If you’re as old as I am (54, and damn glad to be here) then you remember oldies radio stations. (Do they still have those? I’m so addicted to Pandora now I couldn’t say.) When I was growing up oldies stations played songs from the 50’s and early 60’s. One of the things the DJ would often say to set up a song was “and now, another golden oldie!”

Well, I’m going to spend some time today reviewing some “golden oldies” from the all-time hit parade of things we tell ourselves about our struggle with anxiety. I’m going to label those golden oldies ghost stories.

Ever sit around a fire, or in a dark room at night with your friends, telling yourselves ghost stories? Trying for the delicious shiver up your spine as you were doing it/listening to those stories? That’s not a bad analogy for what most of us anxiety fighters are doing with some of the stories we tell ourselves – and in the telling scare ourselves away from doing the work we need to do.

Let’s start with a classic golden oldie ghost story lots of us play a lot on our mental turntable:

Ghost 2

This is Too Hard for Me

Anxiety sucks. There’s no way around that. The debilitating drain on our energy and soul is freakin’ tedious. It limits our lives, it puts up walls and it sucks the joy out of the everyday.

That leads a lot of us to think this will never change – and more so if we’ve been fighting it for a long time.

It can be easy to conclude that we just don’t have what it takes – that it’s too hard for us. The surface evidence might make it seem as if we’ve reached the right conclusion.

But we’re WRONG. Reasons why:

1) Just about anything new and unfamiliar to us is “hard” to do/understand at the start.
2) We don’t have the “muscles” we need at the moment to get all the way to the end. That just means we have to do some “muscle-building” – i.e., practice the skills of unpacking anxious thinking, learning to see Flight or Fight clearly/accurately, and start treating our anxious thinking as problems instead of crises. That will take some skill-building. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it.

There’s one more issue here: we learn to feel helpless early on in our experience with anxiety (and, frankly, in the life training we received in our worlds that set us up to be anxious in the first place.) See my last blog post HERE for more about this and what to do about it.

This isn’t too hard for us. I don’t care how you feel about it, you’re wrong. 🙂 I can say that because millions of people have said the same thing, and then gone on to do precisely what they said they couldn’t – broken the hold of anxiety in their lives. You can too. Don’t take my word for it. Get good information, clarify what you need to do and lean into it. You’ll find out the truth yourself.

Next on our hit parade –

Ghost 3

I’ve tried before and it didn’t work

Some of us battle-hardened veterans of this anxiety war have a few scars, yes? We’ve see the guns of our enemies, and we’ve tried to fight our past them. And, from where we’re standing, the battle can seem pointless.

We have tried different therapies, seen doctors and tried medications, but it doesn’t seem to really fix the problem. We’ve done meditation, yoga, affirmations, homeopathic treatments – and we’re still anxious. We’ve exercised. And of course we’ve medicated in lots of ways that we knew were not going to stop anxiety – but we were desperate and just wanted some relief.

All of that can EASILY take us to “I’m screwed – I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.” OK. That’s legal. But it isn’t fair to you – because it isn’t true. Reasons:

1) Just because something hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t mean, with different information and understanding of the problem, something couldn’t work in the future.
2) There’s a lot of really crappy information and poor understanding about anxiety out here in the world. Just because lots of people don’t really get anxiety, or we were poorly informed in the past, doesn’t mean we don’t have the ability to make change.
3) This isn’t a one-shot, two-treatment, take a pill kind of problem. It’s in your thinking – and you’ve been doing some of that thinking for a long, long time. You have thinking habits and assumptions that will take some work to transform – change to healthy and functional thinking. Non-anxious thinking. Which means it’s going to take some work, and time, and effort, and some frustration along the way.

Ghost 4

In other words history is a poor predictor of what can happen moving forward from here. There is however one requirement – we have to see that doing the same thing expecting different results really is the definition of crazy. 🙂 We have to shake up our worlds and really question the thinking we’ve done for so long – seriously examine it and see it for what it is.

These are snappy tunes, these golden oldies – let’s do another one.

