Panic and Anxiety Connection
                                 Member's Corner         

Contributions from our members...

Hello, I'm Lynn. I have had a Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and Depression and OCD for many years. It started when I was between 11-12 years old but didn't know what panic attacks were. I thought I was physically sick. Then they calmed down for a few years while having fun in Jr High and High school. They were still there but eased up. Over the years, I became housebound with Agoraphobia. No one, not even the Therapists or Psychiatrists had a name for it. I felt so alone. There was a show on Phil Donahue and he had someone on there about Agoraphobia and I knew that was "Me". Thank goodness they have a Diagnosis over the years for others. I know it sounds like you who have these problems will never see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you will. I did~~~ with my own self determination and working on my goals. You can do it also. It takes time, but keep going forward and don't look back. It took me years to learn I cannot change the past, only each day.


I'm Jamie, recovering from agoraphobia and working on my panic disorder. At one time, I was so nervous that I would put a cot mattress in my Mom's walk in closet and stay in there reading a children's book or counting the windows in the pictures. I would have adrenaline rushes and not know what was happening to me and would call a crisis center only to be told to keep the line open for "real emergencies". Finally, I found a counselor who worked with me, and who came to me and we did exposure therapy.
In the beginning, I would just walk out in my Mom's parking lot. I worked and it wasn't easy. I'd spend time crying, getting sick, feeling terrified but I worked at it. I found this group and learned some basics in CBT and decided to get out in my car and take what I learned, how to breathe properly, sending texts to friends so I didn't feel like I was going alone. Today, with the group and help from my fiance, I can drive to town, to the grocery store, go in and grocery shop, I can shop thrift stores, and I am driving about 3 miles one way away from home and can drive a total of about 20 miles in a 3 mile radius. I am working to do even more. I love the support I get and the cheerleading.

Hi Everybody, My name is Misti. Ive had Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, GAD, some OCD and recurrent Depression for over 23 years. Looking back, I've been anxious for as long as I can remember. I think I was born anxious LOL. After living life in the fast lane, burning the candle at both ends and several traumas, the balloon finally burst with Panic Disorder when I was 23. For the first 3 years I was constantly at different specialists, had vitamin injections 3 times a week and every test imaginable done several times. This was the late 1980s and still not one of them suggested Anxiety. Finally a friend gave me a "Dear Abby" article, it EXACTLY described my symptoms. I went to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. Once properly diagnosed, I then made it my quest to get as much knowledge and help as I could get my hands on. I began searching on the internet and was surprised, but thrilled to find others with my same symptoms that understood and had tips to help me cope. Never give up, t
here is hope! There are lots of tools available for you to use to have a fulfilling life despite anxiety and depression :)

My name is Terri, I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, Panic/Anxiety, OCD and most likely ADHD as well. I have had these disorders since I was a child and at that time nobody really understood mental illness. We didn't talk about it. When I was manic I wouldn't sleep for 3 months. When I was in the depressive state I stayed in bed. My parents had no idea what my problem was. I was afraid of everything and I didn't know what a panic attack was. It wasn't til I was about 40 and had a mini-breakdown that I sought help through my job's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). First thing they did was put me on meds and that began my terrifying experience with mental health drugs along with intense therapy. I finally gave up on the drugs and therapy and tried to wing it alone. Unfortunately I wasn't able to and finally had another mini-breakdown at age 54, which had my grown children taking me to the ER and a crisis center stepping in. I am now experimenting with different drug cocktails and in weekly therapy along with a live support group for people with Bipolar Disorder and other mood disorders as well as this group which has been a real lifesaver. There is always someone to listen and someone who understands what I feel.
 
Hello everyone.. My name is Jo, somehow I have earned the name of Mama Jo, so feel free. I have had anxiety since I was a child. I also have had 3 bouts of Agoraphobia. Oh joy lol. One thing that I have learned is that Panic/Anxiety are reactions. Its our body telling us that something is not right. For me it was a few things. One of the best things I did was take CBT. This gave me my life back. I know what its like. I have had every symptom, visited the ER, many, many times. Called every Dr because I thought I was dying. Guess what, that was over 40 years ago and I am still here. There is hope, and you too will get through this. Work hard, believe in yourself. We are a great group of loving supportive members and we all walk down the same path as you.
 
