31 votes

What have you done to conquer your fear?

I've been in therapy for ten years.

Recently, I hit a local minimum. I saw where the rest of the curve would take me, if I did not change somehow. It would end me early—maybe even in a few years or less.

And I saw what was holding me back.

I've had emotional scars accumulated from an early age. That kind of trauma seems to have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy; my life has been replete with repeated traumas. I've been reliving those root traumas over and over again, in my own mind, overlaid atop later events that only found correlation due to triggering those old wounded emotions.

I understand this to be called "CPTSD" in more civilized parts of the world than where I live: the United States. (As far as I know, the DSM-V does not acknowledge CPTSD.) I digress.

In therapy, I had identified two deeply wounded "parts" of myself: one represented by an ostracized seventeen year old Exile who attempted in all but direct intent to end himself and the other an emotionally abused and rage-filled ten year old Inner Child.

Recently, I healed the seventeen year old part. I saw how it was hurting me. Its expectation, its fear, of exile fueled nearly half of my life. My therapist and I pushed on it. What was preventing me from changing?

It was the fear of what I would become without it. Would I lose my wife? Would I lose my identity? Would I lose everything?

But it was this or my life. So, in that moment, I made a choice.

Instead what happened was something unexpected. The Exile flourished. It was as though my teen and 20 something years had been rewritten: a Back to the Future moment. It was no longer The Exile. It was transformed into something else entirely. It became strong and confident. Tapping into that part, by choice, I now seem to be able face most situations that would once cause near panic with, instead, determination. I persevere. I even seem, at times, to flourish.

However, the rage-filled Child remains. He is more activistic. He still has the sense that he will be punished for some perceived wrong. When provoked, he doesn't feel anxiety from these imagined tortures, he feels rage.

In my meditations, now, I attempt to integrate with this newfound strength to then reach out to and show more compassion to the Child—to salve his fear and show him that we, together, as a being, are now strong. I am hopeful.

In these ways, I am remade.

I still recognize old pieces. And, yet, there is so much new, so much yet undiscovered, that I confound myself with what is now easy and what remains difficult (but difficult in new ways). I am increasingly kinder to myself, allowing more connection with others, particularly those I would once consider incompatible, and perhaps even beginning to become physically healthier.

I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Or, perhaps, I am only now stepping into that light, after decades.

How have you become more than your past traumas? How have you transformed for the better? How did you accomplish it?

EDIT: I shared this in the hope that it inspires. There can be healing, though it can take years and much effort. I would love to hear your stories of hope!

EDIT2: Feeling self-conscious, this all was decidedly not a humble brag. I never imagined that this sort of abrupt transformation was possible. However, it was a culmination of literally a decade of therapeutic intervention and hard work.

44 comments

  1. [17]
    NoPants
    Link
    Not sure if this is exactly what you asked about, but I suffered from crippling social anxiety. I moved to a country where I really didn't know anyone, which forced me to reinvent myself socially....

    Not sure if this is exactly what you asked about, but I suffered from crippling social anxiety. I moved to a country where I really didn't know anyone, which forced me to reinvent myself socially. I switched jobs to one which required me to present weekly, which helped me get over my fear of speaking in public.

    13 votes
    1. [11]
      hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      On a much smaller scale, I've been forcing myself to participate in social things I truly want nothing to do with. For example, I "forced" myself to sign up for a company retreat. Lots of...

      On a much smaller scale, I've been forcing myself to participate in social things I truly want nothing to do with. For example, I "forced" myself to sign up for a company retreat. Lots of traveling, lots of socializing, lots of meeting people in-person for the first time. I ended up coming away from the experience learning a lot about myself. I learned that while I am quite introverted, there's an extroverted side of me as well and most of my anxiety comes from the anticipation/fear of what I'm about to face socially. When I'm in the midst of the socializing I do quite well and enjoy myself.

      I feel as though I'm bogged down by anxiety developed earlier in my life when I hadn't quite figured out how to exercise my inner extrovert and socialize effectively. I'm very, very slowly learning to shake that and develop confidence in my ability to socialize.

      7 votes
      1. [8]
        BeardyHat
        Link Parent
        I feel similarly. I used to have pretty bad social anxiety, but married an extrovert with a big family and now, while I still get anxiety over every single social thing I willingly sign myself up...

        I feel similarly. I used to have pretty bad social anxiety, but married an extrovert with a big family and now, while I still get anxiety over every single social thing I willingly sign myself up for, I never back out of them and I never don't sign up for stuff. Tournaments for my favorite wargame? No problem. D&D a few times a month? Got it. Add it all to the pile of regular social events that I do get anxiety about going to, but never back out of because of it.

