Archives for January, 2012
(This is the sixth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) I talked with Ashley Taylor, a certified hypnotherapist in Easton, PA, earlier this week about the basics of hypnotherapy and what to expect during sessions. (Turns out, hypnotherapy is nothing like that silly spectacle of stage hypnosis.) Today, we discuss what hypnotherapy can do specifically for anxiety sufferers. Our conversation continues below: Summer: For someone coming in to your hypnotherapy practice with an anxiety-related issue (say, a fear of highway driving), what kinds of affirmations or therapeutic techniques would you employ? Ashley Taylor, CHt: For any phobia, I would first attempt to understand the initial sensitizing event. Often with phobias, we see there is always an initial event that has caused the fear. So, in this case, perhaps the individual witnessed or was involved in an accident on the highway. For the affirmations, I might say that any old, outdated, unproductive information is no longer beneficial or pertinent to you now. As far as a therapeutic technique, I would suggest exposure therapy so that the individual can face their fears with someone beside them in the vehicle -- someone they trust. So, who should try hypnotherapy? Do you think it's a good first step for someone experiencing anxiety and panic? Do you envision it more as a complimentary treatment?
(This is the fifth post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Biofeedback. Medication. Meditation. Exercise. Nutrition. Talk therapy. There's a laundry list of therapeutic approaches to the treatment of anxiety. You're probably familiar with several of them. Some involve treatment of the body (nutrition, exercise) and some involve treatment of the mind (meditation, talk therapy). Other modalities incorporate both mind and body into treatment. Hypnotherapy is one of those modalities that involves both the body and the mind. Meet Ashley Taylor. She's a certified hypnotherapist, an entrepreneur, and an anxiety sufferer. While walking through the halls between classes in 6th grade, Ashley experienced her first panic attack -- complete with a racing heart, dizziness, and shortness of breath. She chalked it up to the standard middle-school stressors like hormonal changes and dealing with bullies. Her anxiety continued into adulthood, however. After consulting with a trained hypnotherapist and undergoing a few sessions to help her tackle her own anxiety, Ashley felt motivated to pursue hypnotherapy as a career path. She founded Mindful Change Hypnotherapy in Easton, PA. Her personal experience with anxiety, she says, helps her to better relate with her clients. We recently chatted about hypnotherapy itself, what it entails, and what it can do for stress and anxiety sufferers. Summer: So, I guess I'll start with this: what IS hypnotherapy? Ashley Taylor, CHt: Hypnotherapy combines interactive cognitive behavioral therapy with a hypnosis session at the end in order to help others reach their goals -- whether it be quitting smoking, weight management, stress relief, improving academic performance, increasing confidence, and so on. The list is literally endless. When someone has the intent and willingness, hypnotherapy can aid in virtually any issue or concern. How does real-life hypnotherapy differ from the kinds of self-hypnosis exercises that you can download on the internet?
Today, I slept until 10:40 am. Oops. At the moment, I don't have a steady 9-to-5 gig, so the consequences of sleeping too late aren't financial. They're just annoyingly...biological. You see, I've been diligently trying to train my body to wake up earlier. I have this wonderful soon-to-be-husband with whom I'd like to sync sleep cycles. Last night, he went to bed at 9 pm so he could wake up at 6 am for work. Five hours later, after organizing my counter, putting away dishes, and listening to a few podcasts, I finally settled down to sleep at about 2 am. I want to be a morning person. I really do. In fact, I blabbed enough in December about wanting to be a morning person that my fiancé bought me the Philips Wake-Up Light for Christmas. It's this nifty little bedside alarm clock that slowly lights up like a sunrise. A half hour before your programmed wake-up time, the light glows dimly. Then, each minute, it kicks itself up a notch. When your alarm finally comes on (buzzing or bird sounds, in my model's case), the now-bright light should make it easier for you to rouse yourself from sleep. Should. Should.
(This is the fourth post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Earlier this week, we met Angie Jackson: mom, ex-cult member, agoraphobic. In this second half of the interview, we hear about Angie's experience with abortion, pro-choice activism, anxiety, and using the internet to cope. Angie opted to make her abortion public by posting about it on Twitter and recording a YouTube video after taking the "abortion pill," or RU-486. She wanted to "demystify" the process, she said. In this WTSP news broadcast, Angie explains that our culture "silences" women who abort without regret or sadness. (Our interview continues below the video clip.) You broke ground not long ago (a year ago? two years ago?) when you bravely live-tweeted your abortion. In one of your videos, you mention that you didn't do it to justify it for yourself. Why did you want to share such a personal process with the public at large? How did sharing affect your anxiety level?
