Below are a collection of anxiety success stories from people I have helped over the years. Nothing has been changed in any way; these are real stories from real people and are just a tiny percentage of the people who get in touch with me each year to tell me how well they are doing. These are not testimonials; they have been placed here to encourage others.
Madalina’s anxiety success story
Andrews Story of recovery from anxiety and depersonalisation
I’m a 29-year-old man, married with two young children working as a teacher at a fantastic independent school in Australia. My first contact with anxiety came about four years ago during a whirlwind period of my life. Within the space of just a couple of months, I had lost my job, found a new one, got married, sold a house, bought a new one and travelled half the world.
Although many of these are seemingly positive things, the stress that they brought was unexpected and overpowering. In the lead up to the wedding, I had started to feel strange – my appetite had waned, I felt disconnected from the world and had a sense of constant doom. The most horrible aspect of this state came when my wife walked down the aisle. I knew that I was happy, and I knew that I loved her; however, the emotions would not come. I stood there feeling like an empty shell, my body refusing to let me truly feel what I knew was deep inside.
This moment terrified me and sent me straight into the anxiety loop in a sudden and terrifying way. I became obsessed with my emotions and appetite (or lack thereof) and spent hours every day on the Internet hunting for answers. During my endless search for a diagnosis and cure, I look back now and scoff at what I put my mind and body through while attempting to find a cure for how I felt.
Here is my embarrassingly long list of “cures” that I tried. I truly believed at the time that every single one would be my final answer.
Two gastroenterologists – Proton pump inhibitors- Going gluten-free- St John’s wort supplements- Fish oil supplements- A range of different vitamins and minerals- Alcohol free- Coffee free- Vigorous exercise programs- 3 general practitioners- 2 psychologists- 2 different SSRIs- Paid Internet programs – Meditation programs- approximately 10 thousand hours spent on the internet researching.
I’m sure that there are many more things that could be added to that long list. All I know is that I still spent most of that time walking around in a state of deep depersonalisation, lost in my own mind. I was numb to all emotion; my mind was bombarding me with irrational, repetitive scary thoughts from the moment I woke up to the moment I slept. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in something like The Matrix, that I was real and everybody else was fake. When I started Sertraline, I began obsessively thinking about how much I was obsessively thinking – what a brutal cycle to be stuck in!
I then found your book ‘At last a life’ by chance, wasting my time obsessively hunting around a depersonalisation blog. The person who recommended it had said that it’s no quick fix but that your book had saved their life. I read a Kindle promo and decided to purchase At Last a Life.
Your book was both the best and worst thing for me at the same time when I first read it. The best in that it felt like you were speaking directly to me. Your accounts of depersonalisation were unlike anything I had ever read or been told. Your words explained my experience so perfectly that I couldn’t stop reading.
A nagging part of my mind started to say things like “he doesn’t mention the total lack of appetite, this is something different”, however, it was not enough to stop me reading the whole book in one sitting and once again over the next few days. I was totally enthralled by this new way of thinking.
It seemed too obvious that I felt stupid for not having thought of it myself. So what was the bad side to this? It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t a silver bullet. It was a slow, painful and required me to actually accept that there was no quick fix. However, after finishing your book, I actually immediately felt a bit better. I had a new outlook, and now finally, there was hope.
It took several months and re-reads of certain chapters, but your approach worked. I changed my mindset and began to embrace my symptoms as a sign of healing rather than my enemy, although my biggest mistake was trying to hang on to the wins and trying to shake the setbacks off too forcefully.
Things got a lot better as I started to speak to my mind as if it was a person, saying things like “whatever you serve up today I’m still going to get everything done, just so you know” and “You can mask my feelings and make me feel disconnected if you like, I understand that you’re just trying to protect me from myself”. I had some big setbacks; however, I continued to do my best just to live.
