Archives for Series: Anxiety Society

Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Finding Strength in Scents, Space, and Sounds

(This is the eighteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers 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.)

Last week, we met Sveta, a young blind woman who grew up in an abusive home. Now diagnosed with complex PTSD and dysthymia, Sveta still struggles as an adult with the effects of her emotional abuse. In this final segment of our interview, we discuss her methods for coping and discover exactly how the Russian language reversed her suicidal thoughts.

SB: Tell me about how you use the four senses at your disposal to calm you down or improve your mental health.

S: Wow. Well, in my purse I have a pocket of things that are soothing. I have a velvet cushion, about the size of a pin cushion, an aluminum guitar that my father made, some perfumes that are solid, and some stones. I love listening to music, especially music in Russian. I have some tactile Russian letters that I use as well.

SB: I sometimes carry around peppermint oil because it helps me to reduce my perception of nausea when I'm anxious. I also really like the scent of Tiger Balm, too -- for some reason, it's grounding and it helps to calm me. What scents do you carry around?

S: There is a company up in New York called "Aromadoc". They make perfumes that are solid, meaning they have a longer shelf-life than liquid ones and aren't messy. I usually carry rose, lilac and lavender with me. The rose is to remind me of summertime, the lilac is to calm me, and the lavender is to ground me. I also carry hematite, rhodinite and rose quartz stones with me.

SB: Do the limitations of your disability affect your mental health at all? If so, in what way?

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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Dealing With Emotional Abuse

(This is the seventeenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers 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 Sveta, a twenty-year-old blind woman with complex PTSD and dysthymia. Today, Sveta shares the story of her emotionally abusive childhood.

SB: I'm so sorry to hear about the abuse. What was the abuse like and how did it affect you as a person? What did you do, if anything, to cope?

S: My parents didn't like me because I was blind. My mother was the main abuser, though Dad ranks a close second. He once told me he doesn't think emotional abuse is real. I assure you it is.

SB: Wow.

S: I was alienated from my brothers because my mother claimed I was a liar. I was home schooled by my mother who would punish me severely if I got anything wrong, stating it was a "reflection of her teaching skills". I was sent away to a boarding school, where the abuse from the students and restrictions by the staff only made things worse, and then Mom left and didn't even say goodbye to me. Heaven forbid if she was angry with me.

SB: What happened if she was angry with you?
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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Coping, But Without the Luxury of Sight

(This is the sixteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers 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 Sveta.

She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she's just in her early twenties, she's already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood.

What makes Sveta's story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she's also blind.

Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that's the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment.

Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life?

Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn't breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart.

SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses?

S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree.

SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life?


S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, "You only like songs where someone dies". This, of course, isn't true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.

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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Jenny’s Fear of Spiders and Fear of Therapy


 Spiders. Do they bug you out?


Last week, we met Jenny Whalen. She's afraid of spiders -- really afraid of spiders, actually. In the first part of our interview, she told us the story about how she once jumped out of the driver's seat of her car while driving through a construction zone...all because she'd spotted a spider crawling around inside her vehicle.

S: Have you ever tried therapy or any exposure techniques to lessen your fear? If so, what worked and what didn't?

J: In high school, I took an elective course in Psychology.  There was a spider in the room one day, and my reaction to it caused the teacher to segue into a unit on phobias and to use me as a guinea pig.

We tried a gradual exposure technique and over several weeks, the idea was that I would look at a dead spider in a jar, work up to holding the jar, and eventually take the spider out of the jar, then hold the spider itself.

If I made it to that point, we’d do the same steps with a live spider.  I was never able to get past the dead spider being outside the jar.
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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Meet Jenny and Her Arachnophobia

Meet Jenny Whalen. She's a Rutgers graduate who lives in New Jersey with her husband, Patrick, and their cat, Dr. Watson.  She works a day job in a corporate office but keeps busy the rest of the time creating and selling handmade products for pets.

She loves art, music, cooking, and writing.  Jenny enjoys reading and her numerous bookshelves are filled with art books, classic literature, and true crime works about serial killers.  She is outgoing, loves meeting new people, and is always up for an adventure.  Jenny hates close-minded people, disrespect, and Ugg boots.

Oh, and she hates -- hates -- spiders.

Summer: So, I understand you're afraid of spiders. Is the word "afraid" an understatement?

Jenny: In most situations, I would definitely say yes.  If I see a spider when I’m not expecting it, my reaction is complete uncontrollable panic.
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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: NYC Woman Blogs Anonymously to Cope with Mental Health Disorders

(This is the fifteenth 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.)

She's been hospitalized six times for mental health emergencies.

