For a long time I thought nobody suffered like I do. My distressing symptoms made me feel very alone and isolated. Although I clearly knew that other people have anxiety problems, I usually mused that no one had them as bad as I did.
Through my Recovery training I’ve learned that not only is that belief false, but that my symptoms are average.
Dr. Low wrote at length about nervous people’s desire to be “exceptional.”(1) My take on his philosophy is that if we consistently give our feelings and sensations power and duration, they will become stronger, tighten their grip, and essentially control our lives. Instead, we need to acknowledge that what we experience are average symptoms for nervous people—and not blow them out of proportion.
Of course, some will have more intense symptoms than others, but there’s no need to consider ourselves different from our peers with mental illness. Thinking that way can lead to a senseless of hopelessness, and that certainly will not help us improve.
And there’s something comforting in being average. I don’t feel so different. I don’t feel so alone.
Reference1. Low AA. Mental Health Through Will-Training. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1997;80-90.