I never knew I was an anxious person. My father was in the military and we moved often in my early years. I think that was a big factor for me to develop anxiety as I never felt secure and my home life was dysfunctional. However, I do not blame my parents as they were extensions of society and did the best they could. I went to a different school for the first three years and had to make new friends each time. I recall a traumatic event when I had eczema on my face and my mother sent me to school. I did not want to go because I knew the kids would make fun of me. They did and the teacher took me out of the class and said I had the infectious disease impetigo and sent me home. My mother was furious, took me to the doctor who confirmed it was eczema. He gave her a note to prove it and the next day she sent me back to school with the note, which made my eczema spread even more. The kids on the playground said I was contagious and they taunted me and all kept their distance. From this experience, I became very sensitive of what other people thought about me. It was the first time I felt like a freak and that something was wrong with me according to outside opinions. However, I found my way to survive. I realized I could get validation and attention by getting A’s in school, from the teacher and from my father when the report card arrived at home. Being smart was my main way to gain validation for my self-image.
Eventually my family settled down when I was ten years old, bought a house, both worked at steady jobs full-time and I had some stability for a few years. I started to blossom in the new setting, focusing on academics, art, gardens, animals and playing outside in nature but supervision vanished as my mother was now working. Another traumatic event happened. I was the teacher’s pet and really loved her and got the best grades in the class. One day we had to give an oral report and being lazy, the night before I copied my report verbatim onto paper from the Encyclopedia Britannica without practicing it. When I starting giving my report, I could not pronounce the words on the paper and the class burst out into laughter. My face turned red but I continued with it and the laughter grew as I stumbled with the words. That horrendous laughter is all I remember and the huge humiliation I felt at making such a big mistake. That experience was so strong that I went through the rest of school and college years finding ways to avoid giving a speech. That experience really narrowed my life choices, as I was not willing to risk putting myself up in front of people for judgment again.
When I was 12 and entering middle school, I started to get into trouble. I started smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and sniffing glue. I loved the euphoric feeling I got from the substances. I did not do these things to ‘be cool’; I did them because they made me feel better. Prior to this, I was a sugar addict, which my parents fully supported. I was simply finding substances that were more effective to numb my emotions. Each passing day I liked school less and my rebellion increased. It was the early seventies and new recreational drugs were flooding into the small towns. I had to try every one of them and see what they did. I started designing and making my own clothes because my family did not have money to buy new ones. I wore heavy makeup, frizzed my hair out like an afro and painted my nails different colors to make myself look different from anyone else. The truth was that I wanted attention but when I received it, I had no idea what to do with it and would reject it. Now my weekend activity was mainly about finding the party and getting high or drunk. With the adolescent growth spurt and hormone changes, it was causing repressed memories to surface which I was not ready to process. I never stopped this behavior for many years; weekends were always my time to escape from my feelings. Later I discovered that my emotional brain did not develop much beyond the capability of a 12 year old, due to this continuous suppression of things I did not want to look at.
By age 15, I was doing drugs often, drinking on weekends, and was skipping school and my grades went down. I had several spiritual experiences while doing the drugs but it was not enough to stop my behavior. Eventually, I got into trouble and was put into a foster home – but the truth was, it was my decision to do so but that is another story. I wanted to leave this town, this family — anything would be better than this! Well, that was not how it turned out. I left a home where I had freedom to do whatever I wanted as there was little supervision and landed in a place in the middle of nowhere, where I knew nobody, living in a house with strangers like a ‘bad girl’ in a prison and access to drugs and alcohol was impossible. It was a hard adjustment but in the end, it was good for me, because my brain fog cleared and I saw how a normal family lived and I set a new goal to go to college. That goal appealed to me because I was smart and wanted to be rich and not be poor like my family. I thought if I was rich all my problems would go away.