Hi, my name is Audrey and I'm working on over-coming  my panic/anxiety and depression. 
In the past I was a totally house-bound agroraphobic. It was so bad, I wouldn't even open the door to reach in my mail-box. I found PAC on-line and  met people who understood what I was experiencing.The best part was that I found hope and encouragement. I made going out into my yard a specific goal. That was one of the hardest things I ever did.  It took practicing baby-steps every day before I could succeed. I would open the door, hold onto the wall and take a few steps. Each day, I would go a little further, past the gate. I finally got to a patio chair and would sit for a second. After weeks of practicing this, I was successful. Eventually, the place I feared the most became the place I really love. Today, I can go to stores, do small shopping, been to parties /BBQ and eat in restaurants.  I can visit friends and family and enjoy everyday things that people take for granted. The other thing I learned at PAC was that I had a phone phobia. I literally couldn't talk on a phone. Another woman here had the same problem which I found reassuring. I kept practicing going on the phone and eventually  my fear and anxiety went away.

Hi! I am Anjuli, I've suffered with gad, panic, several bouts of agoraphobia and severe health phobias. I have had days, weeks, months and even years of remission but two years ago I was back to the full myriad. I was going to the ER weekly, not moving off my couch, panicking all day and living in a very lonely world of constant panic. I found PAC and met people who accepted me, who encouraged me to take my first steps to recovery, who pray with me and cheer me on. I am loved without conditions or judgement here. I have come a long way. I can go to appts, shop and get off the couch. I have setbacks but when I do my PAC family holds my hand and we get through it. I received a beautiful blessing and most of all love and hope. We are a group that have been where you are and will babystep with you.


Manda Bartlett (Amanda), that is me. It’s funny how sometimes though a name does not fit with a person. My panic attacks started early in life; at about five years old. Nobody knew they were panic attacks, and at about 15 I had my first, “I cannot go into that store” moment. From then on life was tough, my sister, who was like my other mother, passed away from cancer and I feared dying more than anything. Every little thing was some huge health problem in my life. By 18 I really could not leave my house in the winter and the other seasons I could only go a mile or two. I would never do things such as go into a grocery store, or go to the mall, like my friends. I did not know what was wrong until I found a wonderful online support group, now PAC, and had people that understood me. I, then, knew what was wrong and that the doctors knew less than my group did. Struggling, in a nightmare of being room bound, only leaving my room to shower, I woke up one day at about twenty-two and decided enough.

At that time I asked questions that Peg suggested I speak to my doctor about new medication. I did, and my doctor did, and I was off to explore what was in the Anxiety and Phobia workbook. While reading it I thought to myself, “I can never do these things.” But one day it hit me, I am either going to die in my room or I am going to have to learn to live. So I started my journey with very tiny baby-steps. Sitting in the car until I felt comfortable, going around the block. I always took my tools and it took months to go into a store, but I did it following PAC’s suggestions and the Panic Bible as I like to call it, soon I was out of my comfort zone, when I say soon I mean months, but soon. I once asked the group, “Will the people at the store think I am crazy just going in and out every day?” and Bev B. (May she rest in peace) answered me with, “Not any crazier than anyone else besides they will not really notice they’ll just think you have to go to the bathroom.” I will never forget what she said ever.

After two years of doing all I could do in my CBT therapy I took a cruise! I could not believe this was me, on a cruise, after so many years of being trapped in my room, in my house, in my little space. But it was me. I have done so many things since then, I have flown on a plane, I can go anywhere, I have truly amazed myself. I had a book published this year entitled “Outside These Four Walls; The Life of an Agoraphobic.” I wrote this book not to become famous but to help others, my goal was to reach just one person.

I still have panic attacks, and anxiety, and PTSD because I was put in ICU almost two years ago and lost my first biological child, but I use my tools that I used before, never stop countering, and have a great group of support. I am fortunate in that I had great people to help me get out of my four walls and live my life. Shell, Peg, Ines (rip), worked so hard to help me. The members of PAC worked hard to help me, I am still friends with a lot of them now. Mary helps me all of the time as I still need support.

