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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Get Your Anxiety Treated! You Deserve It!

If you're grappling with anxiety, it's crucial to seek treatment. Do you find yourself worrying excessively, losing sleep over racing thoughts, altering plans due to nerves, or using substances to cope in social situations? If you identify with one or more of these experiences, you may be dealing with anxiety. The good news is that you don't have to face it alone any longer.

I understand the challenges of living with anxiety firsthand. There were three reasons I didn't seek treatment for many years. First, anxiety is often misunderstood by medical professionals, leading to overlooked diagnoses. Second, there's a pervasive tendency to deny the existence of anxiety, even when it's evident. I personally denied having anxiety for decades, despite being told by social workers, psychologists, and a psychiatrist at the asthma hospital back in the 1980s that I had it. Their intention was to help me accept it and find treatment, but I resisted until recently. And a third reason is the social stigma about brain disorders. For example, when I became convinced I had anxiety, I talked to my brother about it. And I talked to him about the prospect of taking medicine for it. And he said, "You don't want to take psyche drugs, they mess with your head." Little did he know that not taking psyche meds is what messes what your head, not taking them. The psyche meds prevent this, or at least make it better, allowing you to have a better quality of life. 

The hurdle then becomes how to seek anxiety treatment when you're grappling with anxiety itself. I, for instance, have a form of anxiety known as social anxiety disorder. Being around people triggers intense nervousness, making me feel profoundly uncomfortable, especially in familiar company. The pressure to engage in conversations heightens this discomfort, leading me to either say things I feel are foolish or withdraw into silence. My son appears to experience similar challenges and has been undergoing counseling. During one session, his counselor mentioned "Selective Mutism," a term that seemed to describe not only my son but also myself.

Learning about Selective Mutism and its treatment options was eye-opening. My son was prescribed Prozac, one of the few medications studied in children, and over time, we've seen substantial improvements in his anxiety levels. He's become more relaxed, although there's still a long road ahead. This prospect of progress is what sent shivers down my spine, as it means he'll receive the help I didn't get.

Through my research into this condition, I've gained extensive knowledge about anxiety and its treatment. While I've developed my own strategies for managing it as an adult—sometimes involving quietude and, at other times, avoidance—I still grapple with anxiety. Why do I persist? How different would my life be without the limitations imposed by anxiety? With these questions in mind, I mustered the courage to talk to my doctor.

The irony of discussing anxiety with a doctor when you have anxiety is not lost on me. Many times, I've wanted to broach the subject but couldn't find the courage. That, in itself, is a sign of anxiety. Perhaps my doctor recognized it because without hesitation, he prescribed a medication called Celexa. Will it work? Only time will tell.

And here's another thought. the cartoon I use on this post is not truly accurate. A person like me, who has has developed coping strategies, will not look like this character -- he or she would look calm and cool. If you saw me and I was experiencing anxiety, I would look totally fine. And that's part of the problem. And it reminds me of a meme: "It's not anxiety that I am faking, it's looking fine that I'm faking." 

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