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Forcing myself to do exposures--advice?
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TOPIC: Forcing myself to do exposures--advice?

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#23844
losthighway (User)
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Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
Just a little background on my condition: I started having panic attacks in 2008, was always in and out of the ER thinking it was heart-related. Found out it was anxiety and was given Xanax on an as-needed basis, which my current MD is pretty good about keeping me stocked up on for those tough situations. Throughout 2009 until now, I've been in a state of on-and-off agoraphobia. I'll do fine for several weeks, then go through a stretch where I can't leave my neighborhood. In 2010, I managed to undertake a long distance trip with the help of my Xanax and after the initial drive (once we got to the location we were headed), I didn't need to use it again the entire trip. I did well with my agoraphobia for a while after that, and then slowly (probably from not practicing) it got worse again.

With the help of an exercise book, I'm working on a self-induced cognitive behavioral therapy routine since I live in a rural town and the next counselor or psychiatrist is more than 50 miles away. So I'm doing this on my own. I started out with a location two miles from my house, and yesterday I managed to drive there and back just fine. But today, as soon as I hit the location, it was like panic city. I had one of the worst attacks I've had in a long time and everything started looking weird (the sunlight, the shapes of things) which is always my sure-fire sign of a really bad attack. I sped all the way back home and it immediately went away, as usual. But I know through my exercise book that it says to not flee and to stay in the moment until the attack passes. But it just seems so scary and awful.

I know I can't ask for a guarantee, but can anyone who's gone through this exposure therapy give me any positive reinforcement or tell me it gets easier? I hate this yo-yo cycle of being fine going somewhere one day, and then suddenly I go back and it's terrifying. How do you do it?
 
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#23849
tsuki (Admin)
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Re:Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
I am a recovering agoraphobic. It's great your knowing you need cognitive behavioral therapy or modification to help. A workbook is a great start, but ultimately you will want to see a live professional. I worked on 2 books on my own in addition to my therapy. It lessened my anxiety and I learned how to recognize my symptoms and how to stop them in their tracks.

Since I had not left my house for years, as soon as I was able to with the help of my husband, my treatment included CBT weekly. I would often have my sessions at home. I could only leave the house for a weekly trip to the grocery and drugstore, only with my husband. Poor man had to take many days off to drive me to appts. as I held on to him tightly for dear life.

My journey to freedom took a long while. Through meds and therapy, I slowly learned to leave my house a foot at a time until I reached the gate. From then on to the corner and so on. It's been three years and I've taken trips on planes and a cruise. I can go anywhere with my husband yet I continue to struggle as I cannot drive beyond my 15 mile coastline. I remain optimistic that I will be able to soon. It's one of the top resolutions on my list for the New Year

I hope you continue to strive to leave your home and make it to your therapy sessions. Face your fears and do not allow it to hold you prisoner any longer. Keep to your treatment and plan and discuss all you're feeling with your professional. The more they know, the more they can help you. I'm glad you're here to see that you're not alone wit this . . . hugs
 
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#23867
losthighway (User)
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Re:Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
Thanks. I love this place for the support...and the reassurance there are others out there dealing with this just like me.

I actually had a little "mini-breakthrough" last night. I was doing one of my exposures on this one very long country road that sort of wraps around my area and once you're on it there is no way to turn back, you just have to keep following it all the way to the end when it comes back around in a loop. I paused at the stop sign just before the road, thinking "Do I really want to do this? I could just turn around right now" but then I remembered it wouldn't help anything for me to run. I knew full well I'd most likely have an anxiety attack, but I pressed the gas petal and went forward anyway. Once I was on the road, my anxiety level rose...rose...and finally I was in full-blown panic mode behind the wheel. But I just did all I could do and kept driving forward. About 3/4 of the way down the road, my anxiety had reached a peak and was slowly diminishing. I can't describe the feeling that went through me except to say it was extreme RELIEF that I'd done it and come out the other side okay. I read that in order for cognitive therapy to work, you have to be willing to make yourself uncomfortable, and that's exactly what I did. If I hadn't instigated the attack, my brain wouldn't have learned anything. Now I'm still not looking forward to doing it again tonight, either, but now I have some small glimmer of hope that if I keep repeating this and then moving to bigger things that it will work.
 
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#23869
Irish (User)
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Re:Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
Great Job! You are truly going against your greatest fears which to me, is the hardest thing I ever had to do as well. Going against your fears like this is just as hard for anyone even those who don't have anxiety disorder. I commend you. Take care....Ed
 
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#23870
losthighway (User)
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Re:Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
Thanks for the support, Ed.

I actually just got back from doing the same exposure again. I had anxiety just like last night, but it didn't develop into a full-blown attack. I was just very uncomfortable but not completely panicking. When I reached the end of the road, I did it again. Still some anxiety, but it was diminishing compared to the first time. I felt so proud of myself that I actually went back and did it two more times for a total of four! And to think just one lap last night was bad enough.

I feel very proud of myself right now, but I know I still need to work on this exercise for a while and not get ahead of myself. I'll keep doing it every night until I don't feel any anxiety from the first lap and then move on to my next challenge--an even longer (and further away) road. Step by step...
 
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#23891
tsuki (Admin)
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Re:Forcing myself to do exposures--advice? 6 Years ago  
Yay, I'm so proud of you You're doing great. Please update us from time to time and let us know when you start your next challenge . . . hugs
 
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