It started in my early twenties when I found that I was often short of breath. I thought maybe I had asthma but it turns out it was good old fashioned nerves. For many years I controlled it with yoga. Lots of yoga. Like 2-hour classes three times a week and a lot of walking up and down the hills in San Francisco.
But then I had kids.
And I stopped doing so much yoga and stopped sleeping well and just generally wasn’t able to take such exquisite care of myself anymore. And then one of those kids started having seizures at 12 months old. Each episode was traumatic. At my first public speaking gig (and first time away from my baby) I had a full blown panic attack. It was terrible and horrible and lasted 3 days. By the time I returned home, I felt like a bulb that had burned too bright and shattered into a thousand pieces.
I also knew a door had been opened. Something was possible that wasn’t possible before — panic.
If this has happened to you, you know what I am talking about. And my sense that a door was opened? is actually scientifically pretty accurate. As my panic attacks and anxiety have snowballed this year, my doctor told me that this is a conditioned response by the brain. The more you have them, the more your brain wants to have them.
For the last 3 months I have worked with an integrative physician to find a solution that doesn’t involve pharmaceuticals. I have been downing a whole arsenal of vitamins and supplements, hiking nearly every day and eating well. I was feeling great! Until a few weeks ago when I had another attack. I was doing something completely ordinary — google-mapping a birthday party in Oakland — when I suddenly collapsed on the floor, pure fear and adrenal surging through my body. I have been plagued with almost constant anxiety since.
I just can’t take it anymore.
My brave move
My brave move last week was to call my doctor and asked for a prescription. For an anti-depressant. Zoloft to be exact.
The more I open up about this, the more I realize how many of us are suffering from anxiety and depression. I used to think it was a flaw of my character — neurotic, too sensitive, easily overwhelmed, no fun, bad mother. The judgments would come in a steady stream at the hardest moments. Why can’t you just be a normal person like everybody else? is another one of my favorite ways to beat myself up. But now I see that this is an overwhelming world we live in. And if you’re highly sensitive like me? It can be too much. Parenting can feel like too much. Leaving the house can feel like too much.
I keep wanting to write this story from the other side of it. I took the drugs and it was the best thing I ever did. I can’t believe I let myself suffer for so long. But that remains to be seen. I am still living inside this story.
It takes courage
I am grateful for the Cultivating Courage class where we are doing one brave thing each day for 30 days. Without that class I might not have recognized this choice as courageous.
But of course it is.
It takes courage to ask for help. It takes courage to share our vulnerability, especially in a world that views it as a weakness. It takes courage to go down the path you didn’t want to take. It takes courage to act with self-compassion, to not make yourself wrong for what you need, but to simply ask yourself in the kindest way- what can I do that will help?
I did not want to do it this way. I’m one of those people who doesn’t even like to take Advil for a headache. I’m also one of those people that is so high functioning you would never know that they were depressed or anxious. But here I am, knowing that the bravest move I can make is to get help.
And I’m hopeful that this is just the right help I need. Just the right medicine.
I’m so grateful that you shared this. I relate to everything you write, truly … for a long time, long, long, long, I thought I just needed to GET OVER IT – stop being so much, so sensitive, so insecure, so everything. And then one day I realized that was just my essential nature and trying to outrun it was a fool’s errand. Doesn’t mean I don’t wish – more often than I would like to admit – that I was a simpler, less deeply-feeling person. But I am slowly realizing I can’t change it. Thanks for reminding me that’s not necessarily bad.
Sending love – you’re so brave. I have been dealing with these kinds of things for years, and am also one who resists taking any medication.
I’m keen to hear how your experience goes with trying medication, it’s something I’ve contemplated over the years but never actually gone through with.
As I get older I wonder if I could even handle having kids (with that plus a whack of chronic illness stuff). Love your honesty, it really helps lots of us feel less alone.
Oh goodness… The phrasing of feeling like a lightbulb burned too bright and then shattered. That is EXACTLY my feelings put into words. It has been so hard to explain. So hard to even wrap my head around. Thank you for posting.
Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I just finished reading The Highly Sensitive Person and was so glad to understand myself better and appreciate myself for who I am. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t relate, but I think you did a wonderfully brave job here.
I am so very proud of you. Thank you for opening up about this, as it is something I can very much relate to. Whatever the outcome, please know that your bravery is not taken for granted, we all see it and love you all the more for it.
You are courageous to seek help, and I hope you find peace, even if this isn’t the solution you hoped for. This reminds me of what you wrote about your journey to get pregnant with Ben (which I found when I was going through a struggle with infertility). You opened a door then that had joy on the other side, may that be true now as well.
This was a good brave share. Thank you. I only wish there wasn’t such a negative stigma–a need to explain–why any of us choose medication. As if that where another fail, along with the so many others revolved around anxiety & panic. It took me YEARS to give in & take meds & I think “Why did it take me so long?” and “Why does it still feel wrong?” Sigh.
Also, my medication doesn’t make life perfect. It only eases the anxiety & panic that can/does come out of nowhere sometimes, so that I can through my work/life.
It helps me to know I am not alone. My boundaries widen then contract. I try not to blame myself too harshly.
