Frozen in symptoms? Come on, roll the bones.

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Holed up in her comfort zone, frozen in symptoms, Kim devised her strategy. She’d go ahead and venture out once she was 90% symptom-free. “Yeah, that should do it.” That was a year ago. She hasn’t gone anywhere.

’Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cures.’

Kim’s strategy isn’t all that uncommon. Heck, I used it numerous times many moons ago…

You really will venture out from your comfort zone, Bill. But wait until you’re just about symptom-free. Yeah, that should do it.

The circumstances don’t much matter – anxiety, depressive episode, panic attack, social phobia, body image concerns, derealization, racing thoughts, agoraphobia, voices, depersonalization – few of us want to venture beyond our comfort zone when our symptoms are freaking us out.

And, of course, that causes problems.

Really, it all comes down to risk-taking. And that typically isn’t one of our favorite things to do.

The truth about avoidance

Read Kim’s strategy again. Truth is, she has it backwards, and I suspect she knows it. Symptoms become manageable, or hit the highway, when we take risks. That means being willing to move forward into the perceived unknown in the face of perceived danger.

If you’re thinking I came by the truth in a clinical text or classroom, you’re wrong. Life brought it my way – the school of hard knocks.

Here’s just one gut-wrencher…

A personal story

Years ago, I was unemployed and frozen in symptoms. I was under assault from panic, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, and depression. Oh, the frosting on the cake? Episodes of derealization and depersonalization.

But the bottom-line was I needed a job and knew I’d have to venture out to get one. And I was fully aware it was going to have to happen eyebrows-deep in symptoms. I mean, there weren’t going to be any miracles.

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“I’m scared, Bill. But if you did it, I’m willing to roll the bones.”

Well, I had an interview one sweltering-hot summer day and believe me, I was nuts with symptoms. Still, I knew I had to head out and take care of biz.

I still remember the drive – temps in the upper-90s, sweating, mouth so dry a cactus would thrive in it, hair-on-fire anxiety, and feeling so perceptually detached from my surroundings – myself.

But I got there and aced the interview. I was offered the job a week later and accepted.

Interesting: taking that job, which was in the human services field, led to my enrollment in grad school and becoming a counselor.

So I know all too well the reasoning behind getting our symptoms squared away before we venture out. And I know it’s bass-ackward.

Don’t count on miracles

Doesn’t it make sense that with rare exception, symptoms don’t magically resolve on their own – that long-awaited miracle?

Relief comes with cognitive and behavioral intervention and management, as well as practice. That means risk-taking. There’s no other way to set ourselves free from faulty patterns of thought and subsequent troubling feelings and behavior.

That’s the truth.

Feeling at ease with symptoms

Do your symptoms freak you out? Do they cause you to hole up in your comfort zone? Are you frozen? Let’s see if Dr. M. Scott Peck’s wisdom can get you feeling more at ease. He shared it in The Road Less Traveled

The symptoms and the illness are not the same thing. The illness exists long before the symptoms. Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cures. The fact that they are unwanted makes them all the more a phenomenon of grace – a gift of God, a message from the unconscious, if you will, to initiate self-examination and repair.

If the symptoms of our illness are the beginning of its cures – relief – accepting them is the right thing to do. So is risk-taking forward motion in their presence.

By the way, I’ve kept an index card in my wallet with Dr. Peck’s words on it for years.

Roll the bones

One more time: anxiety, depressive episode, panic attack, social phobia, body image concerns, derealization, racing thoughts, agoraphobia, voices, depersonalization…

The only way our symptoms are going to become manageable, or hit the highway, is to venture out in spite of them. It’ll never be the other way around.

Are you frozen in symptoms? Be a risk-taker. Come on, roll the bones.

Looking for more mood and anxiety disorder info and inspiration reading? Plenty of Chipur titles to peruse..