Hi, my name is Jeff and I would like to tell you about my anxiety experience.
My path to recovery and where I am now. At this point, I would consider myself 85% recovered. I am getting better every day and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I can remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my dad’s couch watching a basketball game and all of a sudden bam it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I have never been so scared in my entire life. I wasn’t scared about dying, or having a heart attack, I just thought I was going crazy and that is not a pleasant feeling when you are 13 years old!
That is the day my life changed. I pretty much lived in constant fear of everything and nothing at the same time. For me it wasn’t really situational I was just always scared, whether I was on a plane or watching a movie.
I had days were I would have 15 panic attacks in one day and in a constant state of general anxiety. The funny part was I was only 13 years old and I never told anyone!
Not my parents, friends, teachers, anyone. I don’t know if I was ashamed or if I just didn’t want to know what was wrong with me.
I assumed I had some major brain disorder and was going crazy. From that day forward I just did the best I could to make it through each day.
It took some time but my anxiety started to calm down as I know now that I was basically doing the Dare steps and didn’t know it.
I just kept moving forward with my life, accepting the feelings and little by little and I started living a relatively normal life.
I would just avoid certain things that could trigger an attack.
Fast forward to when I was 37, which was last year. We decided to take a family trip to Hawaii as I knew that was on my girlfriends bucket list.
I knew this would push my boundaries way past anything I would normally do but I knew it was important for her so I went.
It was our second day in Hawaii and I was actually doing reasonably well. Out of nowhere I had a full blown melt down!
I am not sure if it was just the stress in my life, the fact that I was on an island or my body just finally had enough and broke down.
I had a level 10 panic attack that literally knocked me to the floor! Keep in mind I still had no idea what was going on and thought I was just crazy.
Again, I really didn’t say much and just finished out the last 6 days of our vacation in a constant state of panic.
When we got back to Arizona I really started to fall apart and was living in a constant state of pure terror and finally had to tell my girlfriend and my mother.
After 24 years I decided to figure out what was going on, so I started to google my symptoms. I remember my hands were shaking and I could barely type.
But I figured out that I had an Anxiety Disorder with Panic Attacks that was later confirmed by a doctor.
Like everyone, I googled nonstop trying to find a cure or at least some help with what I had.
This is when I came across DARE and this is when my life changed again, but for the better. I read the book and cried throughout most of the entire thing!
I finally had discovered that I was not going crazy and that there was a way out of this.
The second I started reading I knew for a fact Barry had gone through this as well and he knew what I was going through.
So the journey began!!! I started using my DARE technique, eating better, taking vitamins and doing everything Barry told me to do.
That was when I started to heal! It definitely has not been an easy road but it is so worth it!
The hardest thing for me but the most valuable was the acceptance part. How do you possibly accept such a terrible feeling?
Not only was it difficult but I really didn’t get it. I mean I understood it on paper but how do I implement it?
One day I was having really high anxiety at work and I just took a seat and let the anxiety, crazy thoughts and body sensations just be there.
Literally within minutes my anxiety completely went away! That was the first time I understood acceptance and realized that, acceptance is just not resisting what is going on.
The best thing I learned that day was if I can soften my reactiveness to the thoughts and sensations then I can heal.
From that day forward I started to not react to literally everything that was thrown my way. This is a skill that doesn’t happen overnight, but takes practice, patience and time!
I promise, if you keep working on it, it will become instinctive. Just remember, we are okay! We just have an alarm system that is very sensitive and tends to go off when it doesn’t need to.
If you can learn to be calm in the midst of chaos you can and will heal. Like I said, acceptance was not only the hardest thing for me but, by far, the most important step in my recovery!
You will have setbacks and you will think OMG I am still screwed up and I will never heal, but don’t listen to that voice!
Every setback I had, as scary as it was, just made me stronger and helped in my recovery. I promise, when you have a setback, you don’t have to start over, you just have to re-engage with DARE.
For me, there were days where I had to stop, take a breath and reengage with the DARE steps up to 60 times in a day!
I would feel better and then it would come right back! But, I just keep doing it over and over again!
A year ago I couldn’t even get out of bed, watch TV or really do anything and last week I took my family on another vacation.
I enjoyed every minute of it, with basically little to no anxiety! I even took a 2 hour boat ride to an island, which was a really big scare for me!
When anxiety did pop its head up I just didn’t resist it and it immediately went away.
So keep “Dare-ing” and don’t lose the faith as you will get there I promise!
I am almost to the point where I am actually happy that I have anxiety because it has made me such a better parent, more compassionate and just overall a stronger person!
Think of it this way, who else can go through pure terror and panic and be totally comfortable about it? Now that is strength that not many people will ever experience!