Recovering from anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is hard work! And when you’re so in it, you often think and feel as though you aren’t making any progress or healing.
Back when I was struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, I’d convince myself that I wasn’t healing for many different reasons. I want to share a few of these reasons with you because I don’t want you to get caught in the same traps that I did. Because once you believe these lies, you actually start to prevent yourself from healing.
Reason # 1: I’m not able to do that big thing yet. Some days I’d wake up and think, Ugh, I’ve been doing so much work and I’m still not able to do (fill in the blank). We sometimes drown ourselves in thoughts that have a way of convincing us of things that aren’t even true. The continuous small steps are allowing you to make progress and heal. The small steps forward are leading to you reaching your big goals. They might not feel like they’re doing much of anything at times, but they are!
Reason # 2: When you haven’t experienced a panic attack, or the symptoms in days and then bam, you experience a bad panic attack or get hit hard with symptoms. This would happen to me often. I’d go days or even weeks without experiencing a panic attack and then I’d experience a bad one. And once I did, I’d convince myself that what I was doing wasn’t working, or that experiencing it somehow meant that I was doomed forever.
Don’t do this to yourself. Your recovery journey is going to include panic attacks, symptoms, and anxious moments. And when it happens, acknowledge it, accept it, and keep moving. Don’t beat yourself up when it happens, and don’t convince yourself that you’re destined to live a life of anxiety and panic. Although it can be helpful to figure out why you had the panic attack or symptoms, you don’t have to have the why figured out in order to keep healing.
Reason # 3: I could do this thing yesterday without experiencing anxiety but today I’m experiencing anxiety while doing it. See above! And anxiety recovery is more about your reaction and the action you take more than anything!
Overall, we sometimes see experiencing anxiety, panic, and the symptoms as setbacks, but they aren’t actually setbacks, they’re just a part of the recovery process. And even when you do experience a setback, it’s okay, setbacks aren’t a bad thing! Setbacks lead to healing and growth. They can give you hints as to what’s not working, meaning they are opportunities! Your reaction to setbacks is key. Remember, no beating yourself up, only acceptance and taking action allowed. Setbacks can truly redefine your path and propel you forward, if allowed!
Okay, so how do you know when you’re healing? Here are some really good indicators!
You are more aware of your thoughts. It might seem small, but this is actually huge! Being aware of your thoughts allows you to stop and acknowledge them so that you can take action.
You are dedicating time to doing things that make you uncomfortable, scared, or anxious and you are starting to feel less of these things. Things that often triggered anxiety, panic, or the symptoms have become less triggering because you have been consistently taking action and rewiring your brain.
You are sharing or writing down your thoughts, fears, and experiences rather than holding them in or hiding them, and you also no longer feel ashamed by these things. You've discovered that sharing your thoughts, fears, and experiences is so freeing, and it has allowed you to let go of some of the anxiety you've been experiencing.
You are no longer preparing yourself for the worst case scenario in every place or situation, and instead, you’re taking things as they come. You’re very consciously working to stay in the present moment and you're practicing tools like mindfulness often.
Your inner voice is starting to say things like, “You're doing a good job. I’m so proud of you.” And overall, you’re giving yourself more grace when you do experience anxiety, panic, the symptoms, or just when you’re facing a challenging moment.
You are seeing setbacks as opportunities. You are asking yourself questions like, What did I learn from this? What can I do differently next time? You are appreciating the lessons and viewing them as opportunities to learn and grow.
You are no longer comparing yourself to the old you (the you before anxiety), or to others. You are working to accept who you are unconditionally, and you are beginning to see just how strong, capable, and amazing you truly are.
You see the immense value in making healthy choices. You are actively making healthy choices and setting aside time to practice healthy habits. Things like drinking plenty of water, eating well, moving your body, and practicing self-care daily.
And it doesn’t mean that you’re doing all of these things at one hundred percent and one hundred percent of the time. You will have moments of anxiety. You will have moments where things don’t go as you hoped. You will have moments where you question yourself and your capabilities. But all around, you are becoming more aware and you are taking action. And being more aware and taking action are the most important things.
You are doing a good job! Keep taking those small steps forward.