Wednesday 18th May 2022

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.


I have mentioned a while back here on the blog that for quite some time, IBS, fear of having to find a loo quickly, anxiety about travelling on the M1 to Sydney were all contributing to a heightened sense of anxiety and worry. So much so, that I found it stressful to have family here to visit and resisted entertaining people. This was further exacerbated very early in 2017 when some very hot days in NSW, seeing a HUGE line of cars which could not move on the M1 because of a major accident and my mind immediately imaging what it be like for me to even contemplate such a happening that I literally and figuratively FROZE with fear. My planned visit to my father’s in Sydney for his birthday in early January was cancelled. By me. Crying, sad and fearful me. I felt so guilty but I also felt incredibly relieved. Interesting!

What is exposure therapy, or as I like to call it ‘personal challenges’?

Here is some information:

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.
Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be
* graded
* repeated and regular
* prolonged

 Your therapist will work with you to determine what would be an appropriate first step; it should be difficult enough to provoke some fear but easy enough for you to be fairly confident you can do it. Once you can cope with Step 1 confidently, then you can move onto a more difficult situation and gradually work up your most feared scenarios.


Shortly after my decision not to drive to see Dad, I summoned up enough courage to keep my next Psychologist appointment after I had been to my lovely GP to tell her what had happened. Rationally I knew what I was doing and feeling was not helping me but I could not escape from the rope fear and anxiety had wound around me. I also was NOT diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nor was I depressed but my behaviours and resistance to trying the challenge myself were making me (and I guess those who loved me) a bit frustrated but kindly not showing it much! I resisted even though I would tell my professionals I would give the exposure ideas a go in a graded sense it never seemed to me anyway, to be enough.

Some of the ways I was ‘convincing myself’ that things were going well. Deep down, I knew they needed to be better and only I could change that.

My Personal Challenges Getting Me Started. 

Recently I have been listening to Brene Brown on her Rising Strong – A Spiritual Practice CD and she talks of the stories we tell ourselves because our brain wants us to be rewarded with a shot of dopamine when we work out the story to fit the situation. It does not, however, mean that having that story makes you better or right. It IS just a story. I know I was telling myself many stories back in January to March. I know that they were wrong too but I could not even see myself being able to move further along the exposure challenge way. Until I HAD to.

Early April 2017. The BIG challenge after a few smaller but important ones.

It is no secret to readers here and Facebook followers and friends and family that my teeth, notably my upper jaw and gums had been giving me hell for about 8 months to this point. After some nervous but successfully personal challenges – driving on M1 to the Dentist, discussing what treatment I would need and back and forth, I faced 6th April. The day my hub would drive me to the dentist for a 1.5 hour extraction of both the bridge holding my 5 front teeth and the teeth themselves. I cannot lie that I was not scared. Not about the procedure actually but about whether my stress levels about IBS and worry of IBS would escalate. On the advice of our new then GP, I had valium and meds to counter any fears of IBS and with my hub taking me and staying in the same room with me, and listening to a CD of relaxation, I came through the biggest challenge I had to date.

How That One Event Helped Me Go to Sydney.

I drove home, alongside my caring husband, congratulating myself for having the courage to go beyond my fears and as it is said, do it anyway. I recuperated with relative ease and drove back by myself to the dentist after a week in a more relaxed and calm manner. It felt so good!  Then the so-called bigger challenge (exposure therapy-wise) was for me to drive to Sydney to see Dad. I do have to explain that it was because of ME I had to do this, not because of any pressure from him. He just wanted me to feel well and be less anxious. I did that drive, caught up with him, took him some meals and felt very pleased to have met the challenge!

So, there I went. Going well…but there was more, waiting around the corner…as regular readers know but I will continue next week!

Part Two Comes Next Week. 

Have you had anxiety or fears about doing some things in your life?

Have you overcome them?

Tell us about this.

Thank you for sharing!

I believe it IS important to share.



Joining with two blogging friends’ link-ups: Kylie here who hosts I Blog On Tuesdays and Leanne here who hosts Lovin’ Life each Thursday.



  1. You’ve faced some huge stuff this year Denyse, I am in awe of how you are facing your fears. You are an inspiration!

    • Thank you so much Nicole. I can say that it feels much better now I have faced those fears and I wonder if they have been there for me to challenge myself…and come out being more confident too. D xx

  2. I have an irrational fear of hilly and winding roads. But only some of them. It literally makes no sense which ones bother me and which don’t. I have wondered if familiarity is a factor for me.

    • Ah, thinking about it and wondering is part of what we do to try to make sense of stuff like this but as in my case, it still did not help. The ‘only’ thing which helped and has continued to, is the gradual (although in my case, somewhat sudden exposure as I will note next week) exposure to what I wanted to overcome but rationally could not quite work out. I don’t know if you are aware (sure you might be though!) that our brains tell us stories at time. Just to make us feel better or worse it is suggested. D xx

  3. You’ve had a massive year, Denyse but I love how you’ve faced off your fears. I’m scared of so many things but I’m trying to expose myself to them and face off with them too – flying and heights are two of my biggest fears but luckily I don’t have to be exposed to them too often!