Yes, read The Highly Sensitive Person, some parts are dead-on for me. Read anything on triggers. Be patient and kind with yourself–with myself, and laugh at it, later, whenever possible. Own it. xo
Been medicated and treated for anxiety depression on off since 1995.
Oh, trust me sister… there are a lot of us who owe our lives to our meds! I take a small dose, and it makes the difference between me making it and not.
I know it’s not for everyone, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked God for living in a time and place where I was able to get meds. Life is so short and precious; I want to do whatever I can to see the whole show.
Thank you for posting this. I know I have to be careful not to let my world get too small, and I know my family and friends don’t understand why so much is a challenge for me. So much of the world is out of my comfort zone but I’m constantly pushing it… although it may seem like nothing to the average person. It’s so easy to feel alone in all of this, but brave postings like this are a comfort that I’m not alone.
I just love you so much, Andrea.
Thank you for this. I too started a prescription after realizing that it was just more fear that was keeping me from doing it.
I left several prescriptions unfilled for years as my panic got worse and worse. And to fill my scrip? That took real courage. I haven’t regretted it either.
oh, andrea. i see you. i support you. and i thank you for sharing this.
it actually reminds me SO much of your fertility path (and — looking up at the comments now, I see Betsy felt the same way!)… how you tried so many things and ended up going to a fertility clinic, which isn’t initially the way you wanted to go, and, in fact, you tried so many other things before that. but you had the courage and the chutzpah to dig deeper, to keep on going, to try another path, to seek seek seek.
my heart is with you, courageous one. wow.
you rock brave girl!
I am so grateful for the Cultivating Courage class…it has given me a vision of myself I never knew existed. Things are harder because of it and better because of it. I’m glad you know your choice was brave, because it really truly was. Much love, Megan
Oh my god, Andrea. This resonates SO MUCH with where I am at right now too. After two years of feeling calmer and happier than I had in ages, my anxiety and panic is coming back. I know it will probably help me to start seeing a professional to talk out what I’m going through internally but I’ve put it off for many of the same reasons you cite. “I should be able to figure this out on my own. I’m just not trying hard enough.” This gives me so much courage to accept that it’s ok to look outside myself for help.
It takes courage to step forward and ask for help and even more courage to share that experience online. Good for you. I’m sure you’re post will help de-stigmatize depression and anxiety.
Thank you for having not only the courage to take this step, but the courage to share it with us, for making yourself vulnerable. You have lots of company here, I’m sure you’ve already seen, and I’m another high-functioning sensitive who hit the wall recently after back to back bone/cartilage injuries. The strong one who is always there for others had to face up to not having strength for now and had to *gasp* ask several people for help to get all my needs covered. It was freaky and embarrassing and triggered all those fears about being weak and vulnerable, but I’m SO glad I did it because a) now I know who my true friends are — there were some surprises there — and b) I have some experience under my belt asking for help now. The next time won’t be so scary. God bless you!!!
You are not alone. You are not defective in any way. You are not doomed to a life of this.
I am so glad you are reaching out and talking and sharing. That’s a huge step.
It helps us to rewire.
Yes, the brain responds with more (and more frequent) attacks. But that’s not a life sentence. Just as the brain adopted this pattern, it can adopt another.
Using medication to keep you “regulated” so that you can deal with it is not a weak thing.
You are strong and courageous.
And you are not alone.
Good for you! It does take courage to admit you have tried everything, and it is just not enough.I had some depression and anxiety, and when I had my first panic attack I finally saw my doctor.Zoloft was very helpful for me. Hope it helps for you!
zoloft saved my life when i had postpartum depression. never be ashamed to ask and receive help to keep on this winding and stressful road we all travel.
I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” about 10 years ago and have done 2 stents of therapy (which helped a lot) and taken Zoloft for the last several years. Congrats for taking the step to get help and try meds. They have helped me a lot over the years (though I recently started having attacks again). It has been a struggle. So, thank you for reminding me that I am not alone. That all kinds of people struggle with anxiety and panic. And we can overcome. Day by day and step by step, we can overcome and help others overcome too. That is what you are doing here. Don’t ever forget it.
Thank you. I have travelled this same path. Did not want to medicate, wanted to get through it with my own strength. Turns out, depression zaps your strength so quickly it takes no time to spiral down the rabbit hole of shame. I take medication now and I am focused and aware of the patterns that take me into anxiety. Also, I appreciate the mention of being a sensitive person. I feel everything, but I think it makes my life richer, although at times very difficult, emotionally. On the up side, I always gain more insight after coming through those hot hot fires of emotion.
Thanks for telling your story. So many of us struggle silently. I struggle silently. I think of this route myself as what you described gets worse and worse for me. It is hard to imagine that this could be part of the answer but when I think of years more of the alternative… I’ll be thinking of you and wishing a sliver of brightness to stay open. Continually.
Oh, Andrea, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through this. I’ve been here- I had a nervous breakdown two years ago almost to the day, and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder. I had been mildly suffering for years, until I hit a wall and could do nothing- not grad school, not work, not eat or sleep or think outside a repetitive loop of panic. I was put on Zoloft, but also Klonopin to get through until the Z took effect (since, I’ve come off Klonopin). I rarely even take a Tylenol, but these medications have saved my life. Therapy has rounded out the help, but I wouldn’t have been able to even process anything without the distance from panic pharmaceutical allowed me.
