How I managed to go from full of anxiety to being free - my guide for everyone
Hi everyone, as promised, here it is. If you find it useful or even inspiring please drop me a line so I know my time wasn't in vein. If it helps just ONE person, I have achieved what I want :grin2:
Anxiety Guide by Dr.Waz
This guide based upon the following:
- My personal struggles with anxiety and OCD for 12+ years
- A lot of reflection and reading, including 300 pages of personal writing and isolation meditation
- Patients I help treat
I have included a lot of personal information in this guide to help you and maybe even inspire you. I have also included parts of my personal writing as I passed through the 3 phases below to outline the struggle I was going through. I hope you find it useful.
Who I am
My name is Dr Waz and I live in New Zealand with my wife and 2 boys. Anxiety has been a daily part of my life for the past 12+ years and it has taken me that long to figure out everything I have written in this guide. I work in accident and emergency medicine and studied at the university of otago completing a MBChB after doing a BSc. I see people with anxiety everywhere around me now and I am in a position to help them, which is an honor. My thanks to the universe for allowing this to be.
For those who would feel reassurance from seeing my credentials, PM me.
My anxiety has taken many forms: generalized, social and OCD.
My problems started in late secondary school. As with others I was care free and enjoyed life. Then the OCD started to kick in. It was mild. However, by the start of Uni it was full blown. I was doubting everything I read, I had to triple quadriple check everything, I remember sitting in the bus one day and starring at the ticket to confirm the bus number I was on the whole way back home, over and over again. Nothing "felt right". I became more and more isolated...
Then the anxiety started, initially mild then worse and worse. You name it, I had it:
- intrusive negative thoughts about harming others
- day long self criticism to the point where dying WAS better than living
- low self esteem
- VERY poor concentration - I recall sitting in front of a book for hours on end and barely being able to read a page
- irrational thinking and analysis of myself and others
- being "on edge" 24/7
- avoiding all forms of socializing and feeling left out and not fitting in all the time, super anxious dealing with others
- super high stress levels where my face would break out in pimples all year long, no treatment from my Dr worked
- derealization - feeling I wasnt living in the world I saw, I was removed somehow
= DEBILITATING AND GOING CRAAAZY
This is a sample of my struggles after things started improving a bit (I unfortunately didnt have the habit of writing when things were at their worst)
I felt like my mind was infected with a virus which kept it busy with itself all day long. There was no more joy in life...
My anxiety worsened after completing my 2nd year of medical school and by the 3rd year, I was in pieces. My grades hit rock bottom, I started failing, I had no social life and help was needed. I began seeing a psychologist and fought so hard to be better, there were so many tears, so many sleepless nights, so much anger, so much suffering. I never want to see those days again. It was from there that the improvement slowly made it way towards me. I was still a mess. Through shear force, total commitment and plenty of reflection, I managed to make it through medical school somehow, I am still not sure how that happened.
Then work began, and boom, another dip back down to rock bottom. This time my work suffered, I made mistakes, I was unable to get work done, I got anxious around my patients and colleagues, I ended up staying super late everyday. And along with this came the criticism and deadlines. NO ONE ASKED ME WHY, NO ONE TRIED TO UNDERSTAND, MY GP WAS APATHETIC, it seemed I was all alone!
I came within a breath away from LOOSING MY CAREER! I'd had it, no more.
I set up a gardening company to quit being a doctor
I applied for other jobs
I sent in my CV
But my wife made it see it through. I pushed through it day by day. It was difficult, it was painful, there were a LOT of tears, a lot of pain, a lot of bad sleep...
And here I am on the other side, happy, a doctor, a weightlifter, father of 2 young boys living a life where anxiety is no longer the center, for once in my life, I AM FREE. I have just completed a 1000 pound challenge lifting a total of 470kg over bench (110kg) / deadlift (210kg) / squat (160kg) (with videos to prove!)
Here is my deadlift to prove it! (note this was after benching and squatting so was quite tired!
I am writing this to help you overcome anxiety like I have. But don’t suffer 12 years like I did.
I wish someone could have told me what I am about to tell you.
