Thursday, December 17, 2009

"I can get through the day but at night it seems everything catches up to me. "

JAP, age 30. Des Moines, IA.

My Belly Aches Blue - Lorazapam Flu (Lyrics from Blue October)

I wonder if I will ever be off the medication. I wonder if I even want to be. Do I want to get better? Do I like having this as an excuse to not socialize.

I am the definition of anti-social, yet I can't stand the thought of being alone. I hate to go to work, but I feel better when I'm there because I can focus on something else besides this "weirdness" I constantly feel inside me. Will I ever feel normal again?

It began when I was 17. I was driving home and all of sudden everything became like a video game. Nothing seemed real and the corners of my eyes started to turn black. The car was closing in on me. I pulled over, got out of the car and called my mom. Mom, Mom, something is wrong!! I can't breath, my vision is weird, I feel weird! Calm down, maybe you just haven't eaten good enough today, you do have a protein deficiency. Ok, ok, calm down. I'm right down the street from home. I can get there. I can get there. It happened a few more times. Once while driving on vacation with my boyfriend and we had to switch drivers while we were still driving so we didn't loose who we were following. I couldn't drive anymore, I was loosing it. I rolled down my window and spent the next hour with my face in the wind and my eyes closed.

It didn't happen again until a year ago. I had been drinking the night before and was hung over. I thought that was all it was. I took some Advil and drank some Alka Seltzer. My heart started racing and my eyes starting feeling funny again. It felt again like nothing was real and I couldn't focus. My chest hurt, I couldn't breath, my hands were shaking and sweating and tingly and numb. I thought I was going to die! It took my husband 2 hours to calm me down while I went from laying in bed to laying on the floor. I finally fell asleep but in a state of terror. I woke up feeling scared but no longer terrified. I was drained.

Then next one happened at work. Same symptoms. I work in a call center and was on the phone with a client. I told her I would have to put her on hold and eventually had to have a co worker take over the call because I couldn't come back to my desk. I knew when it affected my work that I had to do something.

I went to the Dr and they tried to convince me I had a heart problem. I knew better. I'd felt this way before, but I did all their tests which came back fine. I said, I told you so, NOW HELP ME! 1 mg Ativan twice a day, 20 mg of Celexa once a day. Celexa makes me feel sick, almost makes the anxiety worse. I quit taking it but I still take the Ativan. It helps me sleep.

I can get through the day but at night it seems everything catches up to me. I try to lay down and relax in bed and sleep but my brain won't shut off and I start to feel closed in. I pop my Ativan and I start to feel better as I drift to sleep. No one understands what I am going through. My husband thinks I'm crazy. I blame him because if he wouldn't have cheated on me 7 months after we got married the attacks wouldn't have been triggered again. I hate him, I'm angry with him. I hate her, I'm angry with her. I know what's caused them, but what do I do about it now. I go to a therapist. He is awesome. He teaches me about Red and Blue. If you keep thinking Red, all you will see is Red, recognize Red for what it is and think Blue. I practice and practice everyday. I still deal with the anger even though I've made the decision to stay married and honor my vows. I have this garbage to work through.

I start to journal and it's like I am bulimic. I purge everything I have onto my paper. I go through pen after pen, book after book. Pouring out words of hatred and fear. I listen to Blue October 24/7. I carry their words with me like I carry my Bible. I start to feel better everyday but then a memory will come and send me spiraling back down. Now I'm diagnosed with severe panic disorder and depression. They add Wellbutrin, 150 mg. God, will this ever end??? Should I just walk away from my marriage? Will that take the feelings away? No, I can't do that, I love him. God doesn't approve of divorce. He's not cheating, he's being faithful, he's sorry, he's working on it. Forgive and move on.

I read Samantha's book, I don't want to be crazy, and I can't remember when I related to someone more. When she said, it's like I'm in one room and my panic is on the other side of the door, I cry. That's how I feel. My panic is at arms length. I am dependent on these pills so I don't feel the fear. I take everyday one day at a time and try to not miss to much work. I try to function as a mom, but I feel like I'm robbing my son of a real life because mommy can't function. I try to ignore it and sometimes it works. I read any book I can get my hands on and I try all the methods and breathing exercises and writing exercises and all of it seems to be only temporary.

Prayer. I pray constantly. I always have but I'm thinking that the Lord is using this to bring me closer to Him, more dependent on Him. If that is the case I think I can handle the fear. I pray to just know His will.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Me, meet WhoIWas – A lot has changed, just to let You know.”

Anonymous, age 17.

