For Anxiety, Just Do This!
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As I recall those days when I had terrifying and intrusive ruminating thoughts, I get goosebumps just thinking about the amount of anxiety that I experienced as a result of incorrect thought processes. Yes, I had been fighting anxiety, worry, and nervousness issues since childhood, but today I am living comfortably with a family of my wife and a wonderful daughter, so I tend to forget all the worries and hardships that I struggled with for so long.
How did I come to develop my problem? Well, anxiety has run in my family since the day that we lost my father to lung cancer, where my mom had been struggling to make ends meet since he was diagnosed and was unable to work. I remember that she did everything necessary to keep up with my education and ensuring that my father had access to his medications on a regular basis. However it was too late to cure my father of the disease, because he was already in the final stages of the illness when he was diagnosed. My mother began to experience spontaneous panic attacks after we lost him, and as a child I was very attuned to my mother and so also became frightened as a result of observing her behavior. Thus I believe that anxiety has a strong learning component in addition to genetic factors, because I do not remember feeling any panic attacks as a child until my mother began to experience them. However, I did have other strange thoughts when I was younger, where I would go to sleep watching the ceiling and worry that I would die if I fell asleep. Later, I remember that my first full-blown panic attack occurred during my college graduation when I was hanging out with my friends, smoking cigarettes, and drinking whisky – However, this was normal behavior for me, so I was completely caught off-guard. Suddenly I started to feel incredibly dizzy, lost all sense of balance, and the last thing that I remember was being hit by a car. Next, I awoke in a hospital bed and was held for 2-weeks as my fractures and bruises healed. This was the moment when I began to experience a rising fear of going out in public. A type of agoraphobia had begun to take hold of me, and I avoided the outdoors more and more.
Although I experienced rampant fear and uncontrolled thoughts running through my mind, I consistently strived to look normal to others, but my social life was suffering. My girlfriend started ignoring me, because I was as responsive as I had been previously, and my friends began to make fun of my for being fearful and dwelling in my obsessive thoughts. This was the final year of my college coursework, and my grades began to suffer – I could not complete my research for the finals, and my family began to lose their faith in me. My mother began to feel that she had failed to raise me as well as she could have, and that was the biggest blow to my self-esteem.
Thought Error Analysis
Challenging yourself to recover from feelings that seem to be out of your control is not easy, but let me tell you that this stuff is all in your head. My anxiety and fear had begun taking complete control over me during this final year, but I was determined to break free. As a result, I went to see a psychiatrist friend of mine, and he gave me a Thought-Error-Analysis (TEA) process that was described by Sam Obitz in Been There, Done That? Do This! where he applied this strategy with every patient who he worked with.
I borrowed this book and started to follow the instructions, which were very simple and effective. The process simply required that I prepare 3 columns using vertical lines, where the first was labeled THOUGHTS, the second, ERRORS, and the third, ANALYSIS/ANSWER. All that I needed to do was to write down the thoughts that poped up in my mind in the first column and analyze them accordingly for any logical errors that I was committing. Next the Analysis/Answer column would contain the final step that I completed through analysis in order to resolve the thoughts that had been troubling me throughout the day (i.e. I am not bad. I am actually good, etc.). Once I had completed this process I was much happier day after day, and the results helped me to focus upon my college work rather than my obsessive thoughts. Meditation also helped me to overcome this problem as I used that practice in conjunction with the TEA process. Medications and pills were not necessary for me to overcome this challenge – Simply determination and a shift in thinking.
Note: This article was written as a first-person narrative about another person’s true experience as described in India Today Magazine.