Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Paradox of Anxiety

OK. On a completely different note from what I usually write about.....I once suffered from an anxiety disorder. For those of you who have never suffered, and I do mean suffer, from anxiety, let me say that I am not talking about being stressed out from normal life circumstances. I am not talking about being temperamentally high strung. I'm talking about ANXIETY. If you've had it, you know it. I'm talking about walking through life feeling like a demon has you by the throat and you have to walk around pretending everything is normal... It's a living hell.

I learned that the only way to overcome anxiety, the only way to get better is to be willing to not get better. I know that sounds like it doesn't make any sense. In other words, you must accept that the feelings (which are both emotional AND physical) might never leave and choose to live to the fullest anyway. It is the lack of acceptance, the desire to escape the sensation, that fuels its continuation.

When I consciously, and as an act of will, chose to embrace the anxiety as a sacrificial offering to my God I started to get better. It still took some time. I had to consciously accept repeatedly. But there was an immediate lessening of symptoms that continued until I felt completely normal again.

I am still amazed by this. It is in being willing to have things never change that they will change. It is in losing our life that we gain it. Blessed be God.

23 comments:

Esther said...

Such insight Rosemary! I have a good friend who is crippled by this condition.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Excellent! i have had that & like you say you have to just get on & live..it's eased considerably now..but i never thought it was possible to feel so awful...God bless

Barb, sfo said...

Rosemary, I had that going on after Little Brother's birth and it was terrifying. I will keep you and any others who suffer from this condition in my prayers.

Mimi said...

Great insight, while I've not struggled with anxiety, I have with depression, and it is very similar in that vein.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Life is just not always easy. I thank you for your comments. The post is actually not my insight, but rather what I learned at the University of Michigan anxiety disorders clinic. (which I highly recommend, by the way.) Anxiety disorders are completely curable and I'm the living proof.

Jean M. Heimann said...

In Christian Catholic terms, it sounds like what your describing is abandonment. As a retired psychologist and as someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past, I really enjoyed reading this post, Rosemary. It gives hope to those who are hurting.

God bless you!

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Thank you, Jean, I'm so glad you think it will give others hope because there is indeed reason for hope.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

Oh, I have struggled with this. After baby number 5, for a year, it was terrifying. It does come back from time to time, out of the blue, all of a sudden my heart is racing, I feel like I am in the middle of a nightmare and and I have the urge to flee. This happens usually in a place that I can not flee, and I just have to be still, and remind myself that I am not in danger, that I will not run away in terror, and wait for it to settle down. My good friends recognize when my hand flies to my chest, and the way I become very still for a while, and let me be until it subsides. Once I got over the fear of "what if it comes back", it isn't so terrible to deal with. Although I still have the fear, "what if it never goes away". I guess I'll just have to get over that one, eh>

:o) said...

I have a friend struggling with this very thing right now. She has no faith and so has nothing to lean upon. May God have mercy on her.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

MPN, it is a cross, isn't it. Sounds like you know how to cope with it, though. My father used to tell me that thoughts that start with the words, "what if" are hardly ever helpful thoughts.
:-)
:o), I don't know how people with no faith can cope. Maybe this will lead her to the Lord.

Anonymous said...

I have social anxiety. It is a hell, yes, and i am in therapy right now and struggling with the acceptance paradox. i just don't know how to do this.. it seems so unnatural thought i know logically it is the answer. I will never give up trying.

I don't "have faith" in your sense, but I think we all have faith of some kind, it just may be defined differently than you may see it... I cope by substituting 'faith' for 'friends'. I don't know what I'd do without them, even when they drive me bonkers. ;-)

Excellent post and soooo hopeful. I hope someday I can learn what you did and have the same outlook.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Anon, I'm so sorry to hear you're suffering. I didn't know how to accept it either so I just said the following prayer, "Lord, as an act of will I accept this anxiety, even if it never goes away and I offer it to you." I said "as an act of will" because I knew I didn't really accept it. But somehow saying so, asserting acceptance, led me to actual acceptance. God bless you. You're in my prayers.

AutumnRose said...

I relate to this so much ~ thank you for posting it! Your words are wise. And I can't believe I've only just discovered your blog :)
AutumnRose x

rosscaniglia said...

Hi Rosemary,

I think using the paradox makes me personally more anxious, especially realizing that the disorder may last forever..More anxiety goes away for me when I just offer it up to God..Do you think its ok to go about doing it in this way? It seems to work best for me. Thanks so much and God Bless!

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Rosscaniglia, It is very scary to think that it might last forever. Course, it won't because nothing lasts forever. Heaven awaits and there's no anxiety there! I offered it up to God every day and I think that's a wonderful thing to do. We have no idea how much good comes from offering up suffering like this to God. I think it pleases God very much. And sure I think it's OK to deal with it in this way! It gave me some comfort too and perhaps yours will go away completely in this manner.
For me, it did not leave completely and for good (not that I don't still experience a little occasionally) until I surrendered my desire for it to go away. Mind you, as an act of will. I was always terrified that it would never going away. And yes, the thought increased my anxiety. Still, I asserted to the Lord that I would accept it, embrace it, if that was His will for my life. I continue to tell him I accepted it and continued to offer it up too. Then, over the course of some months it gradually unraveled, with ups and downs, until it really left completely.
I was getting therapy at a specialty clinic for anxiety disorders and this embracing of the anxiety was the primary focus. I also did a lot of relaxation exercises, started treating myself better, made sure I was telling myself the truth, etc.
God bless you. Do what works for you! ( I should not have written like an authority on the subject that acceptance was the only way out)
So glad you're offering it to the Lord. Isn't it comforting that the Lord can use that offering and good will come from it?
Take care.

rosscaniglia said...

