My phobia issues emerged in my mid-30s which is probably a little later in life than the average phobia sufferer. Having come from a highly stressful job in the financial industry I was always confident that I could handle the pressure, the stress would not get to me and anxiety was something which I could control. I can trace the emergence of my phobia issues directly to health and financial problems which affected some of our wider family. Without going into too much detail this meant us having to support others in the short term thereby ramping up the stress levels within the home.
There came a point, after months of pushing myself to go to work, that one day I just sat on the side of the bed and explained to my wife that I literally couldn't go to work. It wasn't that I didn't want to go to work but the stresses, the strains and the growing anxiety about my complicated short-term family structure finally got to me. I rang work and explained to them that I was having panic attacks, struggling to get out of bed and would need to take some time off work to recover. My bosses could not have been more helpful, both financially and emotionally, even arranging for me to visit a cognitive therapist to address my issues.
I look back on this period of my life with a mixture of pride, pride that I got through it, and devastation that my phobia of leaving the home literally got the better of me. There was a moment when I attempted to go back to work, I knew in my heart of hearts it was too soon, and literally parked my car in the car park, walked into the office building but could go no further. I knew then that it would be difficult for me to go back to my current employment and I needed significantly more time to recover.
As I mentioned above, my employers picked up the tab for weekly therapist appointments which went on for a number of months. The therapist explained that my phobia and fear of fear was based on irrational thoughts and the simplest way he could explain it was that my "brain needed rewiring". He also showed me a number of breathing techniques, thought exercises and allowed me to discuss in great detail other issues which had perhaps been pushed to the back of my mind for many years. It soon became apparent that I was unable to go back to my current employment and when asked outright whether I would be going back I was honest and told them it would be difficult. We arranged a notice period for my employment and I will be forever grateful for their help.
During my most difficult time with phobias I literally had to run out over a supermarket because of an irrational fear which I could not identify, was forced to flee alone from a shopping centre and leave my wife to drive home with my older stepdaughter all the time focusing upon returning home which I saw as my "safe haven". I can also remember a long weekend in Spain with friends which started extremely well but towards the last 24 hours I could feel the first signs of panic attacks. It soon became obvious to everybody around me that I was struggling, that I needed to get home and even travel pills to help calm my nerves were not helping. The journey to the airport was horrendous crammed into a small minibus with no windows and a burning heat. After what seemed like an age, with traffic jam after traffic jam, we arrived at the airport and my next challenge. There is no way I could have boarded that plane without the help and support of my wife, to whom I am eternally grateful, constantly calming me down, talking to me and relaxing me.
It is difficult to say how and when my phobias faded but it was most certainly down to a mixture of breathing techniques, help from the therapist and above all the support of my family. I look back on those dark days with fear that one day they may come back but I am stronger, so much stronger, and feel more than able to battle back my fears when they dare to emerge. Have I beaten my phobias? Have they gone forever? They may well be lurking in the background, they may well emerge every now and again but I now have the ammunition to beat them back and get on with life. In many ways I now appreciate life more than ever because when you are in the middle of a panic attack and phobia issues the world seems like a very dark place with no escape. However, there is an escape, life does go on and talking/simple breathing and thought techniques will allow you to battle back your demons and put them back in the box. I'm one of many millions of people showing that there is a future after phobias and you can learn to enjoy life again.