        Now if only I could manage my anxiety around flying. I'm doing it for a fifth time in a month tomorrow and I'm still anxious about it.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          first-must-burn
          Link Parent
          By way of encouragement, if you flew five times in the last month, you seem to be managing it pretty well. Good job!

          Now if only I could manage my anxiety around flying. I'm doing it for a fifth time in a month tomorrow and I'm still anxious about it.

          By way of encouragement, if you flew five times in the last month, your arms must be pretty tired you seem to be managing it pretty well. Good job!

          2 votes
          1. BeardyHat
            Link Parent
            Thanks. That's generally how I deal with my anxiety, since I'm also a stubborn ass: fuck you, anxiety, you can't tell me what to do!

            Thanks.

            That's generally how I deal with my anxiety, since I'm also a stubborn ass: fuck you, anxiety, you can't tell me what to do!

            3 votes
        2. [5]
          hamstergeddon
          Link Parent
          Just out of curiosity, is the anxiety around flying about the flying itself, or is it all the absolute nonsense involved with getting on the plane (travel to airport, navigating airport, security,...

          Just out of curiosity, is the anxiety around flying about the flying itself, or is it all the absolute nonsense involved with getting on the plane (travel to airport, navigating airport, security, finding terminal, finding seat, etc.). Because the latter is what stressed me out and had me terrified in the lead up to my trip and then I was able to mostly keep my anxiety around flying itself down to a minimum.

          1. [4]
            BeardyHat
            Link Parent
            Little bit here, little bit there. I definitely have anxiety surrounding the getting to the airport and my gate, but then I get plenty more on the plane, especially turbulence and take...

            Little bit here, little bit there. I definitely have anxiety surrounding the getting to the airport and my gate, but then I get plenty more on the plane, especially turbulence and take off/landing.

            Thankfully this flight (literally just landed), I was able to mostly keep it in check by focusing on a game. But I'm glad to be back on the ground.

            I think it's a control thing for me. I really, intensely dislike not being in control.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              kingofsnake
              Link Parent
              Wild - my wife has social anxiety from time to time and absolutely loathes flying, and like you, it's because of the plane. Is there a connection?

              Wild - my wife has social anxiety from time to time and absolutely loathes flying, and like you, it's because of the plane. Is there a connection?

              1. BeardyHat
                Link Parent
                Probably just generalized anxiety. Anxiety finds stuff to latch onto, often irrelevant. For instance, I think my generalized anxiety is in large part about being out of my comfort zone, so leading...

                Probably just generalized anxiety. Anxiety finds stuff to latch onto, often irrelevant.

                For instance, I think my generalized anxiety is in large part about being out of my comfort zone, so leading up to my trip, it was latching onto if I should bring my laptop or not and made me agonize over it. Next was what what I should pack? Do I have enough clothes? Let's be anxious about that. Oh, forget allergy meds? That's an anxiety. Not going to be 3 hours early to the airport? Here, have some anxiety. On and on and on.

                Far as I'm aware, it's a genetic thing for me. I wasn't an anxious person until one day in my mid 20s (I must have been about 25 or so), it was like a switch flipped and now it's just a thing I have. Turns out, a good portion of my family suffers from it but never told me.

                So, it's just coping with that. Understanding that it's a brain affliction and it'll just find random shit to latch onto, no matter what. So I can feel anxious about stuff, but I'm rationally aware that it's just my brain being an asshole and if I just follow through with whatever plans or ideas I have, everything is fine.

                3 votes
              2. sparksbet
                Link Parent
                Anecdotally, I have pretty bad social anxiety and I love those parts of flying. I like takeoff/landing in small aircraft where you can really feel like you're in the air, and I kinda like...

                Anecdotally, I have pretty bad social anxiety and I love those parts of flying. I like takeoff/landing in small aircraft where you can really feel like you're in the air, and I kinda like turbulence tbqh. Flying's still annoying bc of all the other stuff though.

                2 votes
      2. [2]
        elight
        Link Parent
        Have you sought therapy for it? I don't believe I could have gotten this far, overcoming so much fear, without mine.

        Have you sought therapy for it? I don't believe I could have gotten this far, overcoming so much fear, without mine.

        1. hamstergeddon
          Link Parent
          I did see a therapist for a while, although not specifically for social anxiety. More for coping with ADHD, general anxiety, and depression. I would love to get back on the therapy train sometime...

          I did see a therapist for a while, although not specifically for social anxiety. More for coping with ADHD, general anxiety, and depression. I would love to get back on the therapy train sometime soon though and start tackling things with more specificity. It would've been really nice to discuss my trip and what I learned with my therapist.

