What Agoraphobia Taught Me About Fear Versus Facts-Wonderful Truth

What Agoraphobia Taught Me About Fear Versus Facts

Most of us get paralyzed by fear at some point, whether it’s in our professional or personal lives. We know that taking a certain action or making a specific change will give us the results we say we truly want. But when it comes time to act, we freeze. We procrastinate. We explain, justify and excuse ourselves from the tough call.

Why? Fear, of course. But if it were as simple as mustering our courage and powering through, we’d all be at the pinnacle of success. Instead, we struggle daily in big and small ways to get around the fear.

Rather than trying to exercise sheer willpower against fear, I want to help you see right through it so you can get to the other side with less struggle.

First, I need to tell you a little story about my history with fear.

When I was 21 years old, I started having panic attacks.

If you’re not familiar with panic and how it’s different from anxiety, you can think of it like this:

Anxiety might be the feeling you get when you’re late for work or about to give a presentation. You feel irritable, scatterbrained, maybe short of breath. Your chest might feel tight and you might even describe yourself as “panicky.”

But real panic, in a clinical sense, is different. Panic is the feeling you would get if you walked into your house at night, turned on the light, and a man in a ski mask was holding a gun to your face. It’s the certain knowledge that your life is on the line. Your mind and body are thrown into a fight-or-flight response. If you can imagine yourself faced with imminent death and the accompanying terror, you’re close to understanding what someone experiences when they have a panic attack.

Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I did live for about a year with panic attacks that became so frequent and debilitating that I wound up with agoraphobia. I was terrified to leave my house.

Why? Because every time I did, I had a panic attack. I was experiencing this horrific state of mind and body up to 10 times a day. The stressors of everyday life were no longer just anxiety-provoking for me. They brought on full-blown panic.

When I finally got some professional help, an amazing doctor explained to me that my resting state of anxiety and stress were so high that it didn’t take much to push me over the edge. So we set out to adopt behaviors that would lower that resting state of anxiety as a first step to lessen the frequency of attacks.

Over time, I learned how to control and then stop the attacks before they started. I learned how to calm myself, read my own body for negative signs of stress, and develop an inner voice that could quell the fear that constantly plagued me.

During the process of recovery, I also learned something about fear that I hadn’t known before. And now I realize a lot of other people don’t know this either. Here’s what I learned:

Fear masquerades as fact.

Now, you may be saying, “Yeah, Amy, I know that.” But do you really? I mean, do you really know it so well that you never fall for fear in disguise, much less fall for it every day?

Let’s take a look at three ways that we fool ourselves:

1. We confuse the potential consequences with potential catastrophes.

Here’s what I mean by this: We think about a negative outcome that has a reasonable possibility of occurring, but we fear a catastrophe that is highly unlikely. This incongruence between what we’re preparing for and what we fear causes so much stress and inner turmoil that we get paralyzed.

For example, let’s say I want to start a business. I’m miserable in my full-time job and my family is on board with the idea, mostly. I have a savings account that will last us six months without my paycheck. But I’m terrified to quit my job. Why?

I tell myself—and my spouse, friends and anyone else who will listen—that I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it “in this economy” or “without employer health insurance” or “because I have brown hair.” Whatever.

But deep inside, the fear I experience when I think of quitting my job is not about succumbing to any sort of real-life obstacle. My fear is about the catastrophe that lies in wait on the other side. It’s fear disguised as fact.

I envision myself failing as a business owner, being unable to pay my family’s bills, suffering medical issues that my cut-rate health insurance won’t cover, succumbing to illness, alienating my spouse who is bankrupt and now working two jobs, failing my children, losing the respect of my friends and peers, wasting away and finally dying, leaving my family destitute.

That’s the size of the fear in my chest when I tell my friends I’m afraid I’ll fail as a business owner. Not the whole “what if health insurance is really expensive” excuse. I fear actual death and destruction.

Of course, reading this, you can see how irrational this line of thinking is. Is it a possible outcome? Yes. Is it a probable outcome? No. The fact is that I could succumb to some kind of horrible illness working a 9-to-5 job I hate and still bankrupt my family.