Phase 1 - The struggle
Phase 2 - Empowerment
Phase 3 - Recovery
Phase 1 – The struggle
- Period of managing with anxiety
- Difficulty and disability
- Breakdown and help
This phase is the start of your anxiety. You will remember it, that first sensation, that first panic attack, that first night, that first situation. You will have had a period where your anxiety was manageable and you lived with it. However, slowly and slowly things started taking a path for the worse and worse. You slowly started loose self esteem, you slowly become more isolated, you had no idea why this was happening to you and only you…
2. Difficulty and disability
Now your life is filled with anxiety. It limits you. It is like a disease. Difficulty in the normal activities of the day grow and grow. Your routine meetings at work turn into difficult experiences. Your normal school classes turn into stressful challenges. You are turning from a “normal” person to this “crazy thing”. Now it is more than just difficulty, there are things you are not able to do anymore! Forget going out and socializing, forget driving in traffic, forget being care free , forget razor sharp memory. Now it is like a disability that you carry everywhere you go. It is stuck to you, it is part of you. You feel so frustrated, angry and sad all at the same time. You feel like you are going CRAZY! That there must be something wrong with you. “What if I have a brain tumour?” “What if I have a dangerous hormone problem?”. And the anxiety causes you MORE isolation and this in turns puts you more behind and distracts you which makes you even MORE anxious and it goes on and on…
3. Breakdown and help
For many people the disability grows and grows to such an extent that you reach a breaking point, the all-time low, where tears flow without your control. Your avoidance of situations grows, the frequency of anxiety increases until it feels like it is 24/7, you feel like you are trapped with a CRAZY mind. You are sure there is something wrong with you. Everyone else seems ok except you!
You cannot go on like this no more. Here, dying feels easier than living. You have a friend who committed suicide and you feel that somehow they are lucky they do not go through what you do. Life right here sucks. And yes this is rock bottom.
When you are here, you MUST ask for help. Sometimes things are too complicated for us to work out on our own. Just talking to someone about it relieves the pressure and puts a bit of sense in what you are going through. This is not weakness, this is strength.
But remember, sometimes passing through such a phase is exactly what you need to bring you back stronger than ever before! If there was a stage I do not regret being in it was this. Sure it sucked but you come out much more resilient and stronger as a result.
If you are at this phase, please remember that you are not alone, we care about you and we want you to seek help.
This phase will not cure you, it will simply give you a taste of what bad feels like and helps you move out of the hole and onto the next stage in due time...
Phase 2 + 3
Phase 2 – Empowerment
- Your life = choices + actions
- You are responsible
- This is empowering
1. Your life = choices + actions
The first step to change is to accept this equation. You must accept that your life is a result of the choices and actions you have taken all along. What else is it otherwise? Chance? Is it your parents actions? Is it your partners? Or is it because of society? You cannot change anything before accepting it is your responsibility to do so.
You are reading this now, who made that choice? You. Now you have willingly made a choice to read something that will hopefully help you and it is these choices, and many other small choices that all come together to make up your life. Without deciding to join this forum then you wouldn’t be here right? This is essential. Too often people blame everything but themselves for issues because it makes us feel vulnerable! It makes us feel inadequate. But I embrace these vulnerabilities and inadequacies in me because when you know where you need to improve, you can do something about it. And who doesn’t have them? The real person to be afraid of is the one who thinks they are perfect and lives their live oblivious to their imperfections.
"It is the corrupt government that has put in this situation when they take all my money in tax”
“It is my parents fault that I am like this, I was not given the opportunity”
“no one was there in my life to teach me or guide me”
“no one advised me about what I should study”
“my parents didn’t teach me how to deal with life issues that I now face. Didn’t they realize that these issues are more important that the other silly things they tried to show me?”
“MY ANXIETY IS A RESULT OF MY CHOICES AND ACTIONS”
2. You are responsible
If everything in your life is a result of the choices and actions you have taken then you are responsible for it, ALL of it, the good and the bad. This is really hard to swallow because everyone has things in their life that are negative and to accept those things to be your responsibility is difficult. But if you are not responsible then who is? Your parents? Spouse? If you are in a bad situation, it is a result of choices and actions you have taken to put you there and it is your responsibility to get out. No one will come and rescue you with help and get you back on your feet again, only YOU will. Only YOU have the answer. Only YOU can make the choice. Stop expecting it to be revealed to you like a holy solution from the sky. Everyone is busy with their own problems.