College, Career & Married Life
I graduated from high school, went to college, got married, had children, got a good job paying a large income, bought a house in the suburbs and had all the material things I wanted. I was feeling quite proud of my accomplishments, I felt secure and life was great. But I still had the habit of getting drunk every weekend and had very little control to stop drinking at just a few drinks; I always had to go to the point of inebriation. But all was not well in suburbia and one day I realized I was not happy even though I had everything I had wanted. Thinking it over, I determined I would be happy if only I had the right person — my soul mate. Then followed the divorce, the shared custody and dating again to find my dream man. I found a nice guy whom I was dating and felt satisfied again. I became interested in spirituality and read a few books, started doing meditation, yoga and Tai Chi and had several more spiritual experiences.
One of my hobbies was investing in the stock market, where I had the goal to become a millionaire. I made many good investments and my savings grew. I was a computer programmer in a small firm and made a good income. I worked there a long time and everyone was like family. Then a new law passed in the USA where people could put money into an individual retirement account (IRA). I was very interested in that option and at work they had scheduled at meeting to discuss options for the IRA, where the firm would match any money employees put into it dollar-to-dollar which would not be taxed.
Out of the Blue: Panic Attack
I was listening intently to the IRA discussion and suddenly I did not feel good, I did not know what was wrong. It felt like the floor was falling away beneath me and next it felt like I could not breathe. I got up and quietly walked out of the room and went to my office. Sitting down, the feeling I could not breathe got stronger and next I felt my heart pounding. I thought I might be having a heart attack. I did not know what was happening and went outside to take a walk with the hope it would pass. It did not go away, the symptoms got stronger and with it my fear, so I drove myself to the doctors office. When I arrived, I told the nurse what was wrong and that I needed to see someone as soon as possible. They told me to sit down and they would call me. The time was going by so slowly, I felt like I was dying and nobody was helping me. I got up four times to remind the nurse of this fact. Finally, the doctor saw me and when I sat down and told them what was wrong, the answer came back so quick: You are having a panic attack. I had no idea what that was, they gave me some oxygen and indeed the symptoms subsided. Next, they prescribed Xanax pills for me and told me to take two per day. They also said if it happened again, I could breathe into a paper bag, as hyperventilating was part of the panic response and this would stop that reaction. I asked what caused Panic Attack but they did not have an answer.
Doctors, Psychologists & Pills
Taking the pills, I felt better and went back to work. I noticed the panic was still there and felt I needed to take a pill to squash it down. But, they had only given me a prescription of pills for about 2 weeks. When the pills ran out I asked for more and they said that to get more I would need to see a psychologist. Gulp! What? I’m crazy? I am not crazy! I resisted that notion but went to see the psychiatrist because I wanted the pills. When I went, I filled out a form with all my past history. I had no problem admitting that I liked to drink and told how much I drank each weekend on the form. I did not see that I had a drinking problem; I was just a normal heavy weekend drinker. In the session, I felt I easily convinced him that I had no mental health problem (or so I thought). At the end of our session, he told me he could not refill my prescription to Xanax because it was highly addictive and given my drinking history, it would be better to try something else. I was fine with that recommendation and he gave me a prescription of Zoloft. After I took a few of them, it did something very strange to my brain, I could not focus and I felt very weird. I stayed in bed for 2 days and could not function. I called them up and reported how I felt and asked for the Xanax instead, but he said just give it some time for your system to adjust and no I cannot give you Xanax. At this point, I became desperate, because I would not take the Zoloft and when I stopped everything the anxiety started climbing fast and I was in panic state again.
Alternative Therapy: Sage, Meditation and Alcohol
Next, I did research on all the herbs that were possible to help with anxiety and decided that sage would be helpful. In one day, I drank many cups of strong sage tea and I overdosed on it. I actually got to the point where I felt worse than I did with the Zoloft and it took me three days to come down from that and feel normal. My next option was researching for alterative therapies for anxiety on the internet and I found some who had cured it with meditation. I had done mediation in the past and knew its benefits, but never could establish a regular habit with it. So then, I started meditating and working with breathing and could get back to work and function better without any medicine. I established regular meditation habit without missing, doing it twice a day for an hour. But I also chose alcohol as a medicine to help with the anxiety, which actually made the anxiety worse but I could not see that. Eventually I became addicted to the alcohol to the point of becoming a full-blown alcoholic. I managed like this for several years, having occasional panic attacks and feeling overall nervousness while another thing was happening in the background.