          2 votes
    2. [2]
      bret
      Link Parent
      Crippling anxiety + crippling speech impediment (stutter). Joined the military as an intelligence analyst which forced me to brief flag-level officers. Still stutter (much less) but much more...

      Crippling anxiety + crippling speech impediment (stutter). Joined the military as an intelligence analyst which forced me to brief flag-level officers. Still stutter (much less) but much more comfortable public speaking now.

      4 votes
      1. NoPants
        Link Parent
        For over a decade, simply waiting for my turn during round table introductions would give me sweaty palms, elevated heart beat, flushed face, plus inability to focus on what others were saying -...

        For over a decade, simply waiting for my turn during round table introductions would give me sweaty palms, elevated heart beat, flushed face, plus inability to focus on what others were saying - as I was too busily rehearsing what I was going to say.

        While I didn't have a stutter, which I can't even imagine what that is like, I perhaps had something in the ballpark, I had a face that would flush bright red, then while I was dying inside of embarrassment, my brain would lock up, I could not verbalize anything for 2-5 seconds, which would cause my face to glow even a brighter shade of red, I could not think straight, so I would verbal diarrhea as quickly and incoherently as humanly possible, who knows what I said, I sure didn't, and then I would sit down again.

        I present daily now. And I present incredibly well. I get multiple compliments whenever I present to large groups of 60 or 600. I am not saying I am the smoothest nor most eloquent nor most amusing presenter. I can't tell a joke to save my life. I fill my presentations with ummms and ahhhs. I talk way to fast, beyond peoples ability to comprehend sometimes. I simply am one of the more entertaining presenters. I am not afraid to try something new and unusual to catch peoples attention.

        After a lot of painful presentations for everyone, I basically stopped worrying that people would listen to me, and started worrying that people would not listen to me.

        One of my colleagues had a stutter. I always liked to listen to him talk or present. He was one of the most funny, charming and genuine people you could have the fortune to listen too. I will take that any day of the week.

        3 votes
    3. [3]
      sparksbet
      Link Parent
      Moving to a new country where I didn't know anyone really increased my social anxiety -- I lost a bunch of weight after I moved bc I was too scared to even order takeout. But different strokes for...

      Moving to a new country where I didn't know anyone really increased my social anxiety -- I lost a bunch of weight after I moved bc I was too scared to even order takeout. But different strokes for different folks I guess! Social anxiety can come from different places and respond to different things for different people.

      Definitely "just make yourself do the thing you're scared of" works though, even if it's hard to actually bring yourself to do it. I'm lucky enough that I have very little anxiety around public speaking personally, but I used to be terrified to order from the meat counter at the grocery store. The anxiety went down so much once I forced myself to do it a couple times.

      I will say that I have much less social anxiety when I go back to my home country now. So I guess the new country adjusted my baseline lol

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        BeardyHat
        Link Parent
        This is so huge. I feel like I see a lot of Internet denizens talking about how stuff gives them anxiety, so they just don't do that. Every time I see those comments, I mentally scream, because...

        Definitely "just make yourself do the thing you're scared of"

        This is so huge. I feel like I see a lot of Internet denizens talking about how stuff gives them anxiety, so they just don't do that. Every time I see those comments, I mentally scream, because that is the worst shit you can do.

        I also have anxiety (see this thread), but if you let it control your life, you're always going to have it and never get over it. Facing those fears and stuff that makes you anxious helps cope with it just so much.

        5 votes
        1. sparksbet
          Link Parent
          Yeah the problem is that even knowing that anxiety is a spiral like that doesn't make it easier to break out of it... even knowing what the good advice is, it's hard to make myself actually follow it.

          Yeah the problem is that even knowing that anxiety is a spiral like that doesn't make it easier to break out of it... even knowing what the good advice is, it's hard to make myself actually follow it.

  2. [2]
    slothywaffle
    Link
    I healed some DEEP childhood wounds/ fear this week actually! We came to this forest every year as kids. My mom would yell at me for being afraid of riding my bike in the forest with everyone,...