“I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY ANXIETY AND ONLY I AM ABLE TO HELP MYSELF, NO ONE ELSE”
This is my personal version of this:
3. You are empowered
Once you truly accept the above, rather than feeling beat up and overwhelmed, you will feel a genuine feeling of empowerment. Because everything is a result of my actions and choices and I am responsible, I can now change reality by altering my actions and choices. You are now IN CONTROL. You have the power to change ANYTHING in your life. This is a real life changing moment when you arrive here. Prior to this you may have thought that everything was because it just was. But no! everything is in your hands, you make the calls, you decide where it heads. Forget the past, I am talking about now!
Once you fully believe this, you feel so empowered it is difficult to describe.
Now anxiety is something you CAN change! You are not born with it and you will not die with it.
Now it is about understanding what factors are contributing to a particular aspect of your life and learning how to change it.
“MY ANXIETY IS A RESULT OF MY CHOICES AND ACTIONS, I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY ANXIETY AND I HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE IT AND CHANGE ANYTHING ELSE I WANT IN MY LIFE”
Phase 3 – Peace and recovery
- Anxiety serves me, it serves a purpose
- Peace agreement
- Acceptance and invitation
1. You need your anxiety
In the final phase you start to understand that without anxiety you wouldn’t be here alive. The typical example of cavemen is given here. You need to have anxiety to pump you full of adrenaline which causes blood to flow from non-important areas such as your tummy and to go to your muscles so you can run awaaaaaay.
This still applies in our daily life. I recall during my work one lady in the hospital all of a sudden collapsed and I was the only one there at a time with a group of 4 or 5 nurses looking at me for instructions on what to do. At that time derealisation was high and I was struggling to cope with it. But when this happened, adrenaline hit me. My mood went from a casual stroll down the corridor to pin point focus on the situation and to what was happening around me. I was able to direct the nurses to perform chest compressions (CPR) and we electrocuted the lady with a shock which saved her life prior to any help arriving. I needed the adrenaline and anxiety. Without it I would have been too slow, without anxiety the lady could have died.
Imagine if you didn’t have anxiety. You would cross the street without fearing being hit by traffic. You would not avoid anything dangerous. So it is there for a PURPOSE, we need it. This changes your perspective of fully hating it as a really bad thing that you need to REMOVE from your life to something that will ALWAYS be with you, something that is wired into you and it is something that you both love and hate at the same time. You cant remove the anxious response that is hard wired in you. So stop trying. Accept that this is how your body works.
“I LOVE THE ABILITY THAT MY BODY HAS TO FEEL ANXIOUS BECAUSE WITHOUT IT, I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO SURVIVE”
2. Peace agreement
This step requires some isolation and quiet time for reflection. Think of all the times your anxiety has made you feel embarrassed, think of how many times you have missed out on life because of it. Think of how your stress levels are always high because of it. Think of how many sleepless nights it has caused you. Think of all the moments in life that passed you by while you were waging war on the inside and everyone else seemed to enjoy it but you. Think of all the stress hormones and health issues you have caused yourself. Think of all the tears. Think of all the friends lost. Think of where you would have been if anxiety wasn’t there, that outgoing care free and exploring soul you have inside you, that soul that is trapped an never allowed to express itself. Think of everything bad your anxiety has done to you. There would be so many instances and things such that this will likely bring tears to your eyes. Cry it out, go for it, you are brave and you have done so well to make it this far, many people don’t, you have enough to cry about…
Then consider this: Has fighting any harder ever helped you? Has being brave made it less? Has pushing it away ever made it easier to deal with? Has anything you have done ever made it go away? Have you worked out any way to get rid of it? No. It is still there and alive. You want to rip it out but it is still there, like a part of you.
SO THEN WHY FIGHT IT? Nothing has worked, why keep trying? You have been through rock bottom, you have been up and down, you have tried everything you can think of. Why not GIVE UP THIS FIGHT? and let it be? Wouldn’t you be much happier if you stop living an inside battle? Stop making every living day a battle between you and anxiety. Stop making every day a living hell for you. Stop watching your life pass by occupied fighting anxiety while everyone is out there having fun. You don’t have to wait for happiness and peace, you can just accept your situation as it is and not wait for a better tomorrow.
STOP THE WAR IN YOUR BRAIN, MAKE PEACE.
