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Ceejays Survivor Story

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Looking back from here - I can see a real path to health.

Even though I didn’t always have a name for it, anxiety has always been a part of my personality. I was “the sensitive one,” or I was always being “too thin-skinned.”  I grew up in a large, noisy family and while there was a lot of love there was also a lot of violence.

 At least it was violence to me.

 See, since I’ve grown up and spent years in trying to make sense of my life I realize that people (even people in the same family) have vastly different perspectives on things. I thought I was “just normal” – but it wasn’t until years later, after a lot of pain and suffering, that I realized I was just normal for me!!  And that other people had totally different reactions and opinions of how the world works.

 I am sensitive. And intuitive.  I understand people and  I can make a quick read of situations and often sort them out before most people realize things are off track.  It’s like I have a set of finely tuned antennae!  Well, as a child this led to a pretty anxious life. I was always aware of what was going to get my siblings in trouble, when my dad or mom was angry and how neighborhood rivalries were heating up. 

To everyone around me it was just life.  To me it was like there was a war looming – all the time.  And it was up to me to prevent it.

 So I spent a lifetime of taking on responsibilities that weren’t mine.  Piling things on my plate, setting goals and tasks that had to be met to avert disaster.  And not just disaster for me - but disaster for others, too. I got into the habit of living like this.  My body and mind were set on ever-alert.  And I adjusted to this  as “normal.”

 I grew up, had regular ups and downs in life, and graduated from college and got a job.  Then I got married and had three kids in three years.  And with the birth of my third daughter (when I was 30) my two teenaged step-children came to live with us full time.  It was like someone turned the volume up on my anxiety to a LOUD, THROBBING maximum!!  All of a sudden I was responsible for five kids, a house to run, a husband, animals, and all the rest of my family as well (parents, sibs,etc).  I had to deal with an exwife, alcohol, high school, driving and loud rock music as well as babies learning how to walk, potty training and all the intricacies of toddler’s lives.

 Oh – and did I mention that when I was pregnant with my third child my husband was diagnosed with cancer?  Yep, and we spent 3 months at a hospital 2 ½ hours from home with me driving back and forth every other day.   Luckily he recovered.

 But one day while driving the three little ones home from some outing I had a full-blown panic attack. Totally "out of the blue."  I thought I was dying of a heart attack!  I pulled the car over and as more scared than I had ever been in my life. After about 10 minutes it passed. I had no idea what it was. I had never heard of Panic or Anxiety as a disorder – just as something that happened to people in certain situations.  This was NOT a stressful situation so something MUST bewrong with me. Terribly, terribly wrong.

 I had a Panic Attack about every day for a month and finally went to the doctor.  He gave me a battery of tests and said I was fine. Healthy.  I went home, not quite believing him.  Then I decided I must have diabetes.  Went for a whole work up on that.  Nope, no diabetes.  Brain tumor – that must be it.  Went back and got an MRI.  No, no brain tumor. 

Then one night at dinner I semi-choked on a piece of bread.  It scared the crap out of me.   I began to obsess that I could not swallow without choking and this led to the most bizarre time period– I only ate in public places, and often at the hospital cafeteria because I was so SURE I was going to choke and I wanted people trained in the Heimlich maneuver to be nearby! Crazy!!!!  I thought it was very smart on my part!

Finally, finally my doctor sat me down and explained Panic and Anxiety Disorders.  We talked aboutall the feelings I was having – the hypersensitive mind, the racing thoughts,the irregular heartbeats, the obsession with health, the pain in my chest and head.  He explained that Panic and Anxiety Disorders are unique to the person, that they manifest in different ways but that there is nothing physically wrong with me – that I am truly healthy and okay.  He prescribed Xanax for when it got out of hand, and suggested that I start therapy.

