Today on Facebook we were discussing how hard it can be when one struggles with anxiety and depression. Many people feel that depression is the worst of the two problems. For me that wasn’t (and isn’t) at all true. The worst thing that has happened in my life is that I seem to continually have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety.
When I went to the peer specialist training, I left feeling they felt that it was my fault that I felt this way. I beat myself up unnecessarily. They said that I shouldn’t say that I was a fat slob that no one could love because it wasn’t true. I just made myself feel worse. After that class I felt worse. I felt like one more time people were telling me that affirmations were the way to go. Having already tried them, I wasn’t too thrilled. They later changed the module.
It was an interesting thing to have to deal with. At that point in time, what I was saying was true for me. There certainly weren’t a ton of people rushing out of the woodwork asking me out. There weren’t a ton of people anywhere that I could see interested in dating me except for people that I really didn’t want to date. They weren’t well. I wasn’t well. I wasn’t interested in another failed relationship because both of us were too ill to make it work. I knew that I needed to be more healed before a relationship would work.
I read everything I could find on how to make myself feel better. I read up on all the ways I could/should use affirmations to feel better. I should repeat what I wanted to be 100 times in the morning until I believed it. (I am still waiting for some of that shit to happen, by the way.) I should tape little pieces of paper to most of the surfaces of my house to help lift my self-esteem. Nothing worked, I kept looking.
I went to church where they told me that my fear and anxiety meant that my relationship with God wasn’t good enough. I should pray more. I should forgive others more. I should confess my sins before God (I really liked that one. It didn’t work either.) Then when it didn’t work, the problem was my fault. I just needed to pray more, confess more and it would work. Depending upon the church, they could lay hands on me. Having a bunch of people surround someone with anxiety has never been something I have found particularly helpful. I took some Xanax and tried it anyway.
God, church, redemption for my sins, my father’s sins, my father’s father’s sins weren’t working for me. It was time to look some more. I found a different church. They felt that I should never say anything negative because it would make it come true. What a switch. A radical change it was; from a totally negative concept to not being able to talk about something at all. One made me just as anxious and ashamed of who I was as the other, it was just done in a different way.
The more things didn’t work, the more meds I ended up being on. That really didn’t work. I gained a ton of weight. I was fatter. My already fragile self-esteem took a further dump in the toilet. Just what I needed.
The meds caused concentration problems that I hadn’t had before and vision problems. I started listening to audio books to continue the search. I read a lot more books about affirmations and the Law of Attraction. I thought about the Law of Attraction and my mental illnesses. I could see their point, but I was so far down I couldn’t figure out a way to get started. I was about ready to give up.
Then I came up with marrying humor with affirmations. I remembered two things that made me laugh that used affirmations. The old Saturday Night Live sketches with the cheer leaders who always ended with the words, “and gosh darn it I like myself.” Helped me to say the words and laugh. The laughter helped even if I couldn’t believe the words. The other thing was from the movie What About Bob?” When he went around saying “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful”: it just totally cracked me up.
When I look back now and see just how far down I was at that point, I am amazed that I have come as far as I have. That’s not a real solid, good starting point. But it was a start.
I read some Wayne Dyer books. The early ones’ didn’t work well at all for me, but he had just brought out the book called “The Power of Intention.” That book, although it didn’t fit what I was going through really well, started my shift in thinking. Putting the words, “I intend” in front of some things started making it so I could at least say more positive things.
- I intend to become a person who can have good, solid relationships.
- I intend to be a person of value. (About this time I got fired from being a trainer of peer support specialists because of my mental illness. That slowed this one up for a while.)
- I intend to buy a new motorcycle and ride it more and more.
- I intend to become a more fun person.
Those kinds of things at least helped me to turn my attitude around. And when the intentions didn’t work, I could go back to the “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful” That made me laugh. Even though it was progress I still needed more.
Through Wayne Dyer I heard about the stuff from Abraham-Hicks. It was a little woo-woo for me. I was out in the nether fields where someone was channeling a group of beings. Hmmm. “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.” What did I have to lose, nothing was working.
And about the second book in, I read about the emotional guidance system/scale. They talked about how hard it was to try to jump from way down the list all the way to the top. It was too hard. When one tried to jump that far that fast, they talked about how the mind could not believe what they were trying to do. Yep that was me. In my case I was trying or people were trying to get me to jump even farther, from the very bottom of the list to the top.
When I looked at the list, I realized that where I had spent most of my life was on the bottom rung of the emotional guidance scale. I had never been allowed to feel anything other than powerless for so long that I had to look up to be angry. Hell who was I kidding? I had to look up to be insecure. I had to look up to even want revenge. Here’s the scale:
The Emotional Guidance Scale
- Positive Expectation/Belief
You don’t have to go any farther if this isn’t true for you. Why I started following and reading Abraham-Hicks was that this was true for me. Just looking at this scale helped me understand why I struggled with affirmations and self-esteem. And why I struggled to get there. It was just too far to jump from fear, despair and powerlessness to even hope.
I understood why it was so hard for people to grasp hope for recovery.
The emotional guidance system list scared the crap out of me in many ways. If I could learn to take myself up the list, in tiny steps I probably wasn’t going to be able to ignore the rage and anger that was fueling my despair. To just be overwhelmed was something to look forwards to.
It wasn’t a quick fix. But now I am able to keep my emotional stage higher than I have been able to keep it in years. And it’s not through better living through chemistry. Now I often am able to hover in the hopeful and on up.
Here are three things one can do to start working their way up:
- Find something funny to laugh at or that at least can bring half of a wry grin to your face.
- Look at what you need or want to do to get to the next stage up. If you can find a way, then look at how to get to the next stage, then the next. I still have to do this at times today. What is different is that I can look at what started my insecurity, and then look at who and why I am jealous, admit it and then try to move on.
- Remember to try to go back up the scale if you start to slip back. I used to say that I didn’t want to feel angry. If I don’t want to feel angry very long then it’s my responsibility to work my way up to just feeling discouraged.
Facing this list means I can no longer hide who I am and what I feel, but then for me, that’s what a lot of my recovery has been about.