So what am I actually afraid of? If what I fear isn’t a fact, then it’s an illusion. I’m basing my decision to stay miserable on the illusion that I will lose everything if I make a change. Now that’s scary.

Here’s the solution: Ask yourself, What’s the worst that can happen? Is that what you fear? If so, talk it out with someone who is objective and experienced in that issue. Ask for help in discerning what is realistic caution and what is doomsday paranoia.

2. We use our feelings as a guide in making decisions.

Now, I can already hear some of you arguing with me before you even read what I have to say here. So please just bear with me.

First, I am not saying that feelings shouldn’t ever play a part in decision-making. Often how we feel is a primary factor in whether or not we should do something.

What I do want you to pay attention to is how realistic your feelings are and whether they should be the guiding factor in your choices. Let me give you an example.

I email a client about an urgent matter, and I need him to respond within 48 hours. The first day, I hear nothing from him. I follow up with another email the next morning—this time using all caps in the subject line. Still nothing.

My feeling is this guy is ignoring me. His delay will push the entire project timeline back, which will jeopardize the financial outcome. In other words, I’m afraid he’s going to blow the whole deal for me. (Remember point No. 1? Do you hear the catastrophe in disguise as a consequence here?)

By this time, I’m seriously scared, but it feels a heck of a lot like anger. In my mind, I’m bad-mouthing him. I’m thinking of all the other times he was rude or unresponsive or even just slightly on the curt side. I’m thinking he has no respect for me and my work boundaries, and a billion other poor-me thoughts. My feelings are hurt.

These negative feelings can sabotage a scary situation if we allow them to be the guide in our decision-making. If I choose to react to my client out of anger or annoyance, I’ll probably jeopardize that deal all on my own (nobody likes a snarky email).

But what if I back up and remove my feelings from the situation? What if I tell myself that regardless of the outcome, my values dictate that I treat people with respect and compassion? Rather than shooting off a snarky email or a passive-aggressive text, I could pick up the phone and find out if he’s OK or if there’s anything I can do to expedite the turnaround on what I need from him.

The next time you’re about to act out of fear, ask yourself if the negative feelings you’re experiencing are calling the shots. That’s just another way fear pretends to be a fact.

3. We don’t weigh the facts correctly.

This one is tricky because there are actual facts involved. But the fear gives us license to weigh certain facts as if they were more important than they actually are.

For me, this happens a lot when I’m good at something, but my inner critic tells me I should be afraid of doing it anyway. I’ll line up all of the compliments or great outcomes, then excuse them away with lines in my head like, “Well, she’s my friend—what else would she say?” or “Yeah, but I spent 10 months preparing for that. I could never do that again,” or even “Yeah, but I think that was a fluke.”

I’m naming facts, such as preparation time or the love someone has for me and assigning them more weight than the actual results of my actions. If you’re good at what you do, the results speak for themselves. It’s imperative that you measure real results and real feedback as more important than the doubts, exceptions and fears in your mind.

Look, I still feel fear. I wake up some days and think, “Oh no, I’m scared to face that interview/project/discussion/large dog.”

But here’s my final piece of advice: Fear is a fact of life. We’re not going to get rid of it. But we can see through its disguise and choose lives based on facts. I’m writing this so that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to live a life paralyzed by fear. Because believe me when I say that I know how hellish that existence is.

Just in case you’re confused about what the facts are, let me tell you that the facts, my friend, are these:

You’ve got what it takes. You are loved. Your dream is worth it. And if you need help, there’s someone willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.



Surprising 9 Things No One Talk About PTSD

Everyone goes through moments of fear, but for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, terror has a way of taking on a life of its own.

Image result for ptsd

People with PTSD have often undergone situations that most people can’t even begin to fathom. While everyone recovers from trauma differently, those with PTSD tend to have lingering stress that interferes with their everyday lives. It’s as if their “fight or flight” response never shuts off. As a result, they’re forced to make adjustments to their daily routines.

Sounds miserable, right? Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning. PTSD is a complex condition that many don’t understand. Below are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to the mental health disorder:

1. You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD.

The disorder can develop after a traumatic event, like witnessing or experiencing sexual assault, violence or death. It is estimated that 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience one traumatic event at some point in their lives, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they will develop PTSD.