I knew that things were dramatically improving at the birth of my daughter, a few months after I had first read your book. When my wife and I held her for the first time, I cried. And I mean, really cried. I think a lot more came out than just the elation of her birth and it felt incredible. The photos from that moment are pretty embarrassing; however, I think they show that the real me was always in there just waiting to be let out. My wife was overwhelmed too – I had shared all of my anxiety experience with her over the years, and she saw in that moment a man who was starting to truly heal.
Part of the reason why I write to you now is because of a setback I had a couple of months ago. The birth of my second child was a really traumatic experience. His heart rate plummeted in the late stages of labour and both he and my wife were suddenly at risk as the midwife hit the emergency button and numerous doctors rushed in to try and save him. As I sat there, trying not to vomit, my wife looked at me. I immediately tried to squash down everything I felt so as not to frighten her.
My son was then born ten minutes later, and all was well; however, the humongous stress had really knocked me. I spent the next two weeks on edge, irritable and, once again, feeling detached and disengaged. As I write this, it has been two weeks since I finished reading both books again for the first time in 2 years and I am so glad I did.
Your words showed me that I had been letting the anxiety back in by feeding it. I had started to fuel the flames without even meaning to. Since that moment of realisation, I have really been able to let go and actually deal with the stress of the birth and I am already feeling completely back to normal.
I had thought that I had beaten anxiety; however, this recent experience really reaffirmed that fact that it is not something to be defeated at all. It will always find its way back into my life if I drive it there with my own thoughts and actions. I thought that I already knew this, however now it is so clear that I’m almost ashamed that I let it back in so easily after a traumatic event. The fact that I have bounced back this quickly is, however, a massive win. Had I not had my prior experiences I’m sure that such a stressful event would have sent me straight back down the rabbit hole. Re-reading your books prevented that very quickly.
Paul, I would just like to say thank you. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over these last few weeks and I can honestly say that your work has been the only thing for me to truly credit with my recovery.
Of course, diet and exercise are important; however, I now run because I enjoy it (currently training for my first half marathon) and I eat well for my health and wellbeing, not as some magic cure.
Each time I have had a setback, it has been your words that have pushed me back onto the correct path. I now look back on myself from those dark days and wonder how I ever let that happen to me. That person from 2 years ago is a stranger to me now and I have you to thank.
As a teacher, I find great fulfilment in making a change in people’s lives every day and you should feel exactly the same way. Your work has given my wife back her husband and my children the father that they deserve and there is no greater compliment I can give to you than that.
Thank you so much. Kind regards, Andrew.
Maria’s Story on overcoming anxiety
Hi, I just wanted to come here and tell my story of the new attitude I have learnt and how much progress I have made.
I have progressed from experiencing anxiety every day, thick depersonalisation, unrelenting fear and wandering thoughts that had to do with everything and anything, to a new me. After some time it comes off in layers. Of course, your perception is stuck on you for a while, but it makes too much sense even to question, as all you have been doing is noticing and fearing everything that’s been going on.
Anyway, the main thing we have to keep in mind that I got out of Paul’s book and found to be the most helpful in understanding that, in order to get better, it is VITAL to feel terrible… Feeling awful, whether it be anxiety, depersonalisation or panic, is the key to overcoming all of this. It is necessary that we fully experience it. Sounds weird, but when you are trying to get over anxiety, it is the ANXIETY you are feeling that is going to help you overcome these issues. We need to look at it as the friend that it is to us in this process rather than the enemy we fear so much.
Without feeling the anxiety, how are we going to show ourselves that it is not a threat anymore? Whenever the anxiety comes, we go “Oh my God it’s happening again, no, I’m scared” Well, that is telling us it is a threat, and if we even feel a tiny bit of it, we are going to feel threatened. Of course, these triggers are going to make us feel anxious and bring on all the issues again because the triggers ignite that reaction we have had to anxiety for so long, which is nothing but attention, fear, and panic.
