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Sunday, September 23, 2012

I'm Confused and Terrified

Hi AB!

I'm a 40 year old female and in the last few months developed anxiety and had an attack, I think. I started on an antidepressant a few weeks ago. Not that that matters, but I just been reading your Brain Switch book. Parts are so eye opening, but I struggle with what to do in my life. I recently stopped work because I thought the stress would make me worse. I have two children and an amazing husband. A while ago I started feeling lost and down when I realized I didn't know what was next for me! My babes are a little more independent and I feel completely lost and scared and depressed for the rest of my life. I'm trying to live in the Now, but I feel like I need something to do. I'm embarrassed to go back to work because I've always been a rock there for 15 years! What had happened to me. I'm so confused! I'm so afraid. How can I use your techniques to get doing something.  Any insight, thanks

Dear S,

First of all you need to look around you and make sure that in your anxiety to save yourself you haven't been as concerned as you might be for the friends and loved ones around you. When we are stressed we are usually mean to the people closest to us in small ways that we don't see ourselves. We tend to be judgmental about their faults and small errors because they are
so easy to see. It is only our own faults that are difficult to pinpoint.

Another thing about human nature is that most of us confuse image with resource. People who are spendthrifts and make foolish financial decisions see money as image rather than resource. They buy an expensive car instead of putting that extra money away for a rainy day. I think we do the same thing with our own emotional strengths. We see them as image rather than resource.

This is why we are embarrassed and shamed when we have shown emotional weakness and failure to others. The fact that you have been a rock at work may be the problem. Rocks don't allow much emotional give and takewith others for fear the "rock" image might be spoiled. A lot of this is just habit. We just never thought about it before. We never asked ourselves why we hide our secret selves away in fear.

What would be so terrible about returning to work and admitting you had struggled with a period of anxiety. It is not easy to admit we are vulnerable. It's human nature because we are a herd animal and need the acceptance of our peers. There is no worse feeling than feeling all alone.
Instead of being a rock, this time maybe you could be just an ordinary person who had a down time and are coming back. Maybe you could be an inspiration instead of a rock, and show others how youare bravely going ahead when you are experiencing difficulties.

They say that you have to love yourself before you can love others. I suppose that's true in a way. But sometimes we can learn to love ourselves by learning to concern ourselves with other people. I think we can learn to make a connection with ourselves sometimes when we learn how to connect with others. Perhaps  this is because, as some say, we are all one. Start in small ways. Sometimes a small conversation with a drugstore clerk whom you really see when you look at them can bring a bit of loving humanity into your heart and help to soften and open it up some.

You ask what happened to you. What happened to you is that you were a human pretending to be a rock. Now that you know you are not really a rock, you can join the rest of us and be just an ordinary human being who, though accomplished and talented in many ways, still stumbles and bumbles now and then. When you grow afraid, it is time to reach out to others, loved ones, husband or wife, dear friends. Don’t wait for complete havoc. You will do better if you catch yourself falling and reach out to reconnect with others before you get so terrified. Do you really think any single human being, no matter how excellent, avoids fear and terror in his life? Here's an excerpt from my book Depression is a Choice about William James, known as the Father of Psychology.

"William James, the "father of psychology," suffered terribly from depression. He would become famous for separating out psychology from "mental philosophy" and bringing the experience of human emotions to the scientific laboratory. But he would not find a cure for his own pain there. It would not be to science that this great scientist turned for salvation when depression threatened to overwhelm him. In his hour of need, this world-renowned physician used the simplistic device of repeating simple religious sayings over and over to himself

"I awoke morning after morning with a horrible dread at the pit of my
stomach, and with a sense of the insecurity of life that I never knew
before, and that I have never felt since. It was like a revelation; and
although the immediate feelings passed away, the experience has made me
sympathetic with the morbid feelings of others ever since. It gradually
faded, but  for months I was unable to go out into the dark alone...I mean
that the fear was so invasive and powerful that if I had not clung to
scripture-texts like 'the eternal God is my refuge,' etc., 'Come unto me,
all ye that labor and are heavy-laden,'etc., 'I am the resurrection and the
life,' etc., I think I should have grown really insane."

William James      (1842-1910)

I hope this helps some. You can ask me questions any time. A. B. Curtiss

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