The condition is most commonly linked with war veterans, who while active were likely surrounded by scarring situations quite regularly. It is expected that between 11 and 20 percent of vets who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD in a given year.

2. The time it takes for the condition to develop varies.

Sometimes symptoms don’t show up right away. There are two types of PTSD, according to researchers. There’s short-term or acute, from which a person can recover after a few months, and chronic or ongoing, where symptoms tend to persist throughout a longer period of time.

3. At its worst, PTSD can lead to suicide.

One of the horrible side effects of any mental illness is a risk for harmful or suicidal thoughts. It is believed that both deployed and non-deployed veterans have a higher risk for suicide than the general U.S. population.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

4. It’s not totally unheard of to have PTSD.

Nearly 8 million American adults suffer from PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, about 8 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

5. The symptoms are all-consuming.

The effects of PTSD aren’t just emotional. The condition been associated with physical issues, like poor cardiovascular health and gastrointestinal problems. It’s also classified by paralyzing episodes of fear, avoidance of situations that trigger those fears and mood changes like extreme guilt, worry or loss of motivation.

6. There’s a huge stigma surrounding the condition.

Like most mental illnesses, people with PTSD are often plagued by negative stereotypes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel like others are understanding about their condition. This is a huge problem since stigma often prevents people from seeking proper treatment.

7. It’s not a punchline.

Using mental illnesses in a colloquial manner or as a joke only perpetuates incorrect perceptions. Think twice before you claim a stressful day at work or an uncomfortable argument “gave you PTSD.”

8. Remedies for PTSD vary depending on the person.

Mental illness isn’t one-size-fits-all, and neither is the treatment. People with PTSD will likely have to try different therapies, medications or other techniques in order to find what works best for them.

9. It’s not “all in their head.”

The mind is the most complex organ in the body, and related illnesses should be treated as such. Research shows that traumatic stress impacts regions in the brain. In other words, the condition is not something a person can just “get over” or an attitude they adopt just to seek attention.

 The triggers aren’t universal.

Because PTSD stems from different traumatic experiences, the triggers that aggravate the condition and prompt flashbacks to the event aren’t going to be the same for everyone. While the condition is manageable, there’s always a chance that a person on the street, a sound in the grocery store or even a comment from a relative can provoke a paralyzing fear. It’s a hard reality to deal with on a regular basis.

It’s possible to live a healthy, productive life with PTSD.

Just because someone has PTSD doesn’t mean they’re unable to function or live fulfilling lives. Once again, the right treatment is necessary. Like cancer or the flu, an illness is just an aspect of someone’s reality; a piece to a whole puzzle. Their illness does not define them — and that’s the most important thing to remember




Christopher Yates doesn’t think that metal illness should be shrouded in mystery, so he recently published a mystery novel to shed some light on living with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Chemical Corruption: The Chronicles of the OCD Case is Yates first novel. It follows the story of Adam, who has OCD, as he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and must rely on himself to find the real culprit. He wrote, edited, formatted and self-published the book through Amazon.

His love of mystery movies and television shows combined with his experience living with family members with anxiety-related issues inspired him to write the book. He wants to provide a relatable fictional character for those with OCD and similar issues, and offer an alternative to how characters with mental issues are usually portrayed in the media.

 Image result for obsessive compulsive disorder

“When you watch a show like Criminal Minds or Mentalist, the person with OCD is portrayed as the most far-fetched, worst case scenario of OCD,” said Yates. “The reality is that 99.9% of people with OCD are just normal people. They’re not like what’s portrayed on those television shows. I think what happens in that instance is people that have OCD are less inclined to seek help or tell their friends and family about it. They keep it a secret, and it’s not a good thing.”

Yates said that while the novel’s main character Adam has OCD, it doesn’t define him. He said that the mystery Adam gets caught up in is at the forefront of the novel. He hopes that through Adam’s actions and how he works to solve the mystery will give readers a new perspective on OCD and similar disorders.

As the owner of Quality Marine Service in Atlantic Beach, writing didn’t come easy to him. He said a majority of his writing process was research. While he could solve a mystery minutes into a movie or television show, he had to read about the process a case goes through in law enforcement and the role of doctors and lawyers to create a believable plot.

