I'm unwell right now. And that's ok.
Updated: Sep 2, 2020
One of the most powerful things we can do on our anxiety recovery journey – is accepting that we are living with an illness, and giving ourselves permission to be unwell.
When caught in the grips of an anxiety illness, we generally spend much of our time fighting and resisting our anxiety symptoms - thinking of new strategies to rid ourselves of these awful thoughts and feelings that strip the joy from life.
Rarely do we think...
“Hey, it’s ok to feel this way. I’m unwell and feeling like this is just a symptom of my illness”.
This way of thinking is helpful because it takes a lot of the power away from our symptoms (whatever they may be for you). It makes it a little easier for us to stop resisting and fighting our thoughts and feelings – which is important because it’s the resistance that keeps us stuck.
Anxiety is a tricky illness. It feeds on itself and so the more anxious we are the more anxious we become. We become anxious about being anxious and stay forever trapped in a cycle of worry and fear.
We break the anxiety cycle by removing the fear from our symptoms. Re-framing the way we think about the symptoms – and looking at them as symptoms of an illness - helps us do this.
If we were suffering from a different illness – let’s pick pneumonia as an example – we would behave very differently.
Once diagnosed, we would accept the diagnosis (we wouldn’t wonder if something more sinister was wrong), and we would accept that the symptoms we were experiencing were symptoms of our pneumonia.
We wouldn’t spend every day worrying about those symptoms; wondering why we felt so bad; trying to do everything in our power to get rid of the symptoms. Of course we feel bad! We have pneumonia. We need to let the symptoms be there till our body recovers. There’s no point fighting with them and resisting them. That would just make us feel worse.
Our approach to anxiety should be the same. Sure, it’s a different illness and the symptoms are different – but it’s an illness none the less. However, our approach is generally the opposite. We never just let our anxiety symptoms be there. Instead we fixate on them, and worry about them, and wonder why we feel so bad, and try to find ways to escape them and stop them from happening – all the while adding fuel to the anxiety fire. And as a result, we stay trapped in the anxiety cycle.
I’m not suggesting for a second that you need to like the way you feel. Anxiety symptoms feel awful. But you can accept that these symptoms are part of your life for the time being and stop fighting with them. Accepting them isn’t the same as liking them. You don’t need to like them. Just let them be there.
Slowly – over time - by removing the fear from the anxiety symptoms, the part of the brain that controls our anxiety response (the amygdala) becomes less ‘hyper-active’ and the brain (and body) recover.
You’ll still have anxiety in your life – everyone does – but you’ll no longer be suffering from an anxiety related illness. That means you get your life back.
Feel free to contact me here with questions or feedback.