I want you to know that it will get better. Let people take care of you and be kind to you. You are strong and courageous, but also very loved. Sending you prayers and thoughts and hugs, and here’s hoping Zoloft works its potential amazing-ness on you soon!
Thank you so much for being brave and sharing this. I can completely relate-especially to how my anxiety has increased since becoming a mother. My fear is that I will pass it all into him to deal with too! My anxiety feels to me like that sensation when your four slips off the curb- heart in my mouth, trying to catch my breath sort of sensation and some days its constant, for hours on end. I too get annoyed at myself for being this way and I’m trying to find loving ways to accept myself. I’m also looking for a therapist to help me. I was on medication for 8 years and it definitely helped get rid of the major sense of panic so I could attempt to face it all more clearly. I’m hoping to stay off it, but will go there again if I can’t find another way. I really want to enjoy being a mom, being aware, being so connected with my feelings….at least as much as I can find the courage to. I love how honest you are, it always helpsme so much to know someone else experiences these things too!
You were brave, even in your panic and anxiety. You were brave enough to recognize your need and even braver in getting the help you need.
Your courage inspires me regularly.
I wish you peace, dear Andrea.
And deep sleep too.
You have already passed what can be the hardest part of dealing with anxiety – giving it a name and a face by sharing with others. So many of us can relate yet we forget and hide our experience of anxiety from each other. You also passed another HUGE milestone; letting go and be willing to accept treatment. Think about it. Would you refuse treatment for asthma, cancer, or any other medical condition? Would you try to convince yourself that you are weak if you accepted treatment in these scenarios? Yet, so many of us (myself included) do just that when it comes to struggling with anxiety and other areas concerning our well-being. Pursue your own treatment as passionately as you would if it was someone you loved. If Zoloft doesn’t work, ask for an alternative. Consider talking to someone who specializes in fear and anxiety. Explore all options. This is what you would do for your loved ones – without even thinking twice. Lots of hugs!
Luckily for us, you are not just like everybody else.
When we let go of judging how we ‘should’ transform, that is when the magic can really begin. We are free then to hand it over, and we take ‘the medicine’ in whatever form it comes. I used prescription medications for depression and debilitating anxiety during my 20s – it literally saved my life, and I continue to be grateful for the pills and for the doctors who prescribed and helped me manage it. I fortified myself, allowing myself to bravely step into new realms of healing, and when the time was right, I let go of the drug therapies. Go well on this new part of your journey, Andrea! Enjoy the calm, the openness that you have bravely stepped into. Beautiful things will happen there X X
Wow, Andrea! You truly are brave! I’ve had anxiety for years, but I was like you – always thinking that I should be able to just deal with it and get over it. The fact that you have accepted that this is who you are and that you’re willing to get help with it shows me that I can do the same. Thank you so much for sharing this!
A friend who knows that I’ve recently begun suffering from panic attacks for the first time in my life sent me your post. I’m so grateful that you wrote it. This is the worst thing I have ever experienced physically, and I am clinging to any personal stories to which I can relate to make me feel less like it’s a hopeless situation. I have been medicated for depression intermittently for quite some time, but have never had this panic component. I have practiced yoga and I am working very hard on controlling my thought processes, but I will take medicine if it means it will take this feeling away. I believe this is all caused by a recent slew of life changes that have left me feeling overwhelmed and afraid. I’m working through them, but it appears that my brain is struggling to process on a very basic level.
Strength to you — I truly believe those of us who experience this need a lot to process this physical manifestation of anxiety and (for me) fear. I’m grateful to hear from others who are making it and succeeding, regardless.
Omgoodness! How does that saying go….our souls must be cut from the same cloth….something like that, right? What you’ve shared here (and countless other posts) rings true to me on the deepest level (even the Advil comment!) 🙂 . Wish we could get together and chat over coffee (or better yet, wine!) because there’s so much I want to say/share with you too. 🙂 I wonder if Zoloft will work in the way putting on prescription eyeglasses for the first time does? I remember saying, “wow, everything is so clear!” No more straining to see. Why did I wait so long? xoxo
Thank you, thank you. You have done the world so much good by bravely sharing your experience. For so long, I felt incredibly alone in my anxiety. Thank you for reminding me – and all of us – that we are not in this alone, that we do not need to “just get over it,” that we need to celebrate the small miracles of bravery in our healing.
I’ve struggled too with anxiety throughout my life. Another resource that helps me immensely with anxiety and panic feelings are the recordings of Belleruth Naparstek. She does these amazing recordings- guided imagery tracks followed by affirmation tracks- on each CD that are really wonderful. You can buy them on iTunes too. If you have a chance, you might check them out as they can be so soothing and grounding.
For many reasons that it would take me an entire book to cover, this is powerful for me. Thank you for writing it.
And, having been through medications and therapy and a lifetime of anxiety and depression, I have all the best hopes for you. You and I and everyone else deserves better than living on that anxious edge.