Worsening Anxiety: Agoraphobia & Alcoholism
Because I was not dealing with the root cause of the anxiety, paranoia was increasing and I was developing phobias. These phobias were related to ‘the setting’ when panic attacks were triggered and became situations for me to avoid. I found ways to avoid work meetings, eating food in public, public speaking, driving in snow and ice, etc. The fear and avoidance of situations was growing and I was calling into work more often and could see I was gradually becoming a recluse in my house. When I saw I was becoming reclusive, I knew I had to resolve it because I had to work. I now had agoraphobia: “avoiding places or situations, which might cause one to panic and feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.”
As the fear grew, my alcohol consumption did as well. I was no longer a weekend drinker, now I drank every night and sometimes in the daytime. I started hiding my bottles, going to different liquor stores to buy it and calling in sick more at work. I was getting angry and irritated at people and lashing out at them. Each morning I would say I would not drink today and on my way home from work I was at the liquor store. I became paranoid of people’s behavior, feeling like people were talking about me or trying to attack or kill me. I bought a handgun and learned how to use it, feeling I needed it to protect myself. I was getting physically sick now, my digestion was poor, my liver was affected from the alcohol and I was getting rashes and pimples on my face and upper body. My face was puffy and there was rosy color on my nose and cheeks. I frequently had loose stools, which I always attributed it to the food I just ate, never once thinking it might be from the alcohol.
Then late one night in a drunk, I happened to see myself in the mirror and I mean I really SAW myself how I was. I saw that I was sick and was killing myself and then heard the thought to ‘go to AA’ (alcoholics anonymous). I was shocked to hear that and wondered where it came from. I did not know what AA was but at that moment, I was receptive to anything, as I did not want to die. Probably the meditation I was doing every day was working to enlighten me, even though I was still drinking.
Surrender: Asking for Help & Stopping Drinking
I made the decision to stop drinking and sought the help of AA and went to meetings each week. I continued with my meditation, read self-help and spiritual books and did regular exercise. Once I made a clear decision to stop the alcohol, it was not hard to do. What was hard was dealing with the inner darkness that started to rise up and having no way to escape from confronting myself. Now I was really in a bind as I still had intense anxiety and would not take medication nor go back to drinking. The only thing left was to go forward and face myself and that is when I became very serious about self-healing on all levels.
One thing that really struck me when I quit drinking was that emotionally I felt like I was an adult in the body of a teenager. I had no knowledge about how to read or feel emotions. And now with no way for me to suppress the repressed emotions of so many years, they surfaced into conscious awareness. Then I knew why I liked to drink alcohol. I was now in a difficult situation, the emotional pain was strong as well the fear and anxiety was in overdrive, and I knew if I went back to drinking I would die. I wanted to die and was thinking of ways to kill myself, and was ready to jump in front of a speeding truck but then stopped myself. The truth was that I did not want to die, so the only choice I had left was to go through these feelings whatever they were.
Praying & Opening to My Higher Power
I went to AA meetings and worked the 12 steps for recovery. I saw I had done the first AA step: “1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I was ready for help. Now that I was in the door, I looked at the next two AA steps to find out what to do next. They are: “2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and “3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” I had never had any connection with a higher power or any religious background and did not believe in the concept of GOD. I thought okay if that has worked for others to heal this problem I would be open to consider it, as I have never tried it before. Next, I started praying hard every day for GOD to please take this anxiety away and heal me and continued with my meditation. This brought me to my knees and I felt I could not get relief. I often thought about suicide to have this misery taken away. My prayers became more sincere, I let go deeper, and one day I just fell into a deep meditative state. Later I realized what I had done was drop identification with my mind and body — I was learning how to ‘let go’. This started to work in a subtle way, I started to get dreams and visions and have synchronistic spiritual experiences. I started to see the world in a different way, like perhaps there was something invisible underneath the physical world I had never seen before – a new world was opening up.