WE HAVE TO TEACH OURSELVES TO CHANGE OUR REACTION TO ANXIETY.
To implement this, weMUSTfeel the anxiety; the anxietyHASto be there to change our mentality. We have to teach ourselves to have a different reaction WHILEwe are experiencing these feelings. We give the emotions so much power that even the slightest trigger can bring them back up to the point where the cycle starts again. But when we change our reaction to the issues we are dealing with, over time, we learn to respond to them differently, and we take their power away.
In my road to recovery, every time I felt anxiety, fear, panic,DPor intense thoughts, I would almost be happy about it. Here is my chance to change this cycle,RIGHT NOW!! With these feelings, I can reverse this thing, as I accept these feelings, I am changing my reaction to them, which takes their power away. I am going to sit back and let them come and let them make me feel, however, I feel. If anything, I would want them to stay for as long as they wanted to.
The longer the feelings stayed with me, the longer I had the opportunity to teach myself that these are not a threat and I don’t have to feel threatened. Over time, I taught my mind to react to these feelings this way, rather than “oh my God, I’m so scared. What is wrong with me? I’m never going to get out of this. I must fix it” Of course you feel uncomfortable still, but it’s almost like you learn to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable…
It truly is a process. You have to train your mind to think differently, and in time it will react differently to these feelings, rather than with fear and frustration, the very things that keep them coming. The most important message I got out of this book was the desire for the anxiety to be there, as it was the only way to make progress with this. What Paul teaches makes so much sense to me now.
Before I viewed anxiety and everything that came with it as the thickest terror of the world and when it had its hold on me, I just felt helpless. Now, through this book, I look at it as almost a teacher who is on my side and wants me to succeed, as whenever it’s around, that is when I have the opportunity to grow.
So remember “Anxiety is not a disease; therefore, it needs no cure”.
Rochelle’s Story of recovery from anxiety
I just wanted to start by saying that your book saved my life. I cannot thank you enough for all of the information. I suffered from anxiety and severe depression after the birth of my son on July 7, 2014. I came home the following day with my baby and that night suffered from what I know now is a panic attack, and thus my anxiety began. I had every symptom in your book and no answers.
I had no idea what was going on. I thought I had a heart attack or something else horrible was happening to me. I ended up in the emergency room, and after 5 hours of painful tests, I was told that I was OK, which left me even more bewildered.
I went home and began thinking about what could be wrong with me? What had happened to me? And it started happening again and again because I kept fearing another episode. I thought for sure I had postpartum psychosis or some other type of postpartum problem.
I visited many doctors, with no answers. They all just looked at me and wondered why I was so agitated. They kept trying to force pills that did not help. I stayed away from my son and could not even be around him because I had such disturbing thoughts that I might hurt him or myself.
I was back into the emergency room because I knew for sure something was terribly wrong. Barely missing being admitted into a ‘mental’ hospital, I was sent home again to try and get better. I slowly began to slip into depression, stopped caring about what I looked like, stopped eating, no longer slept and all because my brain would not stop searching for the answer to this new found problem.
I tried to explain what I was going through to my husband, but he had no idea, nobody understood. I was alone trying to fight my way out of this hell. I figured I would end up in a being carted off somewhere, never to see my family again. But I began to research what this could be and stumbled upon your site online, and then your book.
At the time, my anxiety was so severe that I could hardly read the book or talk, never mind hold a conversation. But eventually, I started to read, and finally, I had found the answers to all the questions my mind was seeking. It all began to make sense, and I just gave up the fight, it was very challenging to do so, but I did it. Initially, I still had many, many bad days, thinking I will be stuck in this hell forever.
Then I began to have moments where my mind went quiet. The advice in your book really started to help, and I was so relieved that I had some relief from the way I was feeling. I then realised that the anxiety was there to help me, a friend that would force me to stop the worry and the stress. It was my wake up call to change. I realised at this point how much of my suffering I was creating.
