A couple of years ago, I made a decision about my life. It was a long time coming and a change was definitely needed.
2016 had been a particularly difficult year for me. A traumatic child labour, had caused the anxiety to sky-rocket. Leaving the house alone had become impossible. I couldn’t walk to the end of my street for fear of having a panic attack and passing out, or getting into some kind of medical emergency, with no-one around to help me. I had started feeling panicky any time I was out of my comfort zone. Trips to the cinema, and eating out, became things I avoided, instead of enjoying them like I used to. The anxiety had become so bad that I couldn’t understand how I was going to get through life, and at my rock-bottom moments, I even wondered if my children would be better off without me.
All I did was worry, all day, every day. I avoided car journeys and driving by myself was out of the question, even just to the local shops. I could only be a passenger in the car if my husband was driving, which meant I couldn’t even go anywhere with friends. I missed family gatherings and birthday dinners because I couldn’t face the journey or the venue, and I would find myself making up one excuse after another out of fear of being judged and looking silly. I felt like no one really understood me. People would nod in sympathy, and attempt to show they felt for me, but it would come across patronizing and the last thing I wanted was anyone to pity me.
I really was so ashamed of myself. I saw what I was going through as a weakness. I felt like a failure for having ended up like this, where life just felt exhausting. Don’t get me wrong- I wasn’t unhappy with life, I was loving being a mum, and I adore my children, but being anxious all the time was so overwhelming and I was tired. I felt safe in my little bubble and everything out of my comfort zone felt terrifying.
Then when my babies went on their first holiday abroad without me, I decided I needed to get some level of control back in my life. I had walked off the plane during boarding, due to a severe panic attack and no amount of encouragement or reassurance from the flight attendants persuaded me back on board. My daughters and husband went on that holiday without me. This was my turning point.
That was when I found this book. Or should I say THE book.
This book hit the nail on the head for me, because Fletcher, having suffered from anxiety himself, understood that my situation wasn’t caused by unhappiness with my life, it was caused by fear of my next panic attack occurring. Anyone who has ever suffered a full-blown panic attack will know why- and if you haven’t, you’re really not qualified to pass judgement on the matter, or make assumptions about how it feels.
Someone finally got it! I was scared of panic attacks and had begun to avoid any situation where I feared I might have one, and not be able to control it.
This book really helped me to understand what was happening to my body during an attack and the quickest way I could allow it to run its course and pass. At the time that I turned to this book, I was having attacks almost daily, and although they haven’t completely disappeared, I recognise my triggers now, and instead of avoiding them, I use the techniques I’ve learnt from this book, and I’m able to stop a full blown attack from occurring, or when I do have one it’s not as bad. They have also reduced in frequency by about 90%.
Anxiety has always been with me, it walks with me and does its job when it’s needed, but it doesn’t make any decisions for me or control what I do or where I go anymore. I refuse to give it that power. I feel able to do this, and be strong because of this book. It gave me the push I needed, to take the steps to tackle my situation.
The book taught me that no matter how awful an attack feels, it’s not dangerous, and it is going to pass. I learned that if I gave into the sensations, rather than trying to fight them, they passed a lot quicker. Joshua helped me to remove some of the fear from the attack and helped me to get my life back.
I was recently lucky enough to be in touch with Joshua, as I contacted him about this article and he kindly offered to discuss the book with me and to answer any questions I had -he’s a really lovely guy!
I asked what his motivation had been behind writing the book and he said he was originally aiming it at a younger version of himself, a sort of calming, reassuring guide to exposure therapy. It was great to have the opportunity to chat and gain some insights into his work.
The road to recovery isn’t only long, it’s permanent. There is a continuous need to remind yourself that everything is ok. The key to doing that effectively lies in arming yourself with knowledge about what is happening to you, and also meditating and reflecting to keep levels of stress hormones in your body low.
There is a second book, a kind of follow on, called Anxiety- Practical about Panic, and would make a great addition to your reading if your relationship with anxiety is complicated and you feel you need some extra support.
I hope the books help you in the same way that they have helped me.
Good luck on your journey,
Sonia Jutla is a blogger and you can find her blog here.