The novel personally inspired him to continue writing. He’s already sent two screenplays — both unrelated to the nove — to a couple of screenplay contests. He said that he should hear back on his outcome in the contests in a couple of months.



The Unexpected Neighbor I Met While Playing Pokemon Go-Agoraphobia Help

pokemon sitting on a coffee cup

For years I have struggled with my mental health issues. I am diagnosed with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and psychotic hallucinations. I am in a constant state of working on coping with these things so deeply rooted in my mind. My combined diagnoses has also lead to agoraphobia.

I take medicine, go to therapy, and attend a weekly anxiety group. I’ve noticed I will get looks from people in my anxiety group when I mention “The last time I left home was to come to this meeting last week.” I don’t mind the confused looks. I actually prefer for people not to understand.

pokemon sitting on a coffee cupLast week this silly little game comes out. Pokemon Go. Surprisingly, my nerdy self has never played a Pokemon game in my life, even though I have been married to a Pokemaster for five years. I had played Ingress, an augmented reality game from Niantic, which they used to test data pools for Pokémon Go locations. (I hadn’t made much progress, given I am usually home.)

I decided to download it since I thought the augmented reality premise on a popular game was a neat concept. From my home, I managed to catch two Pokémon, but I knew if I wanted to advance, I would have to get out somewhere new. I figured I would wait until my anxiety group, therapist appointment, or my visit to the psychiatrist, and look around then.

I would still check on the app from my home. A few days ago, I noticed a lot of rustling leaves around my complex, which meant there were Pokémon to be had, but that would mean going outside. This is where something unusual happened. I put on my shoes, put my dog’s vest and leash on and went to catch me some Pokémon dammit!

pokemon sitting on feetWhile I was out there, I was only paying attention to where I needed to walk and where my dog was wandering. (I did kind of feel like I was walking a personal Poke-Terrier.) While walking, I noticed a woman whose actions mirrored mine: look down at the phone, look around your area, walk a few steps, look down again, change direction, and such. Without even thinking about how this person in my complex is a stranger to me, I shouted, “Excuse me, are you playing a game?”

“Yes! I’m playing Pokemon Go!” she responded kindly. 

Turns out we were both headed for the same rustling grass, so we walked together and talked while we both searched for our Pokemon.

This is where something truly beautiful happened. After a bit of Poke-talk, she starts to open up on a more personal level. We wound up learning that we are neighbors and even have the same first name. We talked a bit about our dogs and our husbands, but then she took a big step and started to mention her struggles with anxiety.

“Sometimes I’m not able to leave my place for a week” she told me. I tried to be open about my struggles with anxiety, panic, and agoraphobia, so I didn’t leave her hanging. I told her I also have that issue and I have been fighting for years.

There it was. Two women, typically scared to leave their homes, talking, playing a game, bonding outside. When I told her I had similar issues, I noticed the look on her face… I know the look because I had it when she shared her struggle with me. It’s that look of “Wow, so you understand!”

Two women who have seen each other more and more the past few days, happy to talk about Pokemon or any other little topic. Two women leaving their homes to go on Poke-walks, when usually they would be inside alone. Two women who realized something as silly as a Pokemon game has become a helpful tool in their dealing with anxieties and phobias. Two women who have started a friendship all because they happened to be playing Pokemon Go.

As I read articles and blog posts with stories similar to mine, I can’t help but smile. When I downloaded the game to my phone, I had never expected anything more than a silly distraction while I sat at home. But in the time I have been playing, I have been walking so much more.

Getting out into nature and increasing my movement has had a great effect on my mind and my sleeping. I have met people whose paths I would have never crossed. I have visited places I was always too afraid to check out before. I have started to feel less afraid. Even as I type this, I am thinking about how I cannot wait to go to my therapist and tell her all I was able to accomplish in a week. I am so grateful something that seemed so trivial has turned into another tool to help me with my fight against some of my mental issues.



How to Cope with Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia Can Severely Limit Your Quality of Life

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is marked by recurrent and typically unanticipated panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a combination of many frightening physical symptoms and upsetting thoughts. For instance, during a panic attack a person may experience physical sensations, such as shortness of breath, shaking, accelerated heart rate and chest pain. Additionally, the person may become afraid that they are having a medical emergency, experience feelings of depersonalization and derealization, and even fear that they are dying.