    I healed some DEEP childhood wounds/ fear this week actually!
    We came to this forest every year as kids. My mom would yell at me for being afraid of riding my bike in the forest with everyone, only making the fear worse and much more deep seeded. So I've been in therapy for the last 7ish years to work through my issues with my mom in general and I'm finally feeling like I'm in a good spot.
    I came back to the forest with my brother this week and he brought bikes. I said no to every invitation to go for a ride until yesterday. I sucked it up, told myself that he would be supportive instead of yelling, and got on the bike. We did 5 miles! I even rode across the train trestle! I had to positive talk myself the whole ride, sometimes out loud lol, but I did it! "Just do it! Just go! You're doing great!" really helped me feel good about it. I was also proud of myself for telling him when I needed to turn around because I was done.
    I realize it might sound small and silly, but I'm proud of myself for literally getting back on the bike! My whole body aches, but it was totally worth it to move past that fear!

    7 votes
    1. elight
      Link Parent
      It does not sound silly at all. We have to learn to celebrate every bit of progress! It's a beginning on the journey to learning to like and even love ourselves! Speaking as someone who, until...

      It does not sound silly at all. We have to learn to celebrate every bit of progress! It's a beginning on the journey to learning to like and even love ourselves!

      Speaking as someone who, until fairly recently, loathed himself! I can even take compliments sincerely now and feel the appreciation for them instead of embarrassment of them!

      1 vote
  3. [5]
    somewaffles
    Link
    I'm in my early 30's and have made a conscious effort to start doing things while I have the freedom to do so. It is a bit uncomfortable but figure its probably good for me. So I wouldn't exactly...

    I'm in my early 30's and have made a conscious effort to start doing things while I have the freedom to do so. It is a bit uncomfortable but figure its probably good for me.

    So I wouldn't exactly call it a "fear" but I've always wanted to travel more, but because of scheduling/life/money, I've never really been able to get anyone in my social group to plan a trip together. I have always thought the idea solo travel was weird / scary, so I never did it. BUT I just got out of a 4 year relationship, and figured I should just suck it up and book a flight to the other side of the country, to cities I've never been to (Phoenix/San Francisco) and see what happens. Leaving this time next month and I'm pretty excited and if it goes well, I am going to plan another trip to Europe later this year.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      boxer_dogs_dance
      Link Parent
      Feel free to reach out if you want advice re northern California

      Feel free to reach out if you want advice re northern California

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        somewaffles
        Link Parent
        I'm probably going to stay in the Bay Area since I only have a couple days to spend and I know there is an insane amount of stuff to do all close to eachother. Do you have any suggestions other...

        I'm probably going to stay in the Bay Area since I only have a couple days to spend and I know there is an insane amount of stuff to do all close to eachother. Do you have any suggestions other than the usual stuff people suggest in that area like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, etc? I usually gravitate towards music, bars, and museums but the amount of other stuff to do makes me wish I had more time.

        1. fuzzy
          Link Parent
          If you like European art the Legion of Honor is a great, medium-sized museum in a beautiful location.

          If you like European art the Legion of Honor is a great, medium-sized museum in a beautiful location.

  4. [2]
    TallUntidyGothGF
    Link
    I guess I finally went to therapy. There's this idea that we always need to confront our fears and past and everything and heal things, but that kind of didn't work out for me. I have OCD that...

    I guess I finally went to therapy. There's this idea that we always need to confront our fears and past and everything and heal things, but that kind of didn't work out for me. I have OCD that manifests in checking behaviours etc when stressed, but I guess I'd never connected that with mental symptoms. It got to the point where I'd constantly think about past events, mentally reviewing them for a level of certainty on what did or didn't happen, intents, every aspect of it - and of course these would be the worst things. It would even go into essentially making up memories, fuelled by my fear of them maybe having happened and the mental reviewing process repeated kind of creating false memories. Part of the process of healing is making myself understand that there's no value in retreading things, realising and identifying that want to react to or collapse to certainty on something that occurs to me as a compulsion that I don't have to engage in (with kind of the exposure therapy thing of observing that nothing bad happens by virtue of not engaging in that process). It's hard but I'm doing a lot better

    5 votes
    1. elight
      Link Parent
      Thank you. My questions, my sharing, was limited by my own experience. For me, yes, it meant finding the events and associated emotions that created my traumas. That is not by any means...

      Thank you.

      My questions, my sharing, was limited by my own experience. For me, yes, it meant finding the events and associated emotions that created my traumas. That is not by any means necessarily a universal approach. Healing is healing.

      2 votes
  5. [4]
    chocobean
    Link
    What a wonderful celebration post!!! I'm very happy for you and your spouse, and very excited for the days ahead of all of you together! CPTSD is serious business and often I hear so so so many...

    What a wonderful celebration post!!! I'm very happy for you and your spouse, and very excited for the days ahead of all of you together!

    CPTSD is serious business and often I hear so so so many stories of struggle from those in the midst of the discovery and even recovery phase, but I don't often hear of people who have made it to the other side.

