Archives for Failure


Withdrawing From Celexa: Yeah, Um, That Didn’t Really Work

Years ago, before panic attacks became one of my defining characteristics, I decided I wanted to be one of those crunchy mothers-to-be who avoids all medication at all cost. I'd be growing a tiny human inside of me, after all. I vowed, early in my twenties, that even Tylenol wouldn't even be allowed.

Oh, the naivete of my youth.

It's been a long time since I've posted a med update, and that's sort of been an intentional choice. Months ago, I started a short series about withdrawing from Celexa, an SSRI drug used to treat depression -- but I'd been taking it off-label for panic disorder for about 2 years. I'm no stranger to SSRI withdrawal, so I was careful to perform a very slow taper.


Things were looking sort of bright  on about half my original dosage until I tried to go and pick up a crate a vegetables a mere 2 miles away from my home:
It was Tuesday, and I was driving my car to pick up my CSA share — a box full of veggies from a local farmer — just across the bridge from where I live.

Easy. Close. A simple task.

Agoraphobically, I’ve never really had a problem with bridges before. (And, architecturally, I’m fascinated by them!)

But on that day, in the middle of this unremarkable concrete bridge, I felt a small twinge of fear brewing in the basement of my stomach. Something felt wrong — indescribably and uncomfortably wrong."
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How Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Recovery

Once, when I was in elementary school, I got a 97% on a test.

Pretty good, right?

I took it home to show my mom. This was fridge material.

"Wow," she said, "not bad..."


"...but you probably could've gotten 100%."

Ugh. As an adult, now, looking back, I know she was kidding. She had to be kidding. Right?

I wish I could go back in time and watch this interaction with adult eyes, detecting the subtle nuances in her brow movement, to prove to myself that it was a harmless joke from a mother who knew her kiddo was on the straight and narrow.

But that pint-sized brain of mine, tucked inside my skinny little body that wore a hefty neon pink and yellow backpack, heard only one thing: you could have done better.
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My (Anxious) Life After College Graduation: Everyone Expects You To Fail

(Editor's note: This is the second in a multi-part series by guest blogger Kim Dreese, a 2013 college grad writing about the joys [read: anxieties] of toting her B.A. degree from the graduation stage on into the "real world".)
I realized the life I was setting myself up for when I decided to major in Creative Writing.

I knew I should have majored in something practical, but the idea of spending an insane amount of money over the course of four years to learn about something I’m not passionate about sounded absurd.

So, when I officially declared my major, my professors -- who were supposed to lift me up and send me on my way to become a successful adult -- essentially told me and my fellow creative writers that we’re expected to fail. That barely anyone makes it as a writer. That you have to have the talent, motivation, and charm just for an editor to get off their high horse and glance at you for a second.


And it wasn’t just my professors.
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The End Of The Trifecta: How The Worst Panic Attack Of My Life Ended

(If you missed the first three parts of this story, click here, then here , and then here.)

The scene: a small road off of a two-lane state highway in the woods. The cell phone coverage: first none, then a single bar. My panic state: full blown.

I was laying down in my car, following the EMT-in-training's instructions to avoid sitting up or moving around, and I was scared nearly to death. I shook, I gasped for air, and I palpitated.

I hated every single second that slowly and dreadfully crawled by. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't even conjure up the energy or the clarity of mind to reach for my Ten Rules for Coping With Panic worksheet that lives in my wallet. I was in the middle of nowhere, I was stuck, and I couldn't escape without help. Not only was I about to receive medical help, but I'd had to call my husband and ask him to drive 40 miles to be with me.

Ugh. Failure.

The word kept repeating in my head: failure failure failure.
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The Trifecta Of Fail: A Desolate Road, A Panic Attack, And An Ambulance

The title alone tells the story...right?

But allow me to fill in the gaps and explain why, over the past week, I've been doing so much mental hopscotch over this incident.

Panic disorder sure has its ups and its downs. And sometimes -- and this is the part that's incredibly confusing and frustrating to both sufferers and their loved ones alike -- those ups and downs are back-to-back events.

Case in point: last Monday, I had a huge "win". I drove 60 miles (by myself!) from my apartment to my parents' house...AT NIGHT. IN THE DAMN DARK.


(This is crucial, people. Absolutely crucial. It's been forever since I've done something of that magnitude in the face of so many triggers [driving, driving at night, being alone while driving, and driving where cell reception is poor].  It's the kind of thing, really, that filled me with so much hope.)

Then, more small wins: I attended a funeral service for a family friend on Tuesday (without panicking!) and joined everyone for lunch afterward (without panicking!). And, afterward, I spent the afternoon and evening with my dad -- I love him to pieces, of course, but we tend to butt heads sometimes -- and my anxiety level remained low for the entire time. Low low low. Like, I-feel-like-I've-taken-Xanax-without-taking-Xanax low.