How to Manage Being Homebound with Agoraphobia:
In spite of these disturbing symptoms, most people with panic disorder will learn strategies to overcome panic attacks. There are many safe and effective treatment options that can assist in recovering from this condition. However, some will cope with the illness through unhealthy means. Approximately one third of people diagnosed with panic disorder will develop a separate mental health disorder known as agoraphobia.

What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia involves intense fear and anxiety about your panic attacks. You may worry that you will have a panic attack in a place or situation in which escape would be difficult.You may also be afraid that you will humiliate yourself in front of others. Additionally, many people with agoraphobia are fearful of having panic attacks in places where no one would be available to help them.

The extreme fear and anxiety associated with agoraphobia often leads to avoidance behaviors.

This occurs when you choose to stay away from various places and situations that you fear will trigger a panic attack. Avoidance behaviors vary for different people and may include a distancing yourself from means of transportation, open spaces and large crowds.

Avoidance behaviors can greatly limit your quality of life.
It is possible for these fears and avoidant behaviors to become so extreme that you become completely homebound out of fear.

If you are afraid to leave your home due to agoraphobia, you are most likely experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, there are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms. The following explains ways to cope with and overcome your avoidance behaviors.

Seek Professional Help
Agoraphobia is a treatable condition. There are many mental health specialists who will be able to review your symptoms, diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan. These specialists will be prepared to provide you with safe and effective recovery plan.

Agoraphobia typically develops within the first year that a person begins having persistent and unexpected panic attacks. Therefore, it is important to seek out professional help as soon as symptoms arise. However, people with disabling and long-term agoraphobia typically have positive results and improvements through professional help.
Learn Popular Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are self-help strategies that can help alleviate your feelings of anxiety. These techniques can assist in easing tension throughout the body and relaxing any nervousness of the mind. Relaxation techniques can be easily learned from home and at your own pace. Start practicing these strategies to manage panic attacks, reduce negative thoughts and elicit your relaxation response.

Practice Desensitization
Desensitization is a popular coping technique that can be learned on your own or through therapy. It involves the use of your imagination to help overcome triggers associated with your panic attacks and feelings of anxiety. Desensitization works by helping you gradually unlearn your fears.

Desensitization begins by gradually imaging yourself in anxiety-provoking situations while learning how to relax through your feelings of apprehension. While picturing yourself in places or situations that typically trigger panic attacks, you will use a relaxation technique to work through your fears and anxieties. Over time, you may be able to visualize yourself in feared situations and yet feel in control of your anxiety. By learning to relax through panic-inducing visualizations, you will eventually be able to reduce panic and avoidance behaviors.

Reduce Your Stress
Stress can be a major source of anxiety. Stress has been known to contribute to many physical and mental health problems. Additionally, too much stress can potentially trigger some of your symptoms. To reduce your panic and anxiety symptoms, learn some stress management techniques.




4 Things to Remember When Dating Someone With Anxiety

Before you can understand what it’s like to date someone with anxiety, first you must understand anxiety itself. Anxiety is not a pretty disease. It’s not a beautiful and terrified damsel in distress or your friend who doesn’t want to ride a roller coaster because she’s scared of heights. Anxiety is uncontrollable shaking, constant hypersensitivity to your surroundings, and a complete lack of comfort in your own skin. It’s holding onto an apple core at lunch, watching and waiting for someone else to throw away their trash first so you know it’s OK. It’s suddenly becoming acutely aware you have no control over your unpredictable surroundings, and it’s the paralyzing terror of being around new people because you have no idea what to expect from them.
man comforts girlfriend

When it comes to dating someone with anxiety, you have to be willing to accept and accommodate these struggles. If a person with anxiety has opened up enough to date you, you must be important to them. As the relationship progresses and you grow closer to each other, you will become a vital part of their support system. If you continue to date, please understand first and foremost that anxiety is a very real illness and is caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals – it is not a reflection on that person’s courage or willpower. That being said, here are four things to keep in mind when dating someone with anxiety:

1. Be patient.  As people who struggle with anxiety, we are often not confident in ourselves and tend to second guess everything. If someone with anxiety asks you something akin to “Are you mad at me?” or “Do you hate me?” or they apologize multiple times even after you have accepted it, please understand this insecurity is caused by mental illness. Even if you’re not mad, our brains like to pick up on the smallest of details and make mountains out of molehills. As we get to know you better, we will most likely become more comfortable and confident around you, but patience is vital in the beginning.

