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'So What' & other thoughts
towards recovery

Since we have posted the series of emails between Bronwyn and Lorrie in our article, 'So what is so good about CBT'? people have been emailing us with their 'So What' experiences and other stories on the path to recovery. As these are also motivating as well as discussing some of the more subtle aspects of the recovery process we have decided to dedicate a page to them.

If you have any 'So What' experiences or other observations about the recovery process that you would like included in this page you are welcome to email them to us at
[email protected]

SO WHAT...EVEN IN DREAMS!

Since panic attacks used to be a great part of my life, I would also find myself avoiding situations, even in my sleep! Yes, even in my dreams, I would find myself saying "no" and finding excuses. It was frustrating that I couldn't even find "freedom" as I rested. Now, that I have been using the "SO WHAT" attitude, I have NOT had a panic attack in almost 6 months! (I had suffered from attacks for 13 years/daily).

Last night in my dream, I was walking beside a brook. I was following behind my family as we approached a tall hill. I looked up at that hill and thought to myself, "This is a panic inducing situation" But I told myself, "SO WHAT" and trudged up that hill and found that my family was trailing behind me. They were gasping for air and I was standing at the top of the hill, looking down and shaking my head. "Boy, do they need to get in shape,... I have to stand around and wait for them!" I did not have a panic attack, nor did I flee at the thought of one.

After this dream, I reflected on what had happened. I have come to the point in my life, where I have found peace whithin myself. I have been released from my prison. Like a dove, taking off from the confines of a cage, I have been finding wings, that I have never known existed. I do not even recognise myself. I am a new person. I want to see the whole world. I entertain ideas to climb Everest. I dare to dream again. I have never been happier in my life.

May we all find our wings!

and NOT FIGHTING PANIC!

I just want to say,.. How much I really appreciate this website... I have found more truth and light in your website, then I have found in several books on anxiety/panic attacks combined! You are definitly right about not "fighting panic".. It was only when I finally told myself "so what if I have a panic attack" or even so much as "so what if I die from this" (panic)..that I have been able to to start living again... ...If only others out there could grasp this light at the end of the tunnel... keep up the good work on this website... you are helping people to start living again...

and INSOMMIA

I have also learned that the "SO WHAT" attitude can be applied to other areas... INSOMNIA ... my husband lays awake at night worrying about whether he will get enough sleep before the alarm goes off... this type of worrying will get him all anxious..which in return..keeps him up.... So what I do, is tell him to stop worrying about his lack of sleep,...and SO WHAT if he don't fall asleep.... just stop worrying about it... if sleep happens..then thats great...if it don't..then... OH WELL! .... well,... he ends up snoring the rest of the night!!... which goes to prove... If you don't feed anxious thoughts with "what if's"..then there is nothing to fuel! which in return,... a peace of mind!

and WHEN STRESSED

Thank you for your help. I read your e-mail this morning and it was like a lightbulb finally coming on. Looking at the anxiety disorder and attacks as a way our bodies tell us that we have done more than enough and it is time to take a break and get back on track was like saying, "Duh!" Of course it is. LOL!!! I have had check ups by several doctors and have had numerous EKG, echocardiogram,...and just my annual physical. I have been told every time that I am healthy. I just couldn't seem to accept it. Even though I have actually seen my own heart working. That was amazing. My symptom is skipped heart beats. But, I had those before my anxiety disorder. It is amazing how stress and our thoughts can cause such havoc. Anyway...thank for your help. This web site and your book has helped me more in the last 4 months than any doctor has been able to. thank you again.

and ON HOLIDAYS

I just had to write to tell you about how the "so what" method has been radically changing my life. I have just returned home from a vacation to San Antonio TX with my family. This is the first time in YEARS that my family has enjoyed a vacation. Due to my debilitating panic attacks, I had found every excuse imaginable to cancel out. Now because of the "so what" attitude, I have been able to travel more than two hundred miles away from my home, ride in the car for miles through a major thunderstorm, walk for hours with my children through Fiesta Texas amusement park. Ride the roller coasters and stand in the lines. I was also able to do a tour of a local cave and walk the two miles under ground. This tour consisted of climbing hills, a crowd, high humidity and weak amount of oxygen at the end of the cave. The only way out of the cave was the way that we came in! Believe me, all this was a definite (past experience) cause for panic! ... But guess what, NOT ONCE did I even experience a single panic attack! All because I had told myself "SO WHAT!" I did not have one single panic attack! not one, not even close to one! I just had to let you know this!

and IN EVERYDAY LIFE

My husband asked me the other day if I was still having panic attacks! (He thinks that I stopped having them) I had to patiently explain to him that I don't have them that often anymore...but if I did,..then SO WHAT... they don't kill me... I have wasted too many years on "false alarms"... Now I am going to spend the rest of my life, making up for the years I have lost, in avoiding travel, vacations and being away from home! NOW my husband thinks that I am having severe panic attacks again, because I have been reading from this website...Little does he know, that I visit this site, because It brings me encouragment to see how other's have benefited from the "SO WHAT" method.... it really works...its not a trick or anything... Panic attacks are just uncomfortable feelings and thats it... As far as I'm concerned...I can accept having them (panic attacks) everyday for the rest of my life,..But I will not let them interefere with my everyday life anymore...life is too short...the benefit that I have found from this thinking..is the fringe benefit: LESS PANIC!.. my own family thinks that I am cured... they just don't know when I am having them anymore... whenever I get that scarry feeling...I tell myself SO WHAT! in a way,..I agree with my family,..that I am cured..but I know that in reality,..that when I am stressed out, I am more likely to have a panic attack... but to be honest...I don't dread them anymore... all because,...if I have one, then I have one...and if I don't..then I don't! Thank you for this wonderful website!