Self-Inquiry, Therapy & Facing my Fears
The next step in AA is “4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” This step got me turned around to confront myself and look within to see what I was hiding from. Once I started looking within, my progress accelerated and I received more insights and self-wisdom. There was one issue from my past, which was difficult for me to resolve on my own, so I sought out the help of a therapist. As the therapy went along, I realized her value was observing me and then getting me to ask questions about myself. She was quite skilled at always pointing me to look back at myself and keep my focus off outside distractions. While working with her, repressed memories were coming into conscious awareness and she helped me process them.
Then came a crucial happening at work, my bosses wanted to have a conversation with me about my career expansion with the firm over lunch. I was petrified of having lunch with them, because I had several panic attacks in a restaurant while eating food and did not want this to happen during our lunch. I avoided the lunch talk several times by making excuses to reschedule it. Then realizing I could not delay it forever I asked my therapist for help and she convinced me I should face it. She said order some soup, relax and do your best. She convinced me I could do it and I made the appointment and ordered the soup. But even a few sips of the soup were so hard to swallow and I could not hide my nervousness and knew they saw it. But, I did face my fear and got through it and after that, it became easier to face my triggers and not run from fear. When I stopped running from the fear, that is when things turned around my anxiety was starting to heal.
Anxiety Healed & Spiritual Awakening!
Once I decided to work with it and not run away from it, I worked diligently on healing my anxiety using alternative therapies, which took six months to fully heal. And right about the time the panic attacks and anxiety was healed, I had a profound spiritual awakening with crown opening. After that, the next step I had to learn how to go beyond was the ‘head trip’, but that is a much older story and another topic…
My Insights on Anxiety
Anxiety is caused by an overactive mind with repeating thoughts that are fearful. Whatever thoughts we think, generate feelings as an energetic charge in the body muscles. With anxiety, we are fearful or worry about the future or what will happen and then our body muscles charge with adrenaline to prepare us for ‘flight’. But there is no real threatening situation in reality, so we do not run which would discharge the adrenaline. With repeated thoughts like this over time, we stay in a highly charged anxious state. When we think fearful thoughts, we truly feel afraid because our body gets charged with adrenaline to run. The strong fear vibration in our body is physical and this feeling in turn generates more thoughts that are fearful. With anxiety, we are caught in a circle of thinking fearful thoughts, which keeps the body highly charged with adrenaline, and it is hard to stop it or turn it off once we are in the circular trap.
Anxiety is a learned pattern of thinking and emotionally reacting and comes from the survival strategy we adopted when we were young as a means to protect ourselves from harm in our environment. All mental health disorders with different labels are as well survival strategies of the same nature, being a combined cognitive and emotional response programming. This survival strategy was valuable while we were growing to protect us from harm and allow us to survive in the world we found ourselves within according to how we perceived it. In reality, everyone who has not healed their survival strategy has a suppressed mental health disorder, which is the pattern itself. This pattern is learned in our earliest years and exists in our subconscious mind as a programmed response that plays automatically when we feel threatened in life situations. This pattern is valuable for us until the point comes when we need to let it go so we can take another step in our evolution. Our survival strategy ‘rises to the top’ and becomes visible and problematic for us at the same time we are in an awakening stage. With awakening our awareness level is going up, we have more energy and one of the first things to be healed is this defensive autopilot reaction. With more energy due to awakening and with our focus still unknowingly in the thoughts and emoting, the pattern becomes dominant or appears ‘out of the blue’ and then we get the diagnosis of having a mental health disorder.
When we become aware of ‘our old pattern of thinking and emoting’ as being problematic for functioning in our daily life, this is a positive thing! We are being shown a hidden program from our subconscious mind and now that we are aware of it and can SEE it, the next is we can now do something to remove this old programming, as we no longer need it. With successful erasure of this program, we will be more spontaneous and our awareness will jump to a higher level. So the truth is everyone whom is not awakened is crazy because of this hidden response happening, but it is within societal accepted standards until it blows up with higher energy and one gets the diagnosis of having a mental health problem. But once you see directly that this programmed response is indeed ‘craziness’, that is your first moment of true sanity!
Getting a mental health disorder is a symptom of an awakening process that is already in progress. It is an opportunity to take a step and awaken further! All people in their awakening journey will eventually encounter this step and have to learn how to go beyond their programmed survival strategy and erase it.
