"As I approached my third year of college, I rarely thought about my emotional stability. I was always pretty laid back and just enjoyed the carefree attitude that I carried myself with. Towards the end of the summer, about a week or two before the next semester of college was about to begin, something very strange happened. It was completely unnatural and foreign to what I was used to..."
A common story about the beginning of an anxiety episode. Sudden. Unexplained. At least that's the way it seemed.
There is a certain threshold that we all have that determines our abilities to contain negative feelings and maladaptive reactions. When that threshold is crossed, we experience an outpouring of internal discomfort, fear and sometimes panic. The confusing part is often what stirred up these emotions, or better said, what was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Contrary to popular belief, the encounter or experience that initially triggers the anxiety attack is usually not the direct cause of the anxiety symptoms. It simply acted as the fuse to break down the walls which were working overtime to cover up the anxiety from manifesting. The anxiety may have been brewing for weeks, months and sometimes even years but our emotional defense systems work overtime to stop these feelings from interfering in our desired lifestyles.
But as most bubbles tend to burst, so is the story with the growing bubble of anxiety. They are often bubbles filled with fears that we try to overlook or disregard, afraid that we can't cope with their consequences. And when these feelings come flooding through the gaping holes of our defense mechanisms; that's when our instincts tell us to run or hide, but our intellect tells us otherwise. The sudden face-to-face encounter with our anxieties is an opportunity in disguise. To finally confront those feelings that are so difficult for us to look at. To finally address those fears that are so scary to open our eyes up to. To finally understand the pain that might have been done. I call it the opportunity to grow.
Most victims of anxiety take months of grappling with the pain, hoping it will just disappear. I often tell clients that not only is this a mistake in terms of how to control the symptoms, but you're overlooking the true opportunity that stands before you. As we grow older, our tools of living develop to the degree that is often necessary to psychologically handle our emotional burdens. All that is required is the confidence and the courage to overcome.