2. Be understanding. We are almost never comfortable in our surroundings, especially in crowded places or around people we don’t know. This can make the beginning of a relationship difficult. Understand we may not want to stay in a public place or be around unfamiliar people long (or perhaps at all) due to anxiety and may back out on a date or social gathering for that reason. Please try to respect that.

3. Ask. Ask. Ask. Often we don’t voice our opinions because we fear being rejected or angering you. Let us know early on you won’t be angered or put off by us speaking up. Ask us our opinions; it is rare we will tell you our thoughts outright until we know you really well. This will make communication easier and much less stressful for us and will strengthen the relationship.

4. Know that we appreciate you. Sometimes we get a little too caught up in our concern for everything going on in our lives and we forget to tell you how much we appreciate you. That is not your fault. We appreciate everything you do for us, and we love you for it. We are difficult people to deal with – trust us, we know. It’s the little things you do to put our minds at ease that mean the most. We thank you for all that you do to support us in the uphill battle that is anxiety.



8 Signs of Chronic Anxiety You Should Never Ignore



Yes, it is possible for anxiety to manifest into unwanted physical symptoms. One of these is muscle pain, which is often a symptom of chronic anxiety. More specifically, it seems that stress itself is a direct cause of pain in the muscles, as stress can cause inflammation. Also, the degree to which one is stressed and anxious can impact the amount of pain one experiences.


Another physical sign of chronic anxiety is frequent headaches. As stress creates muscle tension, including around the head, headaches often result. It is worth mentioning that additional caffeine, such as in coffee or tea, can exacerbate this symptom.


As mentioned, chronic (or any type) of anxiety is a very stressful experience. The stress created from anxiety weakens the adrenal glands, which play a critical role in maintaining overall balance in the body. When the adrenal glands are weakened, fatigue is a common result.


An interesting thing about sugar: it actually works as kind of an opiate that stimulates feelings of calm before it initiates a crash. Sugar is an inflammatory in addition to being a catalyst for weight gain. Those with chronic anxiety are quick to point out that one of their default actions is to crave sugar or starchy foods when experiencing distress.


Chronic anxiety has been directly linked to poor digestion, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When the brain is “not right,” the digestive system generally isn’t either. In fact, between 80 to 90 percent of the brain’s “calming” neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. The result is two-fold: poor digestion and inefficient production of serotonin.


When our brain is inundated with anxious thoughts, we have very little patience for things that demand our attention. Note that is obviously counterproductive – it is far better to focus on things that are constructive than to allow anxiety to run amuck. However, for those with chronic anxiety, their default reaction is to “snap” or “lash out” when someone or something requires attention.


This is relatively obvious, but when the brain is rapidly firing it can be quite difficult to enter a state of relaxation. When relaxation is difficult, sleep is as well. It is common for someone with chronic anxiety to be “exhausted in body, but restless is mind;” in other words, they may be more than willing to enter a deep sleep but their brain simply won’t allow it.


We touched on this a bit earlier, but an inability to focus or concentrate is an extremely common side effect of someone with anxiety problems. The chemical changes taking place within the brain during periods of anxiety leaves few mental resources to allocate for conscious attention.

Despite the helplessness that those afflicted with anxiety often feel, the condition can be overcome. At the very least, certain practices and behaviors can suppress some of the more serious symptoms of anxiety.


  1. Eat right – a balanced diet is a powerful antidote to anxiety problems.
  2. Get exercise – while it may be difficult to get into an exercise routine, few activities are more beneficial to anxiety symptoms.
  3. Establish a schedule – anxiety has a way of throwing off any attempt at organization. Writing things down and having a schedule can help with getting things done.
  4. Stress management – there are plenty of free resources on the internet (and in the library) that can teach anxiety-coping skills. Meditation and mindfulness practices are particularly helpful.
  5. Sleep – getting adequate sleep is not an option for anyone, especially when dealing with chronic anxiety. Natural supplements exist (i.e. melatonin) that can significantly aid sleep induction.



