As I was listening to a podcast the other day, I heard the mom of a troubled young man mention that when her son was 10, a therapist had diagnosed him with what the mom called “the very vague ‘general anxiety disorder.'” She said it with a dismissive, frustrated tone that conveyed her belief that the diagnosis had been meaningless and useless. She went on to talk about her son’s various behavioural issues in the years that followed, without mentioning his original diagnosis again. I was saddened and somewhat alarmed that this child’s own mother didn’t seem to understand what Generalized Anxiety Disorder is (or even what it’s actually called). Whether that was a result of her own misunderstanding or an inept therapist, I don’t know. I wondered if her and her son’s story would have gone any differently if it could have been accurately conveyed to her at the time of that diagnosis what Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is, and that it’s a real psychiatric disorder with real impacts (but also that it can be treated).
Continue reading “Let’s All Get this Straight: It’s Called Generalized Anxiety Disorder and It’s Real”
I’ve been a bit reluctant to talk about my anxiety medications on my blog. One reason for that reluctance is that medications are a very individual thing, and something that works for one person may not work for another (or may make their symptoms actually worse), so I didn’t see much value in sharing my medication experience, as it is just my experience, and doesn’t necessarily provide valuable information to anyone else. And I really didn’t want to imply that I was in any position to provide advice on something as serious as prescription medication.
The other reason I haven’t really talked about my meds is that the subject of psychiatric medication is a bit of a controversial one. Some people believe psych meds are an evil tool of big pharmaceutical companies who want to get us all addicted to meds we don’t need. On the other side, we have people who say that psychiatric medications have saved their lives and are essential to their ability to function. I’ve been in anxiety support groups where the subject of medication is virtually banned (sort of like the way you might ban topics like politics and religion) because it tends to cause such heated disagreement. Continue reading “Me and My Meds”
I just googled the phrase “Things you shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety” and I was amazed at how many articles came up. There were seriously something like 50 stories! Mostly numbered lists, with various numbers: 11 things you shouldn’t say, 4 things you shouldn’t say, 20 things you shouldn’t say?! Who can remember 20 things you’re not supposed to say? I’m pretty sure I’d accidentally blurt one of them out when talking to an anxious person, because that list would be all I’d be thinking about! Continue reading “Thoughts on Talking to People with Anxiety (Minus the List of “Shouldn’ts”)”
I find myself suddenly immersed in the world of pet urns. As I discussed a few weeks ago, my beloved dog Tucker died in mid-April. A week after the vet came to our house to euthanize Tucker at the end of his struggle with a brain tumour, my husband and I went to the veterinary clinic to pick up Tucker’s ashes. They were given to us in a small, plain, cardboard box (a “scatter box,” they call it), exactly as our first dog Duffy’s ashes had been given to us four years ago, following his passing at the ripe old age of 15 years (that’s Duffy on the left in the photo up there, Tucker’s on the right). Continue reading “Continuing on my Bereavement Journey (and Avoiding a Procrastination Detour)”
[Trigger alert: this blog post includes discussions of a phobia of mice and a phobia of choking, so please bear that in mind if that might be a trigger for you (and virtual high-five if we share the same phobia!)]
OK, I’m going to start by coming right out and saying it: the idea of writing and posting this particular blog makes me very, very nervous. That’s because I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past few years worrying that people would find out the truth about my foolish, embarrassing phobias, and I’ve made quite a lot of effort to hide them. And now here I am, about to actually share it all, every ridiculous detail, with anyone in the world with an internet connection and an inclination to read it. It goes so completely against my natural instinct for concealment, for relentlessly maintaining an exterior of “I’m fine,” when sometimes I’m not. But at the same time, I believe this is something I have to do, an obstacle I need to overcome if I’m going to make the kind of progress I want to, and live my most authentic life. Continue reading “Fessing Up about My Phobias”
I’ll let you in on something – the last blog I posted, the one on CBT and ACT from May 1, was mostly written by about April 14 (it just needed a bit of polishing and layout work). I was planning to post it sometime the week of the 17th. But during that week of the 17th, I suddenly felt the need to start writing about another subject. That’s because on Saturday, April 15, the day before Easter, I lost my beloved dog Tucker to complications from a brain tumour. Continue reading “My Grief and My Anxiety”
Since I started this blog a few months ago, I’ve been meaning to write about my experiences with two particular kinds of therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. That’s because the first I tried, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular forms of therapy among mental health professionals, and at one time I believed it was the only path to mental health for me. But during the years that I applied the principles of CBT, I ended up with little more than feelings of frustration and failure, and no improvement in my anxiety symptoms. I assumed this was just the inevitable course of my illness, and my only choice was to keep on trying with CBT. I thought I had no other treatment options – until I discovered that there was something else out there: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT has worked for me in a way I’d given up hope any therapy could. And I’m here to tell you, if you’ve tried CBT and it hasn’t helped you, there are other options.
Continue reading “Anxiety Therapies: How Changing from CBT to ACT Changed Everything for Me”
I normally enjoy listening to CBC Radio’s “The Current,” a typically intelligent and informative current affairs show broadcast weekday mornings. But this week, they did a story that seriously ticked me off, and really disappointed me. It was presented as a story about PTSD, except it wasn’t a story about PTSD at all. And in doing so, “The Current” and the CBC just furthered the same kind of misinformation about mental illness that we already hear way too much of.
By the time I finished listening to the story, I was starting to imagine a rant in my head that I wanted to be able to say to the producers of “The Current.” When it gets to the point that I’m starting to compose whole speeches in my head, I usually take that as a sign that I should write something down, if only to organize my thoughts and calm myself. As I started writing down some ideas, I felt moved to express those thoughts in some sort of meaningful way. I find myself increasingly drawn to the cause of public awareness about mental health issues, and this felt like an opportunity to try to combat some of the inaccurate messages out there about mental illnesses. Continue reading “Mental Health Awareness: Calling Out the Crap”
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found that I’ve been hearing several references to “high functioning” people with anxiety disorders. In the examples I heard and read, it was the anxious person themselves who used the term “high functioning,” usually in the context of something like, “I might be high functioning, but I’m still struggling underneath,” and suggesting that being “high functioning” puts them at a disadvantage because people don’t “see” their illness. I actually heard one person use the term “The ‘not sick enough’ stigma.” It got me wondering what calling someone “high functioning” really means, particularly in the case of folks like me who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Continue reading “Being a “High Functioning” Person with Mental Illness: Blessing or Curse?”
Like a lot of folks with anxiety disorders, I have an ongoing monologue in my head pretty much every waking moment (also known as “self-talk), in which I constantly judge myself and the things I’m doing (or have done). Usually I don’t even notice I’m doing it (not consciously at least), it’s just second nature.
Too frequently my inner monologue consists of throwing a lot negative words at myself, words like “weak,” “stupid,” or “loser.” After all, I think, how else could I describe someone whose anxiety issues make it ridiculously hard to do things everybody else just takes for granted, things like grocery shopping, eating with friends, or going down to my basement (there could be mice down there!)? It frustrates me that I have to expend so much energy just doing the things that I consider the bare minimum for normal functioning, things that I feel like I should be able to do with ease. Everybody else does it, why can’t I? Thoughts like these leave me feeling like I’m less than everybody else, and, sometimes, kind of ashamed of myself. Continue reading “Redefining Bravery (in a life steeped in anxiety)”