WORDS BY TODD KUCHEL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAM KROEPSCH
Fresh out of school without a care in the world, this quiet, yet confident metal head had no idea what devastating impact a looming moment was about to have on his life.
It was in 2002, at the age of 17, while hanging at a mate’s house that Jaron Dswonitzky was overcome with an unsettling sensation.
“It’s like I was suddenly stressed,” Jaron says. “I got all dizzy and light headed, like when you stand up too quickly and see a bit of white, but I was sitting down.”
When Jaron stood up, he fainted. Upon waking, he felt even more panicked. Two weeks later, he fainted again.
“The second time I focused on it more and it became worse. Then I started thinking about it and expected it every time I felt off, even just watching TV.”
Jaron’s mind began to race 24 hours a day, which left him sleeping for only half and hour a night.
With no clue as to what was happening, Jaron went to a doctor for help. He was told that he was stressed. Jaron laughed, responding with, “What am I stressed about? I’ve just finished school. I should be having the time of my life!”
However, Jaron took on what the doctor said and felt confident. A week later the feelings returned.
A second doctor gave him the same verdict. Again, Jaron felt good for a week.
Jaron began to analyse every sensation, which made him not want to leave his own house.
“I worried I might faint and have someone ring an ambulance without knowing what was wrong with me,” he says.
Determined to learn what was wrong, Jaron went to a third Doctor who suspected him of having anxiety and depression. He was therefore referred to doctor Godfrey Kunze.
During Jaron’s first session with Doctor Kunze, he was given a VHS detailing numerous symptoms of anxiety and depression. Jaron returned confirming that he had them all.
Jaron was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and began seeing the doctor every week. Jaron also gave up drinking and smoking to focus all efforts on his recovery.
“This is the best advice I can give,” he says. “Don’t rely on anything. If I didn’t do that I’d still be gone for all money.”
With the diagnosis, Jaron admits becoming worse. His fear of leaving the house had developed agoraphobia.
Jaron’s parents completely understood and supported him 100%, as did Doctor Kunze and his brother.
A devastating set back came with the passing of Jaron’s beloved dog, Zeus.
“That put me back a spot. He was my ears, and unconditional love. He helped me out a lot.”
Four months into his treatment, Jaron began hypnotherapy. Another 6 months later, he was asked if he would consider medication as well.
The medication started working three days later, which enabled Jaron to sleep more than he had in the previous 6 months.
During the following sessions, Jaron was taught breathing exercises to slow his heart rate and gain control over his panic attacks.
“That helped a lot!” Jaron says.
The combination of medication, hypnotherapy and breathing exercises began to make a difference, and Jaron’s appointments were reduced to once a fortnight.
“A panic attack is just your heart racing with panic. Once I understood that I was able to say right, now I can fix this.” – Jaron Dswonitzky
Jaron began photographing lightening to keep his mind busy and later developed a second passion of barbecuing meat with smokers and coals.
These interests helped Jaron incredibly during his struggle at home, and have left him with talents he still enjoys today.
As time went on, Jaron’s appointments reduced, eventually to once every six months.
With the arrival of another dog, Lola, Jaron began walking again, at first at night then eventually around the block during the day.
“It was a good feeling,” Jaron smiles.
Jaron believes it was a combination of the hypnotherapy, medication and breathing exercises that ultimately helped him gain control over his anxiety and depression.
“A panic attack is just your heart racing with panic,” Jaron says. “Once I understood that I was able to say right, now I can fix this,” Jaron says.
Later sessions with Doctor Kunze involved Jaron being asked about his time between sessions.
“Towards the end it was like visiting a friend,” Jaron says. It was just what he needed.
“Don’t ever be scared to talk, or feel like it’s a quick fix,” Jaron advises. “You need to dedicate yourself to recovery. And at least try to be confident,” he chuckles.
“It’s not like I go to the mirror and tell myself, you’re one sexy lad. If you push harder that beard is going to grow quicker. Just have confidence.”
In 2014, after not suffering a panic attack for almost 5 years, Jaron began helping a mate with fencing and landscaping.
This same mate later asked Jaron to try out for job at Apex Bakery. Jaron applied and in 2015 became employed full-time at Apex Bakery, his first job at 32 years of age.
Jaron’s last visit to Doctor Godfrey Kunze was in 2015. Two weeks before his final session, Jaron was told to let his medication run out. In January 2016 Jaron was off his medication and had not had a panic attack for 6 years.
In conjunction with currently nearing the completion of an apprenticeship and recently being appointed the role of bakery manager at the Apex Bakery, Jaron has also attained a driver’s licence and best of all, a girlfriend. “She’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” he admits.
With the previous chapter behind him, Jaron endeavours to open a unique barbecue restaurant that will be like no other dining experienced around.
“No gas, just wood fire and smoke pits,” Jaron says. “With 36 hour slow cooked briskets, low and slow smoked ribs and dry aged smoked ribeye, just to name a few.”
Jaron is incredibly grateful for his life today; emerging from his struggle, a cheerful, quick witted gentleman, giving hope to the long list of people suffering with similar illnesses.