Below is my peace setting with anxiety:
If you think that fighting anxiety may work, I can assure you it doesn’t. How can you fight something that is wired within you? You cant. You have a centre in the brain called the amygdala which is responsible for fear and it is programmed to do just that: fear and anxiety. I believed for many years that I can fight anxiety, and sure enough I failed. I tried over and over again to be stronger and braver. But I failed over and over again.
See my writings below as I tried to fight it, only then to figure out its not working and cross it all off, then try again, then cross it off etc. Learn from my fight and my struggles, these are so hard for me to post because at the time they were filled such such PAIN:
I thought I could make my mind “straight” and fix things. Rather than live dodging anxiety (the diagram on the left), I thought I could fight through it.
Sit in insolation and consider this:
“DEAR ANXIETY. OVER MY LIFE I HAVE COME TO KNOW YOU REALLY WELL AND HATE YOUR FU***N GUTS. YES I HATE YOU. YOU HAVE CONTROLLED ME, YOU HAVE DICTATED HOW I LIVE, YOU HAVE CAUSED ME MORE PAIN THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN MY LIFE.
YOU HAVE F****D UP MY LIFE.
EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE TO REMOVE YOU HAS NOT WORKED. I HAVE NO MORE ENERGY, NO MORE PASSION TO FIGHT YOU. I AM DONE. I ACCEPT DEFEAT.
WITH THIS DEFEAT I DECLARE TO THE UNIVERSE THAT I AM AT PEACE WITH, I TOTALLY ACCEPT YOU AS A PART OF ME, I NO LONGER WISH YOU ARE GONE, I AM AT PEACE WITH YOUR PRESENCE. I AM AT PEACE WITH LIFE, I GIVE UP RESISTING YOU…”
3. Acceptance and invitation
This step takes the above step even further. With just making peace with anxiety, you still dread its presence. You hate it. And that is normal. But ask your self this: why should you live the rest of your life and just accept its presence and still in the background be in a continuous state of wishing it wasn’t there? Sure you are at peace with it but why live daily in the hope that it goes away one day. Why do we have to wait for one day to come? Why can’t that one day be today?
Think of all the times anxiety has affected you. Think of all the blushing, all the stuttering, all the isolation, all the avoidance, all the stress, all those nights you couldn’t sleep, all those intrusive thoughts about harming others or yourself, all the limitations your life has suffered as a result. How badly are the effects in your life today? Chances are they are not huge. So that’s exactly the point, you have BEEN through the worse anxiety you can imagine so WHO CARES if it happens again, and again, and again? It will PASS just like it did every other time, next time is no different.
And you come to realize that even if your anxiety came at you with full force then you have been through it in the past, its not the first time. And those times passed, didn’t they? And you still made it out alive from them? Yes indeed and hence you are reading this. How bad can it get, what is the worst thing? Death? Well everyone will face that regardless, at least then I don’t have to face you daily. So what ever happens I am ready for it. Then start to EXPECT it to be there so that when you do things you are mentally ready for anxiety to pop up. Its not stranger, it is a welcome guest. After expecting it, start to WELCOME it. Bring it with you where ever you go. Go out and experience more of it. Get in a social situation and experience it and WHO CARES what happens! You blush, stutter, go all red pink and green, you spew, you faint, you say something silly, you wet your self, you have palpitations, you end up in hospital… WHO CARES??? Has it not happened already and passed? If it visits you regardless, why on earth should we not invite it in instead??
"ANXIETY – I NOW AM NOT ONLY AT PEACE WITH YOU, BUT I INVITE YOU. THE MORE I FEEL YOU, THE MORE I WANT OF YOU. COME JOIN ME. SO WHAT IF YOU COME, WHAT IF I MAKE A FOOL OF MYSELF, WHAT IF I FAINT, WHAT IF I STUTTER? WHAT IF I BLUSH, WHAT IF I SOUND SILLY”
You now have a new friend, anxiety.
You look around, you are all alone.
You shout: “anxiety, why is it that when I deeply accepted you and wanted you to come that you have deserted me, where did you go????????”
Sounds like CBT.
have you totally overcame social anxiety ?
Yep pretty much :)
thanks for this, I've not read the whole thing yet cause its long, but i plan to
wow this is amazing! this is where i start thank you!
Thank you for this. I have been experiencing public speaking anxiety lately, and I think I am still stuck on phase 1.
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