I first came to Anxietycentre.com around April 2018, and I arrived as an absolute mess. I was in a sheer state of 24/7 terror that never seemed to relent. My symptoms included (by not limited to) obsessive terrifying thoughts about my "condition," burning sensation on my skin down my back and neck, a lump in my throat, constant state of fear (e.g., like something really bad was about to happen to me), tinnitus, pain in my fingers and groin, insomnia, confusion and poor memory, rapid swings in emotion and mood, and an incredibly debilitating tight-chested feeling that was with me every moment of the day. It's nearly impossible to convey the exact experience with words, but if you have been there, or are in this state currently, you will know exactly how hopeless and scary it feels.
One of the other things I experienced that was particularly distressing was this sense that my "self" had been completely stripped away. I used to be outgoing and happy, and I loved life, but seemingly overnight, I was transformed into an empty shell and felt no-way like myself. All in all, I was suffering on a level I didn't know was possible.
Once I found anxietycentre.com, I read and read and read. I think I read every chapter in about 2 days. It did give me a little hope, but I still thought (as many of us do) that I was a particularly broken person, doomed to the destiny of my genetics (as the doctors had told me), and that I would suffer like this for the rest of my life. I even started a course of Zoloft, which did close to nothing for me. So, I felt pretty defeated and terrified. Despite all of this suffering and hopelessness, I made myself a promise that I would do all the stuff outlined in the chapters…mostly just because I was desperate and was willing to try anything.
At first, nothing happened. I contained, I restructured my thoughts, I tried meditating, I ate healthier, I accepted (to the best of my ability) my symptoms, I redirected my attention outward instead of inward..... and after a month or so nothing happened. Again, I thought I was just a particularly broken person, and cue my spiral into even deeper panic.
Then, I came across one of Jim's Skype calls (can't remember the episode) where he mentioned how important it is to be patient with recovery and that it could take up to two years for symptoms to settle down. That was possibly the most important lesson I needed to take on board, and one that I think is often overlooked by us who have fallen into hyperstimulation. We want so badly for our situation to change as fast as possible. But the inconvenient truth is that the nervous system takes it's time to heal...quite a bit of time.
So, I went back to my recovery strategies (nothing special, just everything outlined in the chapters) and every time my mind would serve up the fearful thoughts (e.g., "I don't feel any better today, what if I can't recover?" or "I was feeling slightly better yesterday and today I feel worst than ever! I must be doing something wrong!") I would, sometimes out loud, reassure myself, "Remember, recovery takes a long time. It's just the anxiety talking," and I would try my best to just let those thoughts and symptoms do what they wish but I would not get involved with them.
It is VITAL not to try and suppress these thoughts (even though you instinctively will at first). Suppressing them or running away from them will just make them come back stronger and more frequently. Running or hiding from or suppressing your symptoms is telling your own limbic system and other brain structures that you are scared of them, and so more stress and symptoms will arise. One crucial part of recovery is to lose this symptom > fear > symptom.. cycle. So, just let your symptoms float around you and try as best as possible to carry on with your life while they're temporarily there.
After months and months of doing this, my symptoms were slowly settling down, and I was becoming less and less afraid of them. I knew it was now time to begin working on my Level Two recovery: the underlying factors.
I found a counsellor who seemed to understand to a certain degree of what really causes anxiety and I worked with her to reveal several critical behaviours and cognitive patterns that led me into a hyperstimulated state. I had and still have, many underlying factors. However, two main ones seemed to be at the root of my hyperstimulation. My two main underlying factors were that I, since a child, have had very low self-esteem and as a result, I people-please everyone around me to get them to validate and "like" me. My second major factor is that I tend to catastrophize situations large and small. I won't go into specifics, but a few life events recently "supercharged" these behaviours, which led to my constant worrying and obsessing. Everyone will have different underlying factors, so it is vital you figure out what yours are so you can begin to work on Level Two recovery. Self-help books can kind of help, but nothing replaces a skilfull and experienced psych or counsellor.
So, after nearly a year of working at these two main issues alone (I am a slow learner! ;) ) and working at all the strategies outlined in the chapters for many months prior, I can honestly say I have come to a place where my anxiety is for all intents and purposes "resolved." The analogy of peeling an onion is definitely a great way to describe the path to recovery.
Recovery sort of comes in vague stages but you never really know what stage you're ever in and on a daily, or even weekly scale it feels like no progress is made. But I promise you, it DOES work. If you make a commitment to yourself that you WILL recover, no matter how slowly you move towards that goal, no matter how many setbacks you have along the way, or no matter how many times you slip off the recovery band wagon, as long as you get back on it, at the end of the day, your body and mind will eventually reach a place of freedom.
My life is now 100% more richer having come through this journey, and as crazy as it may sound, it has been worth the whole journey. I am such a better, more stable person for it, and life seems like such a gift now I can freely experience it anxiety disorder-free. This doesn't mean life is magically easier than it was before or that my underlying factors don't pop up here and there, because they certainly do. The difference now is that I know how to face life and it's stressful challenges in a way that bears no (or very little) burden on my body and mind, which keeps them both happy and free from anxiety.
So good luck and enjoy the other side once you get there! It's all worth it in the end!
Damien S., Australia
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