I am known: like a child, so eager to receive, I take my place. Like a timeline, I make a mark, so afraid to run out of space. This is where I have brought myself, like a choice I just couldn’t make. Like a sudden break, I fall. Like a final failure, I risk it all. This is who I have become, shattering into a million tiny pieces. Like a voice, just a voice, with no words of reason; like charades, and the only one left guessing is me. This is what it’s like to anticipate the fall. Like a wound that refuses to heal or a single moment that changes it all; I am afraid. I am no child, begging to panic. I am not a timeline, counting each second. I am not broken beyond repair or a carless mistake. I want to be heard, to be understood, even by me. I am not left alone to infect myself, to die a lost cause. I assure myself of all these things, reminding myself when I forget. I make sense of it all, trying to tighten my grip, but there is something that brings me closer to the edge, haunting me with fear until all else fades. This is too close for comfort, too real to fake; too much to handle, too blinding to wake. I will not live my life this way. I was made for more than this. So I take myself away, as I try to heal and breakthrough, I encounter the life I’m brought to. Full of refusing to relive my past – this is me, this is who I can be, free of past struggles, no longer controlled by anxiety. This is how far I have come: from child to years down the road, mending together my broken whole, leaving behind the mask; I have a voice that speaks volumes and a life worth living. I am not a victim. I want to break free of how you know me. Are you listening, please? Know nothing about me. Forget about how long it took before I finally could be, just be, without panic or fear. Forget about the attacks that waged, surrounding me. Forget about how I was on my worst day, or on my best. I know it seems necessary to understand, to see it through my eyes, to try to break the fall, but let yourself refocus. All you need to know is I have left behind everything, all of me, except the parts that matter most. I have never forgotten the way it felt, or walked away from the story I have to tell. I know I can reach out, touch the dark places where no one else can reach. I know there is life outside the cage, and a reason to keep breathing. I know, because I’ve been there. Know you are stronger than you think you are. Know, if nothing else, that in ever battle, victory is on its way.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"I can actually breathe now."

Claire Ross, age 15. New York.

Looking back, I can see I've had a problem for a while. Ever since I was little. The insomnia. The panic attacks. The compulsions. The repetition. It's an endless cycle. It was familiar for the longest time, but I never had a name for it until I was diagnosed a little while ago with both Panic Disorder (with Agoraphobia) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There's something comforting about a label for it. It fits me into my tiny little four sided box. I don't have a choice. I never did. It's been a part of me for so long, for a while I even thought it was normal. Not now. I used stay awake at night worrying that I'm not normal. That my panic disorder defines me. After being on 50 mg of Zoloft for a few months and going to therapy, I've made significant progress, and I've learned that I'm not alone. It's a struggle, but the attacks aren't as frequent. I can actually breathe now. I can sleep. I can focus and function, remotely happily. Finally.

"I have this innate attraction to self-destruction."

E., age 21. Illinos.

I want to say I thought about it,
but I didn’t.
I want to say I had the knife at my
wrist, and I almost didn’t do it.
But that’s not what happened.
What happened is I got sick of it
sick of being scared all the time.
I wanted the panic to leave my chest.
So I let the blade sink in,
I dragged it across and watched,
numb, as the skin turned white and
then red.

Releasing the Soul
To pass the time, I write.
Try to purge everything negative out of me;
make the paper the one to suffer all
the pain, the sadness, the cruelty
of this world.
I write so that maybe I can stop
the feelings inside of me from
building up and bursting out
like they have done so many times before.
I write because the one goal I’ve found to strive for
in these most unwilling days,
is that eventually I will be the one

in control.
There is a force inside of me
itching to destroy.
I have this innate attraction to self-destruction.
But maybe writing it down
is like letting it go,
and words will be the one thing that
saves me.

"I have been fighting this, whatever this is, for the past four years."

DEAD, age 15. Virgina.

And recently I have gained a friend who has been able to talk me through situations that I would other wise not be able to get through. We were chatting over email one Sunday and the topic of my Tokio Hotel Fan Fiction novel came up. The story here starts when my friend asks me, regarding another fan fiction I am writing and it's main character, “Was Ananya from The Pain Of Love based off you?”

My answer, “Yes, Ananya was based off of me. Her character in the most simplest form was based off of me. Of course i changed her name and her love for her family that died, was something i wish i had: the love for my family. Not the dying part of her family though.

“Tokio Hotel is portrayed in TPOL in the same manner of importance in Ananya's life that Green Day has played in mine. I was literally, a day away from suicide. i take that back HOURS away from suicide. We were in Everett Washington. we were headed for Seattle and i knew we were going to take a cruise around the Seattle harbor. i had planned and set my heart might mind and soul on jumping off the front end of the ship while it was moving.

“i got in the car and i asked my sister for a CD to listen to in my Walkman. she handed me this disk and said, 'skip track two' i put it in and heard "Don't Wanna Be An American Idiot." sung by Billie Joe Armstrong. i listened to the entire American Idiot CD over twice before we got to Seattle.

