Anxiety Breakthrough: Breakout of Fear, Breakthrough to Freedom

Anxiety Breakthrough: Breakout of Fear, Breakthrough to Freedom

by LCSW-R Peg Haust-Arliss


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Anxiety Breakthrough breaks you out from the walls of Anxiety State Prison. First, the author inspires you with her own compelling story of imprisoning anxiety and panic. She helps you understand how and why you both became incarcerated, and then gives you her plan for escape; tools and strategies that will nourish your mind, body and spirit. Now, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety, the author's down to earth, personable and empowering style jumps out of the pages making you feel she is working directly with you. Anxiety Breakthrough promotes a shift from a reactive, symptom-driven, disease approach to a proactive, practical, empowering, all natural approach and ensures that you won't return to your tiny cell anytime soon.

"Anxiety is part of the human fabric and a capacity that insured that our distant ancestors survived and is useful in modern life protecting us from danger and guiding our decisions. However, in modern times so much anxiety is without purpose and interferes with functioning and enjoyment of life. The author has written a book that describes anxiety in language that is easily understandable and presents a holistic approach to managing anxiety. This book could be of great benefit to the millions of people suffering from unneeded anxiety."

-Daniel Beck, LICSW

Clinical Supervisor, Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452579870
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 03/09/2016
Pages: 158
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.34(d)

Read an Excerpt

Anxiety Breakthrough

Breakout of Fear, Breakthrough to Freedom

By Peg Haust-Arliss

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Peg Haust-Arliss, LCSW-R
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-7987-0




I believe in the power of story. Stories challenge stigma. Unfortunately, many people still believe that problems with anxiety are caused by personal weakness. People often feel ashamed and want to keep their solution-seeking efforts secret. I know this stigma has no basis in reality. Stories can challenge these stigmatic beliefs and speak to the truth that there is nothing shameful about anxiety. With that, I would like to share my story with you now. Let it remind you to own who you are and to shine your unique light, courageously, with no apologies.


Truth be known, I am a successful psychotherapist now, but never in a million years did I believe it possible to ever achieve. In fact, if someone had told me years ago that I'd be living my childhood aspirations as a successful therapist let alone a vegan health and lifestyle coach, I would have laughed.

You see, when it came to life goals, I was the girl who dreamed of going to college but was stricken with low confidence, fears, and panic. When it came to health, I could wolf down a double whopper with cheese, extra everything minus onions, large fries, and still have room for a chocolate shake. I smoked cigarettes for many years. I used to say things like: "I don't smoke cigarettes that much, and I don't want to live to be one hundred anyway!" I cringe just writing that!

Now, I'm not saying that I am perfect. Perfect is boring, and deprivation sucks! Life is about fun, and perfect is not fun! Am I now panic attack free? Yes! Am I a smoker? No! And, I absolutely enjoy burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes that taste way better than the ones I ate then.

So what happened that stopped panic attacks in their tracks and turned me completely around in how I approach life, relationships, mood, food, and even how I move?

Fast forward a few decades, a few milestone birthdays, the loss of my father and sister, tens of thousands of dollars in education, four degrees, countless certifications, the privilege of coaching hundreds of clients, and one visit to Farm Sanctuary later ... I grew! I continue to grow. Growing keeps our spirits alive. But growth without giving is pointless and can lead to despair and anxiety. Therefore, I want to give back to you, the reader, my clients, and all who can benefit from all I have learned. Oh yes, some of it the hard way, no doubt.

Chronicles of the Go-go-go! Girl

Let the fears begin ...

It was the night before my first day of school. I was five years old, sitting on my dad's lap. I was full of hope and joy, and I asked him if I was going to learn to read the next day. "Yes!" he said with an encouraging smile. "You will learn to read!" Dad didn't realize that I actually meant: "Daddy, will I read fluently when I get home tomorrow?" I couldn't contain my excitement. I was ready to go-go-go!

