Driving me crazy
When you are confused, distressed, and driven to distraction, it's easy to imagine there's no way out. And although there's no such thing as crazy, it is often an immediate way of characterising how you feel. Anxiety and depression can be overwhelming. It can feel like a very desperate and lonely place to be.
You may experience moments of intense panic, which involve a sudden rush of adrenalin, heart palpations, and breathlessness. Or, you may experience a tangible feeling of threat, without an obvious cause or events to explain how it was triggered. Some people feel unsafe without any identifiable reason. Emotional outbursts, anger, and mood swings are a common feature of anxiety and depression. Dark thoughts seem to bubble up out of nowhere.
Other people worry excessively to the point of exhaustion, imagining ever more catastrophic outcomes, anticipating potential problems before they occur, or replaying scenes of conflict over and over in their heads without resolution. They may even invent very elaborate strategies to avoid situations or people, and yet have no rational reason to fear them.
Anxiety can drive you to despair, even though you don't know what's driving the anxiety. You feel vulnerable and helpless, without finding a way to break free of the cycle, manage your feelings, or how to seek relief.
But there is a way out.
Finding a counsellor who can offer mindfulness and support you as you learn can come as a certain relief.
With consistent counselling, and developing regular mindful practice, you can empower yourself to thrive. Even though you cannot eradicate anxiety, which is part of the human condition, you can learn to come to terms with your feelings.
You can develop a sense of stability, continuity, and a greater sense of equilibrium in your life. This balance can help you enter the ebb and flow of adversity without too many spikes and troughs. You may still have moments of crisis, but you feel more effective at responding to your feelings, and learn to self generate calm and serenity to get relief from the dark obsessions and compulsive impulses you suffer from.
The first thing you will learn with a counsellor is how to observe and listen to your physical sensations and emotions. Why? Rationalising and improving your thought process won't change how you feel alone of its own accord. Feelings of panic and anxiety are primal or instinctive responses to a threat of harm. We don't choose to feel them - they are triggered automatically by the unconscious and emotional regions of the brain. So, you can't think your way out of anxiety by developing a more rational thought process. As a living organism, your survival brain is always scanning the environment for signs of threat, and it's wired to trigger a fear response automatically. There is no choice, even if your mind has invented the threat. Your conscious brain is rarely involved, and free will is limited once the autonomic nervous system has been triggered. This is often known as the fight, flight, or freeze response.
So, the next thing you will learn is how to focus on diaphragmatic breathing to activate your vagus nerve, bringing relief from overactive stress hormones like cortisol, adrenalin, and ACTH released in your body when you're anxious. You will learn to breathe your way to calmer feelings of relief and safety.
Next, you will learn how to stretch out the tension in your muscles, ligaments, spine, and joints, which keeps your stress locked in and reinforces uncomfortable feelings of pain and inflammation.
You will learn grounding techniques to prevent you from dissociating from yourself and escaping into your head. You will learn how to use movement, exercise, and the natural environment, which help you to process the stress hormones naturally and discharge them. You will overcome your social anxieties by learning to engage with people more confidently and assertively, allowing you to be yourself and not shy away from resolving conflict.
All of these mindful practices allow you to become more self-aware, to validate your emotions, and cultivate approach behaviours to problems you normally avoid.