Key Things I Did to Heal My Anxiety
- I stopped taking any mind-altering substances, including medical pills and recreational drugs and alcohol. All these substances dulled my awareness level and suppressed thoughts and emotions, which did not allow me to find the underlying cause. To heal the cause I had to allow my reactions to surface, so I could see them and question them.
- I became open to grace and reception of help from a higher power for guidance and strength. I prayed every day, asked for help, and kept my eyes open looking for any clue, sign, helper, or book that could give me information to help me heal. I acted on things that came my way, trusting I was being guided and helped.
- I meditated two or more times each day, not missing any days. Over time, I gained skills in self-observation being able to detect my thoughts and emotions and became skilled at monitoring them as they appeared. I felt this was the most important thing I did. Because I understood that to go beyond a programmed response, I must be able to SEE it. With meditation, my awareness gradually increased and then I could see what situations triggered strong reactions and what thoughts I had that preceded it. Then I understood that I could drop the repetitive thought-train by taking my focus out of thinking and this by itself would then stop the anxiety reaction from every manifesting.
- “Who Am I?” Instead of running away from myself, I did an about-face and started to look within to find out Who I was. It was about getting brutally honest with myself and having the courage to see myself clearly and find out the truth about myself. In general, this is called “self-inquiry” and I did it as much as possible. I kept asking questions about reactions I saw inside myself and about how other people reacted to my self-expression. With this, I was looking for the cause of my behaviors and was gaining self-knowledge. Self-inquiry is about using our left and right brain. Both brains are needed and the more we use them as a pair the better. This is not reactive use of the mind but rather a decision to wield it. With our left-brain we use logical analysis to review memories, experiences and things we have observed — we go through our history and memory banks. This process makes it visible and we can move these symbols around and look at things from different angles. But no *new insight* ever comes from that process. The most we can do with logical analysis is come to the point to realize we do not know *something* and to formulate a question about it. Once the question is formed, then we just wait to receive the answer with our right-brain from the outside or from the divine. A mystic once said: “Asking the question is already 1/2 of the answer. The answers are already there, but you have to ask the question to receive it and only an essential question (need to know basis) works this way not frivolous ones.” If you ask questions you will get answers and these will be insights (new to you), which will further your self-realization process, which is what all this is really about.From this process, I gained self-knowledge that was essential to heal my programmed reactions. For example, self-inquiry started when I observed I had anxiety and asked the question: “Why am I anxious?” Then I investigated that question step-by-step with further observation and inquiry to get more answers. A finer question arose observing when I ate in a restaurant I could barely eat feeling I might choke but when I was at home with nobody around I had no anxious reaction at all. This was a dichotomy raising an essential question: “Why did I react in public but not at home?” Those kinds of questions eventually led to gaining knowledge about how this reaction was triggered and how it happened. After I had a reaction, I would review my thoughts leading up to it and get insight about how the anxiety reaction itself happened. I kept doing this, until eventually I saw how the entire thing manifested and it became clear that I WAS creating the anxiety. It had nothing to do with the outside world or other people or situations ‘causing it’ as I first thought, the reality was I was the cause. Once I could SEE that, then I had the ability to choose my next reaction.
- I learned to feel tension and emotions in my body by doing body scans often. Instead of escaping from unpleasant emotions, I learned to feel them and took responsibility for them realizing that I created them and other people did not cause me to react in fearful, angry or anxious ways. Other people can trigger such an emotion but when one can observe it happening inside oneself, then one has the choice to let the initial thoughts and feelings go. To develop the skill to let go my automatic reaction, I often scanned my body during the day for muscle tension and consciously would relax these muscles. I would keep especially close tabs when I felt a strong emotion was triggered. I would scan my body to locate areas where I felt pain or muscle tension. When emotional charge builds in the body it causes strong tension. We habitually clench and tighten certain muscles when we feel stressed. When I found those areas, I would consciously relax them. By doing this action, we take focus out of our thoughts, which is the cause of the building tension, and we can diffuse the entire reaction. Besides conscious relaxation of muscles, I would also use massage, exercise or baths to help release body tension. By doing this often, I prevented my personality from getting highly charged and reactive. I found once my personality was highly charged and I had a panic attack, then it could take many days to relax that state. By keeping close tabs on body tension, I was able to keep the anxiety reaction to a minimum. A more advanced technique is to recognize anytime one is triggered with a strong emotion of any kind and then just be one with that emotion by FEELING it in the body wherever it is without judging it or analyzing it in any way. We want to surrender to the triggered emotion and just let the energy pass through us. You continue in this way ‘riding’ with the feeling until it dissolves.
