This quote feels true to me and I’d like to share a personal story to illustrate it. Ten years ago I had a breakdown. I was having a lot of flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse and with that came feelings of shame and rage. I felt I couldn’t leave my flat. I spent nearly every day in my pyjamas dwelling on feeling depression, shame and anger. I needed help and I wanted that help to come from other people. My Doctor signed me off work and I applied for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – a government financial benefit. I had to prove I was sick enough to receive it, which was a horrendous process on top of flashbacks, anxiety, depression and all the rest of it.
The NHS offered me a six week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, despite my many requests for long-term psychotherapy. Of course, it barely scratched the surface of my issues. For a year I festered in this pit of darkness. It occurred to me that I could continue in this state for the rest of my life. I could spend most of my time alone, going to weekly drop in meetings at Survivors’ Network, writing horrible letters to my mother about how I felt she let me down, watching films to avoid my reality, bingeing and starving myself, going to ESA assessments to prove I was still eligible for the government money… It was a self-fulfilling practice.
With the thought that I could continue in this way forever came a question: do I want to? No, but… was the answer. In me there is a desire to grow, to learn, to love and those things were not being honoured. There was also fear about what I could do, where to start, and what if I couldn’t keep going? I didn’t want to promise and not deliver. I pondered it for some time before deciding I’d like to go to university. For that I needed to take an Access course so I applied and was accepted. The course was free so I felt like I could try it and see.
It was my first step out of the cycle of negativity I’d trapped myself in. It was incredibly hard to be in a room of mature students, most of whom had jobs. But it was just once a week so I could manage it. By the end of the course, it was normal for me to spend time conversing with people and I felt I could take the next step of attending university full time.
Over the summer I set myself daily goals of attending social functions to get myself used to being with people more and more. Some days I stood at my front door, wavering about whether to go to the function. In those moments I told myself, ‘just walk to the venue; you don’t have to go in.’ When I got there I’d let myself know I could leave after five minutes and all I had to do was ask someone how their week has been and listen and respond.
These actions, along with my desire and my self-compassion, helped me overcome my fears. They helped me move from isolation to enjoying other people. It was hard, often awkward, and took a great deal of effort, but I’m here now loving my coaching practice, my art practice, in the second year of an MSc in Creative Psychotherapy, and with some deeply meaningful friendships and better relations with my family.
Have you overcome fears by taking action?
I’d love to hear yours! Share in the comments… 🙂