Recovery is possible! But in order to engage the process of recovery, we have to first believe and have faith that it is even possible at all.
Many of you may have read my own story in one of my earlier posts. As well as many experiences I had with anxiety through various posts that I have shared. I had touched upon my own suffering and my own journey through recovery. I will elaborate more about my own journey in the future.
But this post is dedicated to a new friend of mine, a woman named Lynette. Lynette and I met in an online chat board specific for anxiety disorders. As I began to learn about Lynette’s story, I became more and more inspired by her journey. You see, Lynette and I are both agoraphobics, and we both took creating recovery into own hands, and in very similar ways.
I know personally how difficult it is for a person to look right at their biggest fear and not back down. The courage it takes to confront this fear and begin to create change is tremendous. So when I hear stories like this I get inspired. I get motivated. I am excited that once again the process of recovery is demonstrated in its purest form.
My hope in sharing Lynette’s story with you is that you get inspired, motivated and excited to engage the process of recovery yourself!
Here is Lynette’s story;
In 2012 I was starting to notice my health was going downhill. I was constantly tired, and continuously feeling more unwell all the time, (I won’t go into all of those details, because that is not relevant to the story). There was one day in May that I had a cold which hit me really hard, and I was just not feeling well at all. I was also under a lot of stress at work, and so I was having a tremendous amount of anxiety. The anxiety just kept getting worse as the morning went on. Despite how I was feeling, I had to take my daughter and another girl in my daycare to their schools. Long story short, I ended up having a panic attack at a stop light. After that day, I started to have trouble, and I would panic every time I came to that specific stop light where the panic attack happened. Eventually that generalized, and I began to have trouble at all stop lights. Then it just snowballed from there, until I completely panicked every time I even got in the car to drive. It all stemmed from just one panic attack at a stop light one time, and the panic attack had nothing to do with driving at all. It also had nothing to do with stop lights, but my brain associated those two things with the event. The anxiety associated with driving and stop lights just kept getting worse and worse. It took time, and it didn’t happen all at once, but eventually, I was unable to drive at all.
Coincidentally around the same time, I started to experience some health issues that did not have anything to do with my anxiety issues. Due to these health issues, I had to stop working. But it’s interesting to note that as my health issues made me feel worse, my anxiety would rise, and when my health symptoms got better, my anxiety would drop.
At one point I felt so good with my health issues that my anxiety had seemed to disappear completely and I returned back to a normal life. I drove, went to the gym and I even traveled. I was able to return to work for a short period of time until my health issues returned from the stress of work and made me stop working again.
A few weeks later my husband and I were in Wal-Mart and I had an incident which I believe was low blood sugar related as I have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia. I carry food with me for this reason, but this time it didn’t seem to help. I can’t really describe how I felt, or what exactly was going on, but it was terrifying. After that incident, I would panic every time I went in a Wal-Mart. Even though my anxiety issue didn’t have anything to do with Wal-Mart at all, that’s just happened to be where it took place. I was able to go anywhere else, and I was fine, just not Wal-Mart. Then I had an incident at Target that I don’t really know how to explain, but it was health related, and it triggered my anxiety. So things just snowballed from there, and I associated leaving the house with bad things happening to me health wise until I would just get totally and completely panicked every time I would try to leave the house.
After receiving advice from a from a family member, I started exploring preachers that specifically believed in healing as a part of their faith, because the preachers that I used to watch previously didn’t believe in this. It was through their teachings that I began to believe that I could be healed.
One day I was watching a woman give a sermon, and she said, “Maybe you are not in a place today that you are able to have faith to be healed completely, but what can you have faith for? What is your starting point? What can you believe you can do right now today, that you couldn’t do yesterday?” That statement is very important to my story of recovery because it was the catalyst that got me to where I am today. And I think anyone can use that line no matter what religion they are, or even if they are an atheist. You don’t have to believe that it is GOD that is healing you, but what can you have faith for today concerning healing and recovery that you didn’t have faith for yesterday?
So I asked myself that question; “What can I have faith for right now at this moment?”
