How I “Cured” My Anxiety and Night Terrors
I would never say that I have “cured” my anxiety. That just seems silly.
Would you ever find yourself saying you’ve cured your feelings of anger, lust, sadness, or surprise?
Anxiety, much like the rest of those feelings, are fleeting, and believe it or not, they are not permanent.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I was 17 and first experiencing the ill effects of too much stress and anxiety, I did what everyone else would normally do- I went to the doctor.
“There must be something wrong with me to feel this way.”
For most of my life, if I felt sick, I went to the doctor who gave me a pill and made everything better. I even got to lay around afterward doing nothing while it worked its magic. How fucking awesome is that!
Western medicine led me to believe this was how health care worked. You feel bad, you take a pill, problem solved. I became conditioned to believe doctors had all the answers.
Then something like anxiety comes along and wrecks your world. Over the 5+ years I spent dealing with anxiousness, panic attacks, night terrors, and hypochondriasis, my beliefs on the system were shattered. Everything I thought I knew about health went right out the window.
I saw doctors, specialists, therapists, you-name-it. Every one of them offered me a pill to make my problems go away. None of it worked.
Each time I saw someone new, I naively hoped he or she would be the one to finally fix my life. With every failed attempt, I slipped further and further into depression.
One fateful night- my “heroes journey” moment as I call it – I had had enough.
I decided no more doctors.
No more feeling like shit.
No more feeling bad about myself.
That night, a fire lit inside me like I had never felt before. It’s like I had hit rock bottom and my only way back to life was to rise to the occasion. Think Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises.
The only way to beat Bane was to get out of that miserable fucking pit of doom.
It took far too long for me to realize that I had it all wrong.
Doctors and specialists shouldn’t be who I rely on for my health. They should be my backup plan. I should be my first line of defense.
That’s exactly when I realized how shitty my lifestyle had been.
- I sat playing video games all day long.
- I frequently pulled all-nighters to play video games and then finish my college assignment 1 hour before the 5 AM deadline.
- I ate like crap.
- I drank 5–6 nights per week, blacking out 2 of those, on average.
- I barely exercised, except basketball once per week, if that.
Within 3 months, some simple lifestyle changes drastically improved my situation.
Once I had a reason to change, the tiny shifts in my lifestyle weren’t even that hard to make. Sure, I had to read and learn a few things about healthier living, but in comparison to what I had endured the last several years, that was nothing.
Looking back at my battle with anxiety, there were two big things that I learned:
1. Anxiety, in my experience, wasn’t a disease. It was a feeling that I had never been equipped to manage.
That’s exactly what I tell people these days when asked about my anxiety. I never “cured” it, I’ve learned how to “manage” it.
There wasn’t anything actually wrong with me, at least not in the “I have cancer and I’m slowly fading with each day that passes” kind of sense.
I was just experiencing elevated levels of anxiety for the first time and I had no idea how to manage.
For most of my life, I had been living in a reactive state. If something felt off, I went to the doctor and blasted it away with the best that modern medicine had to offer.
It was time to get proactive.
Looking at my lifestyle, I could see why I felt like an anxious, nervous wreck. The daily activities of my life had been filling up my anxiety bucket, and I had been doing nothing to drain it.
That’s how I managing my anxiety these days – like a bucket.
If I go for a few days eating like shit and neglecting to exercise, I literally feel my bucket overflowing with anxiety. When I spend a few days practicing healthy behaviors, I return to a balanced state.
My bucket becomes half full, so-to-speak. Right where it belongs.
2. Stop fighting the feeling.
When you get angry or sad, what do you do? Do you try to fight the feeling with all your might, or do you recognize them for what they are – feelings – and allow them to slowly fade?
The problem with anxiety is that it’s a feeling no one enjoys experiencing.
The impending doom.
I don’t blame you for not wanting to feel like that. But that doesn’t mean you should fight it. It took me a painfully long time to learn this.
Anxiety, isolated from other issues, isn’t anything to worry about. It’s actually a good thing we have it. It spikes our adrenaline when we need it most – running from bears, hunting for food, and other things of the sorts.
In today’s world, we don’t have much of a need for those feelings. Outside of fighting and war, the majority of people could do without them. So when we experience them, we struggle. We fight back. We resist.
It’s the resistance of anxiety that makes it stronger. It allows your anxiety to grow. It adds to your bucket.
But if you let go, you allow yourself to be free.
Feel the feeling of anxiety. Recognize it’s just a feeling. And move on.
“Oh, I’m feeling anxious. I don’t like it, but it’s not going to hurt me.”
This is what I practiced doing for several months, even after making all the lifestyle changes I talked about earlier. Eventually, I got to a point where a month had gone by and I hadn’t felt overly anxious.
No more panic attacks. No more night terrors. No more feeling like crap.
I remember saying to myself, “Hm, that’s weird. I can’t believe I haven’t felt like that in a while.”
Then I continued on with my life.
I rose from the pit of doom and conquered my fears. Today, I happily and healthily “manage” my anxiety, but I sure as hell haven’t “cured” it.