So, I hope this lets people know you are not alone, someone understands, and someone did come out of the horrible panic, anxiety, and agoraphobia that leaves us feeling scared, frantic, and sometimes like we are insane. These things can be lessened if we follow our goals and dreams and have a healthy support system. I was honored when asked to write this, and I will always be there for my PAC group no matter where I go in life, I know where home is and it is at PAC.

The Phone Monster by: Peg Streeter-PAC Network Coordinator

Reasons for fear of using the phone are varied.  One is typically derived from a fear of authority figures or those we view as having some power or control over us.  Another is fear of bad news...one often learned in childhood when a phone call was so important that people did not call just to chat.  Fear of confrontation is another reason that we feel intimidated by the phone ringing as well as lack of self-confidence,our ability to say no, or in making a mistake and agreeing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.  Many of us also have performance fears; will we stutter, will we say the wrong thing, will we sound nervous or stupid.  We risk rejection, we risk judgement.

Knowing the reason does nothing to solve the problem.  The reality is that we live in a world where telecommunication is a tool for business, for relationships and for dispensing information.  The phone is real, its there and we have to deal with it.

So there sits the monster on your desk waiting for its signal to terrorize you.  The first thing I will say emphatically is that you must not allow yourself to avoid it, anymore than you allow yourself to avoid any other fear situation.  Avoidance only leads to more avoidance, more fear, and more anxiety and panic.  The bigger we allow a problem to become before we face it head on, the more threat and fear we create.

There are two parts to using the phone...answering the phone and making phone calls.

Answering The Monster

As I said, avoidance is NOT a solution; however, making it easier on yourself is NOT the same as avoidance.  Two things that make answering the phone easier are easily available to us.

Caller ID. Being able to see who is calling can allow you both the choice of whether or not to answer and to prepare yourselves for who is calling.  Most phones now come with Caller ID and if you have an older phone, you can get a device to attach to it that will allow you to see Caller ID numbers.  One thing though...you are going to have to talk to someone at the phone company to set it up!

Caller ID is not infallible.  Some people block their numbers from appearing on Caller ID.  Some areas still are not able to read numbers from other areas.  Bill collectors and telemarketers typically block their names from being seen by the callee.

The other tool to make calls easier is an answering machine.  With an answering machine you can either screen your calls or return calls when you please.

One thing to remember when answering the phone, you ARE in control.  You can hang up or say a quick goodbye.  No one can FORCE you to continue a call you feel uncomfortable with.

Can You Use Baby Steps in Answering the Phone - Yes you can.  Here is a suggested way to baby step yourself through the fear of answering your phone, remember not to rush each step, take your time and do it over and over again until your feel comfortable (or bored).


1.  Pick up the phone and hold it in your hand.

2.  Hold the phone up to your ear.

3.  Say hello into the phone.

4.  Visualize yourself having a conversation on the phone.  Think about what you would say and do in different circumstances.

5.  Arrange for a support person to call you.  Make sure they understand that you will hang up if you become uncomfortable.  Limit the time and conversation in the beginning to no more than a minute.  Hi, how are you, nice talking to you, goodbye.  Over time, extend the conversation.

6.  Always remember that you have the power to end the conversation if need be...but also remember to allow the feelings of anxiety and panic to happen, they will not hurt you.

7.  Make a list of things you can say to end a conversation or to address certain situations.

8.  Begin answering the phone with one or two calls a day, working up to being able to answer whenever it rings.


Using the Monster

Usually when we fear using the phone it involves specific things.  We may feel perfectly comfortable calling and talking to Aunt Mary, but the idea of phoning the plumber about fixing the sewer is overwhelming.  If you do actually fear picking up the phone and using it, the same practice can be used as for answering the phone.  If, however, your fear of using the phone is in dealing with a problem, a different dynamic is ususally involved, so your approach is going to be different.

1.  On a piece of paper, write down the calls you need to make, why you are calling and some things you might want to say or ask.