“And i am here today. Bill saving Ananya from suicide in TPOL is like Green Day saving me from my own death Then there are the fictional points of Ananya that i added to make her seem less like me and more like a made up figure.”

Her reply was “You know, something told me that it was you. I'm not really sure how or why. Maybe Ananya's character just had more depth and so much more emotion poured into her than Summer, even though the writing style is the same and everything. It must've been a little nerve wracking to do that... basically expose yourself like that even though people don't know that it is you.”

“Well yes and no because Ananya is shrouded by Tokio Hotel instead of Green Day, and Bill instead of Billie, i think it is easier to write for her and i mean as her story progresses, she becomes a lot less like me and more like, well Ananya.

“She becomes more of her own person her on entity her own character and personality forms and it becomes less prominent that she is based off of me. but Ananya does take after me in one more major thing that i can think of off the top of my head She didn't attempt suicide, her Second personality did see, i am Bipolar and times i think that i have bi personality that is really where Ananya splits from being a hidden me to being her own person”

This lead to the discussion of multiple personality disorder. By the end of the chat, my friend has put my on terms where I know who these people in my head are. Billie and June. Billie is this punk ass girl who doesn't take shit from the world. June is this religious girl who is loosing the fight against Billie. And then there is me, the girl the host body, trying to keep from going insane.

I would just like to say, I would not have been able to sit here and write this if it wasn't for her.

Friends are a nice thing...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Help me, Mommy."

Donna, age 49. Connecticut.

My first born child, high school junior,
Handsome, hockey captain
Popular, well-liked
Calls me from the bathroom of his high school,
"Mom, something's wrong...I can't go into class..."

He sits there for hours then escapes to the outdoor bleachers,
Security finds him and escorts him back to his nightmare
"Something is wrong...I can't be here anymore...I need to go home..."
"I need to get out"

Chest pain, sweating, suffocation, heart racing, losing control in front of everyone"

"I can't risk it"
"I feel it in every classroom"
"I can't risk it"
"Help me, Mommy"

My first born child, high school junior,
Handsome, hockey captain
Suffering, in pain,
What do I do?
Forget about scholarships, even college
Just get him to graduate, will he graduate?
Does anybody remember him anymore?

Prozac, clonopin, xanax
Hospital admissions and hospital schools
The "short bus" in our driveway
Beeping so our neighbors could witness the humiliation and
The tears, fighting, expectations denied.

Am I to blame?
What have I done? To my first born son
Who had so much potential
High school senior, now special ed
Lucky if he graduates with a high school degree.
Still handsome, was a hockey captain
Not as popular but well-liked by the few he sees...

I write the college essays...
anything to get him in...
To lead a normal life...
What did I do???
I thought I put the right amount of pressure on him...
but, maybe, it was too much?

I blame myself....for the
Demise of my first born child...
We attended high school graduation but
were outsiders...didn't belong; haven't been there in a while.
Still handsome, disappointing hockey season,
Not popular anymore, few friends,
Prisoner of anxiety.
I love you, Matt.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"I will lose my grip."

AnneMarie R., age 16. New Jersey.

On Call Nights
Make me lose my mind.
Sleep deprived,
And vomit timed.
Martyr mornings,
For patient primes.
Raw empty stomach,
Churns alcohol grinds.
Nauseous headaches,
Pulse reality’s burn,
As paranoia looms,
Exploiting nervous words.
I will lose my grip,
I have made myself sick.
And as the clinical light sings;
I die.

But hey, at least I went down with you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Crying every night isn't working for me anymore."

Angela F, age 17. Wichita, KS.

"Title: October 28, 2008


Distance; just another word to explain all the reasons I can't do this anymore. Another way to name our ever so recent diverse time is him. Not a name, just him. It's not going to change nor will it get better.

It's time for me.
I can't.
Just me; I am who I want to be.
...I think.
But I know I can't be who you want me to be. I won't complain.
And I don't expect you to either.
Explaining this wont be easy. But if I don't do it now, no one else can or will.
Don't make me choose. Because I can't tell you. Nor can I tell him.
I won't make this anymore complicated than it already is because this crying every night isn't working for me anymore.
My eyes have gone dry. And my emotions can't be what they used to.
I did this to myself.
I have only one:
Not finding this out sooner."

This and more of my writing is on my webpage:

"In my mind life is an unlivable loudness."

Katy, age 19. Jacksonville, FL.

"There is no cure. That’s the truth; no doctor or family member will pronounce. When we admit there is no light at the end of the tunnel, we have given ourselves no closure. What’s living if were not hoping? Come on really, what’s the use of this fucking terrible life, if we can’t dream of living a fucking wonderful life? Why? God damn’t why, must we even breathe?