    • Thanks Sammie, for your kind words. It was HAVING to face and meet the challenges here in this post, and in the one I will do next week which FREED me in a way I couldnt have done cognitively. It is, apparently, all about the body and mind experience. I think that is essence of the Fear Of Flying courses that are used to be by Qantas not sure now who but they all involve a flight too. Your fears are not stopping for you from making the holiday memories you are now!! D xx

  4. Exposure therapy sounds tough! Good on you for facing your fears in this manner!

    • It is and as the name suggested to me for some months “too tough” so I did what we all do when we don’t want to do something, I “avoided” it. But, as I mentioned, the problem is with avoidance it is a short-term fix and with the issue of visiting my Dad (when I couldn’t due to fears) was only short-term and I was left with being dissatisfied and cranky with myself. Anyway, I outline even more next week. I have not, as a result of what I did for myself, knowingly avoided anything since. Denyse x

  5. So good to read about how you’ve been conquering your fears and anxiety, Denyse. It can be really hard to take that first step, but I know for me the first step is always the very hardest.

  6. I can completely relate to this Denyse and understand how extremely hard it can be to face those fears so good on you!! I know I myself need to start to challenge myself more to overcome my anxiety too x

    • Thanks Sarah. I guess we both understand how hard it is from experience. However, the thing I learned and continue to is that the success of meeting the challenge builds upon itself and embeds it somewhere in us. Next week I am writing about the ways in which I had to do more thanks to my cancer diagnosis. I wish you well. D xx

  7. I have a fear of driving at speed on motorways & highways at present. I’m fine as a passenger, but as a driver I completely freeze up. There are motorways linking everywhere up here & I go the back/long way. I know that it’s illogical & I know I have to expose myself to little stretches at a time, but it fills me with anxiety. Good on you for challenging yourself.

    • How interesting to know this. When we first moved up here and I was going back on the M1 to The Hills about every two weeks and to Dad’s at Dee Why about once a month, I had a couple of ‘hairy’ moments which were all about lane changing trucks!! Once I got to to know where trucks were likely to want to overtake another truck (stupid on a 110 kph road as they slow the line of traffic down massively) on a hill, I drove knowing they would do that, and used the far right (middle lane). The car I drive is perfect for me and I do feel well protected. I had a corolla for a short time and felt like I was target on the M1!! So, in my case, as I might suggest for you, is little bits at a time. This year was the worst because of the fear I allowed to build (as I wrote) and things I was going in 2015 and 2016 suddenly I was too scared. THAT bothered me because I knew I wanted to do the driving but was being stopped by the lack of confidence. So, as I said, HAVING to drive turned into WANTING to drive that way and I am so glad to feel I have that back in my life. I am a very defensive driver and hate to say it but I have has a licence for 50 years without (touch wood) an accident at fault. Rear ended at corner of Windsor Road and Burns Road (or whatever they call it now) Kellyville TWICE when I was waiting at a red light!! I hope you slowly get your confidence too! Denyse xx

  8. Well done Denyse! I have a couple of friends who will never drive on the major highway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane because of anxiety. I sometimes have trouble sleeping because I get anxious about upcoming social events or work commitments. It’s silly really because I generally cope well with life and all that it throws at me. I do like the sound of exposure therapy and I will tell my friends about it. #TeamLovinLife

    • I understand what that fear is as I wrote but then it was something I literally HAD to overcome but by gosh it did take some time and steps for it to happen. Happy for you to share my story. Next week will be part two. Exposure therapy is helpful but I would always advise someone to chat to a counsellor or GP about what might be stopping them from giving things a go. I did talk to professionals and the psychologist drew up a plan from what I told her. That was earlier in the year when I needed the help. Once I had to have trips down the M1 to the dentist and then the surgeons then I literally HAD to go through things and my husband was my wonderful ally along with my GP. They also gave me incredibly encouraging feedback but I was the one most pleased!! Denyse xx

  9. It has been a huge year for you Denyse and you are such an inspiration to us all. Have a beautiful weekend and you keep going and motivating us all!

    • Thanks Sue. I have said to my husband at time when I am told I am inspirational that I do not quite ‘get it’ and he said that it’s because I am living it. I guess that makes sense and if my story is seen by others to be helpful then that is good. Happy ‘getting ready to fly away’ Sue!! Denyse x

  10. I used to struggle with IBS / upset stomach a lot and wasn’t sure if it was a coeliac thing or a FODMAP type issue. I think I wrote about it on the blog and it was such that I couldn’t really exercise in the morning if I wasn’t near a toilet. It wasn’t really something I ever addressed (bizarrely my weight loss surgery fixed the problem) but I had to work around it. If I went walking I didn’t stray far from home or exercised somewhere there was a toilet nearby for eg.

    Interestingly I’m seeing a new therapist at the moment who’s into ‘somatic’ stuff – about using the senses. I’m not completely won over but time will tell I guess.

    • Interesting how our bodies can work both for and against us isn’t it? My IBS was something uncovered in the early 1980s and there was not much for me to do about it as I recall other than those famous words “become more relaxed”. Uh huh. Sure. I did some relaxation courses and a few things but over time, it went away. I really only had it as a kind of ‘stress reaction’ on occasion.

      However, it came right back in 2014 even before our move and my take on it as I understand myself more now is that when I am in conflict within myself (for all sorts of reasons) it lets me know. My most recent fix (once hospital effects of lots of anti biotics and no food were done) is from my GP and it is a dose of a medication at night which slows the movements.

      Giving me another management strategy is using an APP which is hypnotherapy for Mind and Gut disorders based on the success of clinical trials in Melbourne I have this instead of attending the clinic. I would have to say, the biggest changes for me are not to react (over react) to my gut signs, to know I will always ‘find a loo’ and to let the notion of IBS recede more over time. So far, for the past 7 weeks it has worked.

      I am delighted to have parts of my life back and will write more on Tuesday for linking on Thursday.

      I hope your upcoming week goes well and that some time spent with mum helps you keep on top of the tiredness which may be more than usual. I see the full-time work being a great positive for you!! D xx