It all started 16 years ago when I was a victim of a traumatic drugging incident whilst at university. I then started having panic attacks and was swiftly put on medication. I had emetophobia and was very body vigilant but managed to live a fairly normal life.
About a year later I joined the South African Police Service as a volunteer. I had the full powers of a police officer, so I was armed, out in the field responding to calls throughout the night but as a result exposed myself to vast amounts of trauma over 4 years. Then proper avoidance behaviours started to set in. I’d avoid motorways,
Motorways extended to the dark to being alone to train tracks to tall buildings but I still managed to appear quite normal to the outside world using excuses and the safety of my partner and comfort of a familiar local job to get by.
Life plods on though and my behaviour evolved, but following a terrible relapse last year due insurmountable stressors I became unable to work and house-bound for many months. I was overwrought with GAD and really quite crippled by Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia.
I’ve honestly spent years seeing multiple psychologists and psychiatrists, and invested vast amounts of money and time into getting better. But after my last relapse I was so fed up.
I feel all they’d given me was an artillery of approaches, techniques and views on my condition, but no single, simple strategy to put all my efforts into mastering. Instead in moments of panic or anxiety I’d be scrambling, trying a million things and failing horribly.
I came across DARE when I decided I’m doing this on my own and found it on Amazon and the reviews were impressive. The part that helps me the most is the simplicity and giving my anxiety a persona to provide distance. The blatant repetition I really believe can rewire our brains but it takes time, guts and lots of effort, oh and more time.
I’m not completely there yet but believe I will eventually crack it.
The best way I can describe my journey is by showing you three different entries that I posted in the very helpful DARE community.
CAN”T BELIEVE I DID IT!
I, who couldn’t do anything after dark without her safe person, who was too scared to drive just two sleepy blocks in daylight on her own, just volunteered (on a whim!) to drop my safe person at an evening dentist appointment 15 mins from home and pop along to a large supermarket nearby whilst I waited for him
I batted multiple lanes, pesky ‘what if’s, red lights, butterflies in the belly, buses & HGVs, controlled parking, a notorious one-way system and mobile phone paranoia. DAREing every single thing.
I looked up at the night sky as I walked out with my shopping, and almost cried thinking “wow, look at me!”. These little tastes of freedom are so stinking awesome!
I have a long way to go still. Heights are my nemesis at the moment and motorway driving continues to have a vice grip but I absolutely blew the darkness and radius from home issues out of the water with DARE and that gives me a lot of hope!
IT WORKS PEOPLE!
I drove 15mins from home all on my own to meet someone for coffee. This is something I haven’t been able to do in 3+ years. But…
Not only did I do what I set out to, I also stayed later than I planned…. which then left me facing: a bad traffic jam, looming darkness (a trigger of mine that I’m making good headway with), heavy rain, the earlier start of London rush hour in the wake of snow moving in and an alternative route home that I’m unfamiliar with!!! And to top it off the bleeping petrol light came on too.
I accepted and accepted and accepted and accepted and ACCEPTED every single thing that came up!! Shimmied behind the wheel (my shake it out option). Dismissing came quite automatically and I was naturally engaged with the many challenges on the road.
And I did it!
Hetty (My anxiety buddy) didn’t even get much of a performance in. She tried but her energy seems to be scuppered by my determination and complete surrender to the circumstances.
Sending you all so much energy to find the courage to DARE and DARE fully!! I struggle doing it too, but remain patient that I’ll get there because you don’t simply pack a 16-year life habit in a box overnight.
PS. I’m loving all the great inspirational stories I’ve seen here lately, they’re very much a part of my journey with DARE, cementing the application and discipline. So, thank you!
I AM GETTING MY LIFE BACK!
Thought I’d check in after now completing two weeks back at work! (I was crippled with agoraphobia and panic attacks that left me unable to work since April last year)
It’s been good! I’m feeling so human again having contact with people, having a new focus and being out and about. And my confidence in my abilities has returned quite quickly.
Hetty has tried to make a few grand entrances when I wasn’t expecting her but I was able to let her join me and even get a bit excited by her presence.
Although I’m not proactively DAREing at the moment (settling into this new routine is my top priority right now), I’ve realised how invaluable DARE has been in teaching me to surrender control and not sweat over everything.
Whatever will be will be? This is life; a vibrant tapestry of blows and triumphs. If any of you are too scared to take the plunge back into employment, do it!!! Find a comfortable temp position and go for it, you honestly have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Sending you all love, strength, perseverance and courage!
DARE really WORKS!
There you have it, both on their way back to truly enjoying their lives again. If they can do it, so can you!