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The Enduring Hope of "Someday"

Sunday, September 30, 2012

[PLEASE NOTE: I've been warned that this post can be a trigger for individuals suffering from anxiety. If that's you, then you may want to skip it, or at least make sure you're in a safe environment before reading.]

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Five years ago I went to movies and plays and church services, I sat in the backseat while carpooling with friends, and I'd have gone to Disney and ridden the rides every day, if I could. I took flights to see my family a few times a year, I loved to drive, and I never once wondered what my heart rate was or whether I was going to die in my sleep that night.

Five years ago "anxiety" was a thing other people had, and "panic attacks" only happened to flighty, nervous people who drank too much coffee.

Then one night -  the night of August 4th, 2007 - I woke up and knew I was dying. Everything was wrong and my heart wouldn't slow down and I was more scared than I've ever been in my life. The nurse at the ER clipped a monitor on my finger, and went from looking bored to looking a lot more like me. Then there was a lot of running (not on my part, of course) and tests and four long, torturous days in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors. John slept in a chair by my side every night, and held my hand during every attack, when the nurses would come running in demanding to know what I was doing to make my heart rate go crazy, but each time I was just lying there quietly, gripping John's hand and watching the alarms go off.

Five years later, I still don't know exactly what changed. I literally went from "normal" to having a panic disorder overnight. I was always the calm and composed one. I was always in control of my emotions. Words like "panic attack" and "anxiety" were insulting, and it took me years to accept these labels and learn to apply them to myself without flinching. Without shame.

John was supportive but incredulous, and my constant, unrelenting fear wore him down as nothing else in our marriage had. Like everyone who's never had anxiety, his solution in those early days was that I should just "buck up" and "face my fears." He thought it was a lack of will power somehow, and that I should simply "not think about it."

After watching me "power through" enough movies and plays and church services, though, John eventually changed his mind. He saw the white-knuckled misery, the attacks, and the side effects of the Xanax I had to take just to get through them. For church especially, we came to agree after a few years that there was no benefit from the music or message if I was spending the whole time concentrating on not running crying from the building - or worse yet, running crying from the building.

Today I manage my life around my anxiety, and I've found a balance that allows me to live my day-to-day life without medication or constant fear. It helps that I work from home and have a relatively peaceful life. (And isn't it odd to think I started Cake Wrecks just nine months after that first attack? Two of my most life-changing events, forever linked.) By omitting the worst of my triggers, politely declining most media engagements, and with regular visits to a chiropractor, of all things, I've found I can live most of my life mostly panic-free.

That said, sometimes I have flare-ups - and when I feel bad, I start cutting things out. Things like travel, or outings with friends, or anything that removes me from my safe little cocoon at home. If I'm not careful, I can let the walls of my life close in until there's not much of a life left to live. And the more you shelter yourself, the bigger those fears can get, until facing the outside world again requires an almost Herculean effort.

Again, this is where your average non-anxiety-sufferer would say something like, "Then just get out there and DO it. You'll feel better!"

But here's the thing: sometimes you don't feel better. Sometimes you have such a bad experience facing a fear that you're worse off than before you started. Sometimes you just have to retreat and regroup for a while, and give yourself time to heal. And sometimes that's ok.

Take the tram at Disney World, for example.

My anxiety has changed a lot over the years, but it currently stems from a lack of control, and a lack of escape routes. I need both to be comfortable. So things like elevators, planes, and yes, even the parking tram at WDW can cause me to panic.

On the inconvenience scale, parking trams are near the bottom of the list. I much prefer walking anyway, so we do. However, several weeks back we were there with friends, and we were mid-conversation, and we thought, hey, it's just a five-minute trip, let's give it a try again!

AND THE FRIGGIN' TRAM BROKE DOWN.

I kid thee not; the tram literally made it about ten feet - we hadn't even cleared the loading area - before coming to a screeching, shuddering halt. The driver announced that the brakes had locked up, and we'd have to wait a little while for them to reset. Since the trams now have doors on them, and we were penned in by the concrete barriers, I couldn't get out. And I panicked. It didn't matter that this was most likely a five-minute delay, or that the safety of the sidewalk was two feet out my door - I felt trapped, and my heart went insane and the world spun and I shook long after the tram started moving again.

Lest you think the tram breaking down was a freak occurrence and that I am not, in fact, cursed, the same thing happened on Spaceship Earth (aka "the ride in the big golf ball.") I've had panic attacks the last three times I've been on that ride, but this last time I was sure I'd be ok. There was no line, and John and I needed to ride it for a Scavenger Hunt we were competing in. "We'll be in and out in no time!" we said, and skipped on board. The car door slid shut, we got about ten feet up the giant hill - literally within sight of the loading dock - and the ride broke down. For about 15 minutes. And then - THEN - when it finally started again, I still had to go through the whole ten minute ride, eyes shut, shaking, heart hammering, and near tears.

I think it goes without saying that I'll probably never go on Spaceship Earth again.

I know this is pretty much the worst pep talk ever, but I think this is something you "just do it!" types need to hear: sometimes pushing someone into "facing their fears" only makes the fear worse. And even if it doesn't, there's no guarantee they'll be any less afraid the next time around. Panic isn't rational. It doesn't follow logic or common sense. You can't reason with it or outsmart it - and that's probably the hardest part for loved ones of anxiety-sufferers to accept.

Of all the things anxiety has taken from me, though, I think it's those silly little Disney rides that I miss the most. I'm ok anywhere I can step out of the vehicle in an emergency, like Winnie-the-Pooh, but rides like Pirates, Star Tours, or the monorail are out. This also means we don't go to the Magic Kingdom as much anymore, for fear the ferry won't be running and I have to take the monorail. Frankly, the ferry is hard enough.

Disney has always been my refuge, and my happy place. To have it marred by my own body - to have it bound up with irrational fear - is one of the harder things I've struggled with these past few years.

I mention all this because this week I've made several dates for meet-ups with you readers out at the parks next month, and while I try to act like it's no big deal, it's actually really embarrassing explaining why I probably won't go on Small World with you. It's hard to interrupt a conversation with, "Sorry, but I can't go on this sedate kiddie ride with you, because it scares me. So...see you in the gift shop?" In fact, some of you who've been out with us before are just now realizing why I kept ducking out of lines and skipping the trams.

With anxiety you learn to take what you can get, so these days we meet people at Epcot, where we can park and walk in under our power, and where there are so few rides for me to excuse myself from - even though my heart will always be over at the 'Kingdom. (What I wouldn't give for a way to walk in to that park*! It's almost enough to make me go apply for a job there again, just so I can use the cast member entrances. [wistful sigh])

My main point is this, though: in order to keep living your life with anxiety, you learn to choose your battles. I'm perfectly happy never seeing a movie in a theater or flying again, but I'll keep fighting and trying and risking an attack for those silly little Disney rides. Depending on how I'm feeling, I'll still take a trip on Pirates or Haunted Mansion from time to time. I can't remember what it's like to not be uncomfortable on them anymore, but sometimes it's just that: uncomfortable. And two months ago we went to see a play for the first time in years, and I made it through, Xanax and attack-free! (Granted, we had to sit in the last row on an aisle in the nose-bleed seats, but hey, a win's a win!) So sometimes I get to push those walls out again, just to prove that I haven't given up.

There was a time two years ago when I hit rock bottom. It was after that stressful Christmas cruise I blogged about, where the combination of travel and family and prolonged forced social interaction all conspired to leave me a fidgety, medicated wreck. I had a three-hour-long attack just getting to the port (I was in a backseat), and then spent the whole five days of the cruise on Xanax, something I'd never done before or since. (Don't get me wrong; Xanax can be an absolute life-saver. I just don't like feeling fuzzy and tired, and I don't like taking meds if I can avoid them. I've also found that Xanax gives me a "kick-back" depression, which usually takes a day or two to wear off.)

When we got home from the cruise I locked myself in the sanctuary of my bedroom and didn't come out for nearly four days. I brought the laptop to bed with me, and worked from there. John brought me meals.

I wasn't depressed. I was just...fried. My adrenal system was shot, and like a wounded animal, I needed someplace quiet and dark to heal.

For about a week after that, I could leave the room, but not the house. This was when we were still remodeling the Crack House down the street, and just taking a car ride three streets over to see John's progress made it hard for me to breathe. I had to clutch the door handle and keep telling myself I could get out of the car at any time. The fear was so great that I worried I'd never be able to ride in a car again, and that I'd spend the rest of my days as a sad shut-in, peering through windows and crippled by my own agoraphobia.

Consider that I went from that shaking wreck to taking a six-week car trip up the East Coast into Canada and back again less than a year later for my last book tour. Not only did I do it drug-free, I even enjoyed it.

