I’m back again, and I’m going to shatter some more commonly held beliefs about driving anxiety that I think are complete bunk and do you a disservice.
But before we get rolling, let me ask you, what do you think so far?
I mean, I assume you have to agree with me at least partially, otherwise, you wouldn’t still be reading the lessons and coming to read the next lesson, right?
Is it nice to finally hear someone SAYING what you know in your gut is true?
No matter what, it’s nice to still have you tuning in to read what I have to say. I know that if you’re still reading, you think a lot like I do, and you don’t mind setting bigger goals than the average person. Congrats, I think that’s an admirable quality. By this point I may be preaching to the converted, but what do you say I go ahead and talk about the third lesson anyway?
The next lesson not only flies in the face of many other authors and program but this time, I also poke a stick at….*gasp*…
The pharmaceutical industry.
Maybe you went to one of the websites for a particular medication and read some of the propaganda, or maybe you went to a doctor who gave you a script and recited to you what the pharmaceutical salesman who took him to dinner said, regardless of where you heard it, you’ve probably heard something like this…
“Anxiety attack and panic are caused by a chemical imbalance, so you need to take medication to prevent it.”
Now let me start off with a little disclaimer. I’m NOT telling you to stop or start ANY medications. That’s a choice for you to make on your own and with your doctor. But I will give you my personal perspective to think about, and you can take it or leave it…
I just don’t see how that could be the case. I mean, I had panic and anxiety as bad as anyone I’ve ever read about, to a point where I could barely leave me the house. I didn’t put an end to my anxiety with medication. I know a TON of other people just like me. What did the heck happen to MY chemicals? I tripped and fell down the stairs one day back in 2001, did that balance the little suckers out?
Wel, what about this…
I bet there’s certain situations that bother you more than others. In fact, there may even be some situations where you KNOW you’re going to be anxious. Maybe it’s driving on the highway, over a bridge, or far from home, etc. Don’t you get anxious just thinking about it? Don’t you feel symptoms as you get close to the bridge, or get on the freeway entrance ramp, or when you approach the end of your “comfort zone”?
Who gave the chemicals a map? How do they know where you’re going?
Are you chemicals ok as long as you’re within 50 miles of home, but if you go 60 miles away they somehow know it and go all out of balance? What if you move? Do they know?
Hey, I could be wrong. Maybe I’m underestimating the intelligence of the chemicals and they really do know every move I make, but that’s the only way this makes any sense to me, and somehow, I doubt it’s true.
Sure, chemicals are involved when we get anxious, no question. That’s great news for the pharmacist and is real persuasive in the pamphlet about the pills. The part they leave out however, is that chemicals are involved in EVERYTHING we do! When we’re happy, there’s a chemical change, when we’re tired, there’s a chemical change, when we’re hungry, chemicals change…
But I don’t think you can accurately say that chemicals cause hunger…I mean, they do if you stand on your head and look at it that way…ultimately everything is caused by chemicals…but I think it’s far more accurate to say that hunger is caused by…
Sit down for this news flash…
Hunger is caused by not eating!
Once again, it just doesn’t make sense to me. If you feel differently, that’s ok.
But if you DO feel that way, and that medication is absolutely necessary to correct the imbalance, the question that pops into my mind is, what are you doing reading this?
I mean, I love to entertain, but if it’s really out of your control…why look for help beyond the pharmacist?
Now I know it may seem like I’m anti-medication…but I’m not.
My personal opinion is that medication for anxiety can be very useful, when used as a TOOL and not a SOLUTION.
Some people with severe driving anxiety attack feel that medication allows them to quell their anxiety enough so they can begin to learn and practice the skills you’ll learn about in the program. Others make slowly weaning off medication a progressive goal of their recovery.
Just like some authors think it’s impossible to overcome anxiety attack without medication, others are on the other side on the table and think that taking anything at all is a failure. For once, I’m in the middle on an issue…
To me, taking meds or not to help you through a difficult period is a personal decision to make with your doctor, but certainly not a failure in my eyes. In my personal opinion, taking medication all the time is no way to go through life when a better solution exists, but if you take medication I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with it.
Let’s go back to the dentist example I used yesterday.
If you went to the dentist with a toothache, and he had the good sense to pull the tooth, is it being weak or a failure to take aspirin to dull the pain until your appointment to get the tooth yanked (the ultimate solution)? Of course not!
To me, medication is fine if you think it’s necessary, but I still recommend the Driving Fear Program for “pulling the tooth” and achieving ultimate freedom.