What It’s Like Living With Both Mental illness and Anxiety

Reflection of the girl in the window

Depression is like a sinkhole. One minute you’re standing on firm ground, and the next minute you’re falling into a pit of darkness. Depression is crying over something simple, like dropping a glass on the ground and breaking it, but not crying when something drastic happens, such as a family member passes away.

Anxiety is worrying too much about things we have no control over. Anxiety is like a river. It never stops flowing. Sometimes, anxiety skyrockets and we end up feeling too much, but it can also dry out. Then we don’t feel like constantly worrying, moving or being busy. A river never stays dry for too long — it always becomes alive with water once again. Also, a river will erode away at the walls encasing it, just as anxiety will eat us alive.

Depression and anxiety together is like staying in bed and skipping school because you don’t want to deal with anybody else. Then, worrying for the rest of the day because you don’t want to fail. Having both is like wanting to go out and hang out with your friends, but then talking yourself out of the plans because you don’t want to have to make the effort.

Did I work too hard on this project? I shouldn’t have put this much effort into this. Stop being such an overachiever!

Just stay quiet, it’s not like anyone is listening to you anyways. I mean, do you really think they care?

Alright, I’ll just go in here and pay this bill. I’ll be right out into the car. No one will be looking at me. Right? Right?

I don’t feel like getting up today. No one will miss me.

I missed the test today! Oh no, what if they won’t let me retake it? I knew I should have gotten up today. Oh no.

Look at yourself, do you really think you’re worth all the trouble you make?

I’m going to go through self-checkout. No one has to talk to me. I don’t have to stutter over my words. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Depression doesn’t just show up when something bad happens. For me, it’s always about the little things. Someone will look at me wrong. I drop something on a bad day. The weather will affect me. Even just thinking about something from the past will trigger me. But something bad can happen, and I won’t feel as affected. Then, the depression will build and just burst one day over something simple as shutting a door too hard.

Anxiety isn’t just something people make up because they need an excuse as to why they work too hard or try too hard. Anxiety is a motivator for many of people but for all the wrong reasons. Anxiety pushes people too hard for little things, such as a poster project in school, a practice writing exam, their looks, how they dress, what they eat or how they do everything they do. Anxiety convinces people they need to be and look a certain way in public.

Can I not just have one damn day where I’m content to go into public with just sweatpants, a baggy tee shirt and a messy bun? Do I always have to put on makeup, wear some tight fitting jeans, a nice shirt, do my hair just to go to the dollar store? Am I conceited or do I just care too much?

Sometimes, depression will win over my anxiety. I will go into public dressed in those sweatpants and baggy t-shirt. I will look like a complete mess and I won’t think anything of it, until I wake up fully, later in the day. Then, I will be consciously wrapping my arms around myself, shying away, scolding myself in my head for looking the way I did.

Can I not wake up one day and just be happy and content with who I am?

Is it that hard? Are you sure you’re not faking this for sympathy?

Why would you be depressed? You have no reason to be depressed.

Anxiety is just your excuse. Grow up.

Waking up every day is a struggle. It’s like waking up with an elephant on your chest and having to move around and act normal with that extra weight on you. Anxiety will never be an excuse. Anxiety is me. I am anxiety. It is a part of me. The same goes to depression. Depression and anxiety are two of the things I would never wish on anyone, even my archenemy.



5 Things Parents Caring for Children With Mental Illness Should Know

girl holing a doll, looking out the window

My anxiety and panic attacks started the summer before fourth grade. My parents had never dealt with mental illness and were as confused as I was about the disoder that was limiting my independence and changing the personality of the child they knew me to be. As an adult, I see how scary it was for my parents to watch me hurt and not understand what they could do to help. I hate I didn’t have the words to describe what was happening to me.

So here are some tips for people caring for children with mental illness.

1. This may not be just a phase.

This is a hard one because with children so much changes daily. Perhaps this is just a phase. But what if it’s not? It’s OK to hope for the best but don’t depend upon it. By acknowledging this may permanently be in my life, you are showing me it’s OK to be different and whatever may happen, you will love and support me.