Like I said: sometimes you just need time to heal. You can't force it, you can't psych yourself up for it, and you can't predict it. Some day you'll just need to go to the store, and you'll realize that getting in the car doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore. And then life will go on in its usual, boring way until the next thing that scares you doesn't seem quite so scary.

I still can't ride in the back seat of cars, and I still panic in stopped traffic. I still have to sit on the aisle seat in the last row at convention panels. I still get light-headed and scared sometimes for no reason at all. I still miss most plays and church and the Jungle Cruise, and I still take a Xanax a few times a month to get by.

But you know what? Some people out there still can't ride in cars, or leave their houses, or go to conventions, or blog about their irrational fears to people who honestly seem to care about them.

So today? Today I am content. 

And I hope you are, too. Or if not, then I hope my story helps remind you that today's fears won't always be tomorrow's, and that your own "someday" is coming. I promise.


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I wanted to end this post with an inspirational quote on fear or anxiety, but all I found online were a bunch of trite platitudes about 'living in the moment' and how fear is a weakness because there's nothing to worry about. Which really ticked me off. Fear is not a weakness. Pretending fear doesn't exist is.

So here's MY inspirational quote, paired with a photo from Disneyland I thought was appropriate. It isn't eloquent or philosophical, but it's what I've come to believe:

And you can quote me on that. ;)


*UPDATE: A few of you have helpfully pointed out that it IS possible to walk into the Magic Kingdom, and I am amazed I never knew this before. (Apparently there's a walkway from the Contemporary Resort.) Needless to say, this is the best news I've had all month, and I'm so excited it's taking all my will power not to drive over there this very instant. So thank you, all of you. I promise to have a Dole Whip soon in your honor. :)

Posted by Jen at 3:30 PM Labels: ,

341 comments:

  1. I am not sure I've ever left a comment on your blog(s) before, but I've been reading it for so long I can't remember when I started.

    As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I'd like to append your quote.

    Having an panic disorder doesn't make you weak. It makes you so incredibly strong.

    The willpower and strength of those of us with depression, anxiety and panic disorders astonishes and overwhelms me. No matter how I am doing, even if all I want to do is sleep the rest of my life away, every morning I get up, get ready and go face my day. The strength that it takes to do that on some days is immeasurable.

    When I think about the strength it requires for you to keep yourself moving, functional and progressing toward better outcomes, I am impressed. Every time you overcome your panic should be a celebration. I would celebrate it with you, except I'm quite literally on the other extreme side of the continent. But imagine a dumpy middle aged redhead with pompoms cheering you on.

    Our struggles give us power. Would I rather be anxiety and depression free? Yes. But if I cannot be, I will focus on the strength of my character to make it through every single day.

    And so should you.

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  2. This summer my Dad died. Obviously that was hard enough. Problem is, I found him, and it had been 2 weeks in a heat wave. Now I suffer from PTSD. Somedays I feel like I will never stop seeing the images in my mind. I can no longer watch my crime tv shows, or read my mystery novels. You would be amazed how many times in a single day you hear the phrase dead body when you are so afraid of hearing it. My doctors are trying to find some sort of traumatic grief group so maybe I can share and get rid of the thoughts... I do weird things like sing songs from The Sound of Music to calm myself down.

    I totally get you. You are so lucky to have someone like John in your life to support you. And I agree, take the good when it comes.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. You've made some off-handed comments about Xanax before but I wasn't aware of how serious your situation was.

    I've never had serious panic attacks like that, but when I was a teenager I suddenly changed personality completely and became extremely shy, avoided making friends, had irrational feelings of paranoia and fear, and guilt and shame when I couldn't force myself to do stuff, like go to a party I was invited to. I didn't understand what was happening and didn't seek help because I didn't want anyone thinking I was crazy. It took me 20 years to finally see a psychiatrist.

    Part of what held me back was the attitude you mentioned John and other non-sufferers had, although in my case it was my own internal voice condemning me.

    I'm glad you've found people to support you in your life and are able to manage your condition. Hopefully your story can help other sufferers not feel so alone.

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  5. Jen, There's an old saying: "Don't judge someone until you've walked a ,ile in their shoes". You do what you can, and hopefully you'll figure out someday what the alpha trigger was. I Love reading your blog, and frankly, you feel like you're an old friend of mine. And I'd never push a friend out of their comfort zone. Keep swimming and have some cake!

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  6. I've been reading both of your blogs for years, and haven't commented because......Anxiety.

    You're incredibly brave to post this, and keep on keeping on.

    As a fellow geek girl with a motley assortment of mental illnesses (including major anxiety), thank you. You're awesome, and you never fail to make me smile and feel less weird/alone.

    Sorry if that sounds creepy.

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  7. I've never commented before, but I enjoy your writing and projects a lot. I work with people with a variety of mental illnesses, and this is the best self-description of an anxiety disorder that I've ever come across. Thanks for your honesty and willingness to share - it helps me better understand what my clients are dealing with.

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  8. OMGOSH MY TEARS WHAT IS HAPPENING WHERE IS MY BRAIN!!!

    But in all seriousness! :D I am so happy for you that you are coming to terms with this terrible disorder. You bring so much light into the lives of people around the world; I certainly know you've helped me! :D Everyone has their struggles; everyone has a weakness. It's what you do with that weakness that makes you stronger.

    Wish I was there with you to give you a hug and a cup of tea. You are an inspiration and your story is sure to inspire people who are going through the same things.

    May God bless you and your family RICHLY and thank you, yet again, for being such an amazing person. Your will to be aware of the disorder and never give up is testament to your amazing personality! Love from sunny Florida...

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  9. I've also been reading for ages, and have never commented because of anxiety. Social anxiety in particular

    But thank you so much for posting this. While its not always the anxiety that gets me, living as I do with depression chronic fatigue and epilepsy, I know the feeling of not being able to leave the house. I spend most of my life on the couch in my lounge room. I still go out, sure, but I need that cocoon to return to. Luckily I also have a very supportive partner who aids me daily.

    I'm so happy when blogs I follow discuss their own medical conditions, because I often unnecessarily feel like the only disabled/chronically ill/whatever youngish alternativish person . Just because no one talks about it

    Me, I never shut up about it :p but I don't blog

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  10. I having that having any kind of mental disorder makes you stronger. This week alone I've had to talk myself into getting out of bed every morning (depression) and steeling myself to interact with other people, even my own mom! (social anxiety) I also have to pick and choose my activities depending on how I'm feeling, but sometimes I just have to power through and depend on my great husband to help me along. Thank goodness we have people we can count on for support!

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  11. As someone who can't always handle down escalators (like you I think it's a lack of control/escape route thing), I can sympathize. There've been a lot of 'whoops I need to detour completely and find stairs/elevator' moments when out with friends. I HATE the 'oh if you just push yourself you'll be fine' mentality, and even moreso when people try to give you a 'helpful' little nudge! Thank you for putting this out there.

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  12. As someone who sometimes counts managing to make a single phone call (despite the racing heart, light-headedness and clammy hands) as a major accomplishment, I really appreciate this post. Getting a small glimpse of your struggles only increases my admiration for you.

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  13. Thank you for this. It takes a lot of courage to be willing to post such a personal struggle and I appreciate it. I have assorted mental illnesses including disabling anxiety, and knowing I'm not alone is comforting.

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  14. I'd say, "hugs", but I the disorder I deal with is really uncomfortable with that so..."awkward pats on the back" I guess.

    I have to say, one of the things about the internet is that we are able to see just how many people are affected by disorders and, therefore, more people are realizing just how few people are "normal".

    Thank you for being brave/strong enough to share.

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  15. My issues with anxiety and panic attacks started when I was in 10th grade. I couldn't tell anyone at first because I thought I was dying and I didn't want to worry them, but when things finally became too much and my life was crumbling around me, I came out about it. And I got medication and therapy and things got a bit better, but it was SO hard! So hard. And after the panic attacks mostly stopped, that's when the depression started. I'm 19 now, and I've become accustomed to the fact that I'll never be completely normal. Some people are just more prone to these things, but one thing I know is that it's made me stronger and more compassionate. Thank you so much for sharing your story, your bravery means so much to those of us who struggle or have struggled in the past :)

    --Hannah

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  16. I just had to comment and let you know how much your post meant to me. I have huge anxiety issues and have suffered through panic attacks. I never really thought of it as something others go through. I've often felt like a freak for not wanting to do certain things. Like you I have given up things that will stress me. I cannot stand large crowds of people. Can you believe I used to work at a major retailer? Black Friday was pure torture. I go to the movies but I go to the earliest viewing in the middle of a week, usually a couple of weeks after the premier. Cuts WAY down on the amount of people. I want to go to Church regularly too but have issues dealing with all the people. A supportive spouse has made a world of difference. We all have something that we need support with. When it's crowd time I try to take him with me. We are each others security blanket. It's only been recently that I have begun to accept myself for who I am. Thank you for sharing your journey with us because it helps encourage so many, including myself.