    Thank you for sharing your post. It's giving me a lot of new hope. Hope is scary....but it's also necessary to keep gritting my teeth and going on just a little longer.

    You must have a really great therapist :)

    Two requests: can you share some thoughts on how this journey has affected your marriage, and some thoughts on how to identify a good therapist?

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      elight
      Link Parent
      On the marriage She gave me an ultimatum early on: therapy or else. While ultimatums are generally bad, she was so very right. We both have had to work intentionally on the relationship. I went...
      • Exemplary

      On the marriage

      • She gave me an ultimatum early on: therapy or else. While ultimatums are generally bad, she was so very right.
      • We both have had to work intentionally on the relationship. I went through a number of therapists, and we went through a number of marriage counselors, before arriving at helpful of each.
      • She's had to learn to understand that my coping strategies are not personal: they're about me and my trauma and not her.
      • Some of my behaviors are projections of the traumas on to her. Some are based in reality. She's had to learn to accept that whatever I experience is my reality, no matter how much she may disagree with it.
      • I've had to own that my traumas have a very real impact on her. I've had to be vulnerable about what I'm experiencing and actively seek validation/invalidation from her how those experiences align with her internal states.
      • We've both had to be committed to making it and keeping it working. Sometimes, I've waivered in my commitment; trauma from people giving up on me causes me to give up to preempt abandonment. Requires recognizing that my love for her, that can sometimes bedifficult to feel (due to "splitting") outweighs my fear of abandonment. (As of this change I believe I have largely or entirely excised that fear.)

      Finding a therapist

      This was iterative and, therefore, full of frustrations and disappointments.

      My first therapist made me so attuned to how I hurt but gave me no tools at all for dealing with the hurt. Thanks a lot! 🤦🏻‍♂️

      Ultimately, this therapist came by way of a recommendation from one of my wife's friends who was studying to be a therapist. My therapist practices ISPDT: a modality that focuses on the emotion and not the cognition. This has been particularly helpful for me as, for much of my life, my emotional range as primary colors only: rage, happiness, depression, fear, love. Also, I would feel one at a time and never what my therapist calls mixed emotions.

      Much of our work has been about allowing me to grieve the painful experiences and the emotions associated with them all leading toward the ability to feel groups of emotion simultaneously.

      Hope this helps.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        CeeBeeEh
        Link Parent
        Could you maybe expand on this a bit more? I could really use some insight from the other side, both from the partner with CPTSD and from someone who's made it out. Were there points where your...

        I've had to own that my traumas have a very real impact on her. I've had to be vulnerable about what I'm experiencing and actively seek validation/invalidation from her how those experiences align with her internal states.

        Could you maybe expand on this a bit more? I could really use some insight from the other side, both from the partner with CPTSD and from someone who's made it out. Were there points where your spouse wanted to give up, or at least had occasional thoughts of, giving up? She's probably undergone a lot of changes and ups and downs with you, I guess.

        1 vote
        1. elight
          Link Parent
          I was the one who would harbor doubt and consider giving up. I would experience discouragement deeply, in a way where it would linger and turn into depression, despair, and hopelessness. When she...

          I was the one who would harbor doubt and consider giving up.

          I would experience discouragement deeply, in a way where it would linger and turn into depression, despair, and hopelessness. When she saw this in me, she would go to a similar dark place.

          My wife's tendency was to act as a caregiver. The problem was that she would think about my needs without adequate consideration to her own. This would lead to anger and disappointment for her as she could not make a dent in my troubles; part of my trauma was an inability to let others in enough to help me.

          She worked on giving me the space I need to work through my trauma on my own as well as accepting that there are times that the healing work consumes all of my energy, leaving nothing for anything else.

          Following on that, she also worked on attending to her own needs, independent of me. This was terrifying for me at first; abandonment was core to The Exile. But she was never abandoning me. She always came back. It helped make her more whole so she has more to bring to the relationship.

          Managing how I react to her disappointments was agony for me. Again, part of my trauma: disappointment in others was a harbinger of pain for me. Hearing her frustration and disappointment put me on high alert, spending all of my energy preparing to defend myself. More and more, I've been able to take in her disappointment with compassion/love instead of fear.

          More questions? I'm here for it.

  6. [2]
    Tmbreen
    Link
    Honestly, I learned a lot about myself hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. It was a very arduous but healthy experience, especially when you are hiking solo and meeting other people as you go....

    Honestly, I learned a lot about myself hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. It was a very arduous but healthy experience, especially when you are hiking solo and meeting other people as you go.

