I know that it is easy for some people who have experienced significant anxiety and panic attacks to just settle for a life that is limited by their symptoms. Many have depended on medications to help them deal with their restricted life, but then they have to deal with the side effects of those meds.
I have worked with many clients as they struggle with anxiety symptoms, whether panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive symptoms, thinking they could never have control of their lives. I was reminded of this when a woman, who use to come to my on line Support Group about five years ago, contacted me through Messenger.
Ann use to come to the Support Group, and even though she made some supportive comments to others, something told me she was not ready to do what she needed to take control of her own life. She would interact with other members of the Support Group, but one could tell from her comments that she was not ready to confront her own anxiety and panic attacks. She was comfortably-uncomfortable with her self-imposed prison.
Years later, she contacted me through Messenger, as she had continued to live her life in her self-inflicted small and “safe” world, to avoid anything that would possibly bring on anxiety. We chatted back and forth and it became clear that she, like many panic /anxiety sufferers, was an adapting personality who had the habit of conforming, avoiding conflict, and trying to please in order to keep the peace.
She admitted as we chatted that she was a caregiver and peacekeeper. Her world was limited to her home, and a small business where she worked very close to home, and one grocery store, as she led her life making every effort to avoid conflict…and anxiety.
I offered to set up steps for her to consider, and this opened an ongoing back an forth between us, and all of a sudden she appeared ready to challenge her fears. Facing retirement soon, she felt more desperate to escape her self-imposed fear of fear. She had been following my Blog at www.RuledByFear.com, and the articles reinforced that she could make changes that might possibly give her freedom to take control of her life.
She realized she was an adapting personality, never wanting to face conflict head-on, so avoidance had become her norm. But it was a lonely world, and her husband was not a social person, so she had felt doomed.
I made suggestions as to some very small steps she might be ready to explore, and although hesitant, she was also wanting change so badly that she listened.
We worked on expressing her thoughts and feelings, but in a respectful way. At the same time, I gave her steps to take to explore and expand her world. I suggested that she take a step into a new grocery store that had opened nearby, telling her she did not have to stay long, but just create a picture in her mind as to the layout of the this new, modern and spacious ….and safe place. Then, try a new but small diner with her husband, ordering just a cup of coffee, again, being free to leave. She is making progress after all these years by understanding and challenging her personality’s pattern of avoiding conflict, and by challenging her fears through step by step exposure to places and things she has learned to avoid.
I hope and pray this continues, and I feel it will. I takes support and many repeated small steps to overcome anxiety symptoms. I will follow up with her progress and share with my blog readers.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Retired
Every few days, Ann sends me a message to let me know what new places she is exploring and feels success at overriding her previous fears. Very proud of her!