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  17. Hey Jen. I can't relate to the anxiety at all--I have no idea what it's like. But on a practical level, you might be able to try to get into Magic Kingdom by parking at the Contemporary or Polynesian and walking in. It might be worth a try. Also, I don't know what kind of church you prefer, or if you have found one you like already, but Discovery streams their messages live online. It's a nice way to get the church experience without actually being there.

    I'm sorry I don't have anything more profound to say.. :-/

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  18. You and I have talked at great length about our anxieties, so I'll leave you with this nugget: you CAN walk into the Magic Kingdom! Just park at the Contemporary. From there, it's a quick stroll right in to the park. No trams, ferries, or monorails necessary! Let's go get some Mickey-head ice creams!!!

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  19. I don't react as often, or as strongly as you do, but I have a consistent, mild level of anxiety about just about everything. Last week it was a trip to the dentist that set it off. I'm still a bit embarrassed to admit that I kicked my feet and squealed in fear like a little kid, when I am, in fact, quite grown up. :P

    But anyway, what I thought you might like was my coping mechanism. When I was ten, I had to have lots of doctor visits. Lots of tests and needles and such. I wasn't overly stressed about any one thing - I'm not one of those people who can't even see a syringe, for example - but it all builds up, you know? So I started singing a song to myself. It stuck, and now I use it any time I feel scared, or bad, or alone.

    You'll laugh. It's the worm song.

    Nobody likes me,
    Everybody hates me,
    Guess I'll go eat worms.

    Long thin slimy ones,
    Big fat juicy ones,
    Itsy bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms!

    I have no idea why I chose that song, or why it actually made me feel better. But it did. It's been 22 years, and I still use it to calm down when things get really bad.

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  20. I had an attack at a concert Friday night, could not sit with my friends, had to sit in the back on the end.

    I felt like a freak.

    Thank you for reminding me I'm not.

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  21. As someone who has gone through her own mental health awfulness, I am asking you, when you are ready, to find a reputable therapist who can administer an evidence-based treatment for your anxiety. If you are just seeing someone who is giving you xanax right now, you can ask for a referral to a psychotherapist who can do CBT (and actually IS doing CBT, and isn't just claiming they are doing it) and, more importantly, exposure therapy. (going out and doing scary things by yourself is not a good idea... being gradually exposed to them with the supervision of a good therapist works, and there is a mountain of evidence to support that it works). And don't put up with someone only wanting to talk about your childhood or your feelings or who insists that you have to find the 'trigger' to solve the problem. Especially don't put up with someone wanting to do EMDR or any other scammy unproven treatments like that. A good therapist will explain to you what they plan on doing, why they plan on doing it, and approximately how long it should take.

    I spent five years or so wrestling with depression and anxiety, which turned me from a very bright and confident young woman to a sad husk of myself. I started a PhD program - I couldn't finish (though I did get my MA). My career took a hit and I will always be five to ten years behind my peers financially speaking. I have a great job now but it's only part time and to be honest I'm worried a bit about working full time because of the anxiety. My husband and I have had to delay things like having kids because I basically had to start all over after depression decimated me. It is really even just in the last few weeks that I've started to enjoy hanging out with other people again! So this has been a long battle for me and though I could never understand your particular battle, know that I'm not some smug perfect healthy person suggesting that you just get over yourself.

    How did I start getting better? Therapy, of course, but mostly - as I'm sure you'll understand given the way you talk about John - my husband being in my corner. He's a clinical psychologist (a few months away from getting his degree) and he supported me and believed in me even when I was convinced I was worthless. He would be the first to encourage you to start making phone calls to find someone who can help you.

    However, as my husband also likes to say to the people he treats "YOU are the expert on your own health. No one else can tell you how it feels to be you." So keep that in mind as well - no one but you can decide whether and when you are ready to seek more treatment. I do hope you do - but remember, you are the expert.

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  22. Thanks so much for sharing - finding out that you're not alone is really powerful stuff.

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  23. Thank you, Jen -- it amazes me how frequently your posts are exactly what I need to hear, even though our "problems" are so dissimilar.
    That being said, if you haven't before read a story titled "The Spoon Theory", take a moment and pop that phrase in your favorite search engine. Although its about someone dealing with a very different disorder/disease/problem, there are elements that could be helpful to you - or to someone you know. Your description of John in the "early days" could have been MY husband during the same time frame.... this writing helped him get to the place John got to {he's not John, but he tries ;-)}
    If I could, I'd offer to take your anxiety on a vacation for a week or two, but since I can't - remember that those of us out here reading your words think the world of you, and will offer whatever support and assistance we possibly can!

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  24. Thanks for sharing your journey. I had a similar experience 8 1/2 years ago. I was fine one day and the next my blood pressure was 221/118. I was only 40, didn't smoke or drink and my weight was good. There was no rational explanation for why. I still struggle with my blood pressure, I still have heart palpitations, and I've had a whole host of other symptoms come and go since.

    I've partially funded the vacations of dozens of doctors in my area. And they still don't know what it is. I've even had a huge workup at the Mayo Clinic. Most of them just look at me with that all-too-familiar blank stare when I tell them my symptoms and they look at all my normal blood tests.

    The thing is, they just don't know everything yet. In fact I think the medical profession only knows a drop in the bucket compared to what there is to know about these amazing bodies God's created.

    Miraculously, I've found a way to cope. And when a doctor or a friend criticizes me for it, it just makes it all worse.

    We have to be kind and gracious to one another. We never know what we'll have to go through tomorrow. I certainly never expected to go through this.

    But I have to say I've learned a lot through it. I've become more compassionate toward others who are suffering. I've let go of a lot of my perfectionism because I just don't have the energy to be "perfect" anymore.

    And that's a good thing to know, because the reality is I never was. I love God and through my trial of imperfectness I've come to know more how He is perfect on my behalf. He loves me no matter what, flaws and all.

    So, even though it's been a roller coaster ride of emotions and my faith has taken a hit more times than I can count, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I'm glad I've gone through it.

    My enduring hope of someday is the day I'll be in heaven, shed of this painfully imperfect body, and Jesus will reveal to me the whys. I'll see it all perfectly then, what He was doing and how He was growing me up in every way. And I know that somehow the reward will be so great that all this will seem like mere pinprick.

    You are a strong and courageous woman and an inspiration in so many ways. You keep on keepin' on! Love ya. :)

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  25. My anxiety is not nearly as severe as some of the people around me. There are times when I can go days, months even without having any trouble at all. There's other times when it's so bad I just want to run home and hide.

    For the most part my problems are in crowded places, especially if I'm unfamiliar with them. I go to the mall with a friend and I'm constantly looking over my shoulder, the grocery store with my husband and I'm gripping the cart so tight I lose circulation. I have an easier time of it than most people with the same problems though.

    Most of my closest friends and all the people I'll spend time with in public are ex-military, most of them with extreme cases of PTSD. That makes it easier, we're all hyper aware of what's going on around us, if one of us panics the other's know immediately and have already figured out what the best course of action is.

    You are so strong Jen. Not only do you fight this on a regular basis, but you win more often than not. I see your posts and it's easy to tell when you've had a hard day, but you still take the time to talk to us, to go on with your life, even if it's hard sometimes. It's an inspiration to the rest of us to keep fighting what's in our heads and what our bodies are doing to us.

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  26. I just wanted to point out something you may not have thought of: you have a disability. I know the d-word is really uncomfortable for smart, capable people but if you read over what you wrote, you can see that it's true: your anxiety is preventing you from doing things you want to do. This doesn't make you any less smart and capable; it's unfortunate that the word disability carries so much baggage.

    Fortunately, there's a flip side to the d-word. Places like Disney should offer disabled people reasonable accommodation. At Disney, you can go to MK's City Hall and ask for a Guest Assistance Card. This allows you certain accommodations like access to a waiting area away from the lines, so you don't have to stand with the crowds.

    Unfortunately, Disney doesn't have a 100% track record in offering this accommodation in the way that they should to people whose disabilities aren't visually apparent (their website notably excludes these kinds of disabilities, like agoraphobia or autism, that meet the criteria for accommodation.) Maybe bringing some attention to this issue will help not just you, but other people who need support to access things most people take for granted.

    Mostly, though, I want to encourage you to ask for the supports and accommodations you deserve. That's why they are there - to help people like you. Or me. Or whoever needs them.