I had to read your book many times to let the information really sink in, but slowly, very slowly, my mind began to reverse these habits I had created. It is early days, and although I don’t feel I’m 100% recovered, I know that full recovery is just around the corner.
I can now do all of the things I could do before, including taking care of my son. I found myself smiling on the days where it was impossible and never gave up. I realise now how precious life is and how important friends and family are.
Though I can say I hope I never reach that place again, I know that I can get through it and because of it, I am a better person. I also now realise how important your health is.
The most important point I took from you was to get on with your life and take the anxiety with you, and boy is it the hardest thing to do because all my anxiety wanted me to do was stay in bed.
To others that are suffering from anxiety, you will get through it. And believe me, I was one who thought “yeah right,” I’m going to be like this forever, my life is over.
But just let go of the fight, let your body heal itself and never give up, there is so much to live for. Thank you so much, Paul, for all of the information you provide, I truly thought I wouldn’t make it out of that hell and was ready to give up.
But thankfully I did not, and I thank you and God every day for that. I hope this helps provide hope to someone as all of their success stories did for me.
How Samantha overcame her anxiety
Hi, I’m 21 and a 4th year nursing student. I suffered an anxiety attack in April of 2008 and went down the road of deep thinking and constant worry about how I was feeling, which left me with constant anxiety and feelings of depersonalisation.
I found Paul’s writings in the summer and started making real progress from then on. Initially, it took a while to understand the information and truly apply it to my life, but when I did, I began to see huge changes.
I just want to say that my anxiety left me layer by layer. I want to tell you all, or reassure you all, that it is TRULY a process and there is no quick fix.
The key is toLIVEas normal as possible and focus on outsideOUTWARD tasks like reading, exercising and socialising. This stops the constant inward thinking of your condition and gives the mind the break it needs. As I applied this behaviour, I noticed moments of normality that kept adding up as the days passed!!!!
It was just a matter of keeping my mind busy and focusing on outward tasks rather than me. This does not mean I ran around frantically doing things to forget my anxiety as this would be running away. No, if it’s there, it’s there.
Everyone worries that they may be the only one who doesn’t recover. It is part of the self-doubt that we all have when suffering. But keep following Paul’s advice. Live your normal life alongside anxiety, accept the thoughts and let them be in the background. Try not to analyse them (it takes practice I know – but small steps at first) and face any fears that you may have and try not to fall into avoidance behaviours.
Do not avoid doing things and going to places that you would have done before the anxiety, even if you feel strange or anxious. You are changing old behaviours and to do this, you need to step out of old routines and comfort zones. Growth isn’t always easy and it isn’t always comfortable, but the rewards are so worth it.
I also now understand that if I do TRY to feel better, then it is actually causing me to care about how I am feeling, which causes the worry and obsessing habit to return. It’s that basic need to be in control that holds us back
I promise you Paul’s method works; it has been a lifesaver for me. I truly hope my story encourages other people.
Shirley’s Story of freedom from anxiety
I truly understand the message about not trying to care or fix how I feel constantly.
Think of it this way. An example: my mom has no anxiety whatsoever. She is happy 95% of the time. She doesn’t have things better than anyone else. She just does a few things every day and is content with those few small things. BUT SHE IS NEVER THINKING OF WAYS TO FEEL GOOD, NEVER. It doesn’t cross her mind.
She doesn’t think “Oh, what can I do that will make me feel happy?” No. “Oh, maybe this subconscious conditioning CD will help me feel good.” No. “Oh, maybe I can make my life better by thinking about X.” No. Instead, she wakes up and says, “I’ve got to go and meet some people from my women’s group at church. I’ve got to get groceries. I’m going to make some coffee. I should try and find something my daughter will like at the thrift store. I should write a letter to Aunt Sheryl, Kelly, David. I should read the newspaper. I should go for a walk”. She’s just not thinking about herself.
