Recovery of my Emotions

When I was suffering with the burden of social anxieties, survival was all I cared. I was terrified of my fears and anxieties that I tried to suppress my emotions.  I reasoned that if I felt nothing, then fear should pop up less.  However, this did not work for me.

Sometimes I tried to fight my anxieties. This might work for a few seconds, but I would get an adrenaline burst, then things would just fall apart. Sometimes I would try to be passive and stay limp, but I would just end up suffering in silence.

In year 1992 I started seeing a psychologist. At my first appointment with my therapist I dumped a lot of my sad stories on her. I probably cried a river during that session. I was a little embarrassed, but I felt quite relieved afterwards.

If tears could make me feeling better, then I realized that I might not need to suppress my emotions. Rather, I wished to experience emotions like normal people do.

I had one book that my therapist recommended me to read, and it had a practice on how to uncover emotions. When I initially read it it sounded far-fetched to me. I was supposed to lie on a bed, and be very relaxed. After reaching this point then I should prompt myself to bring out my feelings.

After a while I felt an emotion starting to emerge. I was feeling a very strong sense of anger coming out; I was raging against all the suffering that I had to go through. The unfairness of it! My anger was so strong that I was literally shaking.

I felt a different emotion wanting to come out. It was sadness. I felt all the sadness when I was forced to be by myself without friends. This was also very intense and overwhelming. I had another bout of crying.

After my emotions subsided I felt more peaceful and more hopeful for a reason that I could not explain. I vowed to experience all my emotions as they were, and no longer suppress them.

I told my experience to my therapist in the next session. She did not criticize my rashness, but commented that I did very well, and that I might begin to recover soon. I felt happy after hearing that news.


Full Recovery

It was two months into my social anxiety treatment. I have learned how some of my thought patterns made my anxiety worse. I have practiced the relaxation techniques that my instructor taught us, but I found my thought wandering and sometimes returning to negative thoughts.

At this point my difficulty was that I had this anxiety disease for so long that certain thoughts can very quickly trigger a panic attack. I have only a few seconds of reaction time before I start to panic.

Still, I was eager to test out my progress by visiting some places that would make me nervous. Restaurants have been unpleasant for me in the past; if someone sat facing me then I could get super nervous in a hurry.

On that day I visited a neighborhood diner. I made sure I visited it early so the restaurant did not have too many people there. Once I finished my order I realized that I might have made a too difficult challenge, because I found my anxiety level increasing. I tried to self talk in my mind that I was in a safe place, but I was losing, and I could feel the start of panic building.

I had been trying to clamp down my fear and it was just not working.  Suddenly I had a new thought that just seemed to land in my brain right at that moment: “Love and accept!”  Even though it did not make too much sense to me I decided to give it a try.  Instead of fighting the anxiety I told myself that it was OK to have a panic attack, and that I would love my fearful self regardless.

I had a full blown panic going on, but I can also feel a sense of acceptance that was comforting.  In fact I felt a strong warmth radiate out within my body.  My fear just seemed to melt away in the presence of this new feeling of being loved.

I did it!  Somehow my fear has completely disappeared, and I realized a heavy chain has been lifted from me.  I remember I still had tears streaming down my face, but I had a big smile on my face as well.  It seemed as if everyone in the restaurant was smiling with me.

After this experience I never had another panic attack.  Whenever I feel one coming near, I can call up this force of love that always calmed me down.

After many years of church attendance, I learned the feeling of love I experienced on that day felt exactly the same as when I got very close with the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit showing me a thing or two even when I did not exactly deserve it.

Heavenly father, I thank you for completely healing me.  Mold me and humble me so that I can serve faithfully.  Remind me to examine my words and actions to keep them true to your will.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Social Anxiety Road to Recovery

One thing I realize was that the decision to seek professional help was the best decision I could have made. Any kind of self-help may be helpful, but by itself insufficient. Often the symptoms of anxieties are very obvious on the surface, but there are usually deeper issues that need to be uncovered and treated.

During my treatment I and my therapist uncovered some issues dealing with my strict parents. These discussions were very valuable to help me come to terms with my parents and for me to forgive them.

I also had to get treatment for a recurring traumatic memory, which required an EMDR specialist referral. I still do not understand how eye movement desensitization and reprocessing works, but it was effective for me.

My therapist also sent me to a group class to learn ways to deal with anxieties. What I learned most was about my list of self-defeating thoughts and how to counter them. I list some of them below.

All-or-nothing Thoughts
Example: If I don’t succeed completely then I have failed.
Counter: A social encounter with small fault can still be considered a success.

Exaggerating Problems
Example: If I act nervous they will think I am crazy.
Counter: If I act nervous they will not pay too much attention on it.

Example: Was that the best response?
Counter: I meant what I said.

Fortune Telling
Example: This dinner date will turn out badly.
Counter: I will get to experience something new with my date.

Jumping to Conclusions
Example: They are laughing at me.
Counter: They are laughing because they are happy.

Short-circuited Response
Example: Oh no I am panicking again.
Counter: I love and accept the part of me that is fearful. (Truly love and accept – feeling a warmth surrounding you)

I felt learning how to deal with my triggered responses was key to become free from anxiety. I meant that we can practice relaxation techniques all we want, but when panic attack comes knocking what do we do? For me there was no other solution except love and acceptance. I believe God gave me that break-through at the crucial moment, and I will tell you that story next time.

Heavenly father I give thanks to all that you have done for me.  You saved me even when I have not believed in you.  I pray for healing for all the people who are still suffering from anxieties.  Sent your helpers to them, so they may have new life.  May they find love and freedom in you, for your promises are true and good.  In the name of Jesus – our mighty healer, amen!