Therapist #6 has a big toolbox. Together we have worked with some of these tools, and when one is exhausted, we pick up another. They all have been instrumental. With the completion of each one, I feel that I have found more answers. My anxiety has steadily increased. The modules that we have worked gave me the tools to work through negative thoughts and cognitive distortions. They have helped me to gain greater self-esteem. The feelings don’t seem to cause my panic attacks because I work through them. With all of these tools in hand, I still fall prey to severe panic attacks. It seems that stressors build one upon another.
Right now I stand with the Serenity Prayer in hand. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It is a powerful prayer. It doesn’t matter how you view your Higher Power or if you do not have faith in a Higher Power.
The first part of the prayer is an acknowledgment that there are things that you cannot control. Realizing this gives serenity because it relieves you from carrying the burden of those things. These things happen. As a mere human, we cannot do a single thing to change it. As a spiritual person, I have to turn those things loose to my Higher Power. The more I hang on to them, the more stress I carry.
Courage? Courage takes a lot of fortitude. It is a challenge. Throughout life, we have an illusion that we are in control. Once we start to examine our lives armed with the knowledge that we have faced so many things we believed we controlled it shakes us up. Thinking about how we handled things and the paths we took to get through them is a crossroad where we can see experiences that happened to us, We didn’t cause them, and we certainly had no control over them. In my case, I acknowledge that my fall into a deep depression was not my fault. It is an experience, an illness. I had carried a great deal of guilt owning this experience because of the events that happened from experience. Thirty years of my life were spent in agony over something I believed that I had caused that had a disastrous effect on the life of my family. My actions and reactions for thirty years were based on an illusion. What I felt were character defects were nothing in my control. Things that I was blamed for were not caused by me. It took courage for me to admit it and to change my beliefs long held. That is a single event of so many that happened to me. What else do I need to let go?
“The wisdom to know the difference.” It was tough to crawl through those thirty years of guilt and accept that I had no control over my illness. I do need to seek wisdom to understand if some actions and decisions were made that were in my control. We can control our behavior. Yes, the serenity prayer is powerful. It calls us to examine our lives, discover what was not in our control and give it up. It also invites us to acknowledge the behavior that was in our control and accept our mistakes. Admitting that we made errors also gives us serenity.
Working a twelve step program is in therapist #6’s toolbox. It isn’t easy. It is a lifetime of work, but I believe there is a Higher Power that will free me from blaming myself for the things that were not mine and help me forgive myself for the things that were. Both are stressors that are struggling for me that I have to let go or accept.
Peace be with you.