Dealing With Anxiety

   Do you worry a lot – That’s a strange 

question, isn’t it? 

   What’s even stranger is that there are only 

two letters difference between words “Worrier” 

and “Warrior.”

   What’s that? You think that I’m completely 

off my rocker? That I’m as nutty as fruitcake 

today?

   Well maybe, but listen to this…

   While suffering from a full-blown anxiety, I 

remember having two choices: fighting this thing 

or giving up.

   To tell the truth, neither choice seemed 

appealing. 

   The path I was on was dismal and barren. Every 

day I just waited to see if today was the day I’d 

get carted off to the loony bin. I was deeply 

convinced that I was crazy, and all the things I 

used to wait and look forward to now seemed like 

impossible burdens.

   All my strength was consumed by sheer survival. 

What possible strength did I have left to fight 

this unbeatable enemy?

   I remember one time I was riding my bike with 

headphones on. The summer stars were shining above 

but I was feeling numb. 

   Pearl Jam’s “Alive” came on, and I cranked it up.

   The words resonated with me as the lead singer 

screamed “I’m still alive” with such anger and 

determination, as if he had lived the same 

desperation as I had and was amazed being still 

here in blood and flesh. 

   He had somehow clung on for his dear life by his 

fingernails, just like I was doing. Needless to 

say, the song haunted me.

   I was alive. 

   Barely…

   Four years of anxiety and panic had left me 

worn out and beaten down.

   I didn’t see any way to win this battle.

   One night that summer of 2001, flipping through 

the channels, I stopped on the channel that was 

showing movie called “Chariots of Fire.” 

   It’s a movie about track and field athletes 

competing for the opportunity to represent Great 

Britain in the 1924 Olympics.

   An athlete, Harold Abrahamson, competes for a 

spot on the team against a Scot. In several trial 

heats, the Scottish runner wins.

   Abrahamson complained to his girlfriend that if 

he can’t win, he won’t run.

   “If you won’t run…you can’t win,” she answers.

   If I was going to win back my life, I had to run. 

   I HAD to.

   Not away from my fear, but toward it. Right 

into its core.

   My days were spent reading all I could, 

educating myself about anxiety disorder and 

panic attacks. 

   I began a file of quotations that rang true 

for me, words that inspired me. When I was 

feeling particularly down, I would read and 

reread these quotations in the hope that they’d 

sink in one day.

   All my friends were starting their careers, and 

I had nothing – not even the small level of 

comfort I’d build in college. 

   There, as miserable as I was, I was still 

working toward a goal: beat my biggest foe …my 

anxiety.

   My social life was minimal, but I had a hard 

time saying “No” to people, so sometimes I would 

get cornered into going to a party. 

   My entire goal was to survive these occasions 

with my panic going unnoticed. 

   The only place I felt comfortable was on the 

basketball court. 

   There, I was bold and aggressive. 

   In the July after graduation, I was on a team 

with Rich Kingston, the president of a national 

telecommunication company, and I had done very 

well in the day’s game – our team finishing 

undefeated. I was physically exhausted thus

incapable of producing a panic attack when Rich 

came up to me and offered me a sales job. 

   He told me to call the company’s director of 

sales for an interview, “just as a formality.”

   He had assumed that my confidence on the court 

would translate to success in the workplace.

   “Little did he know,” I thought, but accepted 

the phone number and thanked him.

   At home I entertained the notion, arguing back 

and forth with myself about whether or not I could 

ever handle a job in sales. 

   I told my old friend about this and his answer 

was simple: “Sales? You need to be articulate and 

aggressive, a real ‘people person.’ I don’t think 

that’s a good idea for you.”

   Sometimes I do my best when I’m challenged like 

this. When people tell me I can’t, it gives me the 

motivation to show that I can.

   Besides, I was already at rock bottom. How 

could things get worse?

   I decided that self-esteem was my main problem.

   If I could just raise my self-esteem, I 

wouldn’t panic. The job offer gave me something to 

shoot for – I knew I wasn’t ready for it yet, but 

it gave me the impetus to switch tactics and get 

myself into the fight.

   Maybe the problem was that I had been hoping to 

get better at once, to get “fixed” just as 

suddenly as the panic came. 

   But if you want to lose 30 pounds, you don’t 

lose it overnight.

   You work, you plan for it, and get it done a 

little at a time.

   This is when I started my “PANIC PLAN”

   In addition to studying my main foe anxiety, I 

also began studying the opposite. I studied 

successful people, analyzing their lives and 

thoughts, reading their stories, and listening to 

them speak.

   Their fields of success weren’t important to 

me – whether in sports, the military, acting, or 

writing – if they had something to teach me, I 

wanted to learn.

   I found it best to use the same method that 

people use in the fruit aisle at a grocery store: 

   Instead of buying whole bushels of apples, I 

examined them all and selected just the ones from 

each barrel that I wanted. 

   You don’t have to agree with everything 

everyone says to glean some helpful 

information. Just take what works for you and 

toss everything else aside.

   Monitoring my self-talk was the next big task 

at hand.

   Most of my life, I had bombarded myself with 

messages about how stupid I was, how awkward and 

unworthy. 

   Add that to the messages I sent myself once the 

panic kicked in: “You’re crazy. You’re worthless. 

You’re an embarrassment. You’re a failure. You’re 

weak, screwed up, and you’re never going to live a 

normal life.”

   Self-talk like this is so pervasive that it 

becomes ingrained, automatic.

   Now I was going to have to become aware of each 

time I sent myself a negative message like this 

and replace it with a positive one.

   On top of it, I had to forcibly change my 

perception of what other people thought of me.

   On some level I knew my negative thoughts were 

irrational, or at least overblown. And I knew that 

these thoughts were destructive to my self-esteem.

   But I’m a stubborn person, and changing my own 

belief system wasn’t going to be easy.

   I even began writing down these thoughts so I 

could dissect them and rearrange them in my favor 

in journal entries.

   “I’ll never be good enough” became “I’m a good 

person and I’m working hard every day.”

   “People will think I’m crazy” became “I have 

lots of friends and family who love me and always 

will.”

   I learned to pit my thoughts against a reality 

test: What proof was there that people thought 

badly of me? NONE!

   So those thoughts didn’t deserve to stick 

around.

   When I played a basketball game, I played to 

compete as hard as I could and win to. To overcome 

panic, first I had to change my mindset.

   I wasn’t going to “win” the whole game all at 

once. I had to learn that just playing – just 

getting into that ring – was winning.

   The cause of our anxiety and panic is the way 

we THINK.

   Our thoughts are what determine our misery and 

our happiness. 

   We think ourselves into anxiety and we can 

think ourselves out of it.

   Do you want to change your life, 

   CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK

   Now don’t give up hope when you read this, 

because I know how impossible it may seem to you 

at this moment to do so.Dont despair because there is always a brighter day.

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