I found a terrific therapist.  Over the next 8 years I had two other therapists as well.  Things change and I learned that changing therapists is NOT a failure, but a continued advocacy on behalf of my recovery!  Each one helped me with a different hurdle – I learned how I had taught myself to be on alert, howI had a learned response to stimuli and how to change my thinking.  I learned about meditation and yoga and breathing exercises.  I learned about Carl Jung and his approach to dreams and to the psyche – how each of us has our own path of individuation: becoming the individual we are meant to be.  How suffering often starts us on the path.

 At this point my therapist really recommended I try an anti-depressant.  I resisted but eventually, because I trusted him, tried Effexor.  Amazingly, it lifted the symptoms of depression and helped me find a sense of hope and possibility.

I also began going to workshops on Jungian topics -  and I had the chance to learn about creativity.  I began painting and drawing.  I read books.  My world sort of “opened up.”  I became a nature person – taking walks, watching birds, growing flowers. I felt connected to the world. I felt a part of things.

After 2 ½ years we decided I should try to wean off the Effexor – I did it super slow and never had a single side effect.  I was willing to stay on it if I needed to, but somehow we had put together a program of recovery that allowed me to stay free of Depression. 

I added massage therapy and acupuncture and found some great ways to support myself with compassion and care.  I take care of my physical needs and recognize them as signals that I need to pay attention.  For instance, my massage therapist helped me see that tensing up when I drive, and holding my hands the way I do contributes to the stiff and sore feeling I get in my left chest muscles!!  And all this time I thought it was my heart!

It has been YEARS since I’ve had a full blown Panic Attack.  Sure, I get some generalized Anxiety and I do have a healthy respect for my fears and obsessions– I know they are there!  But I do not feed them.  I do not focus on them.  Instead I keep my eyes on the possibilities and on the abundance in the world.  I know that I can live a full and rich and rewarding life.  I am FILLED with blessings and grace!

It has been a spiritual journey  that started out becauseof crippling physical symptoms. Now I feel like my life is balanced and strong.  I have learned about Panic and Anxiety.  I understand it’s power and know that I don’t seek to be “cured” as much as I continue to be healed ofthe symptoms.  

Being a member of Panic Survivors helps me stay in a flow of healing and positive thinking. Reaching out to others helps me to stay focused on the positive and healing path.   I continue to learn how to take care of myself, while also staying connected to others.  I am not alone.  I do not need to isolate and worry.  If I find those things creeping into my day, I log on and share with someone.  In my real life I pick up the phone and call someone.  I go outside and take a walk.  I draw.  I paint.  I sing.  I dance. 

This is my one life. I am determined to live it to the fullest.

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ChristineB said:

0
...
Ceejay,

I cried as I read your story. I can feel your pain, and I can also feel your healing and happiness from that you have gained from it.
I want to thank you for all the words of encouragement, and hope that you have given us.
It really hit home when you say there is no cure, you learn to manage, and you learn to cope. This is where I am at right now, and for once, I don't want to end my life, I wan't to live it.
I have avoided this problem for a very long time, and I hid it quite well. But, for reasons that I will never know, it attacked me, and left me absolutely empty, but, all that aside, it forced me to re-build. Yes, I may have anxiety, and even I may think of my thoughts etc. as different, but, what I lack in certain areas, I have learned that I excel in others. I care more for others than myself, I feel their pain, and I cry for them. I have more empathy than anyone I have ever met, and if I didn't have to go thru this, I would never have noticed just how much I care, but now its time to also care about myself, and pay attention to the signs that I have ignored for so long.
I was never a spiritual person, until this came about. There is a reason I am still here. I wince at the thought of trying to take my life, however someone, or something pulled me thru. I would like to think it was all me, but it wasn't.
So thank you for your story, I too will write something soon, and hopefully, my words and yours can help someone else.
 