I think it’s really brave to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make (yourself) ourselves whole. It’s funny how there is so much shame and guilt associated with certain life choices, right? Because I’m in the thick of motherhood like you (a 4 year old, with another on the way) I’ve been thinking about epidurals and natural childbirth and breastfeeding and formula – all of those topics that make us feel like horrible parents if we don’t do it a certain way. Before we even get started : )
I really think that Zoloft is a gift, and so are the non-pharmaceutical approaches. Whatever works for you – together or apart – is the way it’s supposed to be to help you live a full, content, healthy & happy life.
Wishing you peace, and that all the right people you need to help you through period come into your life at the right time.
I think you are so very brave asking for help! And then writing about it! Telling people about it helped me when I had my first child almost 8 years ago. I didn’t know it would make me stronger, because it felt like defeat. But asking for help (and an anti-depressant) made me stronger, happier and I think a better mum.
I hope it will do the same for you!
Thank you so much for sharing. You sound just like me 🙂
I wish we could all share without shame, that would make a world of difference. I would be less bothered by my anxieties if I knew for sure that other people have them too. It seems that we’re all hiding behind masks. I am very good at pretending I am ‘normal’ but often feel so ‘crazy’ inside. But who is truly normal or healthy? Don’t we all struggle with life in some way? It is good to share, so we can stop feeling like we’re alone.
Hand up here too. Good for you. This is just as much exquisite self care as anything else.
We’re all on a spectrum. We all have good days and bad days. And being a mother turns the volume right up on everything.
What a brave post, and also an appreciated one judging by the comments. If more people talked about these issues and the expectation wasnt that everyone should be perfect at absolutely everything then the more acceptable it would be for people to ask for help when they needed it.
While I am with all the people who believe many medications are over-prescribed and too easily taken, I think that our knowledge and concern has taken a huge toll on those who DO think carefully about what they take and put in their bodies. And from that concern has stemmed the idea that drugs are ALWAYS inherently bad. The truth, as ever, is balanced somewhere in the middle.
Having suffered from anxiety and periods of depression since I was a small child, starting medication in my late 20’s was a revelation. I was/am finally a whole person. Not the “shadow me” that lived through most of my childhood and adolescence.
If you need something – not matter if it’s a hug or anti depressants or a piece of chocolate, there should never be shame in asking or receiving.
Andrea, I was simply depressed, had been for years I realize now, and didn’t want to take drugs either. But when I finally did ask for help and started taking Prozac, life became enjoyable again. I took it for a year or so and was able to come off. Then after my 2nd child was born, I knew I needed it again and did not hesitate. Once again, it took about a year and things inside got back in the groove. I’ve been “drug-free” for about 2 years now. I, like you, never liked to take anything, even for a headache. Now, while I don’t over-do it, I help myself (Ibuprophen, mostly)to feel better when I need it so I can do what I need to do and be the best I can be. Wishing you peace!!
Congratulations on being brave. I am a psychologist, and I tell my clients all the time that if they were to find out they have diabetes, they would likely start by making diet, lifestyle and exercise changes to see if that managed their symptoms. But if it didn’t do enough, they wouldn’t hesitate to start taking medication. Same thing with anxiety – this was a brave choice, but nothing to be ashamed of. Your body needs to regulate it’s chemicals…and sometimes we need to rely on the medical profession. Hope it offers some relief! Good luck!
This is brave indeed. Good for you!
You are so brave Andrea. I too have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for 20 plus years, they are remarkably better now. One thing I have learned over the years is that it always works to ASK FOR HELP – from friends, family, god (spirit) or angels, doctors, anyone you can! It is always when I am overwhelmed and/or overtired that that panic comes. I’ve found that asking for help stops the panic before it can spiral out of control.
I applaud your courage. I had to exercise courage in a similar way over a decade ago. It changed my life for the better.
I’m rooting for you!
Surely we share some cosmic connection…I’m so proud of you for this brave step. For me medication was always “fine for others” but not for me. Last year I relented, only for my children. . .it was a wonderful decision. I’m still me only less anxious and depressed. . .what a wonderful world.
Don’t beat yourself up for the past just enjoy this new present, where you truly can be “present”.
You totally ROCK!
This is me too. Just about everything you wrote. Is me. You are not alone.
At first, I made the bold, brave step of self-care by telling myself and others, “I’m doing this for my children and my husband who loves me. I owe it to them to be happy and alive.” After sharing my struggles with my pastor, he gently said back to me, “Yes, that’s true. But I’ll take it one step further. You owe it to yourself to be happy and alive first.”
In the midst of my depression I never once thought that thought. Imagine.
I am mostly through to the other side now—it’s been about a year. I am here to tell you that you will make it. It gets better, it does, Andrea.
Be proud of yourself and kind and gentle too, along the way, the way you would if this had been your daughter’s or best friend’s struggle.
We are all proud of you and are rooting for you!
“Nthing” that you are not alone. I am envious of folks who can make it work without meds, for me there’s always the feeling I *should* be able to. But even when I do everything “right” (movement, socialize with close friends, eat well, etc., etc.) managing my mental health becomes a full-time occupation and it is totally exhausting! Medication gives me some ease and breathing room. I continue to do those things, but I also relax and enjoy my life. Like Mariella said, no more constant straining. I’ve been medicated off and on for almost 20 years, truly much more off than on, and in retrospect, that should not have been the case. I think it cost me some precious things I dearly wanted in my life, until I realized how much time had passed with me just barely managing. I too am most definitely the quintessential HSP, and I miss certain parts of myself achingly when medicated. Sadly there is no perfect medication, but I deal with the hand I was dealt in the best way I can, and a low dose of medication, on balance, affords me a better life than I have without it. I wish the VERY best for you.