    Honestly, the older I get the more I learn I have to push my comfort envelope to grow. While that was horrendously terrifying to kid me, I've learned a lot and I feel like it's helped.

    3 votes
    1. elight
      Link Parent
      I found a lovely book about someone's experience doing just that. The name eludes me.

      I found a lovely book about someone's experience doing just that. The name eludes me.

  7. [2]
    Miko_the_cat
    Link
    So, I've rewritten my comment a few times now due to anxiety. I'm gonna try and run with this one... I have a lot of fears that come from feeling a lack of trust and safety. I also feel guilt and...

    So, I've rewritten my comment a few times now due to anxiety. I'm gonna try and run with this one...

    I have a lot of fears that come from feeling a lack of trust and safety. I also feel guilt and shame easily, so I'm also afraid of things like being called out for being good at something, or messing up at anything, saying anything that could possibly be interpreted in a negative way. So i don't speak much and it's hard to make friends, collaborate, or have fun around others.

    But I am doing okay these days thanks to therapy, exposure, support from a few loved ones, and a lot of perseverance.

    Therapy helped me understand that my fears were once useful and they helped me survive and protect me from what I learned in my childhood was dangerous. I learned to appreciate them and give permission for them to relax since I'm older and wiser now. It started as fight or flight, then flight, and now it's the permission to feel a little embarrassed instead of heavy shame. I'm still working on it.

    Exposure comes mostly from my job these days. Talking to people, turning on my camera (I've been working remote the past few years) , and speaking up in meetings is hard. I do it anyway. I used to literally shake in my chair. My voice would quiver. I would mis speak, skip words, bad grammar. Then when I'm done, I'd go over the experience over and over again in my head and completely miss what else happened in the meeting. I'd stay up at night remembering how it went. Over the years I've gotten better at it. Therapy helped me develop self compassion and this let me give myself grace when I didn't speak as well as I could have, or feel embarrassed. Tiny improvements added up over time.

    Thanks for making this post and everyone who posted comments. It's inspiring to read your experiences. It also gave me a chance to challenge myself and feel proud of how far I've come. I feel a dash of what I think is shame for being selfish but I no longer feel stupid for feeling a little proud.

    3 votes
    1. elight
      Link Parent
      That's what I'm talking about! High five! Self-compassion! A little pride! Keep going!

      That's what I'm talking about! High five!

      Self-compassion!
      A little pride!

      Keep going!

      1 vote
  8. patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    I found substantial relief from generalized anxiety and depression via EMDR therapy. There's a fair amount of validation from clinical studies, but I'm skeptical enough that it felt like voodoo...

    I found substantial relief from generalized anxiety and depression via EMDR therapy. There's a fair amount of validation from clinical studies, but I'm skeptical enough that it felt like voodoo until it started to work.

    I've had a couple of brushes recently with a brand-new phobia, and an old one.

    The driving phobia is slowly resolving with exposure. It helps that most of my local travel is on 25 mph city streets, and I'm reacclimatizing to the likely hazards. Highway driving is getting better, but I still ask for assistance in unfamiliar places. My gratitude to /u/domukin for the reference to the Mind Over Mood website, which had a video specific to driving phobia that was very helpful.

    I'm in the 3% of the U.S. population with dental PTSD, thanks to a teenage encounter with an oral surgeon who could have been the model for Little Shop of Horrors. I've made the concession to undergoing dental work with sedation, and am about to go in for several cracked teeth courtesy of pandemic fear-induced grinding.

    My suspicion is that, like addiction, anxiety-prone people tend to learn from traumatic experience quickly and thoroughly. It's hard to dislodge such salient information and retune the magnitude of response.

    Funny anecdote - how I accidentally conquered my fear of public speaking.

    In grad school for public health, I wound up taking a engineering course in ergonomics. Human factors engineering usually focuses on how workers interact with their tools and workplace built environments. The students were responsible for weekly seminar presentations.

    At the time, there was considerable focus on risks to women and smaller-framed people in workplaces built with average men in mind. So I prepared my topic and, full of fear and trepidation, started to lecture... At about 10 minutes in, I noticed a rumbling and giggling in the room. I stuttered to a halt when I saw that the professor had turned bright red, his hand clamped to his mouth, with the beginnings of unstoppable tears of laughter.

    At that point, I realized that I'd been merrily and obliviously chattering away about studies in upper extremity cumulative trauma caused by the interaction of sex and vibrating hand tools.

    So I took a deep breath, said, "I meant "gender", of course", and continued to the end. Never felt a minute's embarrassment in public speaking thereafter.

