Every time somebody attempts or dies by suicide, at least six people are left struggling profoundly to deal with the difficult, overwhelming emotions that are a natural part of grief1. Those bereaved by suicide often feel high anxiety and guilt. Unfortunately, however, this intense anxiety and crushing guilt can be overlooked as everyone focuses on the person who has attempted or died by suicide. If you have excessive anxiety, worry, fear, and/or feelings of guilt in the wake of suicidal behavior of someone you care about, know that you're not alone and that your feelings aren't wrong or selfish. The following information can help you identify your anxiety and guilt as well as know what to do about it. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
I’m writing this from a hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m here for a week to go to a metal festival, and I’m having the time of my life. I don’t often take many out of state vacations, for a number of reasons, but being here reminds me of how much of a benefit going away really is.
Constant anxious thoughts can induce great misery and suffering. Automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs, are patterns of thinking that cause anxiety and keep anxiety strong and powerful. Words like "should," "shouldn't," "always," "never," and a host of negative labels we place on ourselves are part of those automatic negative thoughts that can keep us trapped in our private world of thoughts, worries, and fears. Because understanding the nature of constant anxious thoughts can help you choose what to do about them, here are a few facts about anxiety and thoughts.
We all have habits that cause anxiety or worsen existing anxiety. This does not mean that we're intentionally causing our own anxiety, not at all. No one is to blame for their anxiety. Habits are merely things we do (or don't do) because we're so used to doing them, we don't even think about them. Occasionally operating on autopilot and inadvertently doing things that worsen or cause anxiety is actually pretty empowering. When you learn about habits that worsen your anxiety, you can actively stop those actions and replace them with more mentally healthy ones.
I don’t need to convince you that we live in chaotic, scary times – that’s self-evident. Given that, it’s almost too easy to give in to despair and give up. However, support in a chaotic world is possible.
You may have heard that mindfulness calms anxiety. Sometimes, this can be hard to believe because mindfulness can seem like a trend, like just another passing fad that will soon be replaced by the next craze. Mindfulness has been a part of the human experience for thousands of years, though, so it has long surpassed "trend" status. It has established itself as an integral part of wellbeing. Because mindfulness becomes something you do and a way that you are, you can embrace it and, by engaging in mindfulness, you can calm anxiety.
Gun control is a hot topic. When online, I generally avoid political discussions. Because so many of them are so prone to devolve into toxic shouting matches, I find it healthier to stay away. Today, however, I’m diving in headfirst. The country is still reeling in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, and quite frankly, I’m pissed off. Once again, a certain segment of the population is refusing to budge on any meaningful discussion concerning gun control, and I’m just sick of it. If we don’t have meaningful action on gun control, this country is going to drown in anxiety.
The miracle question might just be one of the most powerful tools you can use to overcome anxiety and creating the quality life you want to live. The concept comes to us from solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), but versions of it were used in older theories of counseling too. It's a question that on the surface is deceptively simple, but when you explore it more deeply, it becomes more than a question. It becomes an answer. Put on your explorer clothes, and let's examine the miracle question so you can use it to overcome anxiety.
It would be nice to change your anxious thoughts because they often cause great misery. It can be annoying when ideas crashing around in our brain cause anxiety. These crashing and rumbling ideas are known as automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). They often overpower all other thoughts so we believe that our ANTs are true and reliable, and anxiety grows bigger and stronger. Negative, anxious thoughts further control how we interpret the world by imposing a bunch of rules on how we think and what we do. Knowing the rules will help you break the rules so you can move away from anxiety's control and change your anxious thoughts.
My mental illness will never be cured, but I’m not asking you to think my opinions are the only valid ones. That would be a mistake. All I ask is that you listen and agree if you so choose. That being said, this post is going to touch on the idea of finding a “cure” for mental illness. For some, the idea of being “cured” of their malady is a dream – for me, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never be cured, and, in fact, I don’t want to be cured of my mental illness.