OTHER THOUGHTS

I'm J & I've written to you with my updates over the past 12-18 months, and I figure it's time for another one. On Thursday the 11th I completed my final exam of my Bachelor of Business Marketing. I am the happiest person alive. I'm the last in my family to get a degree and with the anxiety (panic attacks) I USED to suffer from, my family & friends are very happy for me.

Since having my first PA in may 96, I have come a long way. I went and saw a Physchiatrist and he basically condemed me to a life of anxiety,. I was furious with him, refused to make another appointment and stormed out a very angry man. I vowed from that day on to prove that guy wrong. I thank god for that day now, the burning desire I had not to accept any word he said, has surely helped me. I knew that it was up to me, & not up to what he tried to condemn me.

Since then I found out about Bronwyn and PAEMS and boy how live changes. Went to your seminar in Brunswick early 98 (i think) and again later that year. Well as you know I've had great improvement since then and have been FREE for quite a while now.

I just want to tell you & others, that no matter what anyone says, your destiny is in your hands. I want my good fortune of success to inspire others with anxiety. I went and did a degree and used the very thing that was scaring the life out of me, to do it - my mind. A little courage, character & perserverance and you can achieve anything. You are only limited by your own beliefs.

(I hope it doesn't sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, I not, I'm just very proud of myself)

As you said anxiety & PA's can be beaten, and I am yet another number to add to your statistics. I might have an attack in one minute, one week, month, year or anytime, but so what?, so what? It doesn't effect my life anymore than a headache effects my brother. My life is certainly better for having gone through PA and meeting you & your program.

IS IT NECESSARY TO CONQUER EVERY FEAR WE FEEL FOR RECOVERY?

As someone who has had panic disorder for the last 8 years and wants to recover so badly, I have been choosing to put myself in situations in which I feel panicky, to practice my cognitive skills. I have just returned from a family holiday to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. It took a lot of courage for me to undertake this trip as I developed a fear of flying a few years ago. It was hard to encourage and talk myself into boarding the plane especially as we had to change planes on route, but I did it. That was because, this is a fear I am choosing to overcome. I want to see more of the world and to achieve that I want to be more comfortable with flying.

One thing I learnt on the flights is that my fear of going insane or becoming hysterical and needing to be tranquilized isn't going to happen. The worst that happens is that I feel very anxious. I am able to see those fears as catastrophic misinterpretations of my bodily feelings and I am able to let those thoughts go and even get angry with them and tell them where to go.

However, it isn't as easy to lose the fear of the plane crashing because although that is an extremely remote possibility, it could in fact happen. But do I have to completely lose that fear or can I just be like many other travelers who acknowledge they do have those concerns. To me it is a more logical fear so it isn't as easy to dismiss. The only thing I feel I can do in this case is to remind myself that the risk is very, very small and that I am safer in the airplane than I am driving on the roads and that I choose to drive every day. I am beginning to see it as a fear I need to accept if I am to lead the life I want to live. I don't need to be completely fear free.While I was away, I was able to pinpoint other fears I had that I am not always aware of because I don't come into contact with them that much. One that surfaced was a fear of heights. We stayed in an apartment on the 11th floor and the first time I went out onto the balcony I felt very scared. As the fears flooded in I thought about demanding a change of accommodation but decided that this was also a fear I wanted to overcome. I managed to stay with the fear and let any catastrophic thoughts go, as I basically knew I was safe and that nothing was going to happen to me.

To also overcome this fear of heights I decided to take a trip on the chairlift at one of the theme parks we visited. I was terrified but did it. As my fear of the chairlift still hadn't come down, I decided to go on it again a few days later. I now think that was a very cruel thing to do to myself. I was very frightened, sat in the flimsy chairlift. The bar that was supposed to hold us in didn't have a lock and just rested loosely with nothing to stop it being knocked out of position. I was concerned that my youngest child (aged 5) who was in the chair ahead of us, with her older sister, might dislodge hers. This chairlift went agonizingly slow and my fear was still very high. Then the chairlift stopped for 5 minutes, not good for a panic person! LOL I thought my heart would jump out of my chest, but it didn't. I worried I would faint and slip out, but I didn't and I had the thought it might get too much and I would jump but again deep down I knew I wouldn't. However, hanging there with the chair swaying in the breeze was a terrifying experience for someone who has a fear of heights. After I came off I thought about whether this is a fear I NEED to overcome. Do I need to be able to go on chairlifts, rollercoasters or ferris wheels to recover from a panic disorder? Will my life be lacking if I choose not to lose this aspect of my fear of heights? After discussing this with Bronwyn I feel this isn't a fear I need to conquer. Many people without panic disorders choose not to subject themselves to these experiences. They are suppose to be a recreational fun thing but it could take hours of terror for me to habituate myself to them. They aren't something you can slowly habituate to as once on, you are trapped for the duration of the ride. It is not as if we can choose one rotation of the ferris wheel and then decide to get off. Also being mechanical they do on occasions stop or breakdown thus causing more distress than we bargained for.

So in future I am going to pick the fears I want to overcome. I will choose to address those that hinder my enjoyment of life. I am not striving to be fearless of every experience. If that were the case I would need to be willing to skydive or take a trip into space and there are many people who don't consider themselves anxious who would know that was too far beyond their comfort zone. There is a limit to what I feel I need to subject myself to in the name of recovery. But recover I will!!!!

S


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