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Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Paperback – May 8, 2015
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Now that we have that out of the way, I'd like to share my journey to the healing part of my panic disorder. Before I get into where the DARE book played its part, I liked to start from the beginning of the journey by saying that by the time I had turned 18, (last year), the anxiety and panic had calmed to a point where it wasn't a constant state anymore. (I will say though, if I found this book back then, it would’ve come to that point a lot sooner). This was probably due to me reuniting with some supportive friends, finding some new music groups and shows that I loved, and could get passionate about. Also, I am very sure that taking certain supplements (5-HTP, magnesium, vitamin D3, L-theanine) that a great doctor I was seeing recommended to me had also played a part in that as well. (Don’t sleep on supplements) However, although I felt better than the two previous years, I was still a slave to my anxiety and panic. It ruled me. I still only went out with friends once a month or less, I used those music groups and shows as a constant distraction and ended up neglecting school work. No matter how elated I felt that my anxiety was going down slowly but surely, it still was not moving quickly enough. I repeated 11th grade. I didn't do well the second time either. I just barely made it. I was just better enough to where I no longer appeared crazy or clearly ill, I just appeared lazy. Little did anyone know, these distractions were just keeping me sane enough. I wasn't really better. I just had worked my way out of one trap only to find myself tied up in a much less constricting trap, but constricting nonetheless. Coming from where I had previously been, I was honestly pretty happy about that for awhile--genuinely. I didn’t really notice how bad it still was. I just knew that I finally felt kind of normal again. It wasn't until shortly after I had turned 19 (a few months ago), that I came to realize that it wasn't normal enough. Panic attacks were still at least a weekly occurrence. The temporary cures were helping but they weren't cutting it. I noticed the fear was slowly creeping back in. If I wasn't actively searching for a cure, it was bound to get worse and end up sending me back into the downwards spiral of the place I had finally crawled my way out of. It was now or never.
Now here is where DARE comes in. Shortly after it occurred to me that I still was not cured of my anxiety and was only wearing a band-aid that would inevitably slip off at some point or another, I knew it was time for some real help. I'm 19, this is a crucial point in my life. I can’t be dealing with this. I needed an amazing fix if I was going to live the independent and anxiety free life I needed to survive in this world. I was running out of time. I was ready for a real cure. I needed one. In desperation, I came to Amazon and literally just typed "panic attacks" into the search bar. Yeah. I don't even read books. I didn't know what I was doing. But to my surprise, I saw a 5-star book that claimed to be just the cure I was looking for. I thought, "what? how could this book be a full 5-stars, people with anxiety are always so critical about cure claims, the reviews have gotta be fake". Upon reading some of the incredible reviews however, I became super intrigued--and desperate. I had nothing to lose but a couple of bucks and you can't really put a price tag on a potential cure for an anxiety-free life. When it arrived, I read the whole thing in two days. I could not put it down. I was too amazed with the contents and intrigued by this unheard of method of dealing with panic attacks in a way that never occurred to me after all of my searching. Even before I put the DARE method into practice, I had already felt like I'd won my life back. I felt elated just by reading the book and I was so excited to try it out and put it into action. It covers everything that you need to know. Every question I had along the way was answered as I kept reading on. I was even shocked to see that it covered the panic symptom of derealization in the detail that it had, as that is personally my most prominent panic attack symptom, and honestly, the scariest one of them all, in my opinion--which after reading the book, made me realize it was probably my fear of the derealization that caused it occur so often. I felt so relieved--and skeptical. It was too good to be true. That is, until I began putting the techniques into practice. I had already practiced some diffusing, "what if" techniques (the D step) with one of my many counselors, and while it helped slightly I knew this wasn't gonna be a cure. I still had anxiety. Allowing, (the A step) was one that I had struggled with for years and probably why my anxiety was so high all the time because I tried to refuse to let myself feel that way. I was so angry that I kept feeling that way. To feel any better, I had to learn to let the painfully uncomfortable symptoms join me--and what do you know, they were nicer when I didn't try to rudely kick them out. If only I had read the book sooner I would've known I was doing the complete opposite of what I should have been doing--which is a huge reason why I wasn’t getting better.. When I truly--emphasis on truly--allowed myself to feel the anxiety in it's entirety, that's when I started seeing it fade. I had every strange physical symptom in the book and then some. They were very intense. And I have to admit, sometimes the first two steps just weren't enough in the beginning. This is where my favorite part, the "run towards" step, (the R step) comes in. I love this step. It is the most effective for me personally and it's sometimes even fun to implement depending on how I do it. Demanding and asking for more/worsening of symptoms instead of thinking, "no God please not here, not now" works wonders I would've never thought possible. Of course I was hesitant as first, I thought, "what if they really do get worse and I get dizzy and pass out WHILE DRIVING OR SOMETHING?". One day I decided to let go and test it out and instead think, "so what, I'll pull over and even if I do pass out, so what, if I crash due to fainting I'll get my license taken away and I won't have to even worry about it anymore! So what? That sounds great, I hope the dizziness sticks around and maybe gets even worse. Give me your worst--I dare you." Of course it was sarcastic, but the reason the this step is my personal favorite is because you can do it in any way that works best for you. Implementing sarcasm and humor makes light of it all which personally does wonders. Making light of it and having fun with it while using the “run towards” step is just a really powerful part of diminishing panic symptoms for me because it ends up also putting me in a better mood and making me feel like I can handle anything with my attitude. I am always in control of my own attitude, therefore I felt in control of my anxiety. After the "R" step and getting everything out of it that you can, it makes it so much easier to ease into the "E" step which is engaging with life, or in others simply just continuing to live--continuing your life in the way that you normally would, anxiety or not. Letting it be present, but not-at-all affect the way you live or make any decisions for you, no matter how small. And hey, even if you feel more anxiety coming on just repeat all the DARE steps. Trust me, it’s gonna work.