Ok, when this ultimate high breaks, we let our brains settle. We go by, living a day by day basis, always breathing. But, were dead, barely baring the placid sky. And, we settle down in our sheets, still there is no cure. Valium, prozac, xanax, nothing removes what the doctor recommends. Why do these feelings surround us? When having everything seems like nothing. When death feels so close we just may burst. It’s sensual, we feel a temptation and we feel special. But, yet we always, always want it out.

What is it that we want out?
And more importantly, why do we seek such vengeance against what
defines us?

“In my mind life is an unlivable loudness. People saunter with their heads up high; no one bothers to look into my troubled soul. Echoes, murmurs, rumors, sounds shake, leading my heart to break. I wear an invisible soul that people walk right over. And yet, I sometimes wonder why I am so helpless. Everyone has insecurities, but it is only mine, which draw all over. They leave me with a bottle of pills, in which I have no desire to swallow, due to my lack of triumph. It is not that I want to be non-existent; I am not yet hopeless. Although absolutely numb, I still feel and just because my bones break doesn’t mean I won’t heal. Dealing is a way of life, feeling is only negative in mine.”

That was just one of the myriad pre-suicidal poems written in my journal full of melancholy, flustered thoughts and poetry. I was seventeen with a life full of the unexpected. Every expectation, every proposal for the perfect future had collapsed. Seventeen years of uttered rebellion and reiterated suicidal thoughts can compels one’s brain to pivot. Not even all the drugs, therapy or shrinks could fulfill the emptiness of my enter-being. I needed people to understand that I did not have answers, only pain that would not elapse. They needed to recognize what I was going thru without thinking I was some deranged freak. Truthfully, I needed to want to get better. I had to want to see the sunrise before my eyes, a fresh patch of yellow roses and the ocean sway. I needed to enjoy everyday because life is not everlasting. I needed to stop sorrowing over every sullen, isolated thought. Most significantly, I needed not to need, but to want to live."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Never have I been so scared of myself."

Ashley L., age 16. Chicago.

"Everything seemed normal in my life up to now. I'm passed the issue of having ADD and the depression doesn't bother me that much anymore. Little did I know that things were gonna turn and change in a way I never expected...

On Halloween night, something weird started to happen. My heart started to race, I started breathing harder. The next thing I knew I snapped off at my family and then went to my room. I was going crazy. I broke and rocked myself back and forth. It was the most extreme anxiety attack I've ever had. It didn't even feel like me, it felt as if somebody was taking over me.

Two hours later, my body was still shaking but I was calm. As I lay there on my bed, caressing my head, my best friend to call and check up on me. Never had she been so worried about me and risked getting fired. I was fine for the rest of the night. It happened at church the next day. Never have I been so scared of myself."

"Sometimes it feels like there are two people inside of me."

Melissa W, age 16. Oregon.

"My story begins like anyone else's. I was born one evening in early March, a healthy baby girl. Our stories become a little different when I say that I was the first child in my family of four. Our lives become even more unique when I tell you that I have ADHD and an anxiety disorder.
Did I also mention that sometimes it feels like there are two people inside of me?
Meet Mel. She is the me without my ADHD medication.
Then, meet Melissa. She's me on my ADHD medication.
Sometimes, it frightens me that 50 MG of Vyvanse determines if I'll be Mel or Melissa for the day.

Ever since I can remember, I've been in a constant war with my ADHD medication. There was the one that made me 20-30 pounds underweight. There was the one that created suicide thoughts like demons, constantly tugging me towards on-coming traffic or to a razor blade. I haven't found one that's perfect, and I doubt that there's one out there that is. Even now, lack of appetite and a twinge of depression probe me with each pill.

For my whole life I've always known that I'm not a 'normal' person. And for my whole life I've tried to deny that. I spent my middle school years rejecting the entire idea of ADHD, all the while my fear of asking for help growing. My rejection continued into 9th grade, and my fear became a paranoia when I entered Algebra 1. When my boyfriend of three years broke up with me, I found myself alone and confused in a new school, all the while my fear of asking for help preventing me from moving forward. I managed to graduate 9th grade without asking for help directly, but I knew that I couldn't pull this off as a Sophomore. It was my first day of Geometry that following September that I had my first panic attack.

I can't breathe, I can't breathe!
I'm shaking, why am I shaking?!
This classroom is so loud, yet why is it so quiet?!
I feel like I'm going to throw up...
I'm so scared, I'm so scared...
Can't anyone else see this?! Can't anyone else see what's happening?! They have too!!
Am I having a mental breakdown?
What's going on with me?!
At 1:00 I was staring blankly at a Geometry work sheet. By 1:05, I had locked myself in a bathroom stall, teaching myself how to breathe, all the while sobbing. I remember I blamed my ex-boyfriend for this, I thought that if he was still with me, I wouldn't have fallen apart like that. It was all his fault, not mine.