    3 votes
  9. [2]
    Thomas-C
    Link
    I can relate a lot to what you've written here, and appreciate you taking the time to put it together and share it. I especially relate to how you wrote about your prior selves. I think the...

    I can relate a lot to what you've written here, and appreciate you taking the time to put it together and share it.

    I especially relate to how you wrote about your prior selves. I think the turning point for me was an accidental moment of meditation, a happenstance moment of doing something that actually ended up being critically important, and understanding similar concepts was a crucial piece of it. My approach to things has usually been a form of "say yes to everything" - I'd try anything once, usually twice. I would go to events, concerts and festivals and such, and when I'd hit it off with people I'd usually just go with them in whatever they were doing, and just sort of lose myself in the experience. I was distracting myself, living in the moment, just making whatever move made sense in the immediate and wrapping myself up in things so I had stuff to make demands, keep me from focusing on other things. Well, one time, that approach landed me in a spot where I was doing a meditative exercise with someone, and they guided me through in a way that just completely changed things for me in retrospect. I sat down in a quiet room, closed my eyes and through their guidance allowed my feelings to come and go. All of them, any of them. It was a pretty wild experience honestly, because it felt like for the first time I was turning and facing all of my fear all at once, that I was staring it in the face instead of running away. I was seeing the feelings, what they were attached to, where they came from, their intensity, how they connected. Physically it felt like someone grabbing my stomach and crumpling it like a ball of paper, and as I continued in the exercise, that ball slowly unfurled, flattened itself.

    And then the guide said something that struck me. They told me to imagine my younger self, and imagine my current, adult self picking them up, holding them and keeping them safe. It was like a crack of thunder, a dam burst and this intense wave of feeling started pouring through. But I held firm. I kept watching, observed where the water was going, how it flooded things, its depth and its color and what all floated along in it. It was intense and scary, if I'm honest. In the beginning it felt as if I was on that flowing water, in a very shitty raft, with a single oar, me and kid me. I've been in some precarious situations before, had to make quick moves to avoid some bad shit, and something about this moment felt so akin to that, so familiar, that it was like a switch flipped and my adult self snapped-to, grabbed the kid and held tight and assured him we're in it together, no matter what happens. And in that moment I felt what I would call "peace" for the first time, a sort of peace you feel when you know, there's just not going to be any way through but to Do the Thing, the approach I always took but taken from a completely different angle. What was once a gigantic, fearful, unknown thing, now fit squarely in a mould I was very familiar with, comfortable in, and from that point forward things were different. I could sit in that raft and float along the water, and instead of freaking out about the turbulence or our safety I just watched what was ahead and made the best move I could, did what I could with what I had. That's when I'd say the fear was gone, living had become something different.

    There was much more to be done, but that as best as I can recall/write out was the catalyzing moment, the moment when things just sort of snapped into a different shape and what had been an ongoing, fearful struggle turned into something determined, definite, known and thus, workable. The person who guided me too, was just a genuinely good dude. He had found something really helpful, and wanted other folks who seemed to be in need to try it out and see if it worked for them. No zealotry/cult shit/snake oil, I was free to just take the experience and do what I could with it. Through it, I got confidence, the motivation to seek my own solutions, my own answers for things, and then life became more like a road than a trail. I could go faster, in a precise direction, toward something definite - I had a point, is the way I want to phrase it. After spending many years in the bleak waste of feeling nothing had a point, especially me, it felt like finally, once and for all, truly, that time was over. It was done. This wasn't a distraction, it was the real deal. I could continue on my own, take the little boy with me on my rafting trips and spend the day telling stories and cracking jokes while I continued to study the river.

    I don't often get to share much of this so the writing might be a little rough. I do get to talk with folks from time to time, but that's a bit different to me from writing it out. But to be really succinct for a second, I think what mattered for me was to look at what was bothering me. Know it, feel it, understand it, because doing that made it smaller, manageable. I could more clearly see what was in my control, and what was not, and that clarity meant I just couldn't feel as anxious, as fearful. I could see what was in my control and what was not, and where before I'd tortured myself with feelings of worthlessness over failing to deal with the latter, I could instead focus on dealing with the former.

    2 votes
    1. elight
      Link Parent
      This reads as a vaguely Buddhist perspective on mindfulness practice: holding our own experiences gently with non-judgmentally with curiosity and compassion, not avoiding them and not clinging to...

      This reads as a vaguely Buddhist perspective on mindfulness practice: holding our own experiences gently with non-judgmentally with curiosity and compassion, not avoiding them and not clinging to them. Here, it was finding a deeply scared part of yourself, and shepherding it through to healing. Wonderful!