Nobody Understands What I’m Going Through

There’s no question anxiety can be fiercely isolating. The reasons are numerous. Many of us have been taught that there’s something weak, or deficient, or even monstrous about dealing with something that’s been stamped a mental illness. (This isn’t mental illness, btw – it’s nothing like schizophrenia or insanity. It’s a set of thinking errors that leads to some frightened thinking and living.)

Nonetheless we often (usually) feel like freaks, we who battle with anxiety. Everyone else seems so normal, so happy, so carefree. They don’t seem to be anxious about anything. TV, movies and YouTube seem to confirm our thinking. We must be defective somehow – missing some crucial personal trait maybe, or we’re just damaged goods.

We’re wrong. Here’s why:

1) Anxiety is a condition that plagues literally hundreds of millions of people all over the planet. The CONSERVATIVE estimates place anxiety sufferers as 1 in 10 of the whole human race. It’s my personal belief that it’s more like 2 in 10 – or even higher. With 7.2 billion people on the planet that makes for a LOT of anxiety fighters…

2) It’s also isolating because the people in our lives who do NOT fight anxiety don’t have much in the way of understanding what we’re dealing with in our lives. They may tell us useful advice like “just stop worrying so much” or “nothing is that serious.” (Which tells us just how little they get where we are.)

Ghost 6

OK. They don’t get it. That doesn’t mean that what we’re fighting is something from Mars. It’s anxiety. We’re not mentally deficient. We’re not damaged goods. And, despite the reality that people we love don’t grasp where we are, we have a condition based on faulty thinking that is bleeding us dry.

3) Who cares that some people don’t understand us? Because the statement “nobody understands what I’m going through” isn’t accurate. Some people (like myself, like millions of other people) DO understand what this battle is like.

Our mission isn’t to surrender because the people in our immediate universe don’t get us. Our mission is to get the help we need – and that includes hooking up with people who do understand this dance. Hit me here if you’d like more info on how to do that, regardless of where you are.

Summary: not true. Our battle is a common one in the human experience, and there are people who get it. We are not freaks, and we can beat this thing.

OK, one more golden oldie before I call it a day:

Ghost 5

My anxiety is different from everyone else’s/I’m beyond help

When I first started fighting my way out of this junk I worked with a program called CHAANGE, an early tool kit in the fight and one that gave me some decent starting points in this work. One of the things the folks that wrote that program said that struck me was how EVERYONE who fights anxiety thinks they are different, unique, special and perhaps worst, untreatable/beyond help.

It almost might be called a defining symptom of this condition, this belief that we are the ONE person on the planet who cannot be helped. We’re so freaky, or so damaged, that we might as well just throw in the towel.

I did this. I read a statement in CHAANGE that gave some percentage of people that were helped by this work, and I automatically put myself in the category of the percentage that didn’t get help. 🙂 Seriously? Really?

You know what I’m going to say – I was wrong, and so are you.

1) You’re not special – not when it comes to anxiety. See my comment above about how many people fight anxiety.

2) Anxiety is anxiety is anxiety. Yes, you have weird physical symptoms – and those are caused to Flight or Fight. Yes you’re anxious all the time – and that’s because you’re massively focused on what if fears of the future. Yes you’re housebound – like millions of other people. Literally millions.

You face the same issues, and the way out for you is the same as it is for everyone else. You don’t have to search for exotic physical problems, and you don’t have to stamp yourself as weird or unreachable.

3) Nobody who is fighting anxiety is beyond help. “Beyond help” is the plea of our fears, shouting from the depths of Flight or Fight. Somebody help me! Well, somebody is here to help you. We have some really solid thinking about anxiety these days, and most importantly you have YOU – you are the lever to pull yourself up out of this fear.

It isn’t easy. It sucks many days. It sure feels tedious, terrible and scary. But it is something we can all do.

Ghost 7

Enough with the Golden Oldies!

So – ready to ditch the oldies station? Time for some new music in our lives, isn’t it? Time to see around the deceptions and ignorance that anxiety brings, and move instead into good information and understanding of the work in front of us.

We don’t have to keep playing the same stories over and over again. We really can change up the music in our heads. We don’t have to scare ourselves with these ghost stories. Time to banish the ghosts, see through them and take our lives back.