"I was a stone thrown in the Waters of Fear, to be reshaped!"

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Unconsciously, fearful thinking has always been present in my life. I have been writing a diary since I was 13. A decade later, when for the first time I started to encounter panic attacks, I began reading my old diaries. I was shocked to discover that even as a 13 years old girl, fear was so dominant in me. The only difference was that in the past I was just afraid, without experiencing many physical manifestations.

In the of Summer 2003, just after my last exam at University, I started feeling really bad; tiredness, dizziness, and breathing difficulties. After a couple of days, my breathing got even worse and I felt as though my heart was going to leap out of my chest. My family took me to a hospital, where they gave me a sedative injection and discharged me. Doctors opinion: she is upset!

On the surface, I didn’t feel upset. However, my inner balance was seriously shaken. Within my mind, I was focused on my future and I was devastated. Since the age of 10, I have suffered from muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle disease that eventually would take away my ability to walk. The image I created about my life, after graduating was an isolated life of a disabled person. I couldn’t see any bright future for myself and that was killing me from the inside.   Yet, at that moment I was not really aware of the impact of my thoughts on my mental health. I was focused on the physical symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, tachycardia, which I experienced on an everyday basis. Only after undergoing medical examinations that confirmed that physically all was ok with me, did I know that what I was experiencing was at a psychological level.

Back then anxiety was not talked about as much as it is these days and there was no internet available to research further what was happening to me. I started using sedatives such as diazepam (Valium), which helped me for a short period of time. However, then the anxiety returned and hit me much more intensely. I started experiencing panic attacks several times per day accompanied with signs of social phobia. Simply, I couldn’t cope with being around people, even my closest family, let alone to go out or attend events.

After one year of real struggle, I stopped with all medications and started with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I learned techniques which helped me to get through the days easier, to relax and face my regular anxiety and panic attacks. For me, this was the beginning of a long recovery process.

Slowly, things started changing. In the beginning, for me it was a real success if I could spend a day without having a panic attack. I often experienced anxiety symptoms, and insecurity was following me everywhere. However, I started noticing that I was beginning to have moments when it felt good to be in my own skin. As time was passing by, I was getting stronger and stronger and freer to be active during the days. Periodically, I was experiencing regressions, periods when my energy was going down again, and I felt more anxious; however, they were less common and lasted shorter. I kept using my techniques. Over time, my focus on anxiety decreased, and hence it began slowly to disappear.

“Fear cannot be defeated. Fear can only be accepted as part of us. When we are accepting the fear, we stop being so focused on it, and by doing that, the fear itself and its symptoms start fading away.”

Later, with the internet available, I continued my research to better understand the reasons for the appearance of anxiety in our lives and how we can help ourselves and others when we experience it.

Symbolically speaking, anxiety is an overflowed glass. I started emptying my glass, drop by drop, just the same way as I had overfilled it before. Although during the periods of great anxiety I had no power to think about it, from today's perspective (15 years later), the occurrence of anxiety in my life had a critical and constructive role. During my early years, I adopted a destructive thinking pattern, where my main goal was survival, not really living. My experience with anxiety made me slowly change my attitude towards life, firstly to help myself in my suffering and later because simply it felt good. It brought me peace and freedom in my mind and soul and completely changed my life, both inside and out. Instead of an isolated life, I allowed myself, with my power wheelchair, to visit many places in this magnificent world; to do the work that I love; completely alone to move and study in the big city; to fall in love, to love and be loved. Simply, I allowed myself to Live instead of only Survive.

Each day, I keep on choosing LOVE and saying YES to life, even when I Fear!

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