“The only way out is through.” That’s one of the many positive affirmations given to the reader in this book and it’s the one that stuck with me the most. Last year was probably one of the worst of my life professionally. I was in constant conflict with my managers, always having to look over my shoulder in professional settings and my anxiety was at all-time high. I saw a therapist for a little over six months but my insurance was no longer accepted at the facility. I was out of options and too anxious to try and get to know another therapist. That’s when I found DARE by Barry McDonagh. Social Media keeps me in touch with people from all parts of my life and a friend from high school was posting excerpts of the chapters of this book and I knew I had to read it. Everything on his Instagram stories felt like it was talking directly to me. After doing more research, I found out that author and founder of the program DARE, Barry McDonagh also suffered from debilitating anxiety. Knowing this made me feel less alone and less suspicious about opening my mind to his new suggestions. He had applied his program to his own anxiety and it had worked so I took a chance and hoped it would work for my own.
The book introduces something called the Dare Response, which is a new way to view your relationship with your anxiety. The key points of the response are defuse, allow, run toward, and engage. Defuse shows the mind that you are not in any real danger when you take on a blasé approach to anxiety, “Who cares”, “So what” are phrases that the author uses to allow anxiety to take on a smaller form rather than feel unstoppable. By using the act of diffusion, it replaces worry with power of the situation when anxiety makes you feel powerless. Allow is the means of letting the anxiety come as it wants to. Resistance can make anxiety seem bigger than it is. By allowing anxiety to just come and flow naturally through you, it takes away the fear of what could happen or what is happening to you. You have the control of the outcome. A funny line from this step’s section for me was when McDonagh says to sit down your anxiety and invite it in for tea. The visual created in my brain was exactly what I needed to see that I was in control of my anxiety and my anxiety didn’t control me. I was the one calling the shots and deciding what, when and where anxiety can appear. Run towards is the next step. McDonagh suggests that by running toward your anxiety you can change the perspective of it. He explains that fear and excitement are often the same and when the mind readjusts the feeling toward anxiety, it can reduce its power and change the way the brain views anxiety. A negative can quickly become a positive and instead of looking for the “boogeyman” over your shoulder, you can embrace the present world around you. The final step is to engage. Engage in something that takes up your full attention so the anxious feelings can no longer reel you back in. This felt like the most important step because it encouraged me to focus on my life and stay in the present versus stay in my head with the fearful anxiety. Furthermore, the book details ways to apply the response to several different aspects of anxiety such as panic attacks, health anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and fear of being abnormal. Each section details how to apply the response to the situation but also provides thoughtful insight on his experience with the situation or the experiences of others that he helped. I found several different scenarios relatable and have returned back to these chapters for guidance and help.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Self-help books aren’t for everyone but this method got me through a time in my life where I feared there would be no way out. Applying the DARE response to my life allowed me the confidence I needed to take back control of my anxious mind. While I still have issues with health anxiety from time to time, I have since gotten a new job and thanks to the DARE response I am able to contribute my experience with an open mind and heart to my position and have had a very successful three months at my firm because of that. I think any kind of positive outlet can help mental health issues and I would suggest this book to anyone who wants to reach with themselves and learn to navigate ways to better themselves.
By definition normal is conforming to a standard; the usual, typical or expected. Normal could also be defined to gage a state of condition. Normal by definition is pretty clear cut when it’s applied in the right way. However, normal in society starts to get these patchy gray areas of falsified perfection which can be problematic for people’s self-esteem and mental health. Society places a lot of pressure on what’s normal and what isn’t. There’s a certain size you’re supposed to be, a certain way you’re supposed to act, a certain standard you’re meant to uphold. In the age of social media, we are setting ourselves up for disaster finding any kind of measuring stick in what we see online. It’s a horrible feeling to scroll past these things and feel like you’re the outcast in the room. Normal is a relative term. Other than the actual written definition, the term normal is what you make it.
In my journey through mental health and life overall, I have found that it’s important to find a normal that works for me and accept it fully. I first discovered the term radical acceptance in therapy and applying this term to self-love has been truly beneficial. Leaning into the positive aspects of my life has been helpful to my process. In my radical acceptance of myself it’s given me a place to feel grounded and no longer distracted by social media, corporate environments or women/men around me. I am now the decision maker for my normal. My normal is curvy, my normal is comfortably dressed, my normal wears little to no makeup, my normal curses like a sailor, and that’s okay because I have finally come to terms that I am enough. Three words have been the gatekeeper to my process of acceptance and fully loving myself. Like everyone else, I have bad days but I hold onto tight to those words and repeat them as many times as I need to, to remember my mission.
I challenge all of you to figure out your normal. What’s it look like? What’s it sound like? What’s it feel like? There is no right or wrong answer to the question, there is just is the radical acceptance that no matter what you come up with, you are enough.
In almost every way my fiancée and I were different when it came to how we’re mentally and emotionally built. I was upfront with emotions especially in regards to her, family and friends and she was reserved. I was eager to communicate to solve problems and find compromise and she tended to bottle her feelings or ignored them until she exploded. In the early years of our relationship, we often fought about how our relationship should work. Admittedly, I came into my relationship with immature ideas. I was still stuck on the puppy dog phase of love where I wanted to spend every waking second with her in person or over the phone and she relished in her alone time.
Years ago when I was ranting to my friend at work about a fight my fiancée and I had and she told me about the idea of love languages. Being young and foolish, I didn’t put much thought into it. The hard way isn’t always the best way but it was the road I was on. But, with time came wisdom and desire to grow. What really put us to the test was my being unemployed. It was one of the bigger tests in our relationship. We were living together, sharing finances and terrified that things wouldn’t get back on track. Tense situations like unemployment can either make or break a person and I chose to benefit from it. Money makes every couple edgy and we were no different. However, instead of pointing fingers and worsening the situation I chose to really think about what we both needed in terms of the foundation of our relationship: our love for ourselves and each other. I revisited the love languages model and started to apply some of what I was reading to my everyday behavior.
