I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 14:20-21
Anxiety and fear do often ensnare me. Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in low self-esteem and societal expectations. Sometimes I become trapped in other people’s fears and do not even investigate to see if the fears and anxieties are mine to worry about in the first place. Since one of the main reasons why I was recently hospitalized was due to extreme anxiety and panic attacks, I am slowly going through The Dialectical Behavioral Skills Workbook for Anxiety.
Two things I like so far in the workbook is that it stresses how common the experience of anxiety and panic attacks are and how the feelings of fear and anxiety can also be useful.
Around 11 percent of people have experienced a panic attack in the past year, and 28 percent of people say that they have had a panic attack at some point in their lives (Kessler et al. 2006).
[...]both fear and anxiety serve a very important purpose: they tell you that you may be in a situation where there is risk of harm. That’s good information to have! Anxiety also has an additional function, however. Specifically, anxiety can tell you that something matters to you, or is important and meaningful to you. Think about it. When you are about to interview for a job that you really want, you are probably more anxious than if you are about to interview for a job that you couldn’t care less about. This is because the job matters to you.
So many people struggle with anxiety that I thought showing my process might be helpful to others. The original exercise stops at, “action,” but I realized that if this exercise was really going to alter my feelings and thoughts then I needed to do even more self examination. I added a mantra section because they are so helpful for me during times of high stress. Often when I notice that I am coming close to a panic attack, I will examine my thoughts, realize that they are not grounded in total reality and then counter them with a more realistic or empowering mantra over and over again in my head until I believe it and my worry has diminished. (In CPS language, we call this “Catch It, Check It, Change It.” In DBT language, we call this, “Checking The Facts.” Either way, it is a very effective tool for self examination and for changing one's perspective).
I’ve noticed that I often struggle with the same anxieties, just in slightly different ways. I will continue to go to doctor’s appointments and I won’t always feel well, so I need to remember that my doctor will not penalize me for being honest. (I’m talking about my specific doctor - I cannot speak for any other.) I will get nervous at the beginning of another meet up, so I need to remember that what happens is what needs to happen; that I cannot control the outcome - just myself - and that what I have to say is important and needs to be heard.
Identify How I Experience Anxiety and Fear
Situation: Doctor Appointment
Bodily Sensations: Sore throat, metallic taste in mouth, chest pressure
Thoughts: If I’m honest about how I still feel, I’ll be put back in the hospital.
Action Tendencies: lie
Action: was honest; did some research & realized that those were symptoms of a panic attack, so I took my PRN when I got back home and napped.
Realization: Being honest didn’t put me in the hospital, but I was able to get my medications adjusted some more.
What I Need To Remember: My doctor is a good doctor and very transparent. If he thought I needed to be hospitalized again, he would say so first. We would be able
to have a dialogue. He would not 10-13 me over my feelings.
Mantra: My doctor is a good doctor. My doctor is transparent. My doctor trusts me. It is okay to ask questions - He will not laugh.
What I Want To Do Now: I want to thank him for being such a good doctor. Most doctors aren’t as good as he is. He lets me stay longer for a session if I have a lot of
questions, he validates my feelings, and he has open dialogue with me instead of making assumptions.
How I Feel Now: Gratitude
Bodily Sensations: metallic taste in mouth, chest pressure; tense muscles
Thoughts: People aren’t going to like what I say; people won’t show up and I will have organized this for nothing
Action Tendencies: complain; be angry; not share my points, even though I think they will add something new
Action: accepted that people were just going to come late; spoke my points but was also aware of my space, so that I didn’t talk the whole time.
Realization: We had the perfect sized group by 8pm. My honesty brought the conversation to a new, deeper level.
What I Need to Remember: Things will often work out if I just let go of the time and accept the fact that whoever shows up will be the people that really need to come. I am
a socially appropriate person and a thoughtful and smart communicator. Even if I am not the most oppressed person in the room, my words are still important and worth hearing, as long as I come from a genuine place and not become
defensive if challenged. Despite my anxiety, the evening turned out absolutely perfect. I am better at being socially aware and a facilitator than I often think I am.
Mantra: Let go and let God. What will be is what it needs to be. My thoughts and ideas are important and offer a new and needed perspective. People will appreciate what I have to say.
What I Want To Do Now: Organize more meet ups in multiple platforms, so to reach more people. I am really good at this! Feminist meet ups with more diversity makes me feel good and is a passion of mine. More Please!
How I Feel Now: Excitement!
(I made carrot cake cupcakes with homemade maple buttercream frosting for the event. I've found that I can get away with boxed cake mix, as long as I make my own frosting. YUMMM)
BTW, my organization is Metro Atlanta Feminists and you can find us on meet up.com and on Facebook.
If only I could recognize fear when I felt it... but hey, I was brought up to be male, so admitting fear was off the table.
I hear ya. For a long time, I couldn't identify anger at all - that's what it's like being brought up female. The nice thing about DBT is that it breaks certain feelings down to what they specifically feel like in the body. For instance, sadness often manifests as tiredness. Who knew?! So now when I'm tired, sometimes I will pause and ask myself if there is any sadness and then attend to that. (or take a nap... lol sometimes you just need sleep.)