I discussed awhile ago that I suffer from anxiety. It's something that has always been an issue until suddenly, it was an issue that was standing between me and living my life. I began meeting with a psychologist until we were able to overcome the most basic, day-to-day anxiety that I deal with and grab it by the horns. Readers, it had gotten that bad. Simple things like driving to work, going to a meeting, making a phone call, or speaking to someone I didn't know had me overcome with anxiety. Forget bigger things that can get anyone a little nervous like job evaluations or a fight with roommates, I was reduced to having anxiety and panic attacks for those events.
I felt like my anxiety was some monster, a fat thing with wings that just slowly followed me wherever I went, biting down on my shoulder to remind me it was there just when I found I had to do something that was ever so slightly out of my comfort zone. It was very hard to admit that I had an issue, harder still to take the step to find a doctor to help me. It's one thing to tell yourself you have anxiety but another thing to have a professional agree with you.
But bit by bit, I worked with my doctor and felt more in control. Instead of the anxiety monster latching on, I could fight him off. It took nearly a year, but I was finally given the ok to not return to my appointments unless I found it necessary. There isn't a cure all for anxiety, it's something that you learn how to manage and for me, reading Tara Brach's book True Refuge during my therapy sessions was a great help.
Toward the end of my first graduate school class, I found I was beginning to have strong anxiety issues again. I was handling them, but I felt I could be handling them better. I remembered reading Brach's other book and how comforting it was to see that others dealt with an assortment of mental health issues just like me. Radical Acceptance, I knew, was another book by Brach and one that came highly recommended by my psychologist. With my first graduate class winding down and exhaustion taking over my body, I felt it was a good a time as any to buy this book and give it a whirl.
I can't begin to express how helpful it was.
The week after I read this, I began my second graduate school class as well as the biggest conference season my job had ever taken part of. Beside this, I found out my mother was due to have open heart surgery to have a valve replaced and two days later we were evacuated from our home in the wee hours of the morning, the day after that, we had to take one of our cats to an emergency veterinarian--had we not he would have died painfully a day or two later. It was an overwhelmingly stressful week. So overwhelming that my entire body responded to the stress and exhibited obvious signs that I was too overwhelmed.
But this book was still there, festering in my brain, and slowly I regained my composure.
While True Refuge had a broader range of issues that people dealt with, I feel that Radical Acceptance is much more suited for those with anxiety or panic disorders. If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed with life, I urge you to give the book a try.
The number one thing I really enjoyed about both of Brach's books is that she takes real life examples of people dealing with real life issues. She speaks of their lows and discusses how they found their way out of the woods. Seeing all of these examples of people who have various experiences and emotional reactions was such a comfort. I'm not alone, I kept thinking while reading, This person is just like me.
Since this book focuses on anxiety much more, there are a lot of end-of-chapter practices through forms of meditation that are helpful for people with anxiety. I am not religious and while I used to meditate in my youth, I no longer do. I think it would be beneficial for me to do it again as I found it beneficial when it was a stable in my life 15 years ago, but that's another thing to conquer another day. However, the practices Brach lists, many of them at least, are practices anyone can do--whether or not you are a whiz at meditation.
I feel this book will be something I return to in the future. Things get crazy and overwhelming. Even if I have "conquered" the anxiety monster, he can still grow powerful and take over here and there, especially when I'm overwhelmed. I feel that this book will be something worth returning to in those moments.