Today’s title has no definite answer and is almost like saying how long is a piece of string.
We are all different, but so similar in our suffering, the main difference can be how long we have suffered, as the person who has suffered many years, may have built up more habits of avoidence, safety behaviours that they find harder to break then someone who has suffered a few months. Also the person who has suffered longer may have more memory of suffering and they may have fallen into a life where they have forgotten what it was like to feel normal, where the person who has suffered a few months, still has these feelings of normality close to them.
As people know I suffered anxiety for ten years, so I had certainly built up a lot of habits and memory of suffering was pretty strong, I had just got used to not feeling normal and it actually began to feel normal in my world, I had known nothing else for so long.
But deep down I knew the real me was underneath all this, I mean I had lived for 25 years without anxiety and D.P and 10 years with it, so I had more deep down memory of normailty, I just had to reverse the procedure. This takes me on to reversing habits, I certainly had developed many avoidence and safety behaviours and I had to go against my instincts and change these habits, not run away when I felt overwhelmed, not shy away from meeting new people, not putting off going places and let anxiety rule what I did and did not do. It was hard and I did just want to hide away at times, but I knew this new attitude had to become me and in time it did, the habit of avoidence started to reverse and it became second nature to not let anxiety stop me living my life. It still felt unreal, odd and overwhelming at times, but that was fine as I did not expect instant salvation. Again don’t wait to feel better to live your life and go places, live your life with anxiety present and all that goes with it, this is when you will begin to feel a shift. Again you are living a normal life and not hiding and shying away from how you feel, the more normal life you pack in, the more normal you will begin to feel.
You will find that you feel so far away from recovery one day and so near the next, again this is down to memory of past suffering. The smallest thing may have you feeling anxious or down again, the problem is when we feel anxious again it can hit us harder than before, mainly as we had felt some freedom, we thought this damn thing had gone forever. We may try and fight and scramble to how we felt the day before, if not, then we must find out why we felt great yesterday and damn awful now, there must be a reason, what have I done wrong? Well nothing at all, you must go through this up and down process, no one can expect to suffer for so long and not have bad days, it is your mind and body going through a process of recovery. At one time you may have felt no good days, so just feeling moments of normality, should tell you that you are on your way, a change is happening. But don’t expect that change to be plain sailing, trust me it is an up and down affair, the doubts will resurface, the willpower may weaken, you may feel as bad as ever at times, but be OK with this, remember your body and mind is just going through a process of reversal.
In time you will have more good days than bad, memory of past suffering is not as raw and memory of feeling normal starts to surface, new habits begin to surface, going here and there and not avoiding becomes second nature, you no longer have to try. Not worrying daily about how you feel becomes second nature, not analysing how you feel becomes your new habit, living your life alongside anxiety becomes easier, at first you may have had to drag yourself there as the old you wanted you to hide away, not now, it’s become your new habit to live alongside how you feel and not let anxiety make decisions for you.
I need to get the point across that symptoms need not to viewed as a problem anymore, something to avoid, pull away from, the enemy, with this attitude they will always be something to get rid off, to pull away from, they will have you thinking ‘How do I get rid of this or that?’. It is the same with someone who struggles with anxious thoughts, these maybe scary, question our existence, etc, the thought is not important, they are anxiety based and rely on your hate and belief that they are real of them, to stay in the cycle.
You may pull away from a thought, try and forget it, only to find it sticks. This is because you are anxious about that thought, paying it all the respect it needs, this may end in, ‘Oh how do I stop thinking this way?’ The far easier way is to no longer see them as a problem, let them shout loud, but understand they are not real and just anxiety based, I had many anxious thoughts in my years of suffering, these really threw me in the early days, until I understood that they were anxiety based and not important. I have no anxious thoughts at all now, because I am anxiety free, without anxiety they cannot exist FACT. I had a great insight into this after I used to go for a long run, I would come back, having burnt off all my excess adrenalin and would feel great with a clear mind and in this short time I could view reality, I had no anxious thoughts at this time, proving what I already knew that all anxious thoughts were just anxiety based and they were not real or important in the slightest.
The whole point, like any symptom is to stop seeing them as a problem, you will always have anxious thoughts, whilst your are anxious about them. You will always struggle with talking with others if you keep avoiding eye contact or make excuses to run away, you will always struggle with going places if you give in to how you feel and make excuses not to go. You need to stop seeing how you feel or think as a problem, see it as normal in the circumstances, which it is for now. If you view your thinking with this new attitude, then the next anxiety thought will not hold such importance, it will just be something you move on from, knowing it is just anxiety based and not important in the slightest, you won’t need reassuarance about your sanity, you will understand they are not real and wont feel the need to not think this way. The shift in attitude is not to care what you think or how you feel at any given time, I don’t mean you have to like it, but begin to be OK with it, take the stress and anxiety out of how you think and feel. I spent years stressing and getting anxious about how I felt, it was only normal when I had no idea what was wrong, but it is the single most important reason that made me sink deeper into the condition, it is only when I began to do the opposite that changes came about.
It really is a process you cannot rush and the answer to the Question ‘How long does it take to recover from anxiety?’ There is no time limit, it can depend on how long we have suffered, how we deal with bad days, our new attitude to how we feel, how much we are willing to go towards how we feel, not letting anxiety rule what we do and do not do. Putting a time limit on recovery just leads to you watching your progress, time limits lead to dissapointment, time limits lead to impatience. Recovery time depends on a few factors and the only thing that is important is to give your body and mind as much time and space as it needs to recover. The less pressure you put on recovery the better, don’t see it as important, that is when recovery will just creep up on you. I never even thought about it, I was just happy to feel better/progress and that attitude was very important.
Full recovery for me, was not one day feeling great and never having a bad day. It was a process, I just started to have more good than bad days, my mind became clearer and clearer, my anxiety was at a very low level. I could still have an awful week, but these periods meant nothing to me, I just went with them and they soon passed. It got to the point where I had the very odd bad day and even then it was just a mere irritation, my mind would have the odd day where thoughts were laboured, but nothing like before, it was just the final process now, just bits of old memory hanging about, nothing at all to be impressed with. These bad days became so rare and eventually nothing, there was no celebration, as it was so gradual. But I do remember wanting to pack in as much living as possible, I joined friends on every trip out, joined new clubs, finding new hobbys, loving the fact I could just go anywhere without feeling yucky, being able to hold conversations without wanting to run away, to feel enjoyment instead of just going through the motions, it was like being let out of a prison, but it was me that found the key. I am still like that today and have a full social life and one thing about recovery is it feels great to be apart of life again, my attitude to what was important shifted and I woke up with a smile each day, little things no longer bothered me, it truly was like being reborn.
That is open to everyone, nothing I read or was told in my early days had me believing I would ever recover, but I knew there must be a way and I was not going to give up until I found the answers. On this blog we only see a very small minority of people’s progress and the people who have been around a while will know how many came here in such a hole and have now gone on to fully recover after years of getting nowhere. I also get weekly emails from people who don’t come on the blog, to say they are now back at work and things are getting so much easier, these are not monthly emails, I receive them on a regular basis. One thing that connects all these people though is they had the belief and patience to recover. In my next post I will post a collection of these success stories.