Living With Anxiety

Living With Anxiety

By Alicia Taylor

I don’t look like anything special. No one would take notice of me walking down the street at all. I’m nondescript. That sums me up in a nutshell. However, I suffer from a silent illness that only my closest friends know I have.

It’s a mental illness that I have battled most of my life and as I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten worse. In uncharacteristic desperation, I posted this frantic plea to my Facebook Notes:

“It all started gradually. At first, I only became anxious about meeting new people and once had an anxiety attack during a job interview. It was so severe that that the interviewer offered to call me an ambulance. Eventually, it got to the point that I couldn’t drive on the interstate at all. Within the past couple of years, the panic attacks have gotten to the point that I can’t drive at all.

Are you dealing with anxiety too?

Are you dealing with anxiety too?

In fact, I’m finding it difficult to even get into a car. The mere thought makes me anxious. I can’t explain why. Other than a single fender-bender 15 years ago, I’ve never been in an accident. I wasn’t even driving. After that accident, I continued to drive. I have even driven long distances. In one day, I drove from Pensacola, Fl to Montgomery, Al and then to Orlando, Fl. The next day, I drove from Orlando to Daytona and then to Tampa and back to Orlando.

I have been through years of therapy and counseling. When I say years, I mean that I have been in counseling on and off since I was in my 20’s. I have tried medication – a combination of Buspar and antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft. I really don’t want to try benzodiazepines due to their addictive nature (and a family history of drug addiction and alcoholism). My doctor concurs. I’ve only tried them once and that was before I had Lasik surgery which required me to be awake. As a side note, I also had panic attacks during the evaluation for that.

Medication isn’t working and I’ve also tried visualization. I try to visualize myself successfully taking a car ride in which I don’t have a panic attack. However, I can’t do it. Every time I try, I end up hitting a spot where I literally see black and almost have a panic attack without even being in the car.

I have yet to identify a trigger for them. I can tell that they are getting worse. I feel myself slipping into a depressed state because of it and becoming more isolated. I have always been an adventurous person and wanting to try new things. I would love to get in a shark cage off the coast of Australia or go deep sea diving. I would also love to go spelunking and explore caves. I am not a timid person, so I don’t know why this is happening to me now.

They aren’t the kind of anxiety attacks that lasts for hours. They don’t mimic heart attack symptoms. In fact, they seem to be over in a few moments. You know that feeling that you get in your stomach when you are falling suddenly? You feel like your stomach jumps from your guts to your kneecaps? That’s the way it feels. Or, at least, that’s the way falling feels like to me. Maybe it’s just that I have panic attacks when I fall and no one else experiences that.

I’ve also noticed a change in how I seem to respond to the panic attacks. I used to be able to laugh them off. However, that’s not the case now. I have a sudden urge to cry, feel helpless and literally tremble after I have one now. This is seriously starting to impact my life more severely than it ever has.

Anxiety can make you feel a lot like this

Anxiety can make you feel a lot like this

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken so candidly or openly about it. I’ve definitely never addressed it so publicly. I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times and even played it down in conversations with friends. However, it’s becoming a much more serious problem. Has anyone else experienced this? How do you deal with it? I’m really starting to feel pretty helpless and despondent.”

As you can see, I waited until I was absolutely desperate to post anything asking for advice. If it had been a physical ailment, I probably wouldn’t have been so reluctant. However, there are so many stigmas attached to mental illness. I have been accused of using anxiety as an excuse for not wanting to take care of necessary chores, like grocery shopping. It’s not that I am lazy. It’s that the fear of having a panic attack in the middle of the store.

Because anxiety makes it nearly impossible for me to leave the house for work, I draw social security. I do the best I can to earn money by running a blog that earns a meager amount to supplement my social security. However, I usually keep that little secret to myself. If I had an obvious physical disability, most people would think nothing of it. However, many people have made disparaging remarks about “taking advantage of the system.” Stoics suggest I pull myself up by the bootstraps and the religious community has even suggested that I don’t lean on Jesus enough.

Frankly, those painful comments just drive people like me further retreat from the world into our shells. Who wants to be judged when we usually are hard enough on ourselves for our shortcomings as it is? There is a decided bias against those of us with very real, debilitating (but invisible) disabilities. There is nothing fun about being cooped up in the house because you are terrified of having a panic attack in public or while driving. Facing ridicule and judgment really does not make our plights any easier. It’s not like guilt will flip a switch in me and I will decide to no longer have anxiety issues. Silent disorders are real. We don’t manifest them to annoy others. Believe me when I say that the annoyance some people feel over silent disorders is definitely overshadowed by the discomfort sufferers feel.

