We all know the feeling: sweaty palms, heavy breathing, heart racing. Am I dying? It doesn’t take long for the fire alarm to go off and then…Panic Attack! I’ve gotten so used to this that sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve had a panic attack until it’s over!
I’ve learned something very important during my years fighting mental illness—don’t fight it. I have dealt with the symptoms of my disorders since long before I knew what they were so I had to learn coping mechanisms from trial and error. By the time I was diagnosed, I already had plenty of practice managing my anxiety.
Recently, however, I have become keenly aware of something that I’ve been doing to cope with my anxiety: I use it. If I know I have to do something that will make me anxious (driving somewhere in a lot of traffic, getting blood drawn, a big test), I let my anxiety take over just a little bit. I call it “leaning in.” So, let’s say I have to get my blood drawn. I think about it before it happens and imagine the worst possible case scenario—something like, I have a huge panic attack in the clinic, they have to take so much blood I pass out, it hurts like crazy, I have a huge black and blue for weeks, etc. That way, even if the needle is more than “a little pinch,” it always ends up seeming so much better than I had imagined. You see, reality can never live up to my anxiety narrative.
Every time I do this and things inevitably go better than I had anticipated, it makes it a little easier to push away my anxiety the next time I have not invited it. Instead of fighting against my anxiety in a battle I will always lose, I coexist with it.
Has anyone else tried this strategy?