The brain is a part of the body just like every other part of our body and sometimes it has a mind of its own. If we had heartburn we might take an antacid in addition to changing our diet. If we had diabetes, we’d need to address that and do whatever necessary to limit its interference with our everyday life. The brain is no different. It doesn’t make you weak, or crazy or anything. It’s just a body part that needs a “litle help” to function properly.
Amen. Thank you. And ditto to much of what’s been said here. I, too, was in your shoes, beating myself up, asking why I couldn’t just get over it, stuck in the frightening clutches of panic daily, all while absolutely convinced that there was something *I* could do or read or think or say that would make things better. After a series of unfortunate events, I finally accept that there were, in fact, things I could do–many, many things–and a few of them were: accepting help, in the form of meds, therapy, and self-care.
You a brave soul, a brave mother, and a brave woman, Andrea.
Congrats on your brave move. I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your meds and getting well. I too suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s hell sometimes. I don’t love the drugs but they make life easier and make me a little better than I was before. I hope you will continue to share you journey with us all here on your blog. It’s nice to know I am no alone.
Good for you and thank you for sharing. I was resistant to medication for my anxiety issues (and actually have switched to zoloft over the last month or so) but it’s made a world of difference.
How I love you Andrea Scher. You are so brave, so beautiful, so wise.
Good for you! I too have suffered from this most of my adult life. I went for so long fighting NOT doing the drug thing. It became unbearable and depression was settling in after a point. I’ve had therapy, I understand it completely and know how to stop a panic attack in it’s tracks. But still, without Zoloft the panic continues to bubble up and I spend too much time trying to cage the beast. Am I a failure for relying on pharmaceuticals? Perhaps. Am I happy and enjoy life to it’s fullest? ABSOLUTELY! So to hell with the naysayers. They aren’t in my skin or yours. Lots of love going your way. Stay strong and waste no time with negative thoughts or self-criticism.
So good of you to share your journey. I can relate to so much of what you shared – the self talk that is harsh and frankly scared. Four yrs ago I gave in to Zoloff, and yes, the attacks did abate. It felt good to “remember” what it felt like to not be a slave to the fear of an onset of panic, let alone the real panic itself. I’ve now been pharma free for a year ~ but wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I found myself in that place again.
I love this brave, helpful blog and I love you, too!
xo Aunt Judy
“Nothing to hide and everything to share!!” PERFECT!
I celebrate your courage, brave woman. Truth-telling: the most potent medicine of all!
First of all I wish you good luck. I had panic attacks too. Completely understand what you can feel. My physician gave me a prescription. But I did not want to take drugs. Or, at least, did not want to take them during a long time. So, went to an other one, a psychotherapist. Actually, I understand now that it was so helpful to ask for a help in 2 different places. My psychotherapist gave me a book and we worked together and it helped me a lot.
Brian M.Alman, Peter T.Lambru
The Complete Manual of Health and Self-Change.
thank you. your honest and brave storytelling is often my medicine, my soul’s healing balm. may you feel ease today. love you.
Doing what you need to do to heal, and asking for the help to do it, is always a brave choice. Be well.
Thank you for being so brave and for sharing. It was just what I needed. I wish you calm and courage!
thank you. xoxo
Andrea – thank you for sharing this -you are courageous in so many ways. I’m holding on to those last two sentences you wrote and saying a prayer for you.
It IS hard to ask for help. Way to go!! Medication can be a great sidekick while you figure out other ways to be in this crazy world. I’ve drug myself thru the depths of depression and anxiety. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. It took a long time to find the “right” med, but it gave me the right frame of mind to build from. I’ve been free of medication for 3 years. It is beautiful on the other side. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to your self. Have just as much compassion for yourself as you would for your best friend.
Thinking of you Andrea and hoping this is just the exact thing you needed! Hang in there, take one day at a time, ask for help, and be easy on yourself. You’re not alone!
Andrea, I really believe that you are doing many others a tremendous favor by sharing your experiences. There are so many that can relate to your not wanting to take meds, thinking something was wrong with you. For many years, I’ve taken medication. The best thing it has done for me is allow me to feel like my real self. If someone wouldn’t hesitate to take medication for Diabetes, why not treat Depression/Anxiety (that have a physical connection), with medication.
“I used to think it was a flaw of my character — neurotic, too sensitive, easily overwhelmed, no fun, bad mother. The judgments would come in a steady stream at the hardest moments. Why can’t you just be a normal person like everybody else?”
This is me word for word! I started back on lexapro 2 weeks ago after years off it – i decided i no longer wanted to work at being alive and wanted to be free to simply live again! Big hugs to you! xxx
OMGOSH! I am SO HAPPY to read this and today of all days- when I am trying to write about courage. Thank you Andrea!!!! I relate to EVERY SINGLE WORD you wrote!!! I am an acupuncturist and it is my BIGGEST challenge (over sensitive)- not to take on other people’s “stuff”.
