Agoraphobia, Panic-Anxiety and Depression : Page 2
Charting Your Soul's Voyage: Agoraphobia, Panic-Anxiety and Depression
By Anita Glenn
"Most people are familiar with the practice of keeping a journal, but journal-work often involves chewing over old hurts and digging up the hatchet over and over."
As a creative arts therapist, I employ a wide range of writing and artistic exercises to enable the individual to excavate the underlying issue/s of their panic anxiety and/or depression. Most people are familiar with the practice of keeping a journal, but journal-work often involves chewing over old hurts and digging up the hatchet over and over. To quote Garth Brooks, you can't bury the hatchet if you leave the handle sticking out! I am not against journal work but I have observed that some people get stuck with it and don't move out of their pain. They just keep going round and around like they are stuck in a whirlpool. Indeed, there are individuals who have been deeply wounded, especially those who were abused as children sexually, physically, mentally and spiritually. I have done a great deal of inner child work myself and I know just how stubborn and how hard it is to let go of ancient hurts and to forgive those that trespassed against us.
It is very easy to remember the pain but what about the good times it wasn't all bad. One of the creative writing exercises I employ in my workshop is for people to record their peak experiences. I invite you to engage in this exercise. To remember and record those times where you experienced pure joy and connectedness with the people you were with. With the environment you were in and the activity you were involved in. Times when you absolutely felt that gee, it's great to be alive feeling.
It is through remembering and recording these peak experiences that we call our soul back and we start to reconnect with the joy and abundance that is in our life right now, but which we are blind to. Record as many peak experiences as you can and find the connecting thread between all of them. Maybe the majority of your peak experiences happened when you were at the beach? How often do you go to the beach these days? Maybe these peak experiences involved being amongst friends? How often do you spend time with your friends now?
As someone who has lived for almost 44 years, I am amazed at the number of people who have told me about their childhood and the things that they used to love doing, but no longer engage in. Simple things like playing with their dolls, building go-karts, collecting seashells or pretending they were explorers or superheroes, visiting museums or going to the movies regularly. What is actually being remembered is the feeling one had when you felt the world was your oyster and there was nothing you could not do. Time, negative experiences and age all contribute to us losing that sense of awe and wonder we had about our own potential. Then there are the people who knocked us down – who told us that our ideas were silly or they wouldn't work or we would end up poor. The classic invalidator: Yeah? Start living in the real world, buddy. Stop daydreaming.
Anita's first ever collage uses interviews she did for the print media in 1994 when she established an agoraphobia recovery support group. In the centre is a cross made from a palm leaf that Anita was given on Palm Sunday 30 years ago.
During my workshops, I use collage, as a therapeutic tool to assist people to access their Wonder child. Simple cutting and pasting. Most people haven't cut and pasted since primary school. The collage session is always a joyous two hours as people cannibalize magazines and newspapers and chat and joke with each other. The theme of the first collage is "Who am I?" The instructions are simple: create an image that describes how you see yourself. Each person also brings a CD or cassette tape that contains their most favorite song. Not just any old song but one that empowers them; that makes them feel good and is a signature song. (My signature song is Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve).
A picture is worth 1000 words and a collage is worth much more, because in the process of creating a collage, or anything for that matter, there is no anxiety, no fear and no depression. For the time that it takes you to create a collage, you are living in what I call Soul Time, which is the now moment. Fear and anxiety are what you project into the future and depression comes from remembrances from the past. Remembrances that are your perceptions of what went wrong, what you did wrong and the wrongs that were done to you. Perceptions can be changed if you start to ask yourself what soul lesson did you learn from these experiences. What hasn't killed you has made you stronger. Do you have a deeper sense of self-worth, a stronger value system or are you more compassionate and have given up passing judgment on others and their actions? Do you know how to walk a mile in somebody else's shoes?
In her book, Something More: Excavating your Authentic Self, Sarah Ann Breathnach writes: "Bad men are spiritual graces sent in disguise to teach us, through torment, to love ourselves". I would broaden that statement and say: "The people who hurt you in the past and who are hurting you in the present are spiritual graces sent in disguise to teach you, through torment, to find your own worth and to love yourself". Most people believe that love makes the world go around, and it does, but you have to find your own worth first and have a balanced and solid sense of self-esteem that is based on how you feel about yourself, your life and your achievements. It is fact that most people with panic-anxiety and/or depression have low self-esteem. It is fact that you cannot love another unless you first learn to love yourself.
My take on panic-anxiety and depression is that they are symptoms of soul loss. They are one of many landmarks that tell us to look deeper and to find out where the incongruencies are in our lives: Where what we are doing is not in alignment with our heart's desire. Maybe you are doing time in a career or a relationship? Maybe that person you thought was your soul mate is really a cell mate? Maybe you are sacrificing what you want to do to keep the people around you happy. It is fact that most people with panic anxiety and/or depression are people pleasers. Maybe you aren't very assertive and swallow your anger instead of expressing how you really feel? It is fact that most people with panic anxiety and/or depression have difficulty asserting themselves and with expressing and communicating anger. It is fact that we are all unique and comparison is the greatest source of unhappiness.
It's one thing to identify all these deeper issues but what do you do with the insights you now have? How do you start to make the changes that are now in front of you? It's hard to quit a job you hate when you absolutely need the income. It's hard to leave a relationship when children are involved. It's hard to do what you want to do when the people around you start accusing you of being selfish. Not because you are, but because you are starting to make changes they do not have the courage to make in their own lives.
What you can do, at the very least, is get back in touch with the activities and the interests that you used to love doing as a child. It is not childish to engage in something that once gave you so much joy it is wisdom. It is how you start to transform your fears and start creating the life that you dream of having. Follow your bliss.
The essence of creative arts therapy is play. It makes no difference what medium you use paints, paper, cloth, pen, clay, wood or metal. Put aside your inner Critic and Perfectionist who tell you that you don't have the skill or the talent. Pay no attention to the people who tell you that your creation isn't that great. It's not about what you make it's about engaging in the creative process, which is a sacred adventure. Calling back your soul and finding your life's purpose is the biggest adventure all of us embark on from the minute we are born. Some of us get lost and panic anxiety disorders and depressions are spiritual graces that are sent to us in disguise to put us back on the right course.
Recording your peak experiences is how you start to chart your soul's voyage. It is the first piece of the map. Throw off the bowlines. •
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain
About the Author
© 2005 Anita Glenn