Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Conquering My Castlewood Canyon Bridge Phobia

Bridge? What bridge? I knew you would laugh when you saw the object of my phobia.

This is a photo of the Castlewood Canyon Bridge. I told you it takes 2-3 seconds to cross it.

When I realized I was depressed, the bridge was one of the things that came to mind. My box, my life, had become smaller. If I continued to cut things out of my life because of anxiety, then I wouldn’t even leave my house.

I managed to conquer my Castlewood Canyon Bridge phobia before I sought therapy. And it started with a fiction book, Dog Crazy, about an agoraphobic therapist who specializes in helping people who are grieving over the loss of a pet. In the book, the heroine overcomes her phobia using exposure therapy by taking a dog with her out the gate and around the block. She takes short walks over and over to desensitize herself.

Around the same time, I happened to catch an episode of The Doctors on phobias.  They had a man on who said he could make a phobia go away in an hour. I watched the show and one thing caught my attention. He said he “erases the emotional hard-drive.” That’s what I needed to do. Erase the bridge phobia from my emotional hard-drive.

When I thought about the bridge, I experienced the same panic again. I could feel my body clench and my heart begin to race. Over and over. I could almost see a red light flashing and a voice blaring, “WARNING! WARNING!”

I started by picturing the bridge in my mind and willing myself not to feel the panic. I imagined the beautiful scenery – the open highway, green grass, wildflowers, and Ponderosa pines. I saw myself driving down the road in my truck with some good music on and singing along. The bridge was coming, but I didn’t feel any panic. I focused on the highway on the other side, not on the bridge. And I did this regularly for a week or so, every time the bridge came to mind. Soon, I didn’t feel any panic associated with the bridge when I thought of it.

The day came when I started to Parker for an appointment and it was pouring down rain and hail. When I came to road 98, I planned to go straight. I didn’t want to cross the bridge in the rain. But, the weather was clear to the west and it looked like the hail continued to the north. OK, I would go over the bridge.

I started to feel the anxiety a couple of miles away from the bridge. I began to pray. Deep breathing – breathe in 1,2,3,4,5, hold it, breathe out 1,2,3,4,5. I turned on KLOVE radio and sang along. The anxiety subsided a little. The truck slowed to 55 as I neared the bridge. The wheels hit the seam of the bridge and I focused on the highway ahead of the bridge. Nothing. Nothing!!! I didn’t feel any panic! I couldn’t believe it. I knew the taste of victory.

Each time I crossed the bridge during the next month, I felt less anxiety. Now, I don’t even think of it when I cross it. I enjoy the scenery. And, now I know I have some control over my thoughts and my anxiety. 

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