I was raised by two parents who live in a constant state of anticipatory anxiety. When I started my Alexander Teacher Training at ACAT in 1987, I had mild panic attacks, which disappeared over the three years of training.
When I would subsequently experience the physical sensations that came with those panic attacks, I would notice my inner narrative would start to tell me frightening things. Other times I would begin thinking about something that was frightening and the sensations would begin.
I have been able to work effectively on my own with both phenomena, unless I am experiencing a certain threshold of stressors. After the 2016 elections in the US I experienced a prolonged anxiety/depression episode. My heart rate might spike to 120 bpm while drifting off to sleep and I actually saw DJT’s face flashing in my mind’s eye when I wasn’t choosing to visualize anything.
In this case, AT helped me seek support and help in a systematic way. I went to my GP to rule out heart problems or disease and discussed medication options. I inquired about beta blockers, which she explained would take around 30 minutes to kick in, so would not help at the moment of an anxiety attack. She only offered a diazepam (i.e., something in the valium family) which I declined. She said “You are doing everything I would suggest except seeing a therapist. “
AT helped me access my capacity to articulate my symptoms, recognize my vulnerability to anxiety/depression, as I realized had experienced these episodes in the past, and I could now make the connection to a pattern. This helped my immensely to view the event as a real physiological state and not a failure of my character or will. AT also helped me tolerate short term discomfort as I pursued a longer term approach to managing the stressors in my life. The whole experience helped my upgrade my self-care to a whole new level.
I would encourage anyone dealing anxiety or depression to reach out and find support, help and resources. I never recognized my predisposition to anxiety and depression until my most recent episode, and now that I have realized, I feel a sense of relief and clarity. This is not about my lack of self-discipline or character, it’s straight up bio-chemistry and physiology.
Part of “good use”, a central theme in the Alexander Technique, is one’s capacity to recognize and address what is going on, in a more objective way, regardless of the feelings associated with the situation. Alexander needed a mirror to show him he wasn’t in the position or shape he felt he was when reciting, and this allowed him to resolve his chronic hoarseness. In a similar way, I expanded the criteria and context in which I considered my “symptoms” and came up with a more comprehensive solution, as well as the understanding that I have a constitutional vulnerability to anxiety and depression.
I have now begun to see how low level anxiety has shaped my strategies for living, and I am continuing to make changes and take action that allow me to be less unconsciously shaped by anxiety.
This, among many other benefits, is why I am so devoted to the Alexander Technique as a life practice. The positive changes keep coming.