Next up in this series of Anxiety’s Tricks; Anxiety makes you think that you will go crazy, or that you are in the midst of going crazy!
What a self-defeating, completely invalidating mindset. It doesn’t take much to go down a road of thinking that we are losing it, that we’ve lost track of reality, that we can’t handle a given situation, and that all is hopeless!
One of the ways that Anxiety makes you think that you will go crazy is when Panic Attacks happen. The very definition is exactly what we are talking about here: A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. -Source HelpGuide.org
As outlined in You 1 Anxiety 0, when you experience emotions, your mind seeks to figure them out. If those feelings are overwhelming, you might decide that you’re losing it, breaking down, plummeting, shutting down, spiraling out of control or losing touch with reality. These are scary feelings, and there is no shame in admitting that. Anxiety wants us to feel scared, and it’s relentless in its pursuit of that. It’s also relentless in its pursuit to make us feel like we are going crazy.
Anxiety wants to feel like there is no hope, like we’ll never regain control, we’ll never feel “normal” again. “Everyone else seems just fine, why do I get so scared, why am I always feeling out of control?”
Once we start to feel like we are losing control, anxiety feeds off of that and uses it to its advantage. After all, it already knows that we are prone to feelings of fear in certain situations so it’s preemptively causing us to dwell on what could happen before anything ever does. Then, if it does happen, anxiety has us right where it wants us! I like to think of it as anxiety being a little gremlin sitting on our shoulder, whispering to us, “See I told you so! You know you can’t handle this, you are broken, and you are crazy”!
Especially in recovery from abuse, there are countless situations that can cause feelings of panic. Just thinking of the trauma that you may have endured, no matter how long ago it may have been, can also stir up feelings of Hypervigilance; “who’s around me, what are they going to try to do, what’s going to happen next, will I be able to handle it, should I run away?” Read more on Hypervigilance here.
Being triggered can also cause us to feel like we are going crazy; a sight, a sound, a smell, a random memory popping up, being around someone who invalidates us, these are all things that anxiety loves to latch on to and use to its advantage, and subsequently our disadvantage. Triggers are a huge part of the lives of survivors, especially early on in our healing journey. They are scary, confusing, completely invalidating, and can definitely make us feel like we are going crazy. They can happen anywhere, at any time, even when we least expect it.
Flashbacks, another way that we feel like we are losing it. Just like triggers, flashbacks make us question our own well-being, our own ability to function on our own. They can make us feel completely immobilized and stuck in a state of fear, panic, and confusion.
So how do we combat this? The first thing is to question the situation. Question the anxious feelings; why we feel fearful, why we think we are losing, and are we really losing it?
The answer is a resounding No, we are not really losing it, we just think we are because anxiety has instilled feelings of fear and doubting our own abilities for so long. So question those feelings, break them down, and see them for what they are. A situation may indeed feel intimidating or scary, and that’s okay, but it doesn’t have to cause to go down the self-invalidating road of thinking we have “lost it”.
Remember friends, you are not “losing it”. You are not “going crazy”. This is simply hormones in your body working overtime and it’s up to us to take control. You can take the power back! Use the tools you available to you, to your advantage. Here are some reminders of ways to break that cycle of feeling like we are unable to handle life in general, or a certain situation that always invokes feelings of anxiety and panic.
- Use distraction – get your mind off of focusing on these feelings. Go for a walk, step outside for a few minutes of fresh air, listen to the birds or the cars around you. Perhaps call a trusted friend and just talk for a few minutes. As soon s you take your mind off the situation, anxiety immediately begins to lose power.
- Use mindful breathing or meditation to turn your attention off of the fear and panic, and onto peaceful and calming thoughts.
- Write yourself down reminders on a notepad or on your phone, somewhere that you can access them quickly and easily. Make a list of positive, validating things about yourself, skills that you have, reasons why you can handle any situation that comes up, and nice things that people have said about you. Read these often so they stay fresh in your mind, but also keep them handy so if you are in the midst of questioning your ability to handle a situation, your very own words of self validation are there to reassure you.
You can do this, I believe in YOU!