I had OCD as a child and have to keep a close and constant eye on my anxiety for life- and while I RARELY, if ever, talk publicly about medication- I am FIERCE believer that only we ourselves can choose what feels right for our own bodies/souls. I don’t think anybody has any business talking in generalizations and stigmatizing people one way or the other when it comes to mental health and healing modalities.
I- like you -PREFER natural healing methods. Pharmaceuticals can often be overused and possibly misused- but I have been on BOTh sides of the experience. . I can only speak of my own experience and for me medication- during a certain time in my life- literally changed my life so dramatically that it allowed me to get out from under the water- It allowed me to manage my anxiety with natural healing methods in time….
Each person has their own story and their own way of processing life, their own reactions and their own healing. What works for one may not work for another- and what may not work at one time in our life will work wonders at another time in our life.
It took QUITE some tweaking and different medications until I found the right one for me and the right dose. I haven’t taken medication for my OCD/anxiety for years now, but it COMPLETELY changed my life for the better when I was at the height of suffering.
I have NO DOUBT Andrea that you will VERY CLEARLY be writing from “the other side” one day, step by step. THAnk you SO MUCH for sharing this. Love! Daniela
Thank you for being brave, strong, and honest. That takes a lot of courage to do what you did, and also share it. You are awesome.
It’s great that you are so open about this. It is a hard struggle that is so hard to explain but those who suffer from it completely understand.
Thank you for writing about this. I know I struggle with anxiety and depression. It can be so hard just to get through the days, and when you have little kids, you don’t get many mental health breaks. I’ve tried to handle it with meditation, but it so often doesn’t feel like enough. Please tell us how it goes. Love to you as you find your way through.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. You so eloquently articulated a struggle so many of us feel… just knowing that others are going through it can be so powerful for people. I am grateful for your courage! All the best on your journey.
Many congrats on your bravery and this big courageous step. I struggle with this too and each time I give a webinar my heart pounds out of my chest for ten minutes before it starts. I also have a really hard time as a natural introvert starting a conversation with someone I don’t know. But I’m glad I was brave enough to say hello at the Oakland airport on the way to WDS in July, while you were writing your notecards. I could just tell you were someone who would inspire me, and you have – thank you. 🙂
I have lived with anxiety since I was four years old- or at least that’s my first memory of it. I only realized at 18 that having stomach aches every morning was not a thing everybody does. It took me at least until I was 35 or so to even label it anxiety. It was so freeing to hear a therapist say it- somehow none had ever said that diagnosis out loud to me before.
I had never wanted to take medication for it either, but decided I was so tired of being so miserable. I hated the frantic feeling that came over my body while doing anything- things that were supposed to be enjoyable, with my children. I wondered if the other mothers felt that way after play dates or museum visits. I went to see a psychiatrist, and again, felt so much relief when I described these odd physical things (feeling like the skin on my arms was crawling, feeling very foggy after social events) were symptoms of anxiety. I’ve been on different drugs since then. When I look back and remember where I was back then- I can’t believe how different my life is now, for the better. I would even say my life was better when I was on drugs that I ultimately decided weren’t working for me.
I hope that you can look back and feel the same way.
I meant to include this snippet of an article the NYT had last year:
No one knows how many people with severe mental illness live what appear to be normal, successful lives, because such people are not in the habit of announcing themselves. They are too busy juggling responsibilities, paying the bills, studying, raising families — all while weathering gusts of dark emotions or delusions that would quickly overwhelm almost anyone else. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y
I read it every so often and really know I’m not alone. I also find this mooshinindy post a great reminder http://mooshinindy.com/2010/06/01/i-am-depressed/
be good to yourself!
Thank you so much for being so open and honest. May your ability to be so benefit many!
There’s no shame in getting help and being on meds. I am on them myself and I tell everyone and anyone about them when the subject comes up because I think alot of people are embarrassed or don’t realize that you can be relatively ‘normal’ and have a mental illness. (I also am seeing a therapist for that matter). I admire you and want you to succeed in whatever you decide to do. As I’m sure you doctor mentioned, the pills may only be temporary. You can always go off of them and get back on them. Best wishes!!!!!!
For years I was like you and lived with far-too-frequent anxiety and panic. I finally “gave in” and took the drugs–zoloft and xanax when it got really bad and doing so UNEQUIVOCALLY changed my life for the better. Within two weeks my mind stopped racing, within a month the panic was gone. I still have anxiety but it is what I have always imagined “normal” people having–just a bit of worry. it doesn’t take over or control my life anymore. I was and am still so grateful for this pharmaceutical option.
Good for you for taking the step. Sending lots of positive vibes your way,
i use alcohal. period.
I’ve been right where you are. you’re ok, it’s ok, the drugs are ok. it’s the right thing to do. and maybe it will reset your brain so one day you don’t have to take the pills. I’ve done that as well, though pondering taking them again.
bravery it is!
