsettled, then trying to force it to be different would only unsettle it further.
If my body was full of anxious energy through my past worry and stress, then I would feel anxious. Why the hell was I trying not to feel anxious, what chance did I have of achieving this?
Learning to truly understand anxiety helped me overcome it
After I started to see things in a different light, I then did a lot of research on how the mind and body worked. I read books on Buddhism and all sorts of various teachings, but this time the motivation was to educate myself more and not to try and feel any different.
These teachings were telling me the same as my own conclusions and that the route I was on now was entirely correct. The answer was to allow myself to feel the way I did, to fall into my suffering and not try to continually escape it. I did not see this just on an intellectual level; I saw it so profoundly that I knew there was no going back; it just made so much sense.
The reason I keep writing is to spark these realisations in others; my words are pointers so that they can see this for themselves. Trust me when you see it for yourself, everything changes. Your whole attitude towards how you feel shifts and a lot of fear and resistance drops away. You start to leave yourself alone more and come more out of your head as you no longer feel the need to scramble around for solutions.
You finally realise you never had any control in the first place and so you step out of the way and allow your mind and body to heal of their own accord.
Recovery from anxiety requires you to go through some discomfort
This journey out of suffering is one of the toughest you will have to go through. It isn’t pretty at times as all the old stuff come up to be released. It means you have to allow what needs to come up, to come up; you have to turn towards it instead of turning away from it. You have to start living your life while harmless thoughts and emotions are running amok.
But at the end of the journey, it will be the best thing you ever did; you will realise how harmless thoughts and emotions are. You will understand how you did so much of this to yourself and that you were never broken in the first place. That you never had to go around trying to fix yourself and that no label given to you was actually true.
I have seen so many people bottom out, totally defeated with nothing else to try and yet this is the best stage to get to. As when you have nothing left to try, you drop all the searching, suppressing, fighting and all the techniques. This is when your road to recovery truly begins.