The only way out is through--through the DARE response. If it works for me there's absolutely no way possible it won't work for you.
The DARE technique aside, I love the way this book completely crushes and dissolves any idea of "safe zones" and "safe people", and "crutches". (However I still think it's smart to always keep your cell phone and basic emergency stuff with you most places). I love the emphasis on making peace with your anxiety as if it was an enemy or bully that you decide to call a truce with. Almost as if you're treating your anxiety the way that you want to be treated. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit, but the more analogies the better. It's a very important concept that must be grasped. Being okay with having anxiety and welcoming it rather than fighting it is such a beyond simple concept that works miracles and the word needs to get out there. All of the other techniques out there need to take a hike, because they're just confusing people by throwing out unhelpful--but well meaning--methods into the mix and discouraging people when they end up feeling even worse. This is the method that is going to work and heal you completely if you stick with it. This is the method that needs to stand out from all of the other ones. This book clears everything right up. It will give you all the tools you will need and more.
One of the best parts, in my opinion, was when he described going through a very scary real life scenario, something I could never imagine happening to me. I love that it acknowledges that life out there really can be scary and sometimes panic is justified and not just random. Things happen. Life comes with a lot of constant worries and concerns. He even provided tools on how to deal with justifiable fear, worry and panic and it was very empowering. This whole book is empowering.
Another thing that I'm so glad he mentioned was how to deal with intrusive or obsessive thoughts and made it explicitly clear that most everyone has or has had them at some point and that it doesn't make you crazy--and more importantly, emphasizes that you're not a bad person because if you were, those crazy weird thoughts wouldn't bother you at all. I think that is a very important subject to acknowledge because it is something that I imagine many omit when seeing their counselor or anybody they vent about their struggles to. They might secretly think they are crazy and maybe feel ashamed and would never dare let anyone know what goes through their heads--and it is a very dark and dangerously self-destructive trap to fall into. The section on intrusive thoughts puts an end to thinking that you're crazy and provides again, some very useful, very fresh tools that will--if you practice--put an end to them in no time.
Towards the end of the book, it also touches on forgiving yourself for having anxiety and how important it is to truly love yourself so you don't subconsciously self-sabotage your own progress--something I am guilty of, and probably many others who don't even realize it. As silly as it sounds, practicing self-love as simple as just telling yourself, “I love myself,” everyday can rewire your brain out of the self-sabotaging state--something I still personally need to practice. When I say the book covers everything, I mean it--even touching on the importance of exercise, water-drinking and supplements to even humor and love. This book is everything you need and more to be well on your way to recovery. And while I don't discredit counseling and therapy--because I think venting and one-on-one therapy is still incredibly helpful to stay on track--this book has been the single most important aspect in my journey to healing, and I just wish I had found it sooner. If you have anxiety and don't go to counseling, at least read this book. And if you do, take this book with you and have your counselor help keep you on track with it. Have it be the basis for all of your counseling sessions. Heck, even suggest that they recommend it to their other patients, I know I have. Because the more the word is spread about this book, maybe the fewer cases of panic disorder we’ll see in this world, and if that isn't motivating, then I don't know what is.
I have been panic free since reading this book this past winter--and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. No fluff, this is the real stuff. Don’t half heartedly try variety of different anxiety techniques. Whole-heartedly put your all into this one. It’s so worth it. Trust me.
It completely changed my perspective on anxiety and even life. It's true--YOU are the cure. You just need the right tools. And this book is it. This book is my tool and I guard it with my life. Anxiety really does have some nice perks--when you go through it, you come out of it a stronger, wiser person and become more appreciative of the small things in life that other people don’t think twice about--for me, anyway. I also struggle with depression caused by my anxiety holding me back, so the less anxiety I have the less depressed I tend to feel--another perk. You only know true happiness when you've gone through true suffering. So be grateful for this opportunity.You'll probably find that you're much happier when you reach the light at the end of the tunnel than the people who have always been there, having never gone through a tunnel of their own.
Instead of fear passing out, having a heart attack, intrusive thoughts, and so on, demand them. Welcome them--and keep at it. You'll be surprised what a difference the simple DARE technique makes. You'll feel better and better the more you practice it, and soon you won't be thinking about any of that old anxiety stuff at all. And even if it decides to stop for a visit down the road, welcome it. Welcome every ounce of the discomfort and fear.
My personal advice to you is this: coming from the worst of the worst, I think everyone with anxiety, no matter mild or super-severe-nearly-bad-enough-to-be-hospitalized, you need this book. And keep in mind, I’m not a reader. This book has given me so much personal power and I can’t wait to continue to grow and keep growing. So keep your head up, keep things light-hearted and humorous, make friends with your anxiety, love yourself, and DARE on. It's only up from here.
Only by the grace of God did I stumble upon Barry McDonagh and the Panic Away program. I consumed every ounce of his information, and began to practice his techniques: 1. Say "so what is the worst that can happen?" 2. Fully and completely accept and allow the discomfort (NOT DANGER) or anxious feelings and thoughts 3. Face it down - dare it to do its worst and 4. Engage in another activity - dwell in the moment to reacclimate the brain.
Unlike many other programs, Barry's counter-intuitive approach of addressing our fears and anxiety head on forced me to deal with discomfort in a new way, and to prove to myself that I could push through anxiety and stretch out my boundaries. Anxiety is no longer something from which to "be cured," rather, it's a condition that I'm learning to welcome and live with, converting anxiety into excitement. Barry's approach is warm, intelligent, common sensical, and effective. No matter if you're a newbie like me, or have dealt with this for years, there's life change in this book.
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