I met Kate (not her real name) one morning during my turn at Intake. She came to me after having a panic attack in the local mall. She was walking by a kiosk and the next thing Kate knew she was on the ground in the fetal position. She asked her doctor what she should do and he gave her an anxiety medication, a sleeping med, something for depression, and a benzodiazepine for her panic attacks. She was medicated and ready to go.
But she kept having panic attacks.
She went to her psychiatrist who adjusted her medications (perhaps a stronger dosage would do the trick) and sent her on the way.
She came to see me – frustrated, despondent, defeated and deflated. A couple of weeks later she dumped most of the meds and surprise, she wasn’t having panic attacks anymore. So what happened?
I know I’m not that good. I am constantly surprised that people have amazing turnarounds after a few months of counseling. Nothing on the outside may have changed much, so why the turnaround?
When people get depressed or are battling anxiety they are usually told to go out and do a bunch of things – go for walks, work out, cut out caffeine, take medications, socialize more, etc. While these are good ideas and may eventually help, have you ever tried to ask a depressed person to go for a regular walk? They came into that office feeling depressed and a few days later, after being unable to get out of bed and go for the magical exercise routine, they are still depressed and now can point to yet another failure.
The secret is – it’s not just about what you do. It’s about changing your mind, not just your routine. The bible says -“As a person thinks, so they are” (I take truth wherever I find it). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy says it this way, ‘change your mind and your ass will follow‘ (ok, maybe it’s just me that says it that way).
It’s not about going for a walk, as good an idea as that may be. It’s about changing the way you think, addressing your own cognitive distortions about life (calling your own bullshit), and learning how take control of your thoughts and emotions.
So we talked about her panic attack. We figured out the “window of opportunity” for dealing with her oncoming attack. She learned what panic attacks were, and how her subconscious was directing her. We talked about a few options that seemed incredibly simple to learn. She practiced… and practiced. She documented her attacks and we talked again.
And things changed.
Panic attacks are not incurable. Neither is depression or anxiety. They just may take a great deal of work to conquer.
I’ll be dealing with this issue in further posts and with specifics for my email subscribers. Watch for my upcoming post, “Anxiety is curable, but it’s probably more work than you are prepared to do.”
And oh ya, hire a counselor that doesn’t suck… (I can also tell you how to find that person).