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  27. I have the weirdest form of anxiety, I can show off to groups of people I know and be a fairly confident young woman or so it seems but then get me in a situation one on one and have me discuss my feelings or have to ask someone for something (this could be as simple as asking someone I don't know where the printer is) and about 9 times out of 10 I will either inwardly panic and usually excuse myself to have a panic attack alone or burst into tears instantly. It's happened twice now at work and I've lied to my manager blaming it on home issues just to avoid more questions.

    Literally no one in my life knows about this.

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  28. One word 'inspirational' I don't have a mental disorder but a internal digestive one. I have often said it would be easier for people to understand if I just had two heads. Conditions with few out would signs are hard for people to understand, i hope and pray that you will continue to be surrounded by people who will love and care for you how ever you feel, just like I am fortunate enough to be. Work on remembering and findings things you can do and enjoy them. Keep up the great blogging your work is very important to many.

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  29. I will not pretend to know what you go through. You are an amazing woman! I hope that you believe as I do that someday you will have a perfect body back and will no longer have to deal with such trials. What you do despite what you deal with amazes me. You are my hero!

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  30. i know this sounds crazy, but i have improved my anxiety GREATLY by changing my diet. my entire life i've struggled with anxiety, and it seems to be hereditary. my grandmother never learned to drive or swim, and hardly ever left her house for her entire life. my mom dealt with her anxiety by abusing xanax, smoking, and drinking. i've tried to avoid both of these paths. i recently changed my diet from the standard american diet (low fat, whole grains) to a paleo diet (high fat, no grains or legumes). along with my weight stabilizing, i noticed the longer i was eating this way, the less and less my anxiety affected me. i no longer have panic attacks, and find it easy to leave my house and go to familiar places now, even by myself. i think anyone suffering from anxiety should give the paleo diet a try, even if only for 30 days. it might make a world of difference for them. i know it has for me! best of luck!

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  31. I think everyone has something that gets to them. I am okay with heights (but not ladders), flying and crowds. Water is my thing. I can be in pools, and I learnedly to swim years ago ( was raised by a former lifeguard and took lessons twice). Yet I am terrified of drowning and won't try to swim. My husband picking me up in a pool sends me into a freakout (he doesn't do it anymore).

    It managed to ruin part of our honeymoon when we tried to do a river tour strapped into life preserver contraptions. He had to go without me and I had to walk the park in my bathing suit because all of our stuff was at the end. I tried so hard to sucked it up but the more people told me to relax the worse it became.

    So I don't tell people to just sucked it up. Everyone has their thing that they can't do. We are all unique creatures and you bring so much joy into people's lives every day.

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  32. I just wanted to say thank you so much for posting this. I have suffered from anxiety my whole life, and around 15 is when the panic attacks started. Absolutely no one in my life has ever understood how I could just be sitting down, doing nothing but watching tv, and then suddenly have my blood pressure explode, my heart rate go to 200bpm and be hyperventilating. They even took out my thyroid because they thought it was the cause. (It also had a small nodule on it, so its not like the surgery was completely unnecessary, but I sometimes wonder if it would have been fine left alone).

    I've got my anxiety under a bit of control, but there are still some days that it takes an enormous amount of willpower just to get up, especially the days when the sky is overcast or its raining (storms are one of my big panic attack triggers). So thank you for this blog, for helping people like me remember that is okay to not force myself to face a fear. And that no matter how many times another person insists I just need to get over it, its okay if I don't.

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  33. I've never left a comment here before, but I found this post so incredibly moving I have to.
    I've always been shy. I never liked going to sleepovers or parties as a child and teenager. The thought of going out anywhere by myself would make me instantly nervous, my stomache flip flopping violenty.I would have to coach myself through bday parties, telling myself I could do it, only one more hour and I could go home.
    Around eighth grade going to school got harder and harder. I would dread waking up in the morning knowing I had to go, that my day would consist of me praying I wouldn't cry or panic or fall apart. That I wouldn't die when my stomache dropped to my knees and my heart clenched tight in my chest. It was exhausting. The little intricacies of eveyday life left my nerves frayed. I didn't know how I could carry on like that for the rest of my lfe.

    Then one Monday in the second semester of my junior year of highschool I woke up and I just knew I couldn't go to school. I couldn't fight with my mother one more day, the tears and the sobbing, pleading not to go to school. I was defeated. So I pulled out of school, and got into an independent study program so I could stay home all day. Safe.
    And so I sat on the couch for almost two years.

    I finally pulled myself off the couch and started college, knowing I couldn't sit on the couching watchign Grey's Anatomy for the rest of my life. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to do it. But so far by avoiding triggers I've been able to attend.

    My mother is also a believer in "facing your fears", "pull yourself up by your boostraps" and "what are you so anxious about? just do it", she meant well and did the best she could with a kid that inexplicably fell apart at 16, but those words only made me feel worse, like a failure because I couldn't "just do it".

    I'm sorry this comment was so long, but Jen you've really touched me by sharing your story.

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  34. I'm not even going to comment on the rest of your post - seems like the other comments cover that pretty well. I really just wanted to say... your husband is a saint! I think you know that but I just wanted to mention that after reading this post & your blog since it began. You snagged a good one with him.

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  35. You're wonderful, and I love everything you've said. I'm a stranger, but I'm still proud of you for doing the things that you do. And I'm proud of you for knowing the times that you just can't quite manage. Taking care of yourself should always be the first priority... and sometimes that does mean pushing yourself to leave the house when you don't want to, but sometimes it means understanding that you really need to spend the day in bed NOT pushing yourself.

    Good luck as you continue to fight; it's hard, and you can go back and forth between success and perceived failure, but you keep going. And that's brave and wonderful and worthwhile.

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  36. Just simply thank you. I am another fan/reader that never comments due to my anxieties. This is one of the best things I have read describing anxiety ever. It has me near tears both for the sadness of others dealing with this issue and joy at having someone explain what it's like and gets it. Not having anyone that really gets it can be one of the loneliest things about this disease.

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  37. You are so brave to share your story and have the willpower to recognize your triggers and try to go on.

    What really sparked my interest is the going from you talking about going from being normal to almost overnight having the attacks.

    I hope you find encouragement here to try and find professional help to find out WHY this happened because from an outsiders POV that is a giant warning bell!

    I was introduced the Dr. Amen's "Change Your Brain Change Your Life" book and seminar and it helped me to work through some minor issues and understand why my brain was doing what it was doing. I HIGHLY recommend reading it and pursuing looking into WHY your brain is triggering these attacks!

    All the best....

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  38. Thank you. Thank you -so much-. I am currently suffering from a breakup in which my significant other basically told me I was making up all of my issues and that I needed to suck it up and just 'go do what I needed to do.' I've been devastated.

    I needed to hear that it's okay to be sick. That it's not some laziness on my part. That my fear is still a valid emotion, even if it's not a controllable or explainable one.

    As hard as it is to share these things, I hope you never stop. Every time someone says the things others of us are afraid to, it makes it a little easier.

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  39. Jen,
    I haven't read the comments, but I'm sure there are others who are posting similar stories, or feelings of empathy.

    I grew up with my mom suffering from severe depression and anxiety from the time I was about 6 years old. It came on around the same time she was planning a trip to Disney for the two of us, and needless to say, that trip was cancelled and I've never been (I grew up in Ontario, so it isn't close by). I remember the days of her being shut up in her room without even a thing to eat, and I remember growing up a lot faster than my peers. I also remember defending my mom to those who told her to deal with it, and all that. To this day, she rides in the backseat on long drives so she can't see the road, fights panic attacks on the way to work every morning (it's a ten minute drive), she naps as often as she can because of the toll life takes on her body, and she shies away from travelling, social occasions and anywhere that she may not be able to have an escape.

    My body turned on me in my teen years, and still fights with me on a constant basis. Depression and anxiety are the norm. I barely passed my last year of university because panic attacks prevented me from attending lectures, and even caused me to miss midterms. Some classrooms it wasn't possible to sit near a door, and yet others were so far underground that I couldn't bring myself to attend for fear that I couldn't get back out again. I went from being a top student who always spoke out in class, to someone who couldn't even answer when called upon. Anxiety and depression can be crippling. I've had panic attacks in church, and thankfully have found a small one to attend where I now live, so that I know the ways out, and that people won't judge. And, like you, I have an understanding husband who does his best to understand the incomprehensible.

    It isn't easy, but Jen, I've found life is worth it. Even if life has to come in small doses. Thank you for sharing, it's not an easy thing to address for most of us.