(This is the third post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Meet Angie Jackson. She's a mother of a 6-year-old and a sufferer of both Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After growing up medically neglected in a fundamentalist Christian cult, she stepped aside from religion and now proclaims herself as an atheist/anti-theist. Currently agoraphobic, she has a difficult time leaving her house unaccompanied. If Angie's name sounds familiar to you, there's good reason. In early 2010, Angie made the news when she live-tweeted her abortion after an IUD implant failed to protect her from pregnancy. Unlike most women who elect to abort, Angie found herself in the national spotlight because of her decision to go public. Summer: It's sort of hard to decide where to begin, so I'll start with a question about something we very clearly have in common: an anxiety problem. Are you diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? How does anxiety manifest itself for you? Angie: I was diagnosed with GAD in 2008, but I think I've had anxiety for much longer than that. I was also diagnosed with PTSD in 2008, which gradually became enough of a problem the two sort of combined into the social anxiety/agoraphobia I have now. I get panic attacks when I feel anxious. My palms get tingly, my heart races, and I start sweating. I have a hard time thinking clearly or articulating myself, which in turn makes me feel more panic-stricken. I try to avoid getting to that point for the most part. You were part of a fundamentalist Christian cult when you growing up. Is that where the anxiety began, or did it wait until you became an adult to make an appearance?
I found myself watching Ghost Hunters yesterday afternoon. Episode after episode after episode. (I'm cringing just thinking of all the errands I could have gotten done instead. Ugh.) But, oh well: watching that show has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Something about it is strangely addicting. If you've never seen it, the formula of every episode goes something like this: Find a building that is supposedly haunted Tour the building in the daylight Enter the building at nightfall with cameras, recording devices, thermal cameras, and other electronic gadgetry that can supposedly capture ghostly activity Walk around the building all jumpy-like while trying to communicate with ghosts Leave the building and review the footage Reveal the "findings" to the building's owner The findings usually include bits of faint and unidentified audio (ghostly voices), strange anomalies in the thermal camera (ghostly temperatures), and unusual shadows or figures (ghostly images). I'll stay away from debating whether or not the show (let alone ghosts themselves) is real, staged, or some combination thereof. But I do know this: show a fellow human being a picture of two dots and a curved line, and he's going to interpret it as a human face. It's almost instinctual, even. Don't believe me? Take a look at the infamous face on Mars. Or at the man in the moon.
This evening, long-time panic attack sufferer Grace is holding her monthly anxiety, panic, and phobia support group phone call. (You may remember me posting about this before when I was invited to speak on the call.) The call will take place at 6 p.m. EST this evening (Sunday, January 8th) and all anxiety and panic sufferers are invited to call in. There is no charge for attending the conference call -- but keep in mind that the phone number uses a California area code and not a toll-free number, so your normal charges for calling California's 559 area code will apply. Here's the phone number and access code:
(This is the second post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Previously, I spoke with Devin about her diagnoses, relationships, and her social life. At times, her anxiety can keep her from socializing with others and from attending events like baby showers and weddings. Our interview continues below as we discuss social anxiety, self-confidence, and workplace issues. Summer: Is there any anxiety in not attending social events? Even though staying home is more comfortable at the time, do you worry about how others will react when they find out you're not there? Devin: I don't worry about that because I also have pretty low self confidence and think that no one will miss me.... or maybe I just don't care. Sometimes Nick will take the blame for me, say he's sick or doesn't feel well, so that I don't have to be the one to cancel. Summer: I definitely know that anxiety can take a huge toll on self-confidence. Have you found anything that helps to build your confidence level back up? Devin: I've gotten involved with the crafting community on Etsy .... it's helpful because a) it's online and I don't actually have to meet people face-to-face and b) it gives me an excuse to spend all day sitting on my butt making stuff. When people tell me they like my jewelry or are a fan of something I've made or tell me I'm creative - well, there's no reason for them to lie about that. They don't have to tell me these things like my friends or family do.
(This is the first post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Meet Devin Wais. She's a 30-year-old woman who lives in southern Virginia – and she's a crafter, an avid reader, and loves Netflix for allowing her to have TV show-watching marathons in her living room. Recently, she's been diagnosed with depression, general anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Devin works as a client relations / project manager for a company that helps universities and organizations raise money. I recently chatted with her about her diagnoses and how they affect her relationships, her work, and her social life.
When I was in college, I worked part-time for the local daily newspaper. One of my tasks was to wander around town, find five strangers, ask them the question of the week, and take their photo. It sounds easy, right? But for some reason, I could never find willing participants. The questions were usually light and fluffy ("what are you doing for the holidays?") or related to local politics ("how do you feel about the mayor's latest decision?"). People always seem to have an opinion on local politics and are always willing to talk about light and fluffy topics. Maybe it was my press badge or my camera that made people shy away. After all, to share personal information with the world is a very brave thing. (Even if "personal information" is merely an opinion about the city council election, and even if "world" is merely the radius of your local newspaper distribution map.) But now, I'm not walking around the street with a press badge. I'm walking around the internet as a patient of panic disorder. I'm walking around the internet as a mental health advocate. I'm walking around on the internet and Twitter and Facebook as a human being who enjoys connecting with others. Especially those of you who share my struggles: panic, anxiety, agoraphobia, and the like.