Are you feeling stuck? Are you struggling to make progress or overcome obstacles in your anxiety recovery journey? This is a really common situation for most members of our community from time to time. My friend and frequent collaborator Joe Ryan stopped by the podcast to talk about how he got himself un-stuck, one small step at a time. It’s a great story full of lessons that you can apply in your own situation.
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Joe was, by all accounts, completely stuck. In Joe’s own words, he was emotionally paralyzed, fearful, and feeling helpless. Those were not good days. I can attest to the fact that it was really difficult to see my friend in that state.
Joe was desperate for change, and was drawn to spending time in New York City. He was just terrified to take that step alone, so he spent months on end trying to get people to take that step with him. For many members of our community, the need to have someone nearby while facing challenging situations likely sounds very familiar.
Faced with the reality that he would need to do this on his own, and desperately in need of some change in his life. Joe decided to head into NYC on his own. This did not go smoothly as he first sat at the train station for hours, too afraid to get on each train that went by. This made him feel like he was failing, but as you will see as the story unfolds, this was not failure. Just the first small steps forward.
Skipping all the trains lead to getting on a train. That first ride in was just that … a ride in. Into NYC, off the train, once around Penn Station, then back home. Not much of a trip, but it was really a big step forward. That one small scary round trip train ride to NYC and home was the first step toward a new life. Getting un-stuck starts with taking small, scary steps.
A key aspect of Joe’s story was the feeling of accomplishment, even when taking small steps forward. Surprising himself with actually being capable – when he was sure he was not – became a motivator and an encouraging factor for him.
Joe kept repeating his trips into New York City, those trips getting a bit easier, and a bit longer lasting, each time. As the months passed he started spending more and more time in the city on each trip, exploring, probing, trying things, and continually learning that he was capable of handling all of that.
A key component for Joe in becoming un-stuck was repetition. After spending a lifetime avoiding fear and uncomfortable feelings, Joe was repeatedly going toward his fear and that discomfort. Each trip was practice. Each trip was an opportunity to get better at handling fear and discomfort. Little by little, Joe was building confidence and becoming un-stuck.
Over time, I watched Joe morph into a city guy! What was once a terrifying, desperate trip into the city became rocket fuel for Joe’s progress and recovery. Each small step paved the way for bigger and bigger steps in a steady march forward.
Ultimately Joe moved into NYC and has been living there for over a year now, having built a brand new life based on what he values and enjoys. Beyond the mechanics of overcoming fear, Joe’s transformation from stuck to thriving meant moving through typical life challenges. Logistics of a move. Family issues. Relationship issues. But the experience of facing fear and overcoming challenges bit by bit taught Joe that he was capable of facing that adversity too!
Fending for yourself and doing it on your own, you truly find out who you are, what you like, what you’re made of, what you’ll accept, and what you will not. I basically taught myself that I’m stronger than my fears. You have to just keep chipping away at it, and eventually the fears become confidence. – Joe Ryan
About Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan knows trauma because he’s lived it and learned to live beyond it. Joe has been on a lifelong journey to overcome trauma, shame, and the demons that plagued him from early in life. Now Joe is turning his mission outward, helping others conquer their traumatic experiences through his podcast (“It’s Not You, It’s Your Trauma“) and one-on-one coaching. Find more at https://joeryan.com
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