After that, my attacks stayed more of when I needed to talk to the teacher alone. It got to the point where I needed 20 minutes prep time before I could even walk up to the classroom, let alone speak to the teacher. Even if I was successful in speaking, something inside of me felt that trying was futile. Thus, I failed to progress.

In the end, my math teacher began to break down my wall I built around myself. She let me cry in the empty classrooms, all the while sitting next to me. We would carefully go through my work, and I soon began to understand the language being spoken.

Today, it only takes me 10 minutes to pace outside the classroom. By then, I'll be able to talk to my teacher.
The attacks are still there. Sitting in my room at night, I'll stare at my math homework.
The pressure builds.
But I've experienced enough to learn to not let them consume me.
The ADHD continues, and it always will. I've accepted that I can do nothing to make that disappear from my life. It will always be apart of me, but I know now that it doesn't
define me.

I've learned to accept it. Mel and Melissa; I've learned to balance them out into me. ADHD isn't as bad as some other things. But, at the same time, people who don't have to live with it's effects don't take it seriously enough.
When I'm compared to another 'normal' person, you won't see much of a difference. But, that is where our similarities end."

Friday, October 30, 2009

"I would lie awake most of the night, terrified by what was happening to me."

TJ, age 60. Iowa.

"When I went away to college in 1967, I was going to save the world. I was not even able to save myself.

I had always been a fearful and anxious child. Extremely shy, I often wished to become invisible. The pinnacle of agony and self-consciousness came when I was called on in class, or was required to make a speech. I was having anxiety attacks, but only in certain situations, and never recognized them for what they were.

Away from home and living in a college dorm, I felt lost and alone. The campus was huge, classes were overcrowded, and I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I grew more anxious and homesick every day.

While in a crowded classroom, I had my first full-blown panic attack. With my heart pounding and feeling nauseated, I got up, left, and returned to the dorm. This was repeated over and over, with each episode increasing in intensity. Finally I was no longer able to go down to the dining hall to eat. I would lie awake most of the night, terrified by what was happening to me. Soon I left school, and spent the next three years or so in and out of hospitals, seeing therapists, and otherwise housebound.

As time passed I lost all hope of finding relief and sank deeper into depression. I started cutting myself just to feel alive and in control of something. No one understood. I had several therapists, none of whom ever really explained what was happening to me. One day, I came across an article that mentioned a book by Claire Weeks -- Hope and Help for your Nerves. It was a turning point for me. Not only was I not crazy, I had an identifiable disorder that many other people had, too. This finally gave me hope that I could recover from this and be myself again.

I have had periods of stability, and relapses. But I know now that the panic will pass. Depression, anxiety's evil sister, has been harder to overcome. It is still too easy to slip into darkness after a bad experience or hurtful exchange. With therapy and medication, I am working on that.

But you can find yourself again -- don't stop trying."

"There are people out there who are just like you and me."

Meaghan, age 18. Brooklyn, NY.

"Have you ever tried to describe what a panic attack feels like to someone who’s never had one before? It’s a bunch of conflicting physical and emotional reactions that only other people with them could understand. How could someone be perfectly fine on the subway or in an airplane, but be paralyzed in fear in a shopping mall? I could never quite answer those questions myself. My attacks are very few and far between, but when they hit, they’re crippling. The thought of them always lingers in the back of my mind. I wonder, “Is today going to be the day?” The feelings are so spur of the moment; you can’t help but think of it on occasion. I’ve been told to ignore the fear and anxiety, but it’s impossible to do when all that’s on your mind is the idea of escaping the situation you’re in.

No one has ever been able to fully comprehend what it’s like to go through an attack. That is, until I read I Don’t Want to be Crazy. Someone was going through the same thing I was. A person actually understood what I was going through. I think that’s all I’ve wanted. When I told my doctor about it, she said, “Don’t worry. You can get help for this.” Those were the greatest eight words I could hear at the time. I remember I was so happy and relieved at the time, I ended up crying in the doctor’s office.

Have I gotten a list of therapists? Yes. Have I made an appointment with them? No. I don’t think my parents wanted to fully accept the fact that their daughter could be placed on Klonopin or Paxil to control herself when she’s out in public. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t resent them. Maybe I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that panic disorder could happen to me too. They’ve comforted me; they just have a hard time realizing how panic attacks can truly hurt when they do occur.

That’s why I’m truly excited that this blog has been created, so others can see that there are people out there who are just like you and me.

Stay strong everyone. Xoxo"

"There were times when I would just stare at the mirror and could not believe I was looking at myself."

Emily, age 18. Georgia.

