Today I had the honor and humbling experience of speaking at the anxiety treatment program where I spent weeks learning how to accept anxiety.
I completed outpatient therapy for my anxiety disorder two months ago (already?!) When I started program I was at rock-bottom. I had lost hope that I could live life with my anxiety disorder, much less a happy and productive one. I owe my progress and my life to the program, so I was honored to come back and help.
While I was spoke with the patients for an hour it absolutely flew by. Sharing my story helped me (hopefully) give other patients hope that it can and does get better.
There were many questions ranging from what it was like re-acclimating back to the “real-world” after therapy, the experience of hospitalization, my motivation for getting better, worry about panic coming back and more. While the questions were diverse there was a common thread: understanding.
- How can I help others understand my anxiety disorder?
- My family and friends don’t understand anxiety, how can I help them?
- How can I make sense of why I have high anxiety and panic attacks?
- How do I help my colleagues understand my anxiety?
One topic in particular relating to understanding was the importance of having key people as supports. I have three supports that have been instrumental in my treatment which I highly recommend for anyone facing anxiety challenges. I can and do reach-out to my supports regularly, they know what I experience and are there to help me through it, not to do it for me, which means I can grow stronger with anxiety instead of avoiding it.
The final question I was asked was very poignant and gave me pause: Is there hope?
The answer I gave? A resounding YES. I believe that committing to acceptance, learning skills and tools to accept anxiety and working on it every day can give real hope for having a life again. In fact, my experience indicates that we can live an even better life than before therapy. Anxious episodes and panic may very well come back to keep us on our toes but we can remove its power by recognizing it for what it is, accepting and living with it.
As with many things that are taboo, understanding anxiety starts with education and compassion. Anxiety does not make someone weak or “less than.” It is not a death sentence and a great life can be lived with it by learning how to accept it.
Please help advance the understanding of anxiety disorders and be confident in one fact: There is hope!