I wanted to pass on quite a simple idea, really, but it's one I've found helpful and I think its incredibly important: During recovery, don't forget to congratulate yourself for each step you take!
After years of anxiety, I'm happy to say I function well in daily life nowadays, but I often forget to give myself a pat on the back for things that I have achieved and reflect on what has gone well. Instead, I find myself ruminating on all the niggles I have encountered along the way, all the tiny mistakes, and the possibility of future obstacles.
I learned through self-help cognitive behavioural therapy courses about something called mental filtering. That's when you ignore everything good that's happened and focus on negative thoughts and feelings instead. So for instance, you enter an art competition and win first prize, but instead of being proud of what you have achieved, you tell yourself you were just lucky or that there must have been a low standard of entries (or maybe you were the only one who sent anything in!) After all, your art can't be good enough to win - you can see mistakes all over it and you don't "feel" like a good artist.
Obviously, thinking this way is unhelpful and unrealistic. Recognise when you've done a good job and feel proud.
It's really easy to fall into this trap when you're in recovery, because people who suffer from anxiety are often afraid to do the things they see everybody else doing without a second thought - like going outside, making friends or taking a job. It's difficult not to berate yourself sometimes for not being able to fly through the world carefree, like others seem to.
Sometimes, when I was having problems with anxiety, I would wake up with a feeling of immense dread in the morning and find it very difficult to get myself into the office. I'd have to bolster my confidence all the way there, giving myself little pep talks and forcing myself through the door. On occasion, I'd just stand outside for a while, feeling too ill to walk inside. During these times, I'd always tell myself that I was ridiculous. Everybody else can go to work and cope with everyday stresses. How could I be so weak?
It's understandable that anxious people get frustrated by the way their disorder disrupts their lives, but give yourself a break! By standing outside calling myself a failure, I only made matters worse. But once I learned to recognise what I had already achieved that day, my mood lifted, I felt less ill and slowly I began to feel less dread in the morning and could pull myself through the day at work. Then one day, there was no dread at all and clocking off time came round before I knew it!
By the time I had got to the door of work, I had achieved several things:
1) I had got out of bed despite only getting two hours of sleep the night before and feeling awful.
2) I had got myself out of the front door when every bone in my body was telling me to call in sick.
3) I had braved the public transport system, which I didn't like at the time because I had previously suffered agoraphobia and was still getting used to being on cramped, moving vehicles!
Fair enough, for somebody without anxiety, it wouldn't be too much to make it to the front door of work. But for somebody with anxiety, doing everyday things can be a struggle because of the intense feelings of fear and physical illness they can experience.
So don't forget to look back on the fears you've faced and what you've achieved and take pride in your strength and courage. Giving yourself a hard time will only hold you back, but allowing yourself a little pride in your successes could help you break free of fear.