Archives for August, 2011


College Students: Is That Blank Word Document Making You Anxious Yet?

No matter what your major, you're going to find yourself staring at a blank Word document someday soon.  And the blank Word document will stare right back at you, disdainfully, waiting for you to finally sputter out a few words.
Starting from scratch and staring at that blank page is one of the most frustrating parts of writing a paper in college.  (This just in: it's also one of the most frustrating parts of writing a blog post 5 years after finishing college.)  It's always made me anxious: what if writer's block kicks in hardcore and I can't write anything?  What if I get a 0 on the assignment?  What'll happen to my grades?  What'll happen to my scholarships?!
So, just in time for the beginning of the fall semester, here are a few ways go from blank page to "Okay, at least I started!":
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Why Didn’t I Panic During the Earthquake?

So, you're probably tired of hearing the word "earthquake" by now.
Well, me too.  But this is an anxiety blog, and Tuesday's earthquake undoubtedly shook our collective nerves, so bypassing the topic completely would be a seismic error. (Oh, and please don't find fault in my shaky puns.)
Ahem.  Okay, enough of that.
So, where were you when it happened?  Were you anxious?  I personally know two people who were (at least temporarily) convinced that the earthquake was an internal medical condition.  One woman I know thought she was having a stroke (she was doing paperwork on her desk at the time and everything looked all wobbly and distorted), and a friend from college with a history of vertigo thought she was getting a severe dizzy spell.
I can't imagine how many people have similar stories about how the earthquake, an external condition, tricked their body into believing that something was fouling up on the inside.  (Sounds a bit like the way some panic attacks operate, no?)
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Where Does the Word “Anxiety” Come From?

Here on this blog (and on PsychCentral in general), we throw around a lot of the same words.  Words like "anxiety," "panic,""agoraphobia."  And words like "spiritual," "cope," and "medicine."
You may know what those words mean, but do you know where they came from?
I participated in the #mhsm chat on Twitter last Wednesday night, and the topic was spirituality and mental health.  Now, let me make this clear: I'm agnostic on the whole God vs. No God debate and I reject religion.  It's just not for me.  But I'll play around with the concept of spirituality once in awhile.
And sometimes, when I explain to others that I am agnostic, irreligious, and spiritual, I get some funny looks.  Looks that say, "Hey!  Spiritual doesn't go along with those other two words!  Violation!"
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The Month(s) After My General Practitioner Prescribed Paxil

(Note: This is the third post in a short series in which I recount my first experiences with Paxil. Posts one and two can be found here and here.)
Two or three weeks into my Paxil treatment and I'd only had two or three panic attacks.  Amazing, right? That's a big step up from having daily ones.
Well, maybe they became so few & far between because I didn't have time to panic: I slept for 12+ hours every night during the first few weeks on Paxil.
Time passes pretty damn quickly when you're asleep more than you're awake.
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The Day (After) My General Practitioner Prescribed Paxil

(Note: This is the second post in a short series in which I recount my first experiences with Paxil. The first post can be found here.)
I was a junior in college, panic was making a daily appearance, and I was relying on Xanax for each attack.  So, when my doctor prescribed Paxil, I accepted it with open arms.  But in the long run, all I got was a big hug from Big Pharma.
It started off innocently enough. My
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The Day My General Practitioner Prescribed Paxil

I found myself reading this news story the other day and furiously nodding my head during the intro: "Nearly 80 percent of all prescriptions for antidepressants are written by non-psychiatrist providers."
Me! That's me; I got my first Paxil script from a general practitioner. I fall within that category. My Paxil prescription was part of that 80%.
And I didn't really know what I was getting into -- mentally, physically, OR financially.
Let's go back to that fateful day.
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Describing Your Anxiety…With Made-Up Words?

Is there a name for that piece of (otherwise useless) wood that you used to stir a can of paint?  You know what I mean.  It's been sitting in the corner of your garage for a year or so now.  Half exposed wood, half dried paint.
Douglas Adams gave it a specific and unique name: cotterstock.
I've had Douglas Adams' and John Lloyd's The Deeper Meaning of Liff on my bookshelf for a few years.  It's a fun read.  The back of the book describes it as "[t]he classic dictionary of words for which no words exist." In other words, it gathers hundreds of activities, situations, or concepts that are familiar to us -- yet unnamed -- and assigns words to them.  (Liff, for example, is their word for "a common object or experience for which no word yet exists.")
Confused? Don't be. Put simply, it's a book of fun words that don't exist (but should).  Here are a few of my favorite made-up words from the book:
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Thank You, Anxiety, For Warning Me When Enough is Enough

Everyone gets all thankful around Thanksgiving. But we're nowhere near November, so why am I thinking about thankfulness in August?
Two reasons: first, it's important to take a break from anxiety once in awhile & reflect on something positive. Right? I mean, if you're constantly thinking about the past and focusing on, say, regrets or failures, doesn't the past grow weighty and uncomfortable?
Surely we can reach into our personal histories once in awhile and pull out the gems.  The events and things and people that have shaped us, molded us, or even whittled us down -- to our ultimate benefit.
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On Tapering: Why Paxil is Like a Bank Loan

Note: On Friday, Longshot Magazine gave potential contributors 24 hours to write about debt. Financial debt, social debt, genetic debt -- anything. [Then, their team edits, paginates, and prints an actual physical magazine by the 48-hour mark!]
So, I wrote about debt and Paxil.  My piece wasn't selected for publication into the magazine, but it's still worth sharing along with this question: do you owe something to your meds?  Or do they owe you?)
Nobody told me that Paxil was a bank loan.  That serotonin carries compound interest.  That neurotransmitters bill you for the inconvenience of a psycho-pharmaceutical whiteout.
But the Paxil sent the panic attacks to bed and woke up the calm, so I didn't care about the future.  I lived in a direct-to-consumer television ad with flowers and rainbows and ponies and Lisa Frank stickers.  I floated through life, care-free and careless, rolling in the grassy hills of selective serotonin reuptake inhibition.
Nobody told me that, after the honeymoon, my emotions would disappear. No sad, no happy.  No warmth, no joy.  No adrenaline, no excitement.  I flatlined.
That was my first collections call.
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