I was pleased with myself. And with my progress.


Then, enter Wednesday morning.
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My TEDx Talk: Anxiety — Hibernate, Adapt, or Migrate?

Awhile back, I wrote about how nervous I was to speak at my local TEDx event in Williamsport, PA.

I was pretty scared. Would I get lightheaded? Would I pass out? What if I couldn't remember anything I wanted to talk about?

I wanted to talk about panic attacks. I wanted to talk about how hard it was to work in a call center while dealing with panic disorder. I wanted to talk about those dreadful "inspirational" posters on workplace walls and I wanted to...
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‘Celebrating’ World Mental Health Day With a Panic Attack

Ah, yes. It's World Mental Health Day.

And what better way to celebrate than to have a full-fledged panic attack at 12:30 pm while driving home from the coffee shop?

Sigh. I honestly didn't want my "Blog Party" post to be so, uh, negative -- but I need to accept each day honestly, authentically, and for what it is.

I teach a marketing course at a local college. When I walked into the front lobby of the building where I teach, I was happy to see a nice display of mental health-related brochures and pamphlets in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week. I grabbed the "Panic Attacks" brochure (in part because the corny image of a frantic woman on the front really annoyed me) and headed off to class.

Can I teach in front of a class full of students?


Can I leave, grade papers at the local coffee shop, and chat with the other regulars?


Can I drive home from the coffee shop?

Apparently not. That's where the panic began.


It's not like I overloaded on caffeine or anything, but I do suspect my blood sugar was a little low. (Yes -- low blood sugar can trigger anxiety!) I knew I ought to eat, so I packed up my half-graded papers and walked out onto the sidewalk. Then, I saw the orange ticket on my windshield.

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10 Rules for Coping with Panic: Rule #5 (Part 3)

(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.)

First, I ran out of a wedding reception because of panic. Then, I sat in my fiance's car as I waited, miserably and fruitlessly, for panic to pass.


Let's take a look at Rule #5 again:
Wait for fear to pass. Wait and give the fear time to pass. Do not fight it or run away from it. Just accept it.
Read the first two sentences of that rule. Do you see a difference between them?

I do.

"Wait for fear to pass" is one thing. "Wait and give the fear time to pass" is something else entirely. It describes in further detail how we ought to follow this rule.

Last night, while panicking in the car, I sat and waited for fear to pass. I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. Just when my heart rate slowed down, my limbs would start feeling tingly. And just when my limbs stopped feeling tingly, I started feeling short of breath. I knew that, if I wanted to prove to myself, my fiance, and my fiance's family that I am a capable woman who can panic and then recover, I'd need to...well, recover.

I'd need to get myself calm and get my ass back inside.

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Video From ‘Blog of the Week’ Broadcast: Enjoying the Moment

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Panic About Anxiety was chosen as 'Blog of the Week' on PA Live!, a lifestyle program local to northeastern Pennsylvania and broadcast on WBRE-TV.

And now, you don't just have to take my word for it -- I've got video proof! Check it out here.

I sincerely hope that it brings a few folks within the viewing area to my blog -- especially my posts about my own struggle with anxiety might help someone to feel a little bit less alone.

This is probably the right time to tell you a story about one of my last grad school classes: Intercultural Communication. After a semester of learning about various cultural traditions and value orientations, my professor took a few minutes at the end of our very last class to discuss something personal: living in the moment.

It was May, and graduation was right around the corner. The class was filled with undergraduate seniors and second-year grad students -- most of whom were about to be finished with school forever.

His speech went a little something like this:

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Failure IS an Option: On Why I Quit #NaBloPoMo

Back in February, I resolved to write a blog post every single day for the entire month. I got the idea from and I was excited about the idea for the first week. Thrilled, in fact. I wrote about how writing every day would help to quash my perfectionistic tendencies.

And, for that first week, it did.

But then, I got sick. (I can't even remember what I had -- stomach virus? A nasty cold? Thank goodness bad memories tend to fade. I'm grateful that I can't recall the specifics!)

Whatever the illness was, it killed my enthusiasm to write daily.

And, technically, I failed. My goal was to write a blog post every single day, and I didn't meet that goal.

But life happens.

We get sick.

Our priorities change.


The other day, I was taking a walk outside by myself -- something that agoraphobia wouldn't allow me to do only a few short months ago -- and I saw a woman standing on the porch of a house in my suburban neighborhood. She was clutching a purse and knocking on the door with her first. She seemed angry.

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