"I blame my doctor for ruining my life. Rationally, I know it's not his fault, but I need someone to blame for my anxiety. I was sixteen. I was a junior in high school and I wanted to die. Everyday I would force myself to go to school, only to sit in the bathroom for long periods of time, waiting for my lungs to breathe, my heart to stop pounding and my body to stop sweating. I would come home only to collapse and sleep for hours. When my mother took me to the doctor, I didn't want to tell him what was happening to me. To me, my anxiety was a sign of weakness, a flaw in my otherwise perfect world. He told me I was depressed, prescribed me some Prozac, and moved on to the next patient. He didn't care that inside I was screaming just as loud as the baby in the next room. No one cared. I was all alone, fighting a war against nothing, and losing.

When my senior year began, I had already been on several different medications including Xanax. For most seniors at my high school, this was the best year of their lives. For me, it was torture. I couldn't force myself to get up and go to school anymore, I was so exhausted all the time. There were times when I would go for the last thirty minutes of the day just so I wouldn't fall too far behind. I begged to be homebound, a program that allows those who are sick or unable to go to school to work from home, but my doctor would not sign the papers. I spent the next few months trying to convince him that I would be better if I could just stay at home. Nothing changed his mind. So I would go to school and sob in the bathroom, call my mom at work and tell her how much I wanted to die. I missed sixty four days of my senior year before he told my mom to take me to the hospital pysch ward.

They admitted me over a weekend in March. I still cannot talk about how much I hated being there, withdrawing from my favorite addiction, my Xanax, feeling actually crazy for the first time. I am so mad that no one would help me, just stick me in a hospital and ask me the stupidest questions in front of pretentious college doctors. After my hospital stay, nothing changed except my doctor finally allowed me to be homebound. I still felt myself being sucked away into nothing.
I graduated. I was done. I still had depression and I still hated myself. There were times when I would just stare at the mirror and could not believe I was looking at myself. This wasn't me. I was not the girl who was looking back at me. She was killing me, slowly but surely. I didn't trust myself.
It's been six months since then and I can honestly say I feel the best I've felt in years. I'm finally happy and I don't know why. I'm not in college and I still live at home. My days consist of planning for the future. But I feel good. I introduced myself to my therapist yesterday, even though I've been seeing her since March. The reason? She had never met the real me. This is who I am. Not the girl who let her anxiety and depression control her. So, hello, I'm Emily. I still struggle with my anxiety and depression, but now I have something I didn't have before. Hope."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"I came to realize that no matter how much I tried I couldn’t control everything that was going on around me, and I could only control myself."

Sarah, age 23. Indiana.

"My story is always the hardest one to start. I had to work through more stresses than a lot of young teenagers do, but from reading other peoples stories I learned that things could have been much worse. At eleven years old my older brother was murdered, and it was something we didn’t expect at all. He was 22 and doing a lot of partying, and someone who had done drugs came into his house and freaked out. The night that it happened my parents got a call to come identify him, and left without telling any of us. Somehow I knew, and told my sister that is was him. Four months later my Dad got extremely sick. He has emphysema and COPD, with are like having asthma and constant bronchitis together, he describes it as feeling like you’re breathing through a coffee mixer. One night he just couldn’t breathe well at all and was having constant asthma attacks, and my mom finally convinced him to let her call the ambulance. When they finally got him to the hospital, his heart had stopped once. It stopped again while he was in surgery. They found that he had a large mass in his left lung and removed it, and later we found out it wasn’t cancerous thankfully.

I had to fight myself not to withdraw completely after this. I began cutting myself in order to deal with the stress. It was a release, and a way for me to control the way I hurt. I literally hid my issues inside myself for years. Then something happened that is still hard to speak about, and I really haven’t. When I was 14 I was date raped, and that is how I lost my virginity. It made me feel disgusting, and all the pressure inside of me couldn’t be held in anymore. At that point the people around me started to see that I was falling apart. Anywhere on my body that could be covered with clothes was cut, I started pulling my hair out to deal with being in school. I would function in school but not remember hours of it, and truthfully now I don’t remember most of that time. I ended up in the hospital from trying to kill myself.

I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and severe depression, I started on medication but after months on it I found it to be no help. After being in the hospital I dropped out of high school and started homeschooling. I tried to go back the next year, but ended up with health problems and having to have two surgeries, and dropped out again. At 16 I decided I didn’t want to end up living with my parents forever, so I did something about it. I went and got my GED. I spent time on myself. I did anything I wanted to, and kept myself happy. Anytime I did feel depressed again I fought the urge to cut myself. After awhile I came to realize that no matter how much I tried I couldn’t control everything that was going on around me, and I could only control myself. I had a lot of anger, and I realized holding it in was promoting to my problems, so I didn’t hold it in. Anytime someone pissed me off I let them know, I would think it was probably hard to live with me but it’s what I needed.