My uncle had depression and anxiety and has been going to a psychiatrist for 30 years. When I talked to him about it, he still has it! I wish I could tell him that he is doing the wrong thing, but who is going to listen to a 23-year-old punk kid, right?
Anyway, the message is: happy people are out doing things. They are doing things with people. They are not thinking existential crap all day like me. They are not thinking and obsessing about themselves the way I have been.
We get out of this trap by allowing all the thoughts to be there until our mind is just so sick of them that we finally find other stuff to occupy ourselves with.
I now go to the bookstore every day, the mall every other day, talk to friends, read funny stuff online, watch silly movies, go to church, call relatives, go to the used record store, bike ride.
I just kept on living this horrible nightmare, and now my symptoms are almost entirely gone. They are gone because I said: “YES, IT IS A NIGHTMARE, and I DON’T CARE. DO YOUR WORST; I’m NOT GONNA GIVE UP.” Now every day is great, except for small periods of strangeness, but, hey, again ‘So what!’
In a certain sense, I have always been a bit of a worrier and used to freak myself out that I had every illness in the world. My biggest fear was (like many) going mad or “losing my mind”. Well, this site and Paul’s book has been a wonderful help to me, and it’s only been TWO days since I read the book.
I suffered a very tragic loss on Oct 07 (stillbirth at 25 weeks), and it tore my reality apart. I went into tremendous shock and was so upset that what I was feeling was happening to me, to ME!!!The world terrified the holy crap out of me, and I had no idea who/what/where/how I was.
Somehow I held it together, after so much falling apart it didn’t seem possible. Anxiety was HUGEat the start; I had no idea what was happening to me at all.
I was terrified I was going to get postnatal depression/postnatal psychosis (because others did) etc. etc. I convinced myself at one stage that I had it and, of course, cue the scary thoughts which fuelled that belief and I ended up in a huge mess.
We moved house and I went back to work, which lifted my spirits for a few weeks, but I felt the down-ness coming back again, and then all the symptoms seem to return. The feelings and scary thoughts got SObad that I honestly thought that day I was having a nervous breakdown.
The scary thoughts were the worst for me. I was convinced I could do some harm to my partner – so bad that I was terrified of my kitchen knives (ALL BECAUSE OF ONE THOUGHT) and because I pondered and utterly obsessed about that thought. I was even more convinced that I had postnatal depression which made me worse and so it went on and on -cycles of anxiety, fear, sadness, adrenalin, frayed nerves…unable to sleep. I was utterly EXHAUSTEDphysically and mentally!!!
How I continued going to work, I will never know. I was going around like a ghost, like a shell; it was awful. I was beating myself up constantly because ISHOULD have been feeling better.
Believe me; I am a true information gatherer and, of course, like many of us, convinced myself that I had every symptom, disorder etc. The number of times I asked my partner if he thought I had this or that. No amount of convincing would appease me.
Then I found Paul! And I finally realised what was causing all of this. Yes, I went through a terrible trauma. Of course, my poor mind and body wanted and needed to shut down. But did I give it the break it deserved and needed…NO!Of course, I didn’t, I thrashed it constantly, worrying and stressing even more. Now I finally realise where the bodily feelings come from and why I was getting worse and not better.
I have learned that no matter what I feel, it’s okay and that was key to me recovering.
I would have the attitude of:
Whatever I am feeling, I am feeling, and that’s okay. If I experience depersonalisation, then is it any wonder? My mind is tired and shut off and needs a break, so it’s okay.
If my stomach churns, then that’s okay too, just sensitised nerves.
My mind has developed a habit, and my memory believes that somehow I’m not safe – that’s okay too – habits take time to change. It’s all part of it.
If my hands shake, sure, that’s okay too, my nerves are a little fraught at the minute, nothing happens overnight.
Scary thoughts – I’ve learned a lot from this one… I didn’t believe that if I just followed Paul’s advice when the thoughts came, it would work. Believe me; I’m a sceptic when it comes to ME!… It worked.