- Facing My Fears. I quit running away from things I feared, once I became aware of one then I would face it and move through it. I found I had to confront things that triggered strong fear. Avoiding my fears only reinforced my anxiety and I ended up becoming afraid of more things. This is known as exposure therapy, learning to face what you are afraid of and learning how to go through it, stay calm inside and not react. After I had good skills with the tools above, then I was ready to face my fears directly. Once I faced a big fear and got through it without having a panic attack, this empowered me and I realized I could do it and did not need to run anymore.
- Insights. One of my key revelations was that I valued other peoples’ opinion of myself more than my own and I was hypersensitive on how others viewed me. When I walked into a room, I always felt like everyone in the room was looking at me and judging me. One of my most valued properties of my self-image was my intelligence and the thing I feared the most was people thinking I was crazy or that I was wrong. So that is why the panic attack was so threatening to me, if I were to have one in public then people would see that there was something wrong with me and think that I was crazy. I also had an extreme fear of failure and avoided taking risks.
How to Stop a Panic Attack or Any Strong Unwanted Reaction
Once you have practiced with the tools on your own and feel you are have good grasp of them, then you are ready to use them in the outside world. After facing situations and getting through them with much less reaction, that success will empower you to face any situation. Then you are well on the way to a full recovery!
The way to diffuse the reaction once it is activated is to diffuse it in reverse order of how it built up. First you release the body tension, because once it builds up it ‘triggers’ more of the same kinds of thoughts, keeping you stuck in the vicious circle, feeling you cannot stop it. Once you relax the body, then the mind will subsequently calm down. Repeated fearful thoughts cause adrenaline and anxiety charge to build in the body. Once the body is charged, one is feeling afraid and this in turn triggers more fearful thoughts. The energy in the body is ‘real’ it is ‘manifest’, as what you focus on ‘with thought’ manifests. If you think fearful thoughts, you will indeed feel afraid. This emotional energy in the body is much stronger than the thoughts themselves. So the way to stop the reaction is to first diffuse the large energy charge in the body that is triggering more thoughts.
First, relax the body muscles and after that tension is gone then your awareness will increase and you can be aware of your thoughts. Once you can observe your thoughts, then you redirect your focus away from thinking by putting your focus (gazing) upon something that does not need thinking, such as a tree or an object in the room or just by observing your breathing. This takes much practice before you can succeed to stop the reaction fully and you must be WILLING to let go of thinking. This is a key point, because we are not initially willing to drop this reaction, because we have had it for a long time and we chose it to protect ourselves from perceived harm. It is our way to escape from reality. Therefore, it is not easy to drop it, because we get a value out of it, by reacting that way. One has to make a clear decision that the value one gets from reacting this way is no longer worth the price one has to pay to keep it. When you have reached that point, then it is easy to be willing to drop the old thinking pattern and no longer reinforce it. The less you reinforce the old thinking pattern, the more you give the signal to your brain and body that you no longer need this programming and it will be removed from the subconscious memory — it will be erased. The more you practice, the better you get at it and each time you will have less anxiety and stay calmer. Then the day will come where you will have full control over the reaction and your anxiety will be gone.
Summary: This way to cure a mental health pattern is slow and it will not give the instant relief a pill will. But if you stick with it, you will get improvement on a daily basis. You cannot see the daily changes so much but you will be able to see them on a weekly or monthly basis. The best part is this way will CURE the problem, because you will discover the cause and realize you do have the power to go beyond your old program and drop it.
July 16, 2015
Additional Resources for Healing of Anxiety