August 03, 2008
Votes: +5

ChristineB said:

0
...
Ceejay,

I cried as I read your story. I can feel your pain, and I can also feel your healing and happiness from that you have gained from it.
I want to thank you for all the words of encouragement, and hope that you have given us.
It really hit home when you say there is no cure, you learn to manage, and you learn to cope. This is where I am at right now, and for once, I don't want to end my life, I wan't to live it.
I have avoided this problem for a very long time, and I hid it quite well. But, for reasons that I will never know, it attacked me, and left me absolutely empty, but, all that aside, it forced me to re-build. Yes, I may have anxiety, and even I may think of my thoughts etc. as different, but, what I lack in certain areas, I have learned that I excel in others. I care more for others than myself, I feel their pain, and I cry for them. I have more empathy than anyone I have ever met, and if I didn't have to go thru this, I would never have noticed just how much I care, but now its time to also care about myself, and pay attention to the signs that I have ignored for so long.
I was never a spiritual person, until this came about. There is a reason I am still here. I wince at the thought of trying to take my life, however someone, or something pulled me thru. I would like to think it was all me, but it wasn't.
So thank you for your story, I too will write something soon, and hopefully, my words and yours can help someone else.
 
August 03, 2008
Votes: +2

ceejay said:

65
Thank you ChristineB.
I know you'll do fine - you'll use that empathy to help yourself heal!
 
November 18, 2008
Votes: +3

rippelk2 said:

143
Inspiration
You are truly an inspiration to so many people on the site and reading your story you are an inspiration to me as well. I am trying to live my life as you are describing. I want to live my life to the fullest as well and I want to be happy and love and be loved and enjoy the good things in this world. Thank you for sharing your story. :)
 
December 03, 2008
Votes: +3

ceejay said:

65
rippelk2-
That's very kind! I think that the more we can share this journey with each other the less we have to be so scared, and feel so alone. I can well remember those isolated times, they were very dark. Today life is completely different - and it's not the outside that has changed. It's my insides!

Good luck with your exams and papers - exciting times for you for sure!!
 
December 07, 2008
Votes: +1

tsuki said:

3891
...
Ceejay,
Today if my first day here and because I have read
your post, I am filled with hope for my "healing of
my symptoms". Thank for for sharing your story of
inspiration. Best wishes to you . . . Hugs, Tsuki
 
February 18, 2009
Votes: +1

ceejay said:

65
tsuki
Welcome to Panic Survivor! There really is hope for a better life - so many of us on here have found our own particular paths. You will too!

Good luck!
 
February 18, 2009
Votes: +1

mama03 said:

3898
...
Ceejay, your story is truly inspirational. I have been dealing with this disorder for many years. There are ups and downs and sometimes I feel like I wish I was dead because it's just a horrible place. I get those thoughts out of my head mainly because of my children. For some reason I think I go through this because God wants me closer to him and when I have bouts of depression and panic, I always turn to him. I pray for everyone with any type of mental illness and hope we can all have success stories of our own, in time. God Bless!
 
February 21, 2009
Votes: +1

Hopeful said:

3923
...
Ceejay, I'm glad I read your story. I am about to decrease my dose of effexor and it's comforting to know that if I do it slowly I should be okay. I have read so many horror stories about the side effects!

I'm also on my way to helping myself instead of relying on drugs. I know I can do it. Thanks for the inspiring story!
 
February 25, 2009
Votes: +0

ceejay said:

65
Hopeful
I went down VERY slowly. 37.5 per month!! My psychiatrist said "wow, that's really slow" but I told him that was what I felt comfortable with so he agreed, and prescribed for me that way. It was awesome!! I never felt a thing, and I have been off meds now for almost 5 years!!

But I would go back on them in a heartbeat if I needed to. I did not get off because I did not think drugs were a good idea. I got off because the underlying causes of the depression had been dealt with. Two very different things!

Be sure you have a strong program of recovery in place ... everything from physical to mental to spiritual! I used massage, exercise, nutrition, therapy, art and nature!! It took everything!
 
February 25, 2009
Votes: +4
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