Further research on the basic understanding of the love languages was needed and I came across The Five Love Languages by Larry Chapman. With a very generic internet understanding of the book, I was able to get further detail on each language. Chapman’s explains the five languages in great detail. His version of the Love Languages presents five languages: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Affirmations and Receiving Gifts. Instead of having just one love language Chapman explains that each of us has a primary and a second love language to fulfill our figurative love tanks of emotion needed to thrive. Makes sense that you need to feel love and love yourself to fuel your relationship. He also details experiences of uses of these languages with his name protected patients and how they applied them to their own relationships.
After reading the book, I was able to pick out her love languages rather easy after applying my knowledge of her past and my knowledge of what made her happiest in the present day. Without going into too much detail about her past or our present together, I concluded that she fell under the languages of Acts of Service and Quality Time. Once the conclusion was reached I started to apply them accordingly. I began to do things without her asking, I began to put my phone away (more often, because I’m not going to pretend to be perfect) when we were spending together. I began to thoroughly pay attention to our interactions and saw a noticeable difference in how we operated. Fights were far and few and communication was at an all-time high, an accomplishment indeed! With a lot of trial and error, I’d like to think that we’ve found some sort of clarity on how we need to be loved and how we need to love each other.
I’m not saying by any means this is a cure-all to anything. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. Also, you don’t necessarily have to be in trouble to enjoy a little light reading on the betterment of your relationship. To me, it’s interesting to find the little blanks you might miss in your relationship because ego and self-interest get in the way. I definitely recommend it.
Journaling has been an activity that has come and gone for me. Either I judge myself too hard with what I’m writing or I lose track of time and never actually dedicate myself. However, the act itself is a huge “mind-dump” for me allowing to vent in a constructive and private way. I attempted to stay consistent with the Morning Pages method while I was unemployed but once a job came to light it was hard to sit and dedicate time to three pages a day. While it was therapeutic and helpful during those hard times, I found it hard to stay committed. I was really disappointed because I started to see such a huge difference in my thought process after giving myself the opportunity to decompress.
After I was unable to go to my therapist when she no longer accepted my coverage this summer, I searched every inch of the internet, books, and any other creative outlet for any kind of self-help. YouTube has become a staple in our house so instead of watching mind-numbing videos, I chose to look toward something more helpful. I found a YouTube called the BigNoKnow. Noah who is the creator of the channel spoke very candidly about his own mental health journey which was a great comfort. A productive binge watch at last! Noah spoke about this app he uses daily called the Five Minute Journal. He uses it daily to write down things he’s grateful for and daily affirmations. I was intrigued by the concept because I love to journal and I also noticed a lot of my journaling was mostly the “mind-dump” and less positivity whereas the app was all about positivity.
While I am not consistently daily, I am a hell of a lot more consistent then I would be with the daunting three pages. It’s a thoughtful yet thoughtless process every morning and every night. It takes a small amount of time per day to take a deep breath and reflect. Sometimes it can turn a bad morning where I’m groggy and sluggish into a hopeful one or a bad day into a calm night. For me, it has all been about resetting my perspective. It’s so easy to get lost in the negativity of daily life adding the extra weight to my already heavy mind. This app has allowed me the freedom to release the heavy feeling in simple, short constructive ways. I highly recommend it for the busy professional who wants to help maintain their mental health.
My writing has been a never ending journey of stops and starts. Some months, I’m full of muse and ready to share my vision and myself with the world. Whereas other months, I am drowned in the voices of opinions, the crushing stress of navigating adult life, and general life happenings that make it feel impossible to carry out this passion I love on such a precise schedule. I have started over many times, so I am not going to sit and promise consistency any longer. However, I will promise quality over quantity in my posts and hope that my vision is put forth honestly and sincerely. Just like anything else in life, my writing is ever changing. Topics, style, and most of all purpose have evolved since 2014 when I embarked on this blogging journey.
Tales from the Anxiety Ridden began as a coping mechanism. My parents retiring and leaving New York City was a hard transition. I was scared, angry and confused about not seeing them daily and being on my own for the first time. I have always thrived on routine so being thrusted into this new world was hard. Change is hard for anybody but with somebody with anxiety like mine, it felt impossible. Anxiety has always been something I struggled with but this felt like a hurdle I couldn’t jump over. Writing has always been my easiest form of expression so I created this blog space in hopes that sharing my feelings with like minds and reading others struggles would help me feel not so alone.
Fast forward to 2019, I am a few months shy of my wedding, I was fired from a job that I hated but found a job I could really see myself in long term. Anxiety is bearable (thanks to a lot of soul searching and research) and I feel like a person who could manage day-to-day life. While I feel “healed”, I am not naïve to the fact that it could all change on the flip of a dime. However, I am going to spend every second given to me celebrating any small victories that come my way. The intention of this forum is no longer singular to the betterment of myself. For me, it is important to “pay-it-forward” in a society that can be so self-driven. I hope to share my story as it continues growing and thriving and be able to help others along the way.
I’m here starting over again, but I’m optimistic that setting a purpose and a goal will provide the quality of content I’ve always wanted to produce rather than the quantity of content that feels appropriate. Welcome to Tales from the Anxiety Ridden, almost 30 years of experience in navigating my own mind, swimming in my own gene pool of mental health short comings but I am more than that. This is my story and I cannot wait to hear yours.