From birth to five years old I was pretty socially isolated, living in the country with lots of property, but not lots of kids. Before I entered the school system, I was surrounded by very loving parents, sisters, and fur friends. I felt loved, and everyone treated me well. I was a happy-go-lucky little girl with a very bright spirit. I was free to be authentically me.

But, then came kindergarten ...

That first day was like nothing I had envisioned. Instead of learning to read, I learned I couldn't zip my zipper or tie my shoes fast enough. It looked to me like my classmates knew each other and had already established their groups. Although that was disappointing, it was nothing in comparison to what was to come: "show-and-tell." Do you remember show-and-tell? We were asked to bring our favorite toy and show it to our classmates. One Christmas, I received the best gift ever — a battery-operated dog that jumped and barked by remote control. I couldn't wait to share! The instructions were clear: form a seated circle on the floor; one at a time, stand inside the circle; state your name and where you are from, and then present your beloved toy. Easy, cool, fun! Right? Well, not so much:

"Hi! My name is Peggy Haust, and I live in Tyre, New York." At that moment, roaring laughter surrounded me like a vortex from the floor. "Ha-ha-ha! You live in a tire! Ha-ha-ha-ha!" It played out for me like the classic horror flick, Carrie. Do you remember the famous scene after she was humiliated with the bucket of blood poured on her head? "They're laughing at you! They're all laughing at you!" Although likely not the case, that was my reality. That circle became my circle of fear; they were all laughing at me! Not a great foundation for confidence. But kids are amazingly resilient, and by first grade I was reignited — because that was the year I really was going to read! Once again, I was out of my skin with excitement as we all sat on the floor facing the chalkboard to learn our first words:

"Does anyone know what this says?" my nice teacher asked. My hand flew up like a rocket reaching for the stars "Pleeease pick me!" Of course she picked me; she must have thought I was going to pee my pants! "Go-go-go!" I exclaimed with a huge smile on my face. "Yes, that's right Peggy," my teacher answered, smiling back at me. As I got a glimpse of my peers, however, they didn't seem as excited for me. To me, they had that "Seriously? What ever" look. I guess I needed to curb my enthusiasm.

I joke about it now, but what appeared as meaningless events was for me the birth of fears, phobias, and insecurities that would imprison me for many years to come. Sociologist Morris Massey has described three major life periods that influence our personalities and values.

They are:

1. the imprint period: age 0–7

2. the modeling period: age 8–13

3. the socialization period: age 13–21

The initial fear-inducing event occurred during the imprint period, a very important life stage that occurs from birth to age seven. Up until the age of seven, children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them and accepting much of it as the literal truth. Phobias tend to originate from this period, generally from ages three to seven.

Unfortunately, it can also be a time when we learn in one way or another to hide. We learn it's not okay to be our authentic selves. I, like many children, was learning to shrink and fly under the radar. Between that first Carrie episode in kindergarten — and its sequel in first grade — the true me, that "go-go-go girl" learned to dim her light, play small, and especially avoid public speaking at all costs.

The next stage is the modeling period, from ages eight to thirteen. Rather than taking things literally, we are modeling others and seeing if that fits for us. We begin to notice the behaviors of others around us, and we emulate our heroes. Growing up in the 1970s was absolutely inspiring, empowering, and confusing — because at the height of the women's movement we (men and women) received so many mixed messages. Messages from strong female leaders, icons, and role models in one ear, and societal rules, values, and expectations in the other created confusion and inner conflicts: "I am woman. Hear me roar!" sang Ann Murray — but not too loud; nice girls are quiet. "Be independent!" encouraged Gloria Steinman, but make sure you take care of your family first. "Want it all!" But don't ask for much; that's greedy and selfish. "Be smart," but not too smart; otherwise, boys won't like you. "Looks count," but don't be shallow. "Be confident," but be careful not to seem arrogant. I once heard it said that we become whom we most admired at the age of ten. So, armed with my Wonder Woman bracelets, knowing I could grow up to bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan — but of course never, never, never allow your man to forget he's a man — away I went!