Look, you don’t get extra points for suffering. There’s no reward for being a masochist. To me, one of the benefits of living in an advanced society is that we have the advantage of having access to medications that can relieve our pain until we have the opportunity for a permanent solution. Trust me, if they would have had vaccine 100 years ago, they would have used it.
So if you and your doctor feel that at this point in your recovery medication is the right option for you, go ahead. If you don’t want to take it, that’s fine too. But it’s my belief that it’s best used as a tool of recovery and not a standalone method of treatment.
Ok, let me hop back down off my soapbox.
So if anxiety isn’t a chemical imbalance, what is it?
Pssssst…come closer…let me whisper it so everyone doesn’t hear….
It’s a REACTION.
Anxiety isn’t a “thing”. It isn’t an enemy or a disease, there’s no danger or wild animal…no threat at all.
That’s lesson three:
Anxiety and Panic are REACTIONS.
This is important because it’s the struggle with anxiety as if it were something you need to fight off, that causes the problem and starts the spiral the can result in a panic attack.
When you get anxious, it FEELS like an attack…I know.
But it isn’t. It’s YOU.
Here’s what you would see if you could slow the process down and watch it…
You’re going about your day, minding your own business, and all of a sudden, you have a thought.
It could be a thought about anything. Maybe you have a thought about a trip you have to take in a few weeks, or an argument you had with your spouse, or a conversation you had with a coworker, or maybe you have a thought about the last time you had an anxiety attack.
Don’t forget that there’s ALWAYS thoughts running through your head…your mind never goes blank, not even when you sleep. In fact, you have so many thoughts running around that head of yours, you don’t pay attention to most of them.
In our example, you were driving to work and had a thought, whether it conscious or unconscious makes no difference. Let’s say the thought turned out to be, “What if I have an anxiety attack?”
That thought bothers you and brings up other thoughts, probably of how you felt the last time you had an anxiety attack in the car and how afraid you became. Those thoughts scare you, and you begin to feel some very minor sensations of fear.
Maybe a little lightheadedness for instance or an increased heart rate.
Then a critical transition takes place.
You STOP being concerned about the original thought, and you START being concerned about the feeling of fear.
The first part, the REAL thought that bothered you and your small reaction of anxiety, may have been so fleeting that it feels like your panic comes on “out of the blue”. If I ask you what you were thinking when your anxiety started, you may say, “Nothing, I wasn’t thinking anything.” But we know that’s not true, you’re ALWAYS thinking something…it’s just that you went from the REAL thought to the fear of the feelings so quickly you couldn’t tell them apart.
Back to the example…
Now you’re concerned about the feeling you’re having, which is nothing but a normal physical response to fear, and it worries you.
You start to focus on it, and you scan your body for any other possible evidence that something is the matter.
Maybe you have a slight tingle in your left finger…it could have been there for an hour without your noticing it, but now you’re on the lookout for ANYTHING, so you feel it and focus on it…watch it.
Maybe you look so hard that you’re able to feel your heartbeat. We know that’s been there for quite awhile too, but now it bothers you. (it would make more sense to be concerned if you didn’t have a heartbeat, no?)
You take it as further evidence that something is definitely wrong.
And that scares you further, so you have even MORE physical sensations of fear, which is MORE evidence, so you have MORE sensations…and so on and so forth until your body maxes out the fear it can dish out and WHAMO! Panic time.
But hold on a second…
What about the plane flight to Hawaii, or the fight with your spouse, or the overdue bills, or whatever was bothering you to begin with?
Oh…we tossed that REAL thought out the window a long time ago, as soon as we felt a physical sensation or had a thought we didn’t like, we said to ourselves…
“Hawaii? Who cares about Hawaii at a time like this! My left finger is tingly for the love of God!”
We decided to focus on the feelings instead and let them scare us.
That’s a pretty big mistake.
See, they’re just feelings. They can’t hurt you. They’re not something that HAPPENS to you, they ARE you.
You create them. There’s only so “big” they can get. The worst that will ever happen is that you’ll have a panic attack. And yes, they’re scary and feel lousy, but scary and lousy is much different than DANGEROUS.
That leads in nicely to tomorrow’s lesson, so I’m going to stop here. Tomorrow we’ll look at the trick anxiety plays on you, and how to quit being fooled so you can take back your life.
If you haven’t already gotten started with the Driving Fear Program…now’s the time. Just click here to get started now.