I’m 23 now, and I’m going to graduate from college next year. I have a 2 year old daughter, Delilah, and she’s amazing. Every day is no longer a struggle, but I wouldn’t say I’m completely rid of it. I still battle anti-social tendencies and depression. The hormonal roller coaster during pregnancy really affected me and I toyed with the idea of cutting. But, now that I’m stronger I saw that it was an issue and told my doctor and he put me in counseling. What I believe is that everything I have dealt with in my life has made me stronger. I believe that I will be a much better mother to my daughter because of the pain I went through."

"The doctors say it's a genetic thing but it feels more like an abnormality."

Leslie Ann, age 16. Chicago.

"I wake up. After getting dressed, I remind my self take your meds. Without them I know I'll struggle to focus and keep my emotions straight. In the class, talking, but all I hear are words rumbling through my mind, moving too fast for me to comprehend. I can't understand what's going on. I can't sit straight, without movement. I need to move, walk around or I'll break lose, out of control. The doctors say it's a genetic thing but it feels more like an abnormality and that no one understands the struggle I go through, a curse. Having ADD, and Bipolar disorder. Depression hits me with everyday topics, divorce, broken families, things that I have had to face everyday. When does it get easier? Why is this happening to me? How come I can't function like other people? What's wrong with me? Why am I cursed with this disability? These are the questions I used to ask myself before everything became clear.

It's not a curse or an abnormality. You are just as equal as anybody else is, I just function differently. I am who I am and nobody can say or do anything that will make me think different about myself."

"I look at his eyes and wonder what he sees. Is it obvious that I'm sick?"

Lyn, age 29. Virginia.

"The words below are, for the most part, an excerpt from my journal. I wrote it more than a year after it happened, but even now I remember like it was yesterday. In May of 2007, I had an anxiety attack that lasted three days. I hadn't slept. By day three, I had reached a state of psychosis. This isn't my first "episode." I have post-traumatic stress disorder. All it takes for me to "lose it" is a great amount of stress and something that triggers a new traumatic memory. What happens next feels like a tornado in my mind. The tornado only lasts three days before I end up in the psych ward, sedated out of consciousness. The following excerpt is after waking from the sedatives to wander the halls of my new temporary home. This is my first time at this particular psych ward.

Mercy Hospital, May 2007:

"Is this your first time here?" he asks.

My groggy eyes feel heavy and dysfunctional as they scan my surroundings. Long, bare hallway. Doors to patients' rooms lining either side. Fishbowl-like window at the end for nurses to keep a watch on us, safe behind the glass. Locked doors that have labels: Linens, Court Room, Meeting Room 1, Meeting Room 2, Activities Room, Isolation. A locked display case on one wall lists the daily schedule:
7:30 - 8 am: Vitals
8 - 8:30 am: Morning Group Meeting
8:30 - 9 am: Breakfast
9 - 9:30 am: Meds
9:30 - 10 am: Group Therapy
12 - 12:30 pm: Lunch
...and so on.

My eyes veer back to the attending nurse. I look at his eyes and wonder what he sees. Is it obvious that I'm sick? Can he tell how sick I am? Do I look like I've been here before?
It must be a trick question.
"You mean here?" I ask as I point to the floor of the psych ward, "or here?" and I point toward the tornado still whirling in my brain."

"Will I be me again?"

From David O., age 30. New York City.

"I think today it's been more or less a year since I first asked Dr. -- for Adderall. It seems like since then I've been under the uninterrupted influence of that drug as well as others, the ones that help stabilize me when the amphetamine high begins to wear off and I need something to cushion the blow: Uppers and downers punching in and out, exchanging pleasantries between shifts.

How did things work before this arrangement? My brain had a chemistry uniquely its own, and, while not perfect, it was 100% me: my hormones, my neurotransmitters activating my synapses, working according to plans prepared in-house. The drugs enter like management consultants: "Not so much of that hormone, give him a little more of this one and maybe earlier in the day so as not to keep him up all night. You've got vast reserves of serotonin and dopamine, why are they just sitting there? Put your resources to work!"

Sooner or later it begins to feel like I've outsourced my whole personality. The drugs have altered the machinery in my brain to suit their own purposes. What would happen if I stopped taking them? Without their aid, who or what would run this drastically modified equipment in my head? Will I be me again?"

"'s an awful thing. It really does change your life."

From anonymous.

"I'm not going to share my story....because anxiety left me paranoid to death about safety. But I will say this, no matter how weird your symptoms are, you are NOT crazy. This comes from the person who would drip sweat. I don't mean dripping sweat from my pits, but from my whole body. My back and chest would be so sweaty during an attack, that there would be sweat stains in my stomach.