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  40. Thank you soooooo much for sharing this post. I'd love to give you a big hug; in case that freaks you out, I'll settle for a virtual one: {{Jen}}. (Is that the emoticon for hugging? It's been a bizillion years since my chat room days.)

    I heard the "just buck up" advice from my parents for years. I think it wasn't til they witnessed a major depressive episode in person, that they realized bucking up is the LAST thing you can do in the middle of depression or panic attack or crippling anxiety.

    My parents eventually came around and are so much more understanding.

    You are so blessed to have John in your life. I'm still searching for the man who can be supportive and understanding AND stick with me through it. I came close once -- a bf took care of me and was so gentle and understanding during the depression, but when I was better he said he could never go through that again. At least he didn't break up with me while I was depressed.

    How wonderful that you've found success despite of everything. In this internet age, you have access to a great job, friends, entertainment and even church (I recommend www.northlandchurch.net's streaming worship, and if you ever feel up to it, they're close by in Longwood) on the good ol' interwebs.

    Thank you again for sharing. I know that, especially in the early days of my experience with depression, it was such a comfort knowing that I wasn't the only person in the world suffering, even if it felt that way. I pray that your post will be that for someone out there who feels hopeless and isolated.

    Keep up your fantastic work.

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  41. I haven't read all the comments yet, but I just wanted to let you know that I suffer from depression and body image issues that are severely debilitating for me. I absolutely cannot be off my depression medication because I will have serious suicide issues. I'm also like you--I try my best not to take medication, but this is something I have to take everyday otherwise my brain will give me serious problems.

    And here's something really weird: I have a mild form of galeophobia, which is the fear of sharks. I know it sounds crazy, but it can be a real problem for me when I go to places where they have fiberglass sharks mounted, like fish restaurants. And I live in AZ, about as dry and away from the ocean as you can get! At the natural history museum in Las Vegas, they have a very small room that is FULL of fiberglass sharks, hanging all over the place. Worst part is you have to go through it to get to the rest of the museum. It took everything I had just to go in there, and then when I was in there I froze with fear and couldn't leave. I swore those things were going to come alive and eat me if I moved. (Don't get me wrong--I am fascinated by sharks and love them for their amazing abilities. I can watch them on TV and sometimes in the movies, but that's it.)

    Anyway, I just want to let you know because I know for me, sometimes knowing that there are others out there who have similar issues help me feel less helpless. Not that I'm glad to hear you have issues, but it always helps me to know I'm not alone. I'm glad to hear you are working with your issues and you know your boundaries. That's extremely important and helps keep you strong. God bless you and John!

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  42. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you so much. I can't even begin to really understand what you go through, but my younger brother suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, and anxiety is just the tip of his iceberg. It was hard to understand why he would refuse to hang out with the family when he'll go to work and hang with strangers, but a few years ago I came to the realization that just because anxiety doesn't make sense, it doesn't mean it's not real.

    Now my family is involved with NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and we try to do our part to help lift the stigma attached to mental illnesses and related disorders. Educating people is the best way to do this, and, in fact, it was people like yourself, who stepped out of that comfortable anonymity and put their issues on the internet for the world to see, that helped me to understand more about my brother and what he might be going through, and how I can be supportive of him. If no one speaks up, no one will ever understand.

    So thank you, and bless you, and congratulations (or should that be "comgralutashun"?) on finding ways to be happy, even when you feel restricted from your former happy places.

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  43. You are so brave to post this. I am so sorry you are struggling, but I am so glad that you are being open about it all. I will be praying for you. Anxiety is NOT fun. I've been there. Big, big hugs.

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  44. I suffer from being fat. I know that people say "oh but you can lose that if you work hard enough", and I am slowly losing weight, but the suffering stays with you.

    I'm not skinny, and can't do a lot of skinny things so my abilities are severely limited.

    So I understand the frustration and annoyance at the platitudes that are somehow supposed to be inspirational.

    I've suffered from depression as well, and I've attempted suicide. I don't believe in medication either, and I have found my own ways of coping.

    But coping and healing are a personal thing, and all we can do is ask our loved ones to be patient. And keep trying to move forward.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles with us. Suffering can be made easier to bear if we open up to others about how much emotional and physical pain we are in.

    And if you ever come out to Utah, I will plan a couple visits to some really awesome places with open spaces and well-planned exits. ^_^

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  45. What a beautiful post - I appreciate your honesty and strength! From reading the comments (and I'm remembering your post about the awful doctor incident/situation), being open about your struggle is healing, both to you, and so many others. Thank you for writing it.

    I have a special-needs son, and in a workshop, we were given this essay... It's about kids, but it's as much about our expectations for our lives, too. Keep up the contentment!

    Welcome to Holland
    by Emily Pearl Kingsley

    I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

    When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

    After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

    "Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

    But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

    The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

    So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

    It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

    But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

    And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

    But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

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  46. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I think you're awesome. You've brought so much happiness to so many. I'm really glad that you're content and your life is better than it was a while back.

    My best friend has anxiety and after reading your post I think I wasn't all that supportive. She's a successful lawyer and was about to quit her job because she found trials so stressful. My attitude was, it's normal to be nervous, but you have an excellent record of victory, so what are you worried about? She explained that it wasn't rational and I accepted that, and it clearly was debilitating. She's gotten therapy and she takes Xanax as needed and has been able to continue working.

    Anyway, just meant to say that once again, you've helped people.

    I too am a huge Disney fan and was thinking of trying to meet you and John when we next visit... But was feeling shy about asking. There are plenty of rides that I don't do, so I never judge people on that!

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  47. Jen,

    You have moved me to tears, and as a very stoic person, that's incredibly hard to do. But here's the reason why: you have encapsulated the quintessential essence of what it's like to live with any kind of mental or physical impairment. And you've done it in a way that everyone relates to.

    I am a woman with Asperger's syndrome, a form of high functioning autism. For nearly seventeen years I was told that my anxieties, paranoia's, depression, and fixations would just go away if I would just choose to be happy. But I couldn't explain to people that I *was* happy, most of the time. I found myself so disillusioned with life that for a really long time I thought I'd never live to see my twentieth birthday because as the little voice inside my head said "no one would miss me anyway."

    But at 18 years old, I developed a condition that leaves me unable to view, see, or hear anything that leaves me in a state of anxiety, my heart stops and I literally die for a few seconds before finding myself on the floor. It was a really hard wake up call, I realized that I wanted to live, that I loved life in my own strange way and to do so, I'd have to change the way I lived my life. I no longer go to movies unless they are aimed toward children, I cannot watch TV shows with any mention of blood, or go on most rides at theme parks.

    I found instead something that makes me happy while still relatively stress free. I happily spend most of my free time making costumes and attending and staffing several conventions in my home state. As an attendee, conventions are extremely stressful, but as a volunteer, I find myself fixating less on everyone around me and more on what I'm supposed to do.

    Thank you very much for sharing your story, it makes me feel very comforted to know there are other people out there who suffer from anxiety and other anxiety based issues. You are such an inspiration, I wish I could meet you in person to tell you that.

    BrookeLynne

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  48. Jen, I commend your bravery. I don't have anxiety, but have my own issues. I just admire your willingness to be open and honest. Not to mention how wonderful John is! He's definitely a keeper.

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  49. Not only did you make it to Canada, you're now forever addicted to poutine, and beaver tails.
    AND we saw Ghostbusters in the movie theatre, and I saw you, you did really good. That was a year ago, that's crazy to me hahaha

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  50. Unlike you, my anxiety has slipped slowly into my life. (Amusingly enough, my heart condition was mis-diagnosed as panic disorder years ago, until I saw a cardiologist). 4 years ago, if someone said to me, "Let's get in the car and see if we can get lost." I'd have been all in, grabbing road trip snacks and hopping to it. Today the thought of leaving the house to go to work every day makes my stomach flop around like a drowning fish. It slowly snuck up on me... Did I close the door? Lock the door? Remember to grab everything I need before I left? Silly questions most people think of once in a while, I would panic about right up until I got home. I still fight myself to go out when I have to, and fight harder if it's something I only *want* to do. Yay for us! One outing at a time. >hug<

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  51. I, too, had a random onset of Anxiety and Depression...not sure how it happened but I've never been able to completely shake it. People think I'm a bitch or cranky or mean - but really I'm just scared to death to meet new people and try to have conversations! I've come quite a long way since then - mostly from forcing myself to do things. But also because I have to for my job.
    Anyway, Thank you for posting this so I don't feel so alone. And afraid.