My remaining school years went fairly smoothly. There were no public speaking worries until seventh grade. This time it was sharing the Burr–Hamilton duel history project. I didn't know how to work those dang Wonder Woman bracelets! Oh God, please get me through this. I was in panic mode, stammering and stuttering, and I only managed to get through it by sheer disassociation. I vowed never to go through that again. I wasn't planning on going to college anyway, so I was okay with getting zeros on any projects requiring speech. One teacher offered alternate assignments. What a great idea! And so for the rest of high school, whenever presenting in class came up, I asked for alternative assignments.

Our life experiences and the messages we receive when we are young build our foundation and strongly influence our core beliefs. Core beliefs are our deeply held beliefs that we hold for ourselves, others, and the world. These beliefs affect how we see ourselves, the choices we make, and ultimately the results we receive in any area of life.

The socialization period, from ages thirteen to twenty-one, is another powerfully influential time. We are largely influenced by our peers and we develop relationship values. There was a time when I was in and out of a very different kind of prison — an abusive relationship. It was a constant state of anxiety, as I never knew when the next emotional or physical attack would come. Within the cycle of violence, there is calm before the storm, but in any domestic violence situation, one always has to stay on high alert. I remember the panic attacks I had while planning my first escape. I wanted to end the relationship, and I attempted this by leaving New York and moving to Florida. My cover was a two-week holiday with my sister and best friend, but my real plan was a permanent vacation. So, there I was in the back of a pickup truck at 2 a.m, me and my bestie all set up with lawn chairs, junk food, sleeping bags, and anchoring the moment with a sing-along to Bad Company's "Run With The Pack":

"You try to keep me in cages but baby you got to catch me first ... I'm running with the pack, never looking back."

—Bad Company

I was excited about this fresh start, and I also knew the day would come when he realized I was not to return. When that happened, he came for me — and he broke the law to do it. The police were looking for him and contacted my parents to find out where I was, because they assumed that if they found me, then they would find him. They were right. I got off the phone with my parents and right away I saw him walking down the street. Scared and excited, I went outside to talk with him. Like many women, I confused drama with true love. "What happened?" I asked him. "Why are you here? How?" Once again, I chose to believe his story, whatever that was this time. He stayed in Florida for a while, and my parents were worried. After they caught me too many times sneaking out to meet him, my parents grounded me for the first time — from long distance! There was a part of me that didn't mind. I liked knowing my parents were taking some control when obviously I could not. Since he was in Florida, they encouraged me to go home to New York. I obliged — and felt relief. I was home again, safe and sound, but you might be able to guess what happened next.

He turned himself in for me; at least that was the story he told me. I visited him every weekend for eight months to prove my love and loyalty. While he was locked up, I felt safe and was my free independent self. I was living life, working and enjoying friends. Since I believed that I couldn't go to college, I spent many weekends at Oswego, Potsdam, Geneseo, and Buffalo State colleges living vicariously through my friends. I joked that I got to do the fun part while they had all the work! The day of his release, I anticipated a happy reunion. I picked him up ready for a warm celebration, but instead I was received with coldness. The party was over. I didn't understand or acknowledge the many red flags. I was his adamant defender. I believed he couldn't help his actions because of his history. He blamed everyone and took no accountability, but I believed I could help him heal if he just let me.

After his release, we lived together. As is typical with the pattern of abuse, the violence intensified. A woman will leave and return to an abusive relationship on average seven times. For me, the first few times I returned were out of "love" and the hope that things would change. Later, I returned because of fear. I vividly remember the Christmas gift my big sister gave me, the book: Women Who Love Too Much. Reading that book was a turning point. I finally realized that I had to love myself more if I wanted to live.

