Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Can Overcome Anxiety

In my lifetime I have dealt with serious anxiety and panic attacks. Amazingly, in the past ten years or so, this problem has disappeared (but you can hear me knocking on wood!). I even had anxiety as a schoolkid, with no vocabulary or knowledge to talk about it or to seek out help--I just suffered. In retrospect, this suffering was a kind of strange gift. It deepened my spirit, enlarged my sympathy for human beings, and even toughened me up. But try to tell that to someone suffering! Good luck!

The good news about anxiety is that it won't kill you (you often think it will) and that you can learn to manage it. At its worst point, there are medicines available that can stop the terrible panic. Since it's been a long time since I went through this, my knowledge of medicines for panic and anxiety is rusty indeed. When I first was seen by a doctor for panic attacks, 1982-83, I was treated with one drug that didn't seem to work, Elavil, and then treated successfully with a related drug that worked very well--Triavil. The latter drug had something extra in it that allowed me to sleep, for the first time in a while. and I think the sleep is what helped heal me. Those two drugs are called tricyclic anti-depressants, and I don't think they are used as much anymore.

Years later, a doctor prescribed an SSRI drug for me (Prozac). It made me even more anxious and very sick, and did nothing to relieve my suffering. The doc then switched to a different SSRI drug, and that seemed to work, slowly but surely. It did take some weeks to work. I used this drug for about three to six months, and then gradually got off it. I have never had to use it again. The doc also gave me some Xanax for acute episodes of panic. I learned that just having this medicine available helped me. Also, I learned that if I took a half or third of a table I got enough relief--and quickly! Was this a real effect or a kind of placebo effect? I just don't know. Again, I stopped taking that medicine and haven't taken it at all for many many years now.

It was not primarily medicine that helped me recover from panic attacks and anxiety. I think it was knowledge; relaxation techniques; breathing techniques; and yoga. The first book on anxiety that I read is still my favorite. It is by Dr. Claire Weekes, and is titled, "Hope and Help for Your Nerves." Another similar book by her is "Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to Relax and Enjoy Life Again by Overcoming Stress and Fear." Another one is "Pass Through Panic: Freeing Yourself from Anxiety and Fear." These books are all similar in content and concept.

There are many other fine books on overcoming anxiety, but I would begin with these simple, inexpensive books by Claire Weekes. Dr. Weekes had a great sense of empathy and a powerful conviction that anyone, with some knowledge and techniques, could overcome anxiety and panic. She helped me tremendously. That is a good place to start.

There is a website for Dr. Weekes: Dr. Weekes' Website

And there is a Wikipedia entry on her: Wikipedia entry.

Some other time I will talk about relaxation techniques and breathing techniques for overcoming anxiety.

One final thought: I don't think anxiety is a kind of punishment; it's not always the result of life's mistakes; often it is not even related to traumatic events you live through (also that is certainly possible). I think very often it's caused by a trigger-happy flight-or-fight response, hardwired into one's body. It is often this sensitive response system that saved the lives of our ancestors. Our modern environment often makes this hair-trigger fight-or-flight response system problematic. That's my take on it.

No comments: