Anxiety, fear and panic are part of my life. For many years I suffered panic attacks and crippling fear. I now have a very different relationship with anxiety.

In my therapy practice in Southampton and through my online therapy programs I help many people each week overcome anxiety disorders, learn to control and stop panic attacks and live without fear. I combine cognitive behavioural techniques with hypnotherapy*, problem solving therapy and acceptance & commitment therapy to help give my clients back control over their minds and bodies.

Today I want to tell my story. How my journey led me from anxiety sufferer to anxiety survivor and finally to anxiety treatment specialist.

I survived anxiety; my story

As a 16 year old fresh from leaving school I was confident and happy. I had a great group of friends, a good social life, a loving family, things were good.
I started as an apprentice in a high end hairdressers, which gave me a small but steady income. I spent my days surrounded by attractive older women and cool characters. I was fortunate and life was good.

Then one night my life changed dramatically. I had been clubbing in London with a group of friends and we were travelling back in a minibus. It was late and I was feeling tired. I’d been over indulging and was feeling pretty rotten but this wasn’t unusual, we used to push ourselves hard back then. Quite what was different that night I don’t know but I distinctly remember becoming aware that I felt short of breath. I turned to the girl next to me and said “I don’t feel good” and she replied “you look a bit off colour” and it happened, I had my first panic attack.
I began to struggle for breath, my heart pounded so hard I thought I was going to explode. My face and limbs tingled, I was petrified “what was happening to me?“. My friend helped calm me down and steadied me and the panic eventually passed but the fear didn’t. I was severely shaken.

Looking back now all the signs were there but I didn’t recognise them. I had been burning the candle at both ends for a long time and this was my trigger. Recognising the signs is one of the first things my clients learn in therapy. It works as a signal to interrupt their anxious patterns, a key skill my clients practice. Not all anxiety sufferers have the same trigger, some may not even know why they suffer anxiety but I know now that one of mine was fatigue.

10 years of fear

That night changed my life, it was the key moment that put me into a negative cycle of fear that lasted many years. Most days I suffered crippling anxiety.

In the early days it used to hit me most often at work. Loud noises, temperature changes, even throw away conversations would send me into an internal world of pain.
My senses would become distorted, my heart race, I would become flushed or sweat excessively. I felt utterly trapped by these frightening sensations and I had no idea what was happening to me or what to do. So I did what many of my clients report doing, I hid it. I pretended I was fine. I carried on like everything was OK. From the outside nothing had changed, I was still a happy, confident young man but inside I felt like I was dying. The only logical explanation I could find was “I am mentally ill and will lose my mind any day soon“. I believed this, I genuinely thought I was losing my mind and the more ‘funny 5 minutes’ I had the more I told myself this. I believed that any day soon I would snap, I would breakdown and be hospitalised, perhaps never regaining my mind or life.

I had become trapped in a never-ending cycle of anxiety.
For more than 10 years I suffered in silence, now and again I would hint to someone that my inner world was not all roses but I was too scared to confront my problems.
I avoided certain scenarios and ended up drinking more than I should have to cope in many social situations.

My walk toward freedom

The fear stayed with me through out most of my 20’s until one day I decided to talk about it to a girl I was seeing. She recognised some of what I described as the symptoms of anxiety. She told me she had experienced similar sensations and gave me a book that had helped her. Although it was a simple guide to understanding panic attacks it was my first break through moment. I learned about the fight or flight response and that no matter how terrifying panic can be it is harmless. No one has ever died from a panic attack. I learned in fact, that although much of what I experienced when anxious was uncomfortable it was quite natural.

This breakthrough began the next stage of my journey with anxiety. I still suffered, however the frequency and severity had decreased. I was beginning to feel more comfortable in my body. I stopped imagining myself being taken from my world and placed in care.
The space between attacks grew and my fear lessened. Yet I still had concerns that I might relapse, that I was weak.

The second breakthrough moment came one afternoon in Bournemouth. At this point my interest in the mind and in particular hypnosis had grown to the extent that I had enrolled in a hypnotherapy course with the intention of eventually working within the field. Myself and a class mate were practicing a mindfulness exercise.
Now, I had been finding the hypnosis exercises pretty difficult at this point. The reason for this was they provoked my fears about not being in control. I had concerns that hypnosis could somehow make me go ‘mad’. My lack of knowledge at that time had me buying into some of the more common myths that surround hypnosis. Contrary to my expectation the exercise was pretty relaxing. It involved placing my awareness upon my breathing and learning to relax more efficiently. Then came my lightbulb moment. My class mate read to me the following words “your thoughts are not facts, you are not your thoughts“.

In that moment I realised that much of what ‘I thought’ I had ‘believed’. I had thought I was going mad and so had believed I would. But it wasn’t true, I was safe, it was just a thought!

I overcame anxiety & so can you

Following the realisations I made, my mind set began to change. As I feared anxiety less, I became more curious about how it forms and most importantly how it can be overcome. I sort out the most heavily researched evidence-based approaches and began utilising them effectively with my clients in Southampton. Anxiety became the focus of my work and research.
Many of the most effective approaches available for overcoming anxiety and panic disorder are simple. They are skills based and once learned can give a person the confidence to take control of their experience. This is what I had done. I still notice some of the old feelings and thoughts from time to time, it’s natural to be anxious in certain situations but I react differently.

I no longer interpret the sensations or thoughts as dangerous, blow them out of proportion or fear the worst. I apply some basic relaxation, anti anxiety exercises and consider the thoughts that I am having. I note the consequences of those thoughts and choose my interpretation more wisely. These simple approaches allow me to live free from anxiety, fear and panic.

I no longer suffer.

I often discuss my anxious journey with clients. At their most anxious they say that it gives them hope, after all if I overcame anxiety so can they.
I even find myself being grateful for the many years I suffered as I believe it has helped me to be a better therapist, to understand anxiety more deeply than most.

Anxiety and me are now friends, we understand each other. I have even formed a career off the back of my anxious journey. I love my job and enjoy helping others overcome panic and fear.
So as I said at the top, anxiety is part of my life. However these days our relationship is very different.

Are you suffering with fear? Have you had a panic attack and don’t know what to do?

If you want to live free of anxiety book a free telephone consultation today. Sometimes just making a call can help.
*Hypnosis is not suitable for all clients and results vary person to person. All our programmes can be delivered effectively without the use of hypnosis.
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