She's a twenty-something NYC-dweller who enjoys jogging in her spare time.

She's got three diagnoses: borderline personality disorder, bipolar II, and panic disorder with agoraphobia.

She's also got three lovable dogs.

The one thing that's clear from the first two parts of City Panicked's interview is this: it is not easy to manage a double life. In her outer life, City plays the role of a working professional who commutes, drinks coffee at her desk, and excels at what she does.

But in her hidden latent life, things aren't nearly as easy: the subway makes her panic, the panic makes her upset, and the "upset" becomes something to obscure from others.

To ease the tension between both lives, she started an anonymous blog.
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Agoraphobia

Anxiety Society: From the Office to the Psych Ward (and Back Again)

(This is the fourteenth 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.)

Meet City. She's spending her mid-to-upper twenties living and panicking in NYC. On the surface, she's just like any other upwardly-mobile young professional living a busy life in a busy city: she has a college degree, she works in an office, and she loves coming home to her small studio apartment so she can play with her dogs.

We first met her last week in this post where she introduces herself and talks about her one two three mental health diagnoses: Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar II and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.

City recently tried Pristiq -- an SNRI medication that had previously done wonders for her. But this time around, it made her feel suicidal.

From City’s blog:
Last week I started having increasingly severe panic attacks which over the course of 24 hours progressed to severe depression and thoughts of suicide. For the first time in my life though, instead of acting upon these thoughts, I went for help. I setup an emergency appointment with my therapist and we decided after speaking that going to the hospital would be best. She called 911 and smoked a cigarette with me until the EMTs arrived and that is when it all went downhill.
Summer: What was the hospital like? Had you ever been there before for anything mental health-related?

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Agoraphobia

Anxiety Society: Meet “City” And Her BPD, Bipolar II, and Panic Disorder

(This is the thirteenth 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.)

They say bad things comes in threes.

It certainly can't be the puppies -- no way. Meet City Panicked. She's a "twenty-something NYC-dwelling chick" who loves dogs so much that she owns not one, not two, but three of them.

She enjoys the puppies.

She does not, however, enjoy any of her three DSM-IV diagnoses.

City and I talked earlier this week via the internet.

Summer: So, what type of mental illness (or illnesses) are you dealing with? I can tell from reading your blog that you seem to be struggling with more than just one, right?


City: Well, I am one of many people with multiple diagnoses. Currently on the roster and up to bat are: Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar II and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.

S: How did you get that many different diagnoses? Were they from multiple doctors? And, pardon me while I briefly imitate a psychotherapist, but: how does that make you feel?

C: Yes - they do come from multiple doctors, though the last shrink I had an ongoing relationship with had brought up all of them at one point or another. And BPD, being the problem child of the personality disorders, tends to hang out with Mood and Anxiety disorders quite frequently. Frankly, I wish I had just ONE issue to deal with. A lot of medications end up being contraindicated and it is so frustrating.

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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: Anxiety from Conflict and Romantic Relationships

(This is the twelfth 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.)

Last week, we met "Jemima," a woman living in Brooklyn who has been dealing with various forms of anxiety since childhood. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with OCD and has discovered that her anxiety manifests differently now as an adult. Her main triggers are interpersonal conflicts and romantic relationships.

Our last interview left off with Jemima describing her anxiety as "relationship-induced":

Relationship-induced? Can you go into detail on what you mean by that?

I hate to say it, but I think the biggest anxiety trigger for me is men.  The first time I was hit with anxiety that prevented me from functioning, it was my first serious relationship.  I knew that my boyfriend made me anxious, but was able to convince myself it was just something I had to work through to enjoy the relationship.
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Anxiety

Anxiety Society: OCD, Anxiety, and Moving to the City

(This is the eleventh 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.)

In my last post, we met Jemima Puddleduck -- not the duck from the Beatrix Potter story, but a woman in her late-twenties (who enjoys creatively quirky pseudonyms) who lives in Brooklyn and deals with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was officially diagnosed with OCD when she was a teenager.

We left off last time talking about the rituals she performed before bed each night during her childhood years. (To catch up, you can check out the first part of the interview here.)

Our conversation continues below.

Now, you're an adult. How's the OCD these days?


The OCD is pretty much totally under control.  I may double- or triple-check that the toaster is unplugged and the door is locked before I leave my apartment in the morning, but it's nothing that gets in the way of living my life, just safety precautions.

There are small things... like alphabetizing my CD collection or organizing my bookshelves according to genre, but I think that has more to do with personal preference regarding organization.  I don't completely lose my mind if something is out of place...but I do have to fix it!

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