Attempting to leave a violent relationship is a dangerous time. After failed escapes, my very last attempt was a plea for reason and rationale. I asked for understanding. I was, in effect, begging his permission to leave him! I didn't know what else to do. To my surprise and relief, he agreed! Really? Oh my God, thank you! I thought. "Can we just have one last night out?" he asked. "Let me take you out to dinner to say good-bye." "Well, okay," I answered, thinking We will be in public. That seems safe enough. I should've known he had no intention of just "setting me free." After dinner, we sat in my car together, and I was ready for him to leave. I could hardly believe this was actually happening! I felt nervous, yet calmly guarded. He finally realized I indeed was going to say good-bye and drive off for good. This was the first time I broke our usual pattern of "I forgive you. We can try again." With his realization came a swift blow to my head with his fist. In that panicked moment, I threw the car into gear and drove off with him sitting next to me! Just ahead I saw a cop car parked at the Tasty Freeze. Thank you, God! I sped up to it.

What happened next happened so fast that I only remember a few segments: The officer's car pulled up next to my window, and he asked me if everything was okay. My words told him yes, but I hoped he could tell that my eyes were saying no. With a helpful fight or flight response, I quickly grabbed my keys and made a mad dash out of the car, running and hiding behind the officer for protection. The officer attempted to handcuff him, but he resisted. I didn't wait for a conclusion. I got back in my car and sped off, driving right over the concrete meridian! My heart was racing, and I felt a mix of fear and relief. I immediately went to my friend's house to call the police station to make sure I was safe and that he was in jail, naively assuming he would be. I learned that he wasn't. This was before the Domestic Violence Act, which allows an officer to make an arrest without the victim having to press charges. Knowing he was not in jail, I couldn't stay at my friend's house, and I certainly did not want to worry my parents. I went to my boss's house, where I knew he would never think to find me.

It took time for me to recover from that six-year relationship. The physical bruises faded, but the emotional bruises lingered. However, what goes up must come down. Right and wrong, black and white, hot and cold — there is an opposite to everything, and this also holds true for emotions. Without experiencing sadness, we could not know happiness. Without challenge, we cannot grow, and without fear, we cannot know courage. It was that relationship that inspired me to pursue psychology and become the therapist I am today. I wanted to help young women caught in the domestic violence trap. It was also that relationship that led me to the beautiful man I have today. When I finally made it out for good, I made a key decision to never settle for less in a relationship again and to do what I could to help others. For that I am grateful.

If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, there is hope and help. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-7233.


Excerpted from Anxiety Breakthrough by Peg Haust-Arliss. Copyright © 2016 Peg Haust-Arliss, LCSW-R. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface, xi,
Introduction, 1,
Part I: Preparing for Escape, 5,
Fear to Freedom: My Personal Story, 7,
Point A: Life on the Inside; "Mug Shot" Assessment, 34,
Point B: Life on the Outside; Your Freedom Awaits!, 43,
Part II: The Three Keys to Freedom, 47,
Key #1: Freedom for Your Mind, 49,
False Arrest! I've been Conned!, 49,
Convicted! How Did I Get Here?, 54,
Key #1 Escape Plan, 75,
Key #2: Freedom for Your Body, 76,
The Food/Mood Connection, 76,
The Gut/Mood Connection, 77,
The Inflammation/Mood Connection, 79,
The Supplement/Mood Connection, 80,
Prison Food is SAD!, 82,
Freedom Lifestyle!, 85,
Key #2 Escape Plan, 95,
Key #3: Freedom for You!, 97,
Primary Food: The Key To Lasting Change., 98,
Key # 3 Escape Plan, 102,
Further Reading/Resources, 113,
About the Author, 115,
Appendix Worksheets, 119,
Point A: Life on the Inside; "Mug Shot" Assessment, 121,
Point B: Life on the Outside; Your Freedom Awaits!, 130,
Commitment Statement, 134,
Getaway C-A-R Worksheet (Blank), 135,
Getaway C-A-R Worksheet (Client's Example with Outcome #1), 138,
Getaway C-A-R Worksheet (Client's Example with Outcome #2), 141,

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