I have yet to find a person who has attacks like me. Attacks that consist of sweat, hot flashes, fear of going crazy, and a little out of breath. (I have what they call limited symptom attacks where instead of having a variety of signs of anxiety, I get 3-4 intense signs. Sounds better than a regular attack, but it's just as bad.)

And you know what? I don't care anymore, but no matter how weird and bizarre our attacks are, we all have one thing in common.....recovery. We all have similar or the same recovery steps. So don't get all worked up because you feel alone with your attacks. Think about how many people are trying to recover with you. We all work on the same positive thinking and meditation. You are not alone, there are many people who are trying to recover just like you.
Tell yourself "bring it on" when your attack comes.

When it comes, pretend you are shaking it's hand. In your head, ask your attack how it is doing. What it is up to. The curious is not nervous it is curious.
Think about how much stronger you are, even if you are not fully recovered. You could still be having issues with anxiety, but dealing with them makes you stronger than almost all of your friends.

Carry things that bring happiness with you. They can be as normal as water and as weird as a piece of your baby blanket.
Communicate with people you trust.
For the religious, pray! It helps, it really does.
God bless all of you."

"I am above my illness. I am so much more than what is holding me back."

From Paige K., age 15. Pennsylvania.

"I was diagnosed with panic disorder without agoraphobia during my 8th grade year. The attacks that I was experiencing put me in a state of total fear. I couldn’t breathe, see or move. My body would shut down completely, and I had no control over it. What is worse, these panic attacks used to happen during the school day, and I couldn’t do anything about them. I started slipping in my grades, friendships, and family life. Every single day, I was afraid to wake up because I knew what I would have to face. I went to my mom and begged to see a doctor. I knew it could not be normal. But my pediatrician at the time dismissed my claims, and told me not to worry. It was only an asthma attack. But I knew that it couldn’t have been.

Finally, after many visits, a doctor was able to diagnose my problems. I was sent straight to a therapist, and put on Celexa and Ativan. It was a whirlwind of emotions. I was scared, alone, and I didn’t know how to handle it. The panic attacks were so hard to conquer. No one around me seemed to understand. My teachers didn’t adapt to it – If I had an attack in class, they couldn’t and wouldn’t let me step out. I just had to work through it. Anyone that has experienced these knows that is not something you can just do. I felt like the world was completely against me getting better.

Every attack made my confidence drop. I felt like I would never get to the point of normal life again. But then I read I Don’t Want to be Crazy, and I realized that there were so many other people who knew exactly how I felt. I wasn’t alone, and I was going to be a success just like everyone before me. Three years later, I am still not perfect. I have my moments, and sometimes I go through panic attacks that are worse than they used to be. But with the help of therapists, my medication, and a strong will, I have been able to define myself without saying, “I’m Paige, and I have panic disorder”.

I am above my illness. I am so much more than what is holding me back. I just want anyone out there who is reading this to know that the world is not against your recovery. Just take a step back and look around. There are so many beautiful resources at your fingertips, and you can do it. You just have to be ready and willing to take the first step towards being O.K."

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's this blog all about?

Since the publication of my memoir, I Don’t Want to Be Crazy, I have had the privilege of getting your letters. You write about your fears, your struggles, your isolation...but also of your hope and recovery. The most common phrase in all your emails is: “Your story made me feel less alone.” The repetition of this phrase is not surprising since one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year—that translates into nearly 58 million people (NIMH). Of those disorders, anxiety disorders are the most common—affecting 40 million adults (ADAA).

I am honored to be your audience of one, but your story—like mine—has the power to help others. With this in mind, I created this blog as a place for YOU to contribute your stories and poems. Together, we can close the gap between all those people who are “one in four” and struggling with mental illness.

Your words are powerful. Your words can help people.
Share them.

Be well,

How do I post?
1) Email your submission to (In order to keep the site organized and free of unrelated content, I will post your submission for you. However, all readers will be able post comments directly to the site.)

2) Put “YouMakeMeFeelLessAlone” in the subject line.

3) Copy and paste the info below to the top of your email. Then fill in the answers.

Do you want to post anonymously? ______________
If not, how do you want your name to appear with your post (full name, first name, initials, etc.)? ______________
What is your age? ______________ (FYI: If you are under 18, I am not comfortable posting full names and locations.)
Where do you live? ______________
If I create a Twitter account (or something similar) for this blog, could I post a snippet of your submission?

When will my post appear?
I hope to put up posts within a week or so of getting your submission.

What are the guidelines?
-Keep posts to under 500 words.
-Submit only about topics relating to mental illness.
-Take care and pride in your post. Please review your submission carefully before emailing me.

What else should I know?
-Your post is yours. By posting you are NOT giving me any rights to your words.
-You can subscribe to this blog for free. That way you’ll get an email each time there is a new post.