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  52. I've been spending a good bit of energy lately explaining to some really well meaning people about how fun for some equals pain and terror for others.
    Church is such a wonderful thing when you aren't sensitive to light noise or smells, but when you do have issues, it is heartbreakingly bad. I am knee deep in trying to pull together a quiet church option for children with sensory issues. I think the biggest hurdle is convincing people that it is needed. We spend so much time trying to add flash and excitement to everything these days, suggesting calm and predictable gets met with strange looks.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I pray you find peace, comfort, and hope whenever the clouds try to set in on you.

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  53. I just wanted to say "Thank You" so much for writing this post. I've struggled with anxiety (mostly social anxiety, but my big trigger is the phone - I actually had a panic attack last month that sent me to the ER, too, and I'm pretty sure the trigger was that I was supposed to call a customer service department that day. The thought of it sent me reeling in panic just like you described.)

    Thanks especially for saying that having fear is not a weakness. You perfectly articulated something that has been bugging me at the back of my brain for so long about so many self-help methods and so on - a common theme I've run into a lot is the idea that fear is not real, but an illusion. While that sounds like an enlightened concept that I've wanted to make work, sometimes it just doesn't work. And then I feel like a failure for not being able to move past my illusions, or whatever. It makes me feel so much better to hear this other perspective, that fear sometimes just is, and the strength is in what you do to heal yourself, or do what you need to do, and that's OK.
    Thank you, just thank you so much.

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  54. You are amazingly strong. I hope that after reading all the comments you realize that. Everyone has something about them that's different and it's up to them to let it make them stronger. Congratulations on becoming stronger!

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  55. Jen, you are one of the bravest, most honest, writers I've ever read online. Thanks for sharing this. I'm proud of how you work to hold on to what matters to you most. Hang in there, Sweetie! You make me smile every day. Bless you. Sending you lots of support and gentle hugs from out here on the other side of the country.

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  56. Hey Jen,

    I am going to share my story with you, here, as it sounds very similar to yours. I was a shy kid, and sometimes a bit nervous, but didn't think about living life "normally". (Although I must say that now that I know what a panic attack is, I can remember having them occasionally as early as kindergarten, usually surrounding things involving loud noises -- fire drills and fireworks, for example.)

    Life changed for me about 10 years ago. Over a space of a few months, I went from being able to work full time (at Disneyland, actually) and live my life to having three or more panic attacks daily. I couldn't even think about an 8 hour shift at work -- I call it "mental claustrophobia", I felt like I couldn't leave, even though I was fully able to walk out any time. Even taking a walk outside my apartment was a struggle. I missed seeing my younger brother graduate from college.

    The absolute low point was that Thanksgiving. I flew out to visit my parents in Michigan. I ended up having panic attacks for more than 24 hours straight. My mom drove me to Chicago from Detroit to fly home so I didn't have to change planes. Remarkably, this was a bit fortuitous as well as torturous. There is an amazing little clinic in the O'Hare airport (part of the University of Chicago Medical system) where a wonderful doctor took me very seriously, instantly understood the problem, and introduced me to Xanax.

    Since then, I have gone through different variations of therapy and medication, and am getting back to being able to live my life like a "normal" human being. Anxiety and depression run in my family, and talking with my grandfather and aunt (those related to me with similar problems) really helped. I have even been able to get on an airplane (three trips in the past year!) for the first time since that Thanksgiving ten years ago.

    Jen, keep trying different meds -- they all work differently for each person, and you WILL find one that will all but eliminate anxiety from your life. Also, Cognitive Behavior Therapy worked very well for me. It deals with the underlying forms of thought that can trigger anxiety, and helps you to learn how to change the circular thoughts. Random trivia -- each individual panic attack lasts 10 minutes or less. But fear of another panic attack can actually bring on another panic attack, resulting in the ongoing cycle.

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I find myself constantly trying to explain to people (most frequently my ex-husband) that there is no "why" to anxiety and panic. It just is. Please know that you are definitely not alone, and that there are plenty of people pulling for you to feel less anxious! ::hugs::

    --Cam

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  57. I found this really enlightening, and am going to keep your words in mind should I ever find myself in a situation of having a friend in a similar situation.

    Also, this makes me want to go on those rides and video tape them for you. So you can 'ride' them whenever you want. But I'm in California and that won't be happening anytime soon. But anyone closer by is welcome to steal the idea.

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  58. I've been developing some social anxiety over the last few years, and as a single person who lives alone, I can tell you it SUCKS. I hardly go out anymore, and at home have only the cat for company and support.
    I'm glad you have your wonderful "John in shining armor" to help you. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  59. I'm so sorry you've had such a rough time, but I'm also glad that you are making progress. I hope that eventually you can do all you want to do.

    Regarding church and similar situations, I know people who can't stand to stay in the chapel, so they sit in the foyer next to the glass doors leading to the outside, where there is a speaker broadcasting from the chapel. Maybe a setup like that would work for you?

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  60. thank you for being so open. it means a lot to me.
    2 years ago i married a man with an anxiety and panic disorder, and i love him, and never think of him as weak. hes the strongest bravest most wonderful person i know. hes worth every moment.
    it sounds like john feels the same way about you, and i think that is beautiful.

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  61. Jen,

    It's not easy, but I wish every possible...what? Ease? Comfort? My six-year-old daughter has anxiety disorder and it's been a journey getting her the help she needs and getting people (school, extended family) to accept that this is a part of her make-up and that it's not shyness, over-sensitivity, etc.--and that it's not the end of the world Ugh.

    Thanks for writing this piece and opening a window on what it's like to live with anxiety. I wish more people talked about it so openly. One day at a time--for you and for us.

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  62. Hey, Jen. I know everyone else has already said this already, but you are incredibly inspirational. I won't go into my own story, but suffice to say: many of us needed to hear it and it means a lot to me that you were brave enough to share with us. Thank you for trusting us with this story and speaking truth about something difficult to discuss. I wish you all the very best.

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  63. I understand, I'm there, too but I've only had to cut out a few activities. I'm using meds and doing my best, but some days are hard. My triggers are deadlines and when people are depending on me for something, which is crazy because I'm a mom, PhD student, and college instructor.

    My doctor believes the anxiety was brought on by untreated ADD. I've known since college that I had all the indicators, but when I went to see a psychologist, she wouldn't diagnose me without my mother filling out a childhood behavior questionnaire. My mother refused to do it because then she would have to take responsibility for not getting me help. If she had to believe that all those times I was grounded, in trouble, yelled at.....she wouldn't be able to live with the guilt, so to her I'm just lazy and unmotivated. I'm getting treatment now, but the performance anxiety and the fear of being reprimanded in front of a group just makes me want to throw up. So what does my brain do? Perfectionist tendencies.....I try to plan for every single variable and then overcompensate. Oh well.

    If you ever need to head into the EPCOT bunker to regroup, I'll leave the brownies outside the door for you. Hang in there.

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  64. I've been reading your blog for as long as I can remember, but this is the first time I've felt able to comment. I also suffer from terrifying panic attacks, many times I felt like I'd rather die than keep living like this. Your blog has inspired me in so many ways, and I just wanted to tell you that you are incredibly brave and wonderful for being able to post your story. I love your quote, I think I'll have to use that one sometime! ^-^

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  65. Thank you so much for writing this. I have had post-traumatic stress since I was 3 years old, and endured 15 years of people telling me that I was lazy and malingering before anyone bothered to *listen*, and the fact that you can't wish you condition away with a load of "inspirational" quotes is one that many people need reminding of. It takes strength and courage to face up to reality, and sometimes the reality is that you just can't do quite as much as some other people. Sometimes reality is that you are limited. And that's shitty enough without people trying to persuade you to go into denial.

    Well done for writing such an important piece so eloquently, and love from me to everyone reading this who has this kind of limitation. Society may not realise it, but you're heroic.

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  66. 1. You are brave and amazing. Thank you for being so transparent and real. Your story is helpful to those of us who don't suffer with anxiety, probably as much as it is helpful to those who do.

    2. John is brave and amazing. Your marriage is a great reminder that love is a verb. It's not just squishy feelings when things are going well, it's about serving and giving and putting the other person's needs before yours, even when you don't fully understand what they're going through.

    Thank you to both of you, for being such an inspiration.

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  67. I started reading Cake Wrecks about four years ago, somebody posted a picture from your site on my facebook, and my best friend and myself were hooked. When you started EPBOT I saved the link, but I wasn't sure if I would keep up with it. I have to be honest - these days, I still keep up with Cake Wrecks, but I so look forward to your EPBOT posts. I don't know what it is, maybe it's a combination of the fantastic geekery, the steampunk, the Disney, and the humor. But a big part of it is your willingness to open yourself up to your readers. Your honesty and vulnerability makes us as your audience feel like your best friends, and I think that's why I keep coming back. When these long serious posts come along, I feel like I get a private window into your life, and I wish I could actually be there with you to give you a big giant hug, eat some ice cream and Taco Bell, and watch movies all day, because that's how I feel when my best friends need me. It has been so wonderful getting to know you. Maybe one day, if I'm lucky enough, I'll get to cash in on that hug. Keep writing Jen! You're wonderful and strong and such a joy. Good luck to you.

