Friday, May 14, 2010

Anxiety .. The Grumpy Old Neighbor

Somebody posted a question on about how to stop "fighting the anxiety" and another member posted this wonderful response. If I hadn't lived it myself (horrible chemical anxiety from Paxil and Ambien), then I wouldn't have believed that something this simple could actually work.

My CBT therapist likened it to having a grumpy, old neighbor that would come over and bang on your door and scream to be let in. If you ignore your neighbor or, worse, yell at him to go away, he just screams louder and keeps banging on your door.

But if you open the door and invite your neighbor in, give him a nice chair to sit in and offer him a drink, he will eventually stop yelling. He'll quiet down. He might not be a pleasant man, and you might not really like him being there, but he won't be screaming and yelling for you to let him in anymore.

I love this !!! It's the perfect example of not "fighting it". When I was going through withdrawal (and during poop-out) I had horrible travel anxiety and would freak smooth out in crowded places, so I would run. My fight or flight response was always turned to flight mode. Vacations with me were no fun at all, I spent most of them hiding in the hotel room. My friend (Ranger) told me that I had to learn to accept the anxiety and not let it ruin my plans. I would tell myself "ok - if I have anxiety in this situation then I am going to do this ... or this ... not run". It was so strange to not try to fight it, but to just let it run its course. The really strange thing was that it worked. When I would always run away from the anxiety and force myself to do things (only to end up having a horrible panic attack and then leave) my mind would automatically start thinking "see ... I told you so ... I knew that this would happen ... you were right for not wanting to come here". It just turns into a vicious cycle that you can't get out of.

When you pack your "tool kit" before you go somewhere that you think is going to make you anxious and you actually let the anxiety just pass through you, then you can start thinking "I came here and even though I had some anxious moments, I survived it and I am stronger because I didn't run away". It is a matter of changing your thoughts, attitudes, and actions which is the basis of all CBT. You are not powerless. You are strong and you can do it !


  1. Love it!

    My friend is a psychologist and reminds me to think of the worst case scenario and prove myself wrong.

    I'm scared of flying because I'm scared that I will want to get off the plane and knowing that I can't will induce an anxiety attack.

    Her: So?
    Me: What if I get up and run for the door?
    Her: Somebody will tackle you and sedate you and you'll calm down.

    Me : What if I stress so much that I just stop breathing?
    Her: You'll pass out, calm down and start breathing again.

    It kind of takes the fun out of yelling, for the grumpy old neighbor.

  2. That *Is* a great analogy. My anxiety CBT hasn't fixed me yet, but at least taught me some methods of dealing with it, in the hopes that eventually I will get better.

    Discovering that opening my heart to the anxiety and letting myself REALLY feel it actually made it abate... was amazing to me.

  3. A friend of mine from the forum taught me sooooooooooo much about anxiety. Big Pharma and the doctors love to try to convince us that we are helpless to it, but that is such a farce. Of course they want us to feel helpless, they sell more meds that way. Once you learn to just let the anxiety flow through you then you stop feeding the monster and fighting the monster actually feeds the monster.

  4. I had similar thoughts as I was preparing to board a plane for a three-hour flight a couple months back. My CBT was asking what I was afraid of. I said, "That I can't get off if I want to." He said, well you *could* but that's not really advisable. He cracks me up.

    He talks a lot about softening your wording, too. Instead of saying, "I'm miserable right now." say something like, "There's a part of me that isn't wild about this situation." So you recognize it's just a little part of you that's having the negative thoughts/feelings.

    We should start a forum where we can share CBT's techniques. Any takers?

  5. I love CBT and hopefully it is catching on. The traditional therapy approach of "let's sit around and talk about the horrible things that have happened to you" just makes people feel worse. People need to know that they have the power to change their thoughts, actions, and attitudes.