Talk About Anxiety

I remember in grade school when we were all expected to give a timed speech in front of our classes. For those who were gifted with their story telling, the audience would grow.  I always went up with those little cue cards that Mom used for her recipes, completely detached from whatever I was rambling on about and trying so desperately to not end up with my head between my knees hyperventilating into a paper bag.  I guess looking back, those presentations were probably my first remembered experience of what a panic attack was going to feel like…down the road.  Oh, the irony.

The first time I came out with my story; sharing this journey “out loud” didn’t feel much different.  The difference being that I now know how to breathe through it.  I know I’m not going to die, I’m not having a heart attack, not going to instantly cease to exist…it actually makes me laugh now.  Yes, I still get nervous every single time I speak.  I still feel the panic attack coming on, often walking in just in time to speak as to avoid the pre speech foreplay of people watching me, wondering what I have to say, maybe able to see that I’m breathing like I just ran a marathon.  I confidently walk out onto the stage and promptly sit!  No I’m not being rude, I’m not trying to appear lazy or complacent, it’s just a lot easier for me to control my breathing when I’m sitting, you won’t be able to see my anxiety attacks!  I keep a bottle of water next to me at all times so I have a built in excuse to pause when needed to get a few deep breaths in!  It’s all a very strategic process for me. 

There are days that my story is too real even for me.  Spending the time reliving some of the worst moments in my life on days that my anxiety is begging me to just stay home, or my depression is suggesting it could be a movie day…well, it’s a challenge.  But I have a learned perspective.  You can be my therapist on those days.  On the days that I used to want to just be alone, I now know that I’m stronger with support.  I’m stronger if I let people in and remind myself that I’m never alone.  So whether you like it or not, I’ve learned to use you for that.  I will be gentle with myself as I share my journey with you, and I will accept that if I cry, if I struggle, it’s the choice I made.  I chose to share this journey so the world can learn how real it is for so many, most importantly because I want you to see “ME”.  I want people to see that yes I can still have bad days, but there are so many that are so good!  And even with the challenges I face, it’s so possible to take a deep breathe, laugh in amazement and wonder at the power of my mind and body, revel in my ability to work with myself to take it in stride, and just continue on my journey. 

I have figured out the worst that could happen would be a presentation that includes a full blown panic attack, perhaps a few tears in front of a bunch of strangers that came to hear me share my journey about living with anxiety, panic and depression; so frankly, there is the potential of a very visual presentation and perhaps greater understanding of what I go through…not a horrible alternative.  And the best part, there’s usually a medical professional, a shrink, a doctor, a social worker or some alternative in the audience, and I I’ve spent enough time paying for it that I’ll take my free sessions when needed!


Answers to your Questions

I will do my best to answer your questions but please remember this is just my experience and my opinion from my experience.

With regards to the medication and your mother; medication does not make somebody who they are, at all. I have been medicated for anxiety and depression for almost 14 years now. My beliefs, my morals, the way I treat people, my passions, my athletic ability, etc....they all still exists and are very much who I am. The medication does not change who I am at all. What it does is help to control the symptoms of an illness. Depression and anxiety are not who I am either, but both cause symptoms that are difficult to deal with. The medication simply deals with those symptoms and helps me to not be debilitated by an illness. If your Mother were to stop taking her meds, she may find she is ok. Some people are able to use meds to get things under control, and come off them and live successfully without relapse of full blown symptoms. Others, like me and maybe your mother, need the medication to keep the chemical balance in our brains level so that we don't face the symptoms so heavily. I wouldn't look at it as her meds make her the person she is, but instead, the meds allow her to be the person she really is.

Now as for the hereditary possibilities of facing mental health issues yourself; There are ties to genetics and mental health, similar to a lot of illnesses. It is possible that this is something that may effect you in your life, it is also possible it may not. There are many factors that can lend to Mental Illness and many of which you can't control. It's not a choice to be sick or not. I can say with honesty I don't know what "caused" this for me. There is Mental Illness in my family, I have had pressures and stresses in my life that some may consider extreme, I could come up with a thousand possible "triggers" or "whys" but none of them matter and I couldn't have avoided any of them. What I suggest is first, don't focus on the possibility you may get sick someday. That possibility always exists focusing on the negative will only increase the likelihood that you will experience it. Find comfort in the knowledge that you are surrounded by a family that understands and should you be faced with issues, will be able to support and provide guidance to help you. Pay attention, you have seen what anxiety and depression look like, if you feel you may be experiencing issues, go seek help. Think of it this way, you are armed with a lot of experience and knowledge and should you face any problems yourself, you will be in a far better position yourself to identify it, seek support and learn to cope with it.

Most importantly again however, do not assume it will happen to you, instead just take good care of yourself and do the things that keep you healthy everyday.

Hope this helps,



What If...(Soap Box Rant)

What if I told you it really does get better?  

I know that can seem patronizing.  I've been there.  And sometimes, if I'm complacent enough, I can still get there.  But for the most part, life is better than I ever dared to hope.  

In passing I commented the other day, "I choose to see myself; not in memories of what I've lost, but instead in the things I dare to dream."  I spent so long being afraid to dream, afraid to try, knowing more often than not I would end up feeling failure and in embracing that I perpetuated the depression, the angst.  It was a curious moment when I realized I had to CHOOSE otherwise.  

Yes, I have a long list of diagnosis'.  Yes, I did/do require therapy in many forms to stay healthy, but that's it.  I am just staying healthy.  It's not a shame, it's not something I fear anymore or feel the need to hide.  I am simply CHOOSING to live the life that supports my desire to stay healthy and MENTALLY FIT. 

Maybe this is one of those soap box moments where I just feel the need to stand up and scream, it can be so much better;  or maybe this is just another wall coming down in hopes of revealing a piece of myself that has been so important in getting to where I am.  In any case, here it is;  Choose happy!  Choose to embrace hope and dream in every possibility!  Try not to read these words with spite or in doubt.  I understand all too well the ease at which we can embrace what feels impossible.  Just today, try something different.  Go for a walk.  Throw on your favourite CD.  Hit up a yoga class.  Invite a friend for coffee.  Just try something different, and if only for 1 minute of that you forget to be "lost", it's a minute to build off of!