Prior to hearing that statement, I had been working on sitting outside on the front porch for 20 minutes a day, and just that was a huge struggle and was very difficult for me. Sometimes in order to get myself motivated to just sit outside, I’d just tell myself, “Try it for just 5 minutes, and if it is too hard or too much, then you can come back inside.” Sometimes that was the only way I could push through the 20 minutes, was to break it down into smaller steps. Just try 5 minutes, o.k. you made it through that, now just try 5 more, etc.
I asked myself the question, “What can I have faith for right now at this moment?” At that moment I can’t honestly say that my faith was very strong, but what I could believe for at that moment was that I could walk outside on the sidewalk and get 30 seconds away from the house, and then walk back to the house for 30 seconds. So that was a total of one minute. So that is what I did. I walked outside for one minute. That was it! I walked outside for 60 seconds total, and that was my starting point, but I was proud of it. The next day I did it again, but I added just one sidewalk length. I kept adding just one side-walk length every day, so it was a very slow process of desensitizing myself to leaving the house. But it was what I could believe and have faith for. It was what I could put action to.
When I would work on going outside, I would recite scriptures. I was always very religious, but now I began to believe for the first time that I could actually be healed through my faith. I would imagine God over me, giving me the courage to attempt my practice. And I recited the scriptures which comforted me during my practices.
So each day I practiced and I just increased my walk consistently every day by just one sidewalk length, while at the same time quoting scriptures. It took a very long time, but eventually, I was able to walk for 40 minutes at one time. After a while, I started walking outside both in the mornings and in the afternoons. Over time, I was able to walk for 40 minutes on both of my walks, and now I feel completely comfortable walking outside in my neighborhood with no anxiety at all.
Once I got comfortable with that. I started working on driving. Just like with walking outside, I started very slowly. All I did the first day was just drive around the block one time. That was it. My heart pounded and my hands shook, but I did it. I just slowly and gradually increased it every day. The next day I did two blocks, then 3 three blocks, and so on. I think the key was to get out of my comfort zone and do something that was hard for me but not too far out, and not too hard. Sometimes I would get stuck, and I would just do the same route over and over, day after day, and I didn’t seem to be making any progress. But I just kept at it, and eventually, I was able to break out of the rut and move forward. I started driving on May 8th, and it took a few months before I was able to break out of just driving around in my neighborhood. When I ventured out and drove on a busy street around the perimeter of the neighborhood, I only drove for one block on the busy street and then I drove back into the “safety” of my neighborhood. I kept doing that day after day until I got comfortable with that, and then I drove for two blocks on the busy street, and so on until I was able to drive the entire perimeter of the neighborhood. That was hard for me because I had to go through 4 stop lights to go all the way around the perimeter, and stop lights were extremely difficult for me. Street lights are still a trigger for my anxiety and something I am still working on. Anyway, I just kept gradually increasing what I could do. I worked on various things, like driving fast on a highway or driving on busy streets in 3 or 4 lanes of traffic. I just did each thing for a very short time like one block at a time day after day, over and over until I got comfortable with it. I just set a timer and drove for 20 minutes every day while I worked on of the various things. Eventually, I was able to drive far enough away to get to shopping centers. That took from May until about October before I reached that milestone
Once I was able to drive myself to shopping centers I started to go into stores. I have a stopwatch, and I started to just go into a store for 5 minutes at a time, and I gradually increased it from there. I am now at the point that I can drive myself to a store and go in and shop for a few items. I think around 20 minutes is the maximum amount of time that I have spent in any one store. I go on outings with my husband sometimes where he drives, and we will go to multiple stores in one day. That doesn’t happen often, but at least I am able to it now. End.
I owe a deep gratitude to Lynette for sharing her story. When we are suffering ourselves with anxiety disorders, it is comforting to know that we are not alone. And Lynette’s story is a wonderful example for us to learn from how to approach our own recovery.
Small, manageable steps. Using tools that work for you. Self-Care. Living intellectually. Purposeful practice.
This is exactly what Lynette did, and she is still doing. And so am I. It doesn’t matter at what stage of recovery we are at, the principals are all the same.
So I ask you this, “What can YOU have faith for right now at this moment?”
Never give up! Persistence!
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