      1 vote
  10. [2]
    NoblePath
    Link
    Sounds like you’re doing some ifs work! I work on this stuff both in therapy but also in a fellowship called adult children of alcoholic and dysfunctional families. If your trauma stems from a...

    Sounds like you’re doing some ifs work!

    I work on this stuff both in therapy but also in a fellowship called adult children of alcoholic and dysfunctional families. If your trauma stems from a such a family (usually cptsd does I’m told) you might explore what it has to offer.

    I get: daily exposure to ideas and positive energy, a large community of people who really get it, a safe place to grieve, and a framework for daily living with all the characteristics that make cptsd an insidious condition.

    Good luck to us both.

    2 votes
    1. elight
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Indeed. My parents were, at least, neglectful and my father debatably emotionally abusive. That's the root trauma. I was bullied in school at the same time that my father developed his toxic...

      Indeed. My parents were, at least, neglectful and my father debatably emotionally abusive. That's the root trauma. I was bullied in school at the same time that my father developed his toxic tendencies. I got it coming and going.

      The layers piled atop that over decades.

      I now have a minimal relationship with my parents. My father's behavior is still unreliable and my mother tends to be unintentionally invalidating and apologetic for him. I love them yet take them only in very small doses. I suspect that it cannot get much better than this. There's a lot of work that he hasn't done. He's insisted that we'd have to do it together. Whereas I've spent a decade in therapy, he's seen a therapist, I'm told, for one or two sessions in his life. The inequity is profound.

      Reached out to a local group. May participate tomorrow!

      1 vote
  11. [3]
    DonaldandDavidStott
    Link
    I have an irrational phobia of pigeons, so I'd like to tag onto this post. if anyone could help me with that I'd be very appreciative. I hate pigeons.

    I have an irrational phobia of pigeons, so I'd like to tag onto this post. if anyone could help me with that I'd be very appreciative. I hate pigeons.

    2 votes
    1. sparksbet
      Link Parent
      The unfortunate truth is that exposure therapy is still the best treatment for a lot of phobias. Iirc from my psych classes it doesn't matter whether it's one big exposure in one go or gradually...

      The unfortunate truth is that exposure therapy is still the best treatment for a lot of phobias. Iirc from my psych classes it doesn't matter whether it's one big exposure in one go or gradually ramping up the exposure to where you're just able to bear the discomfort, as long as nothing overtly negative happens to reinforce the existing fear.

      Unfortunately, knowing this has made me much more resistant to the idea of going to a therapist to treat my phobia of spiders, since I know what it would eventually escalate to. Luckily a fear of spiders is socially acceptable, and situations where it's revealed my phobia goes beyond that are luckily pretty rare, since I live in a country where there aren't enough spiders to really disrupt my daily life. If I ever wanted to visit Australia I'd probably have to see someone about it.

      So I guess it depends a lot on how much you have to interact with pigeons day-to-day and how disruptive the phobia is to your daily life. You'd certainly have a rough time where I live.

      4 votes
    2. pete_the_paper_boat
      Link Parent
      I really think you oughta just walk between some pigeons. They're a lot more scared of you than we ought to be of them. Yeah, they're a little more accustomed to humans than other birds, so they...

      I really think you oughta just walk between some pigeons.

      They're a lot more scared of you than we ought to be of them. Yeah, they're a little more accustomed to humans than other birds, so they tend to get closer.

      If we're talking about common scary birds, it really should be geese lol

  12. nrktkt
    Link
    Fear is funny. There are the unfounded phobias, and the founded trauma and personal history. On the phobia side... I have at least a mild version of most of the common phobias. I've learned to...

    Fear is funny. There are the unfounded phobias, and the founded trauma and personal history.

    On the phobia side...
    I have at least a mild version of most of the common phobias. I've learned to calm myself and push through slowly, but I still get the physical effects which can be counter-productive to whatever I'm trying to do (sweaty hands and vertigo are not good for climbing, hyperventilating is not good for diving, etc.).
    I think I did some exposure therapy starting with small low-commitment phobias to show myself that I could, and then moving up.
    I know I'll never be competitive or a top performer at a lot of things because of this, but it's still nice to feel like I can do anything if I just work it slowly.

    1 vote
  13. hakuchu
    Link
    I think the most effective thing I've done for my panic disorder is learn to let go. letting go of past traumas, unhealthy coping skills, avoidance, all of it. Eventually with practice and enough...

    I think the most effective thing I've done for my panic disorder is learn to let go. letting go of past traumas, unhealthy coping skills, avoidance, all of it. Eventually with practice and enough exposures you start to rewire your brain.