Growing up I had anxiety disorders from a young age. I learned quite young to hide my fears from family and friends. Most people that knew me when I was younger never realized that I even had anxiety disorders, or if they did know, they never knew how severe it really was. Somewhere along the way, I even started believing my own lies about my fears. I knew I was afraid of heights, and I constantly avoided them, but I never admitted that I was afraid of heights.
When I first started the workshop at the treatment center I had gone in to work on bridges and driving phobias. The night I met my counselor, we walked out to the parking garage together; coincidentally we were both parked on the top deck, three levels up.
Standing off to the side out of the way of traffic we continued our conversation and getting to know one another. At one point she asked me if I had issues with heights, and my knee-jerk response was “no, I’m fine with heights”. She asked me to just look over the side of the parking garage barrier, down three floors; I did as she asked and almost had a panic attack right then. At that point she knew she had a lot of work to do with me, I was obviously very afraid of heights.
I had been so careful about avoiding heights and hiding the fact that I was afraid of heights and I did have a phobia of heights, that it became instinctive for me to keep the truth hidden. Yes, it was very foolish for me to try to hide that from a counselor I was seeing for anxiety disorders. But it wasn’t done intentionally, it was done instinctively.
We go through life hiding our suffering. Anxiety makes us feel inadequate in some way or another. And for me personally, being a male, it hit me right in the ego. It took me a long time to admit that I needed help and that it was ok for me to not be the “macho male” that society had taught me I was supposed to be. It was really very challenging for me on many levels.
Learning to be honest with ourselves is part of recovery. Its ok to admit that we are not perfect and that we suffer from anxiety disorders. This does not make us any less of a person, or any less valuable to the world; we are just as important as everyone else in the world.
By being honest with ourselves we can more effectively “Expect” (see point #1 for recovery). Expect that we will have higher levels when we are exposed to our trigger(s). For me looking over the parking garage barrier that night, I did not “expect” and therefore when my anxiety levels started to rise, it scared me more, which only escalated the levels of anxiety. This is an example of the “cycle of fear”.
Recovery is not an easy journey. But it was the best thing I ever did for myself. It took lots of effort and determination. I literally woke in the morning and got straight to work on my recovery. I worked on my living life intellectually, managing my time, and using my tools. I changed my response to my anxiety causing triggers. And ultimately modified my behavior to be able to claim I created recovery.
Never give up trying! Persistence!!
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