2. Mental illness is not rational.

Please, understand when I am in the throes of an episode, no rational thought is going to calm me. The rational part of my brain has shut down and I am in survival mode. Offer your presence. Offer a hand. Offer a distraction, but don’t offer rational statements. These are often upsetting because I know I should be able to see things the way you do, but I can’t. Just accept I need to get through the next minute, day or week. Only once I’m back on stable ground can we analyze and look at better ways to handle the next episode.

3. See past my behaviors to the motivation behind them.

I was a strong-willed child to say the least. So when anxiety and panic threatened my stability, I reacted in the only way I knew how. I didn’t care who I hurt or what I did because I was simply trying to alleviate the anxiety. Children are not born knowing how to cope with mental illness. Please, be patient. We’re learning just as you’re learning. Take time to analyze why I may be acting the way I am and then gently redirect me to a more positive coping mechanism.

4. Seeking outside assistance isn’t admitting to failure.

It is impossible for a parent to know everything so don’t expect this of yourself. Sometimes we don’t know what is needed or helpful until someone else tells us. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Many mental illnesses can be managed with therapy and medication, but you will never know until you ask. The sooner, the better.

Be an advocate for me. Seek out a community for support, and show me there are other children facing the same issues. Remember, the outside support isn’t just for me. Trying to care for someone with so many unknown variables is emotionally draining and physically exhausting. So don’t be afraid to reach out.

5. This is not your fault.

If you don’t hear anything else, hear me say this is not your fault. There is nothing you did or didn’t do to cause this to happen. It is simply the way I was made, just as some people are made with a limp or born with red hair. Do not feel guilty you don’t understand what it’s like or that you feel helpless. I feel this way a lot and it’s OK. Know that by simply helping me cope and being by my side, you have done what you can. At the end of the day, that is enough for me.



When Anxiety Makes You Your Own Worst Enemy

A blue portrait of a woman

In those brief moments of clarity right after the Xanax kicks in, or right after the caffeine from that first cup of coffee flows straight through my veins, I truly and actually feel like everything will be all right. Unfortunately, those moments are brief, and for the rest of my day, and sometimes night, it is usually a constant battle in my head. The anxious thoughts escape from their pen at the back of my mind and slowly entangle themselves in my day-to-day thoughts.

What am I having for dinner? becomes: What does this feeling mean? Should I feel this way or that way? What did this interaction mean? What if this happens? Or that? Constantly taking my emotional temperature is debilitating. It robs me of my ability to live in the moment, the present. It also saps me of my energy, as it is mentally exhausting to constantly assure and reassure yourself all day that everything will be fine, and bring yourself back to the present.

Thankfully, these are only my days when my anxiety spikes. These spikes can last from a number of days to months. But once they are over, I only realize the spike has ended because my mind is suddenly quiet without the constant fight. It’s almost like the absence of city noises in the suburbs — surprising and so welcome. That’s when I get to feel “normal,” or what I assume people without anxiety feel. And it is glorious. I feel heartbroken because the way my brain is wired means this isn’t the status quo for my mind. But my mind finally feel settled at the same time, like I never had a demon in my head I needed to fight: myself.

In these moments, I hope and pray the anxiety has been quieted for good, forever, and I can count it as something I used to have. And yet, the day inevitably comes when life stressors — family, friends, relationships or even new and exciting stages of life — come about, and my anxiety sees an opportunity to try to sabotage me. Sabotaged by my own brain is really how I feel. I know rationally that the thoughts are my worst fears preying on my mind, and I can try to let them pass, because I might never be able to control them or eradicate them. The harder you try to erase the thoughts, the worse they become. It is a testament of will to have anxious thoughts, sit with them and let it pass by. To work hard and wait patiently until the spike passes.

To all those who read this and know exactly what I’m talking about — you’re not alone. I may not know you, but I know there is a community of us. We exist. We walk around like everyone else, secret battles raging in our minds. These battles will eventually pass, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out a hand when you see the signs of someone struggling. Talk to that friend who looks overwhelmed; share your story, as scary as it may be. Your strength can become theirs, and together we can break the taboo.