2.  Visualize the call and practice what you want to say.

3.  Role play the call with a support person.

4.  Dial the number and listen for the answer and then hang up.  This will let you know if you will be dealing with a person or a machine and what the person answering the call sounds like.

5.  Make the call.  Take notes as you are talking (it helps).  Do not be afraid to say "I need to check a couple of things and call you back."  It’s a polite way of stopping the call and recollecting
yourself.

6.  Anticipatory anxiety is usually much worse than the actual event.  The longer you put off making an important call...the more AA you are going to go through and the more "what ifs" you are going to build up in your mind.  Yes, the sewer may be able to wait until tomorrow, but making the call tomorrow is not going to be any easier than it is RIGHT NOW.

Like most fears we face and overcome, success is empowering and can be built on.  Setbacks happen, but when you have accomplished something once, even setbacks become easier to address.  There are going to be bad days...days when you just say "not today".  But a bad day is no more than a bad day, it does not doom tomorrow.

Contributed by: Lynn
Below is a letter you can copy and print out to give anyone you would like to explain Panic Disorder to:

Dear (Friends, Family, Doctor, Dentist, Boss),
There is something about me that I would like to tell you about. I suffer from panic disorder, and I am currently learning techniques that are helping me overcome it.

Panic disorders are not associated with "insanity" or are they the result of laziness, selfishness, or emotional weakness. They come from having repeated panic attacks: involuntary, frightening reactions that may either come "out of the blue" (indicative of panic disorder) or be provoked by certain situations. These panic attacks cannot be reasoned away and often lead to avoidance of specific places or situations.

Imagine the terror you would feel if you were stuck standing in the middle of a six-lane highway with cars coming at you at one hundred miles an hour. Think of the physiological sensations you would experience: your heart would race, your muscles would tremble, and your chest would tighten and pound. You'd be weak at the knees, and break out in a cold sweat. During that split-second in which you thought you were going to be hit by a car, you would feel dizzy and disoriented-and you would certainly have an overwhelming desire to escape. All these physical sensations would come at once!

Now, imagine how you would feel if that same intensity of fear came upon you for absolutely no reason while you were standing in line to pay for your groceries, riding in an elevator, going to classes at school or just walking out of your house. Then imagine if the fear reoccurred each time you even thought about that situation. Imagine your embarrassment and humiliation if no one else felt as you do in these situations and people told you, "Don't be silly, there is nothing wrong! That's a scary and lonely feeling isn't it?"

If you are fortunate enough never to have had a panic attack, I cannot expect you really to understand the fear, shame and embarrassment I suffer as a result of it. But I do ask you to believe that what I feel is very real and frightening to me.

I know this seems irrational and unrealistic. Intellectually, it seems that way to me, too-and that makes it even more difficult. In the past I have tried to hide my fear from other people because I was afraid of being ridiculed and misunderstood. But I no longer feel I have to hide behind a mask. It is a tremendous relief for me to be able to share this with you.

You can help by simply "being with me" when I am feeling panicky. Knowing that I am with someone who will not laugh at me or force me into a situation that I feel I cannot handle is a great source of comfort to me. Once that pressure is removed, I am often more able to confront the anxiety provoking situation step by step.

Knowing that I can leave a situation at any time also helps alleviate my anxiety and makes confronting my fears easier, so please allow me that option. And respect my efforts to face my fears, however small these efforts may seem.

I know that I have to face my fears to get over them, and I am being taught how to do this in a systematic way. At times, the ways in which I approach things may seem strange to you, but I am learning to use specific techniques that have helped others to cope with their panic attacks and lead normal lives.

I am excited about the positive changes that are taking place in my life, and greatly relieved to be actively working on my problem. And I am most appreciative to you for your support and understanding.
Sincerely,


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Contributed by: Misti

Psychologist Abraham Maslow articulated his concept of a hierarchy of human needs as a pyramid. The lowest level of the pyramid is made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top. His hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other needs.  Once the lower level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level, safety and security. As people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority. He emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person to achieve individual potential. Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and satisfying the lower level needs plays a major role in order to avoid unpleasant feelings, such as anxiety and depression.

 

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