It is courageous of you to share your story and to ask for help but please know that there are safer methods of treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly effective for panic disorder and will give you tools that you can us for the rest of your life. SSRIs and SNRIs frequently lose their effectiveness over time and are associated with disabling sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms that can last for months or years.
it’s a tool. a tool to help you get on top of things, to heal, to feel better, stronger and more able to use all of the other strategies and techniques and treatments.
i’ve been there. i’ve done that. i’ve been on and then off again lexapro for anxiety and panic 3 times in 5 years. i never regret going off of it. i’ve learned to forgive myself for the two times i’ve felt like i needed to go back on it. it’s just all part of the process. feel better soon!
Good for you … taking care of yourself. One step at a time. Courage is taking the little steps.
Hoping that all the pieces fall into place for you. Saluting your bravery, and loving the courage class.
I just read this story on Mark’s Daily Apple blog – I thought of your post here because her story about anxiety sounds similar to yours…http://www.marksdailyapple.com/finally-i-am-me/#more-33257
From my heart to yours, YES! Just today I wrote a birthday note to the gal who so lovingly shared her journey with me and flippin’ save my life. It was a long dark road for way too long and the notion that it was actually happening to me was just NOT how I ever saw my life which got dangerously close to costing me my life. Congratulations on your big brave decision!
My doctor told me to light a candle, say a prayer of thanks and say, “Hey brain here comes some love,” and then swallow the pill. But you have to mean it and believe it cause it’s true.” And then, she hugged my for a very long time as I wept. Miracles are everywhere x0
It is such a relief that apparantly we are with so many! Thanks for sharing your adventurous journey. And to all of you people who shared a little of their journeys above. This so helps me continue my own!
Good luck to you and Thank You for sharing!
You are certainly not alone, and your bravery shines through your pain. I hope the medicine helps to ease these events for you!
As always your honesty and vulnerability is inspiring and comforting.
I am hoping it is the right medicine, too, but I am confident that if it is not, that you will face that with courage as well.
Good for you, Andrea! Courage is being afraid and moving forward anyway and you are a great example. Thanks for posting about this tough issue and paving the way for others.
So proud of your bravery. I have been brave recently , too and sought therapy after years of wondering why I couldn’t be like eveyone else. That first phone call to make an appointment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but even the act of the phone call and knowing I was being proactive helped immediately! Hang in there! You are strong.
Sending so much love and hugs and a genuine heartfelt bow to your courage and heart. Thank you for sharing yourself so bravely.
Thank you for sharing your story. You are so very courageous to share it and to ask for help. I am wishing you the best.
Andrea. Whenever I visit here, whenever I think of you, I always feel this incredible sense of certainty about you. I *know* you will be all right. I know you will prevail. I know your roots will grow deep and strong. I know you will soar. You are being forged in painful but powerful ways, Andrea. And you *will* find and make the best ways to care for yourself. And those ways will likely change as other things change, as you change. Above all, know that you can trust yourself in this. Neurally speaking, you’ve got a groove going on now. You’ll lay down better tracks & get a friendlier groove. You will.
Like so many of your readers, I’ve had long struggles with depression and anxiety, and I’ve tried different approaches. I’ve also stopped thinking of it as a “struggle,” and that alone made a big difference. It’s a kind of relationship, really, with myself and with my environment.
In my late 20s & early 30s, anti-depressants were definitely the best tools for me. And with that base, I could figure out all the other tools I was missing or ignoring or misunderstanding. And now I’m going to be brave, Andrea-style: I started seeing a therapist *consistently* in 2001. I still see her. Weekly. Crisis or no crisis. I’ve had a lot of personal & cultural shame b.s. about that. But I’ve been able to manage my internal weather and some very big and very hard external circumstances without serious emotional setbacks (or much, much briefer ones!) — and it’s because I let myself build this relationship tool and stay in it. I let myself have this kind of care and support, despite my own ambivalence about its duration. I’ve been able to unpack a lot of tricky stuff, at a pace that was safe & good for me. And I’ve learned how to let myself be known in all kinds of situations (to another person and to myself). What I mean is, therapy became an effective anti-depressant for me in my late 30s/early 40s, but I don’t think I could have made all the choices required to get me here without the earlier prescriptions.
I hope you will believe in your path, even its twists and turns, even its cliffs — the way we believe in it, and in you. If you can’t believe in it right now, that’s okay. Know that we’re holding that faith for you until you’re ready.
You are very dear.
Love and hugs to you. Thank you for being so brave.
Get a little extra for your friends!
Happy to see you yesterday.
I hope that you can fully accept that where you are now (at-any-given-moment-where-you-are-now) is where you’re supposed to be. And while it has its scary places, you are sooooo LOVED by many. And you have the love, light, and wisdom within you that is guiding the WHOLE of you.
Thank you for simply being you. And a big, warm, virtual HUG from me – someone truly inspired by you simply because you keep on being brave through the fears and imperfections.
Hang in there!
With lots and lots of Love,
Wow, your writing, sharing and then hearing back from so many folks is some good medicine for all. Good for you brave friend, see what this next part brings. xoxo
I’m just seeing this, Andrea, via your necklace post (yay to creating all that beauty!). I’ve been dealing with anxiety in all forms and sizes for a half century now. You’ve got lots of lovely support here – just adding my voice to say that whatever works in the moment, works. I’m so glad you know what you need, are taking exquisite care of you and sharing this to help who knows how many know they aren’t alone. Namaste and love.
