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When Jo was suffering from chest pains and severe heart palpitations, she thought she was having a heart attack. After multiple tests came back normal, she learned it was debilitating anxiety that was having this effect on her.

It made sense, she was traveling to all sorts of places on her own and testing her limits in the world of recreational fishing where she was quickly becoming a high-profile figure. She recounts a time where she arrived at a location only to second guess her choice of lure and make a last-minute decision to dash to the nearest town, which was 70 kilometres away. She ran out of fuel on the journey and discovered she didn’t have her wallet with her. While she can see the humour in these misadventures now, at the time these impossible situations she was getting herself into were causing her anxiety to spin out of control.

The final straw came when the online bullying and vitriol towards her started. The barrage of offensive comments and defamatory articles were almost too much to bear. She shut down, crawled into bed and cried for three days. When she made the decision to rise, she knew she needed help.

Jo organised a Mental Health Care Plan and booked in with Dierdre – a Psychologist at Grand Pacific Health’s Moruya office. Together they worked through issues around managing reactions and applying (CBT) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques. It wasn’t long before they realised they had to go back to where it all started said Jo:

“It was like we were putting a band aid over the rash that had appeared on the surface of the skin as a result of the infection underneath.”
“Dierdre helped me see that I’ve been battling with undiagnosed PTSD as a result of a sexual assault that took place 30 years ago.”
“The same abandonment I felt then at the time of the rape, when I called for help, was being triggered when the online attacks started and people would simply ignore them – not wanting to be drawn in,” she added.

The clarity this realisation brought was freeing for Jo. She could see how she had punished her confident and creative side for walking down that alley alone that night and how subdued Jo had taken the wheel. She began to own her story and the more she stuck at treatment, the more her understanding of and respect for self, grew. Jo is now ‘getting her personal power back’. She is exploring her creative side and has cut out alcohol as she became uncomfortable with the way she would turn to it when feeling stressed. She is proud of what she has survived and believes anyone on their own trauma journey should be applauded. While she still has sessions with Dierdre to continue her progress, these days she laughs more than cries.

Dierdre describes supporting Jo as one of the highlights of her clinical career:

“Jo is bright, reflective, brave and utterly motivated for change. She puts in the work.”
“Jo very quickly created her own momentum for recovery that was unstoppable. It wasn’t long before I became superfluous, only providing her with confirmation of her hard work, directing her to theory and evidence, assisting her to make sense of what she was learning about herself. It truly has been a privilege; she has taught me a great deal and her story should be celebrated and shared.”

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