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  68. Great post, thank you....
    Dealing with my own issues (different background, some similar difficulties), I've taken up knitting - it's meant I cope with queues, waiting lines, car rides, meeting friends for coffee, etc. The repetitive, physical-action aspect helps a lot, particularly with that whole over-active adrenal thing that happens. There is also a great, supportive online community of knitters, which has been a huge plus. It's made such a difference, to have a self-administered and immediate intervention available.
    Give John an extra hug from me - it's so difficult for partners too...

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  69. I was hit by a car 23 years ago and suffered a closed head injury, I guess they would call it a TBI now. Anyhow it's a miracle that I'm alive and was able to get a masters degree, etc., but the depression and anxiety just freaking suck. It comes and goes in streaks, I'll be doing okay, drug free and able to lead a somewhat normal life and then bam, can't function and it's back on the drugs. Even when I'm doing good I have to drive by myself, my husband and one sister are the exception that can be with me and sometimes they can drive, I have to meet people at any location, can't share hotel rooms with anyone except my husband, etc. I can't believe there was a time I would get on a plane or ride in the backseat either. I recall in college a group of 5 of us squished into a friend's mustang, and I was one of the ones in the back! Never happen now.

    I didn't read all the comments but I've been in and out of counseling for over 20 years and it's never helped me. It's nice to talk to someone impartial but that's about it. I use a Pomerarian as a service dog and she helps keep me grounded in the moment and keeps the attacks to a manageable level so I can attend church. Though I can't bring her when I teach Sunday School and am hoping I can get a job and won't need her. If I can stay focused and don't get bored, I normally do much better. I've learned to manage some things like ferry rides or going to the theater. Same things as you must be on the aisle and preferrably like front row in the balcony so no one is too close. I don't eat on days we travel till we get to our destination and limit caffeine when we travel. No idea why eating makes it worse but I've had plenty of nice days destroyed because I've taken 3 bites of a sandwich.

    Thanks for putting into words how so many of us feel. Sending you lots of love and good thoughts.

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  70. I've never commented on your blog, but I have been a long time reader. You are such an inspiration to me.
    I suffer from depression, and have since the early 90's. I am mildly agoraphobic, which is somewhat hereditary in my family. It has affected my ability to hold a job.
    I know what it is like to not be able to do the things you want to because of the fear. And now my fiance also has similar problems. He is worse off than I am. Classifies himself as a hermit. ^.^ It can be difficult to have a social life sometimes. But we muddle through.
    I believe that what has helped us is the knowing that we are not alone. Knowing that there is someone there, while they may not completely understand what is going on inside your head but accepts you anyways, is the biggest source of help and confidence.
    For going to church, I can't always make it, but my pastor posts his messages as a pod cast every week, so that even if I can't make it to church I can still listen to the message.
    I wish you and John all the blessings you can handle.

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  71. The more I see of life, the more I see that everyone has things they struggle with. Some are more obvious than others, but I always appreciate it when people are willing to open up about things that are difficult for them. Thank you. (and sending internet hugs your way.)

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  72. I've followed your blog(s) for as long as they have been around. As a baker, I always feared seeing one of my creations on your Cake Wrecks..so far so good. Today you have filled me with hope and make me inspire to be better, open and honest. While I don't suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, I am 5 years running diagnosed OCD..and struggle with it everyday. You have shown me its ok to be different, to be me and not be ashamed anymore. Thank you- always.

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  73. Oh Jen. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate it more than you know.

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  74. I understand completely how they can just one day be there. I started suffering in silence with mine about 6 years ago. I suffered silently because my husband was not a person I could trust with the knowledge I was having this "weakness." Not that anxiety is a weakness, but because he viewed any form of depression/anxiety as one, thus the person I should have felt the most safe with, was actually my biggest trigger.

    Mine actually progressed from a mild seasonal depression, being from Maine those winters can be LOOOOOONG, to full blown anxiety/panic attacks. I "soothed" my anxiety by becoming increasingly more controlling of situations and if I couldn't control it, I wanted nothing to do with it. This made for some really tricky and not always understanding family get together's.

    I never knew just how much my triggers were associated with my now ex-husband until he walked away. This triggered an attack that lasted for days and like you, when it was over, I holed up to lick my wounds. And honestly, if it hadn't been for my boys, I might still be in that dark hole. They actually were my biggest reason for not letting my anxiety take control and "powering through" my fears. Not that I advocate this choice for dealing with them, but for me, at that time, it felt like it was my only option.

    As of now, it's been almost 5 months since my last attack. Every day I feel stronger. I am under no delusions that I will never have another attack, but my family now knows about my secret. They recognize the signs of me going into one and while they cannot stop them from happening, they talk to me and remind me to breathe which I forget to do and I have blacked out several times.

    Thank you so much for this post. I think it was an incredibly strong thing to do, as much for yourself as it was for all of the people who have now revealed that they too suffer. Sometimes, just knowing you are not alone with this ugly, scary monster makes the next attack less scary.

    I have a few things to say to those who do not have this disorder and think we are faking or making a big deal out of nothing:

    1. Telling us to deal and move on will not help. At all. It will just make you look like an @$$. Period.
    2. Sometimes you really do forget to breathe. Remind the person having an attack that they need to do this. Just breathe. That's all you have to accomplish in that moment in time. Just breathe. Nothing else matters but that next breath.
    3. Holing up and licking our wounds is part of the healing process. It is ok if we do not take your calls, respond to your emails, pretend nothing outside of our safe place matters. Because in that moment, it is ok and the rest of the world will just have to respect it.

    Thanks for this post Jen, it was incredibly brave. You are not alone.

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  75. Thank you for helping me to understand one of my best friends, who suffers from social anxiety, just that little bit better. Well done for getting your story out.

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  76. Amazing post. Thanks for sharing. I have some anxiety issues and it's hard for those who don't to understand what we're going through. You're the best, Jen!

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  77. I started having anxiety attacks out of the blue in 2003, though thankfully not as bad as yours. They still strike at random times for no apparent reason. The only triggers I've found are driving and leaving the house (kind of hard to have a life when that happens!).

    Thank you for posting your story. It helps to hear from people who've had them start as suddenly and without reason.

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  78. I've been suffering from anxiety for years, but it escalated horribly about six months ago when I had a really bad reaction to a new antidepressant. I thought I was dying, and the whole experience was extremely traumatizing. For months I'd occasionally have attacks that would leave me nauseated and dizzy for days. I'd worry that I'd pass out, or that my throat would swell shut, or that my heart would suddenly stop beating. I couldn't drive anywhere for a long time because I was afraid of fainting while I was driving, and I couldn't be alone for too long because I feared that I'd have some medical emergency and no one would be around to help me. I still worry about those things sometimes, but it has gradually gotten better.

    For me, the "just do it" method has seemed to work, but of course everyone's anxiety is different. I'm a grad student, so my choice was either to quit school and move back home or to keep going, taking classes and being a TA. The thought of what other people would think of me if I withdrew from school was too overwhelming. In my case, nothing bad happened. Maybe if I had ended up fainting or something I would have made a different choice, but in my case there were few negative consequences, and far more positive ones. I don't know why, but my life seems slowly to be resuming its former rhythm. I can again drive long distances by myself, and be alone for a few nights, and stand in front of a class. I still worry a lot. I'm seeing a counselor, but I keep feeling that he just doesn't get it. My worries and anxiety seem so logical to me. I've got it all worked out in my head.

    I'm certainly not trying to say that the "just do it" method works for everyone. The more I read about anxiety and panic disorders, the more I realize that I've had it pretty easy. Weirdly, I actually seem to be getting over whatever started six months ago. I feel immeasurably better, and I think that in part that's due to forcing myself to jump into all the situations that I was anxious about. This is just in my particular case.

    I really hope this isn't coming off as either gloating or condescending. I'm trying to express that I feel like I understand, in a small way, what you experience, and to share my own experience.

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  79. Thank you for posting this. I have severe anxiety and people love to tell me to suck it up, which of course makes it 10 times worse.

    I want to go to Disney World so bad, but crowds send me in to a panic attack. My brother is getting married there, and I feel so bad that I can't go. Just the thought of the crowds make me start sweating, and my heart racing.

    I work in retail and black friday is like my own personal hell. Last year I had such a bad panic attack that I thought I was going to die.