Andrea..you are a very special person and shining the light on the path for so many people. I was in your Super Hero photo class in Berkeley at Tiffannys studio..It was so much fun being part of it. I was the senior member.!!!Are you doing the class again some time.??
Wow, Andrea…I teared up reading your post today, because I can SO RELATE! Exactly a year ago this month I started having severe panic attacks…out of NOWHERE and was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. I was ashamed, embarrassed and riddled with fear. Most of all, I was in denial that it was just anxiety taking a physical toll on my body. After therapy, accupuncture and pharmaceuticals I am feeling much more myself! Now I have a couple tiny little physical symptoms per week…this I can handle! Thank you for sharing your story! You are inspirational!
One more thought. Last spring I was experiencing some severe anxiety that was causing me terrible insomnia, a symptom I had never experienced. I went to a naturopath and bought $75 worth of supplements to help me sleep. They didn’t work. I was determined not to do pharmaceuticals. And then one day I realized I can not heal myself if I’m not sleeping. I can’t even begin to address the anxiety on no sleep. So I got an r/x for ambien, took it every night for a week, remembered what it was like to be well rested, worked on the source of my anxiety, and have only needed the ambien once or twice since then. Whatever your path may be with the zoloft, you will always benefit from your courage.
Andrea, I am sp proud of you. The first reason is that you have written about it on your blog. The second reason is that you have asked for help. I have been there too. I am there. I have suffered with anxiety my whole life. I too am a highly sensitive person. I started having panic attacks at the age of 19. I was living away from home, at uni, and my uncle had just committed suicide. I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. The panic attacks continued for the next 19 years on and off. I took Valium on and off. Then in 2005 I fell apart. There were many stressors in my life and it all became too much. I was anxious and depressed. I too am a person who doesn’t like to take medication, but I was desperate. I went to my doctor and was given a prescription for anti depressants. To begin with I felt sick as my body adjusted to them, but then I began to feel better. Now, 7 years later, I can honestly say it was the best thing I did. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I still take the medication. I wish I had done it years earlier. I am a better wife and mother. I am a much happier person. I feel like I am now living the life that I was meant to live. I am blossoming. I hope and pray you will be feeling some improvement really soon. Much love, Julie xxoo
Andrea, you inspired me to write about my journey. Thank you xxoo
I have always had anxiety/panic attacks for as long as I can remember but never knew what they were until I was diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety & Postpartum OCD after my daughter was born. I waited over 2 years after being diagnosed to finally reach out for help & finally agreed to try Zoloft too. It has been a little over a year now & wow what a difference! I am glad that I finally reached out & took care of myself & I am glad that you did too.
Zoloft worked wonders for me in the time following the birth of my second child. I have always been an anxious person (and I too do not like to take medicine) but things became so overwhelming that I had to be brave and just take the medicine. That, with weekly therapy, got me back to my normal self…just a little bit of anxiety. 🙂 Hope things are going well.
I started taking Zoloft just last night after increasing problems with anxiety and depression left me nearly unable to function, feeling like my life was over. I too did not want to do it this way. I can’t tell you how much it helps to have this post and these comments to come to as I take this step. It feels like a message from the universe, telling me I am not alone. So thank you, and please let us know how you are doing.
Thank you for your courage in sharing about this struggle while still in the midst of your pain. I have often struggled with the depression side of anxiety and panic, but I was not confident enough to share my story until the hardest battles had past. I admire your honesty and vulnerbility and hope it will help many others in their own struggles with anxiety and depression. Here is my story: http://www.thebarefootbeat.com/2012/10/18/one-step-away/
Hey Panic Sister,
I think it’s important to ask why you have such an aversion to taking a medication that will help you. Why do you struggle with it so? Is it the stereotype of going on a prescription for a mental illness? Are you perpetuating the stigma by resisting?
There is nothing wrong with taking something that will make you a better person, and a better mommy. That’s taking care of your boys, and yourself. I think you did a brave thing!!!
Let me know how it goes. Thinking of you!
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I suffered for 10 years with the same thing before opting for meds. I broke my back two years ago.. It hurts everyday but I never take anything to help it. THAT’S how serious I feel about not taking medication. But the pain of anxiety is so much worse, so much deeper that 6 months ago I finally gave in. I too tried Zoloft at first, but honestly it was Paxil that changed my life. I wish I had done it years ago. Thinking back on all the things I missed out on because of my anxiety kills me. But looking forward I don’t see that future for myself. I love my life now, and I wish you the same.
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It’s great that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our discussion made here.
Meditation is one of the best anxiety relief methods. It really works! It just needs few minutes of your time. You take a deep breath and feel what the “Now”. Clear your mind and feel the air you breathe. Do not think about the past nor the future. Stay in the present. Just imagine how wonderful life is.
This has helped me relieve anxiety for over five years. Before, I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks in a sudden for no reason at all. I kept shaking, my heart was palpitating and I don’t know what to do. It continued for almost four years. Not until I found one of the best anxiety cures. It helped me control anxiety and control panic attacks too! I would recommend practicing yoga or any meditation routines everyday. It also helps you to stay focused on the wonderful things in life! It will change you a lot!
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