When they came, I let them in, watched them bounce around in there, let them have a stretch and roar and shout if they wished, they were just forms of energy needing an outlet, they held no importance.
Let the thought in, pay it no attention. Give it space and time and let it run alongside your day. I didn’t believe it would work, but it did. Without me giving them attention or belief, without me adding fuel to them, they just began to weaken and eventually fade away.
Old thoughts that used to torment me may still pop up now, but they don’t mean anything anymore. I just see it as a little bit of old subconscious energy needing to escape. I just think, ‘oh I haven’t thought that in a while’. Then it comes back, and I do the same all over again: “come on in, take your time, leave as and when you wish’ they hardly get any attention from me, their presence really is no concern of mine anymore.
The finish the best advice I can give with anxiety is; Don’t “try” to let it go, don’t try and force it away and don’t try to make yourself feel better but invite every bit of it in. Live it, experience it, realise that it’s all a part of what you are going through. Don’t wage some kind of war against anxiety; this battle with myself is what kept me stuck for so long, it just created more of what I was trying to get rid of.
My recovery did take time, and I did have to educate myself, but through understanding and perseverance, I was able to fully come through this period of my life. I believe we can all come through, just as Paul and many others have. It just takes an understanding of what is keeping us in the loop, and then we can finally find a way out.
Dan’s story of being free of anxiety
First of all, a small caveat, by “success”, since this is part of a success stories page, I mean I know I have found the way to recover from anxiety and know it works.
So, my story. A few years ago, I overworked my mind with a combination of things- working long hours, worrying and overthinking. I can be particularly bad at ruminating. I took this to the point of triggering anxiety symptoms.
Once they had appeared- constant feelings of anxiety, tight band around my head, tight chest, disturbed sleep, panic- I then made the classic mistake of worrying about them constantly. Thus I entered what I now know to be the anxiety cycle.
My recovery began with a combination of three things: I was given a low dose of Prozac, which I have found helped a little. I know there are mixed views on medication, but I found it helped take the edge off the feelings and give me the space to put in place a way to recover properly. I also found mindfulness helpful and, thanks to a friend I am ever grateful to, finally discovering Paul’s book.
When I read Paul’s book back in 2014, I knew it was the answer. For the first time- despite frequent visits to the doctor and CBT sessions (which did help in their own way)- I had both an answer on what was wrong and a way to get better that made total sense to me.
Over the next couple of months, I put in place Paul’s methods and got back to full health. I first got back to work, moved to a new exciting job, got married and have mainly been anxiety free since.
I have, like most people, had the occasional blip, probably most notably while unsuccessfully trying to taper off my medication, but I know I have achieved success in two ways: 1) I have found the one route to being free of anxiety that I believe in, 2) I know that for me it works.
Like many things, I have found the process of putting in place what I read in Paul’s books, Dr Claire Weekes’ books and mindfulness a journey.
Through the blips I have had I have tried each time to deepen the process of allowing, recognise I am not my mind (or my thoughts), treat every symptom as part of the same thing (not focus in particular on one like sleep) and have faith they will all pass as I get better- and they always do.
Recovery truly does come through understanding, understanding that we are the creator of our suffering is vital to recovery, as then we can cut out the cause instead of continually treating symptoms. When you see what is causing you to suffer, then it makes no sense to keep on doing it. Prevention is far better than cure!!
I am so grateful I found Paul’s book and to Paul for all his efforts to share what he has learned so unselfishly with others. There have been day’s when I fall into bad habits but now know what I am doing wrong, know what to do (or more accurately not to do) to give my mind space and have the underlying faith that I have the right answers.
I cannot recommend Paul’s books and website any more highly. The more people can understand anxiety (what it is, how it occurs, how to let it pass without struggle) the more we can help ensure they get better sooner. I wish, for instance, all doctors read Paul’s work as part of their training.