Today I had a setback, and it left me feeling as though it’s one step forward and five steps back. But I need to remember that there will always be bumps in the road when it comes to the long journey of mental health and we need to accept the setbacks and allow ourselves to reset.
Setbacks feel so overwhelmingly disappointing, especially when making such progress – it’s as though you forget how exactly that level of anxiety feels and that explosion of unexpected anxiety can knock you for six. It’s disheartening.
‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
When sailing the waves, sometimes the wind will come and blow you back in another direction. But we need to learn how to carry on. Think of the life you want, don’t retreat back into a hole. I know when I have setbacks I want to avoid that situation/thing that triggered it – I make an association of anxiousness with it – but really we need to try and stay in the situation until our anxiety calms down. Avoiding the situation is great in the short term, but in the long term is damaging and makes our brain think that we have avoided danger – when really we don’t know that for sure. Our worst fear might not come true , and if it does , is it really that bad ?
When my anxiety grips me, I feel I can’t breathe, I have a dull ache in the back of my head, my ears feel like they are under water, I become clammy and hot, I feel the room shrinks and my vision feels blurry. I feel so upset, and when in public, I feel getting teary would be the absolute worst thing. I feel self conscious , I feel trapped, my heart beat seems to be pounding through my entire body. But when it has happened previously, I have to remember – was it so bad? What were people like?
They were kind, they helped me, I got through it and though I do feel embarrassed at feeling I had caused ‘a scene’, the normal reaction is that people can see you are struggling and need some help and will want to offer you kindness. You cannot help how you are feeling and you need to ride that wave. It’s exhausting to be stronger than we feel, and its ok to not be ok.
I was reminded that setbacks are expected especially when we are making progress, we are pushing ourselves more out of our comfort zone in order to progress – so it’s completely normal to have these moments where you feel you have gone back to square one. But remember how far you have travelled so far, you may have hit a wall that day, but you will find a way past it.
Today I have given myself time to recover from my anxiety attack, to rest rewind and recharge. And I remember, that this too shall pass.