On Conquering Fears: Outbound

Overcoming avoidance is key to healing from trauma. This is my original story about overcoming fears and about healing through nature and cooking.

I’ve been going back and forth in writing this one.

It’s a bit hard, as I don’t know that I’ve ever actually written about this before, even in a journal.

That surprises me.

I started this blog in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, after reflecting a lot, like many of us. I’ve been spending more and more time outside and also cooking more and wanting to blend the two, as they are my loves.

The other issue is that my only child (grown son) will be moving out, and this is a new chapter in my life -really about who am I and what my purpose is now that it’s not all about my child and also not about my work.

Why outbound gourmet then? I guess it’s time to tell the story.

This particular story starts when I was 18 years old and had just moved out of my childhood home 11 months before.

See, I grew up in a tiny town in Northern New Mexico – a town of just 18,000 people, where everyone knows virtually everyone and everyone’s business. It was also exceedingly boring.

I have to recognize here that boredom is the hallmark of privilege, and I had it in droves. Nice upbringing, physician father, stay-at-home mother, both supportive, no abusive or real adverse horrible events. Pretty nice. Also, there were so few opportunities for my butterfly-like, fast-minded and adventure-loving soul.

So, of course, the day I graduated from high school I had packed my belongings and headed for California.

THAT didn’t exactly turn out well for my tiny-towned level of experience, so after 9 months there (and, by the way, in college), I headed home, moving to the largest place I could find that was close to home and culturally kind of similar.

Not having an appetite to return to college, I enrolled in travel school, rented a ground-floor apartment, and started a new life.

One damn dark night two months into this new adventure I had gone to bed and inadvertently left a window ajar. Snug in my bed, I fell soundly asleep, not much of a care in the world.

Later, really late, it seemed, I found myself awakened by a pressure over my entire body, over my entire back and neck – something suffocating me from behind and atop of me.

“Make a sound and I will kill you.” A man’s voice said.

I froze.

And felt something jab into my neck, sharp, quick.

Biology or something taking over my body, I guess I tried to push that sharp thing away from my neck – I grabbed for it, grasping and swiping, pushing it away from my most vulnerable carotid area.

With that, the man clamped down, heavier on my body, closing pressure around my neck.

And the world went blank.

Coming to after a while (a minute or two?) later, I felt pressure around my neck and still the heaviness of this man’s body on top of me.

From nowhere I found myself say, “Let me turn over.”

See, I had been lying on my stomach this entire time, and I needed to breathe.

And then, miraculously, just for an instant the heaviness on top of my body eased.

And it was then that I turned, just my head.

And I screamed.

I screamed as loud and long as I could.



It was only later, several days later, actually, that I saw the blood splattered on the walls. Blood from my neck and hand where he had cut me. Bruises around my neck from where he had strangled me.

I still don’t know to this day why the splatter ended up all over my bedroom walls.

I went home.

My blessed mother arrived at 4AM to pick me up and take me home, to my hometown.

On the way I fell asleep in the passenger seat, finally warm and no longer shaking – after a few hours of those helpful police officers chatting, offering me safety and kindness, and also some tips on how not to be so dumb in the future and leave a window open. They offered me solace.

I don’t know why people do what they do sometimes, but I suppose the rest of my life began an investigation of that question.

I never was the same after that night.

It’s not an easy thing to be randomly awakened in the place where you feel safe and warm and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to sleep. By a complete stranger.

It’s years later that I understand that it is the randomness that predicts difficulty in coping. I understand this and we can talk about this. After all, I am a psychiatrist.

But I moved on, and, despite many years of going to sleep at 6AM (when the sun comes up), I made my way through medical school and have become a pretty successful doctor.

I love my profession, it is worthy, and it drives me. It teaches me. I love humans, flaws and all.

As I said, I had many years of terrible insomnia. Still do. You can imagine maybe.

For years I sought comfort of having another with me at night. That led to marriages. Both another story, one in particular. An amazing story for some aspects, really.

In the end, this event at age 18, a few moments really, changed my life course entirely.

That was nearly 36 years ago now. I’m nauseous just writing about it.

But I’ve had years of therapy to overcome the insomnia, PTSD. It helps but it has not cured really.

More about that later.

Right now, I am trying to conquer fears of being alone. I am still afraid of being alone at night, no matter where I am. If I’m alone in my own house at night, even with alarms and dogs, I am afraid.

I am afraid outside, I limit where I go at dark.

But I’ve always been a fun-loving person. I love being outside, love adventures, love laughing, love fun. And I love cooking.

I’ve gotten more skilled at cooking too!

So, this summer I did something totally unexpected for me: I went camping overnight all by myself.

It doesn’t help that I have a phobia of bears (way less dangerous than humans), but human minds are not always rational.

Anyway, my adventure with this blog starts here. My goal is to experience adventures that I make, on my terms. Camp, venture out, sleep overnight alone, and make my own safe spots, cooking, creating delicious meals, doing my thing.

My first blogs were experimenting with cooking just on my patio. Cooking is a way for me to personally give back – to craft something delicious and comforting from the local roots that have offered me solace for so long.

So, in the end, that’s why “outbound.” That’s why outbound gourmet.

  • Dedicated to all victims of trauma. Your path, your method of perseverance is uniquely your own. There is no right way, no wrong way, just your way.