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My Life with Anxiety

Everyone deals differently.

About 13 years ago I was diagnosed with social anxiety and panic attacks. I was put on meds, talked to someone about my issues, and sent on my way back into the life that was scaring the common sense out of me. I knew I wasn’t going to die in the strange visions I was having every time I got behind the wheel of my car. I also couldn’t afford to be afraid to be in crowds of people or to have a panic attack every time I had to talk to a stranger since at the time I worked for a local music magazine and spent nearly every night at a concert or local rock show schmoozing with musicians.

Talking to people has never worked for me when it comes to solving problems. I even went to therapy with my mom for awhile and I pretty much thought her therapist was a joke. The pills, well, they worked in the beginning. These days I have people telling me to go into therapy, to get on the pills, but I deal with my anxiety my own way, with ways that work better for me than those choices did. Trust me, I tried them. Everyone deals differently when it comes to all mental illnesses. Here’s a tale of my struggles, can you relate?

The medications didn’t work.

I am a creative, and at the time I was diagnosed I was already working full-time as a writer and doing art on the side. I was put on Lexapro at first, and at first, it worked for me. But then I realized it worked a little too well. Yes, I was no longer anxious or having panic attacks. Instead, I just didn’t care about anything. I didn’t stop seeing accidents happen when I got behind the wheel, I just no longer cared if those visions came to life.

That’s one of those tricky little side effects on all anti-anxiety/depression meds; “may cause thoughts of suicide.” I didn’t want to purposely drive myself into a deer or a semi-truck, but I no longer was worried about it happening and kind of hoped it would. I also couldn’t form a creative thought anymore. I went to the doctor and tried two different pills, consecutively, after that. One of them gave me every side effect on the list. The other didn’t do anything. Back on Lexapro I went. Two years into meds I quit them. Don’t quit prescriptions without talking to your doctor first.

I can’t take your unsolicited advice anymore.

You learn quickly that when something is wrong in your life you’ll have plenty of unwarranted and unsolicited advice givers. The nice ones will stop when you ask them to. However, there are also those controlling bullies that everyone has in their life that will continually berate you with unneeded advice on what you should be doing about your anxiety. You’ll also have those people that don’t understand how these illnesses work at all that will simply tell you to, “Get over it.”

Unless you’ve actually gone through the exact thing as someone else your advice is garbage. Simple as that. Tell them once that maybe therapy would help or that a certain medication worked for your generalized anxiety and let them go where they want with that info. You don’t need to remind them on a daily basis and you cannot fault them for ignoring your advice, that’s their own right. Every time I had to repeat my same story about the drugs not working for me simply made me want to punch people, and I’m not even a violent person! Just because after trying twenty different medications your doctor found the right one for your bipolar disorder doesn't make that the right option for me.

Here's a little more "advice" on unsolicited advice. 

I took a natural route.

So, how do I manage to go to my boyfriend’s gigs and talk to the brewery staff like a pro (and sit all alone all night) and have arts and crafts parties at my house with more than three people present and hanging out in the same room with me? It’s not drugs made in some laboratory with who knows what in them. I take B12 (a vitamin) and St. John’s Wort (an herb) when I am worried about large groups (to my anxiety large is more than two or three people besides me). I meditate to calm my anxiety ahead of time. I also have breathing techniques I use when I am feeling a panic attack coming on.

I don’t completely avoid situations that scare me and I try to pay close attention to my triggers and avoid them. I live a normal life, aside from working full time from home, but I still leave the house, almost on a daily basis. I rarely have panic attacks anymore. I have also learned a lot of my issues stemmed from the people in my life, and once I started surrounding myself with better people that helped grow my self-esteem my anxiety lessened quite a bit.

If you have social anxiety I highly advise you to study your triggers and pay attention to how different triggers affect you when you’re with different people. Your anxiety could be magnified by someone in your life. Depending on who that person is you might want to weed out that toxicity.