Thanks you so much Rosemary..It is very comforting to know that God is there and that Jesus will take on our anxiety so that we don't have to deal with it..That was his sacrifice on the cross, to take away our sins AND our anxieties..I often just catch myself thinking about that with no really deep meaning...But to REALLY believe it as you think about it is just remarkable..God does not want us to worry about ANYTHING..I often tell myself that true happiness comes from not worrying..Even if something bad were to happen, we can get through it rather painlessly (since we have no anxiety) with the help of the Lord ..I believe that by living and thinking this way, we are connected most deeply to our heavenly father and the bond grows with each day in our lives..God bless, and thank you for the wonderful response!

rosscaniglia said...

Hi Rosemary,

I would just like to say that since the last time we talked I have been doing considerably better because I eventually took your advice and began to ACCEPT the anxiety... I have realized that I am actually totally trusting God if I submit to his will by accepting the anxiety...I believe that God has permitted the anxiety to occur in order that I might be transformed and am ever greatful for this..By resisting we do not trust fully in his will..but by accepting we truly accept him and his plan for us..

That being said, I have recently come across a stumbling block about the Catholic Church's teaching of imperfect contrition (attrition) and I am concerned about its implications on my anxiety..If you recall, imperfect contrition is considered to be a good thing..But I ask, how can it be good, if it deals with fear of Hell or other punishment(which is something that often increases my anxiety)?? Do you know if we should SEEK attrition (fear of Hell for instance) in order to provide us a motive for confession? Or should we seek perfect attrition, which occurs out of love for God instead of fear? I am thinking that perhaps, while attrition is good in that it can bring us to confession, it is not good that we should SEEK it, since we seek fear and not trust (which is faith) in God..

Perhaps it is the case that the fear of punishment is good in that it produces good results (i.e. motivation for confession) but it should not be sought for its own sake..Or as Thomas Aquinas would say, the fear is "medicine for the soul"..just as my anxiety is, in my belief, medicine for my soul..

Thanks again for your help, and God bless!

Anonymous said...

I am in my 20's. I too suffer from social anxiety & depression,Lack of confidence....I prayed to lord with belief that He can heal me if HE has the will....
But ur words were so amazing...1st to accept&embrace the weakness Lord has given us & surrender it to our Father.

I have started trying it...i know it is difficult to accept it consciously.Plz do pray for me that my Lord help me & oters with similar prob.God bless u.

Sandy said...

Hi Rosemary,
your words are very wise and I will try this. I am on medication for postpartum depression (child 3) and have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, having suffered this for many years. I tried this thing called the Sedona method, basically accpeting your feelings and it worked beautifully for a while. Now it doesn't, and that's frustrating. It might just be a money aking scheme anyways, but from now on I will try to offer it up to God.

Anonymous said...

hi Rosemary. My anxiety is so bad I think I am having a heart attack. I saw my Dr. and was told my chest is tight because of panic attacks. My panic attacks were so bad last night I layed in bed and listened to K-Love Christian music. Please reply.

mary jo said...

Hi again. My name is mary jo. The flower on top of your page or scribble is just like the ones . I would draw. I made them into flowers with stems.

Rosemary Bogdan said...

Hi Mary Jo. I just saw your comments or I would have responded before this. I am so sorry you are suffering like this. It sounds horrible and I can remember feeling just like that. Chest tightness, you name it, all the symptoms of anxiety were mine. I hope you are able to get some help. Not sure where you are writing from. I had very good treatment from the University of Michigan. You will most definitely be in my prayers.

Glad you like the little flower. I believe my daughter drew that.

I'm always surprised at the number of comments I have received from this post. I think more people have visited this page than any other on my blog. So many people are suffering with anxiety. Lord have mercy.

mary jo said...

It was really good to hear from u. I live in AZ. I am in counseling with a wonderful person who deals with ptsd. My dr. told me to get a box and bring it to counseling. Whatever we talk about is put in the box. I leave it on his shelf. This is to help me not to bring it home with me. I have been blessed with a brother who understands my panic attacks. He told me to get out of bed asap so the panic attacks don't worsen in bed. He told me to go on a walk until they r gone. He read your site and told me I have to embrace my panic attacks. On my mirror I have sticking notes with the positive things I have to tell myself every day more then once. You are so right about not understanding a panic attack until you have one. It has been scary because of the physical problems that come with the attacks. I believe that God has put special people in my life for me to talk to. I have a mentor who I meet with once a week. Before I met her. I did not realize how much in common we have. What I am dealing with she deals with.