145. When "Nothing Works"
But it was never going to work to begin with...
Often when someone new comes into the community around my podcast and my books, they come burdened with failed recovery efforts. This is always heartbreaking. If you are reading this and thinking to yourself that you’ve already tried “everything” and nothing worked for you, I see you. When you’ve thrown every trick you can find at your anxiety and none result in meaningful or lasting change, it can be too easy to reach the conclusion that nothing will work for you and that you are doomed to a life of fear and restriction.
This conclusion is often accompanied by a negative narrative about oneself and about how special your anxiety must be or how you are weaker or less capable than people that recover. To add insult to injury, seeing yourself this way can make recovery even more challenging than it already is, so in some ways the belief that nothing will work for you or that you are incapable of recovering can fuel a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy cycle in some cases. As if you need any more obstacles in your way, right?
But before you decide that you are specially broken or worse off than anyone else, ask yourself one question.
“Did any of those things I’ve tried have any chance of ever working to begin with?”
This is the part where I might spontaneously burst into a rant about horrible anxiety “cures” and counterproductive coping strategies, but I won’t. If you don’t know where I stand on those things, you’re gonna want get more familiar with the content I create. I’ll just say that no amount of probiotics or lavender oil will ever “cure” panic disorder or OCD. Not ever. Since you’re subscribed to the Anxious Morning, I will assume you understand why I say this and that you have come to accept this fact for the most part.
That being the case, throwing chamomile tea and healing crystals at the fear of your own heartbeat is like trying to fix a leaky pipe with a basketball. You might love basketball. It might make you happy. But no matter what you do, you cannot fix a leaky pipe with a big orange ball. Does that mean there is something wrong with the pipe that’s leaking? Is it more broken than other leaky pipes or beyond hope because you couldn’t stop the leak with a basketball?
See where this is headed? When you hang your hat on the notion that “Nothing works for me!”, take a few steps back, take a breath, then ask yourself if any of those things were ever going to work. I know you wanted them to work. I know the people that told you to try them insisted that they would work. But while you read this, there are about 6000 other people also reading this that share your experience. Those things did not “work” for them either. They were never going to work.
Give yourself a break. Just because the programs and cures and fixes and coping plans didn’t fix you does not mean you were ever broken to begin with. You are OK. You’re not strange. You’re not weird. You’re not worse. You’re not beyond hope. You just have to put down the basketball and pick up the pipe wrench, even if that wrench isn’t much fun to use.
And for the record, there’s inherently evil about a basketball. You just have to use it in the right context, for the right purpose, and with with the right expectations.