So, I wrote that note to my Facebook page about 2 weeks ago. Clearly, I am reaching out and desperate for help.

As luck would have it, many of my friends replied with uplifting comments and advice. From their advice, I have started taking a combination of mega B vitamins, Theanine (a substance found in green tea) and Inositol (suggested by the Mayo Clinic). I have been in the car exactly 5 times since then and had a panic attack 3 of those times.

I won’t give up, though. I know there has to be help out there somewhere. Until then, the only thing I can do is continue fighting it, and educating people about the stigmas associated with anxiety.

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  1. Patrick says:

    Ms. Taylor,

    I have a physical disability (Cerebral Palsy), and I can’t get SSI from the govt. My sister-in-law has anxiety, and claimed SSI for most of her entire life. She volunteers at anime cons, likes to draw and one day wants to be a voice actor. She’s also never worked (think about that word) a day in her life. I, on the other hand, am majoring in IT and want to find a job, why? Because I know that the world will eat me alive if I don’t fight for my place. I try not to think of my sister-in-law as “spoiled and weak”, but I do. I know thats not what you want to hear, but everyone has their problems/issues in life. You must fight for your place in life, because there are alot of people who are worse then you and I put together that do work, go to school, etc. Oh just so your wondering if I really have it bad, I have $2000+ in medical bills that i can’t pay off, put a shotgun to my head as a teen, and am constantly fighting the hatred in my heart about people that are just like my sister-in-law. Hell, I even think my own brother considers his wife to be more “disabled” then me…

    God bless

    • The fact that you posted what you did completely makes my point for me. People are judgmental jerks when you have a disability they can’t see. I am not spoiled. Your sister-in-laws anxiety must manifest itself differently than mine does because doing anything at a convention where I would be dealing with the public at all is simply out of the question. I have worked my entire life and only recently started drawing social security. You can’t draw it because you are capable of working. It’s hard to work when you curl up in a ball under a desk because someone you don’t know approaches you. Even something as simple as grocery shopping can be a difficult task. So, your sister-in-law and I have completely different issues. A physical disability doesn’t necessarily preclude employment. My ex-husband had arthrogryposis and was a psychologist. I took total and complete care of him for 10 years before I divorced his emotionally abusive butt. I used to work. I sold Disney stuff on eBay when I lived in Orlando – and drove all over the place and dealt with people. This is a recent problem that is even causing health issues. BTW, I am not drawing SSI. I HAVE actually worked. I draw Social Security based on the amount that I have paid into the system from WORK. I still earn a meager income from home – which is taxed. I really am doing the best that I can do. I have a major in IT, as well as a minor in eCommerce and most of a degree in both social work and psychology. I have four kids. I worked 3 jobs and went to school at the same time. I am very familiar with the concept of “work.” I don’t need to think about that term. I already know what it is.

      “God Bless?” You spew those words after such condescending judgment? In the words of Ghandi – “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are nothing like your Christ.”

    • AmandaFox says:

      Patrick…… Get a grip. I have an extraordinary friend with CP that does exceptionally well working and going to concerts and doing all sorts of things. More than I do dealing directly with people due to my social anxiety disorder and panic attacks. What’s the difference in us? Different conditions entirely! You’re trying to compare Apples to basketballs as if there is any actual parallel which is not just insensitive, it’s ill-informed. Who made you the arbiter of what people can and cannot effectively cope with? Just because you have CP doesn’t make you an authority on disabilities,m it just makes you a guy with CP, and based on your insensitive comment here, a spiteful little person with CP. If you’re miserable with your life and $2k (That’s seriously all it is? a measly $2k???!?!?!) in medical bills, bitch somewhere else.

      All Hail the Dark Master

  2. knikkolette says:

    Patrick,

    You really picked the wrong website to post your opinion (disability or no disability). Yes it’s a free country and all comments are welcome, they should at least be educated. I see people as people at their core, they deserve respect and the only judgement anyone should get is in heaven. Your judgment of Alicia, your sister-in-law or anyone else has no place here. The fact that you owe $2,000 in medical bills has nothing to do with this post or anything else and I have to agree with Amanda – compared to many people I know $2,000 is a drop in the bucket compared $300,000. Take your ball and go home. No one wants to play with you.

  3. Dear Ms. Taylor,

    Have you considered hypno-therapy? Although I do not have any personal experience with it, your narrative indicates that you have tried other therapeutic avenues but still suffer.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Smolensky

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