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Do you know what causes anxiety?

"Grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened, but we fear all that possibly may happen."

What a beautiful and accurate quote! Grief has its limits. With time, grief fades. But this isn't the case with anxiety, fear, and worry. Those things always have a new tomorrow to worry about. With each passing day, a new potential danger or catastrophe threatens us. This is what makes anxiety so challenging to treat: the constant perceived threat.

However, ask yourselves this, "What causes anxiety?" And I don't mean chemical withdrawal, as that is a different kind of problem, but one that merges with the core issues of anxiety. It doesn't matter if you had anxiety or not before withdrawal. Coming off a GABA drug can and usually does create profound anxiety, which makes sense when you understand how GABA works and what parts of the brain it works on. The answer to the question posed above is "apprehension."

Spend some time today examining your anxiety whenever it should rear its ugly head. Take a closer look, and you will likely see apprehension. Ask yourselves, "What am I being so apprehensive about?"

Apprehension is like putting your seatbelt in a car and bracing for potential impact.

It's the act of preparing for danger. On the surface, you might think, "Well, it's better to be prepared than to be taken by surprise!"

That's true where it applies. However, we are not meant to live in a constant state of apprehension. We no longer live in the wilderness and must keep a vigilant eye open for potential predators. Moreover, we are complex creatures! The stuff we can become apprehensive about didn't even exist in our early development.

Today, we must be apprehensive about what we eat, what we drink, what medications we take, and what medications we don't. We must be apprehensive about our blood pressure, blood sugar, and general state of internal health. We must be apprehensive about driving our vehicles, who we trust, who we love, who we listen to, and even who we vote for. Many of us have to be apprehensive about other people hurting us again if we have had past trauma.

Sometimes, we are even apprehensive about ourselves, as if we cannot fully trust ourselves.

Apprehension is vital to anxiety. We are constantly waiting for impact, for the car to slide on some icy road and drift off a cliff. Yet, it never happens. Think about it. Think about all of your worries and apprehensions. How often does any of that stuff come true? I've wasted thousands of hours worrying about things that never happened. Ironically, the things that most negatively hurt me or impacted me were things I never saw coming in the first place. That's how life works, the old curve ball.

Mental illness works in a very subtle way, like a slow poisoning. It often takes years for us even to become aware that we are poisoned, let alone realize that we are usually the one who continues to poison ourselves. We often didn't begin this way, but anxiety, depression, and trauma all have a way of quietly convincing us to take over the job. Before we know it, it doesn't even matter what initiated our problems. We gradually take over the role; we get sucked into the cycle. At some point, the trauma is no longer "directly" the problem, but rather, our inability to keep from further engaging in the trauma dance becomes the real problem! We keep it going. We keep picking the scabs. We keep entertaining the apprehension and engaging in harmful rituals of needless protection. Try this exercise today. Keep an eye on your apprehension. Think of that word today. "Apprehension."

Observe your own mind and intentions and see where apprehension exists, then ask yourself, "Should it?" Is it necessary to be apprehensive? Sometimes, it may be a wise idea, but most of the time, I think you will find it isn't. Part of healing is learning to change our minds. We often cannot change what's happening, but we always have control over how we react or respond. However, that, too, is a skill set. We learn how to take better control and be responsive rather than reactive. Fear depends on us being reactive, as does depression, rumination, and trauma.

We are learning that despite our fear instincts to hold on tighter, we actually need to do the opposite. We need to loosen our grip a bit and practice more faith in the universe. We must realize that anxiety, depression, trauma, AND chemical withdrawal are all liars. Everything they say is a LIE!

They tell us we are constantly in danger when we are not. They tell us we are not good enough when we are. They tell us we do not deserve love, which is untrue.

They tell us we are hopeless when we aren't. They tell us we are ugly, stupid, worthless, weak, vulnerable, etc.

They tell us we can't do it or won't heal, all lies.

My friends... These are all lies. And our job, if we genuinely want to beat this and turn things around, is to learn to rise above the lies. It's an abusive relationship, and we need to remove ourselves.

The first step in changing things is to become aware of them. You can't change what you don't see or understand. Make peace with things. It's all going to be okay. It's always worked out for us so far. Trust in this. Spend the day observing your anxiety, and you will see apprehension. You will see apprehension BEFORE anxiety even arrives, as though apprehension itself was a bear call.

Once you see the apprehension, bring some light and love into it. Lull it down gently, like a mother or father helping their child get back to sleep after a bad dream.

Until next time, Coach P.

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