    I am very lucky that I am married to a man that is so understanding even though he dosn't totally understand it. He never pushes me to do something that puts me in a stressful situation. Wish my family was as understading.

    Reading the comments makes me feel like I'm not so alone.

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  80. Thank you for sharing...I'm the wife of a socially anxious husband, so I'm sort of on the other side of your story. I stick with my husband because he's worth it, every second. I have a hunch that John feels the same way about you!

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  81. I cannot believe that you posted this now, just when I needed it. I don't have a history of anxiety disorder, but I struggled with claustrophobia when I was a teen and I'm extremely introverted.
    This is my story of when I needed that support that you speak of, but the person who should have given it to me just walked away. I was admitted to the hospital last week with pneumonia, but I presented in the ER with a rapid heart rate, dropping blood pressure, a high fever, and the migraine to end all migraines. My nurse in the ER was incredible, holding my hand through the spinal tap, calling my mom to update her, and just being there when I was freaking out. Once they had diagnosed the pneumonia, and I was upstairs, I also had wonderful care- until the 2nd (official) night of my stay. The doctor put me on a new combination of pain medications and muscle relaxants. A little while after I got the second medication I started feeling very strange and soon I felt like my head wasn't connected to my body. Once I finally managed to get my arm to move to the nurse call button, my "primary caregiver" (B) came in the room. I told her how I felt and B said, "it's the medication" and walked out. I started to panic a bit then- I literally felt like I had no control over my body. I started to hyperventilate and just couldn't calm myself down. In my head I knew that I need to slow down my breathing, but it's different when it's yourself. I managed to press the nurse call button again, and this time when B came in, my hands were already going numb. She asked me what was wrong, calling me by the wrong name in the process. I tried to tell her that Shannon was not my name (I don't know why that was the point I focused on just then, but it was), but she kept calling me Shannon. I couldn't talk and continued to freak out and hyperventilate. Since I wasn't responding to her in what she deemed an acceptable manner, she walked out again. I pressed my call button again...and she ignored it...a 4th time...ignored again. The 5th time I pressed my call button, my primary nurse (S) responded (she had been with another patient for the beginning of this story). She could immediately tell that something was wrong when she came in the room. S sat me up in bed and began to help me regulate my breathing, she tried to get the muscles in my hands and arms to relax (I'd been hyperventilating for so long by this point that the numbness was starting to creep up my neck and into my face), she looked my chart again to make sure there was nothing else that could be causing my symptoms, and she took my vitals, all while continuing to help me slow my breathing. Even after she had me breathing regularly, S stayed in the room, talking until all the tingling went away (and I was able to speak and tell her how the other nurse had behaved!). It took hours for my vitals to return to normal after that episode-they had stabilized about 24 hours prior to the panic attack and we were nearly back to square 1 with my heart rate and my pulse oxygen was well below what it had been even in the ER. If B had listened to my concerns and not treated me as if I was an idiot making things up/ panicking for no reason, I would not have gotten so worked up. I would not have been panicking for that long. My heart rate would not have been that high again.
    It just makes me so angry now. And, it only happened one time with one person. I don't know that I could do that every single day, with people downplaying or belittling my pain and symptoms. I read both of your blogs regularly, Jen, (I'm the one who made the ceramic baby "cake"!) and I feel like I know at least a part you. Thank you for trusting us, for being honest, and for giving us a little place where comments are supportive. You're doing what you can with your life, and making a lot of people smile because of it.

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  82. I can't empathize with your panic disorder, but I still want to applaud you for this post. It is eloquent and very brave. There is always a risk when you share your vulnerabilities and, if I may be so bold, I am proud of you for baring your heart. Just from scrolling through the comments, it is easy to see how much your story means to so many people. So thank you for that :)

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  83. I've followed your blog for a really long time and think you are an incredibly amazing person. I mean, it really doesn't get any better than steampunk lady vader. I was so upset that I didn't make it to an of the cons this summer so that I could actually find you and tell you how amazing I think you are. I've mostly enjoyed the wonderful geekiness that is Epbot from afar, happily gloating that yes, female nerds DO in fact exist in the adult world.

    But then I read this post. And I had to comment. A similar thing happened to me. Not on your scale, but all of a sudden I was getting panic attacks in my classes, or in temple, or in the car, or in debate rounds. Flying on planes became my worst nightmare because I knew the second the doors closed I was going to be shaky and sick and freaked out. Just thinking about being in a large setting that I couldn't easily excuse myself from was overwhelming.
    And people would say, well there must be something that triggers it. And I would say no, I'm not afraid of crowds, or of public speaking, or people, or anything. I just...can't do it.

    I don't think this is expressing my feelings well enough, but thank you. Thank you for this post and for this support and for being an amazing women who enjoys things like steampunk and Star Wars while still struggling with life.

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  84. You are amazing and awesome and I <3 you!

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  85. Ah Jen, once again you have helped a lot of people. I love the way that you can make us laugh and still not feel you have to pretend that everything in your life is perfect. I totally relate to the "Suck it up" attitude of ignorant people. I have chronic depression, and while people's ignorance has been lessened thanks to lots of publicity about the condition, for years it was, "All you have to do is just choose to be happy" like ANYBODY wouldn't choose to be happy if they could!!! My son has Aspergers, and if I had a dollar for every time someone had said to me over the years, "Well if you were just firmer with him he wouldn't have a discipline problem" I would be a wealthy woman. We haven't been to church for ages because he can't handle the noise and the crowds. Thankfully he goes to a wonderful school.
    Your willingness to share yourself with us as well as your amazing talents and your wonderful sense of humour is [insert suitable hyperbole here because I have run out of words]. I have never met you (and because I live in Australia I probably never will - NOW I understand why you didn't want to come here for a book signing tour) but I feel like you are part of my family!
    Supportive husbands make life worth living - it might be something in the name because my own John is wonderful and understanding and loves me even on the days when I hit a bad patch and don't even manage to get dressed but just pull a jumper and trousers on over my nightie to take him to the station and our son to school.
    Dory comes to mind: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." Sometimes that is all you can do (and if you need to take a break and just float for a while, that is fine too)

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  86. I had never had a problem with anxiety until about a year ago, when I had a traumatic long-term substitute teaching experience. The kids weren't awful, but the whole time, I felt so out-of-control that it got to the point where I couldn't make myself go to work one day, so I ended up getting a Xanax prescription. I haven't taken it since I got out of the job (although I almost did this week), but it's helpful knowing it's there if I need it. Now I understand my students with anxiety disorders so much better!

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  87. Thanks for this blog. You are so strong to have dealt with all this and built a life that works for you. And John - he rocks!

    I have dealt with panic and anxiety issues. Was sexually abused as a child (some PTSD), married an alcoholic, stuck working with a bully for 14 years (thankfully she got the heave ho recently) and 2 years ago had a life-threatening disease and was off work for 20 months. The time on sick leave was actually a blessing. I went to a psychologist, who did a combination of talk therapy and EMDR. I had the chance to do an extreme amount of resting. Taking as much quiet time as possible.

    I did have a panic attack once at WDW, in the Living Seas. I got turned around and all I could see were aquariums and blue carpet. I can go in there now but I always locate the stairs and exit so I don't feel trapped.

    I am over 50 and have been single most of my adult life. The thought of being in a relationship is a real trigger for me and while I miss having sex, obviously I don't miss it enough to let someone into my quiet life. I am a very competent woman and have found that I attract dependent men, just thinking about it causes me stress. Until I find a healthy (enough) independent, competent man. Single I shall remain.

    I will be in WDW in November. Let me know if you want to meet-up at Epcot or DTD!

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  88. Jen,
    I wanted to thank you for telling your story. I too suffer from a panic disorder although mine was much more typical. I am also a medical student and I wanted to be sure that you have been checked for hyperthyroidism, cushings, diabetes, and a pheochromocytoma. I imagine all of those things have been looked into but sometimes we doctors get locked into one diagnosis and forget others. I only mention it because it is unusual to develop a panic disorder at an older age without any preceding mental illnesses.
    Also, I'd like to echo other people who have commented and hope that you have a good therapist who practices CBT. I also know that you probably don't want more meds, but use of SSRIs for anxiety disorders to keep the panic attacks at bay while doing CBT has had great results.
    Anyway, good luck and thanks again.

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  89. Holy cow, I've been loving Cakewrecks for all this time and I had no idea what was going on in the author/creator's life. Thank you for sharing your incredible struggle/journey with us.

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  90. Thank you for your post. :)

    I've always (since I can remember) been a "worrier" and at least low-level anxious. For a long time I chalked it up to an over-active imagination, over-exposure to terrible news stories at a young age, etc.

    Then about 4 years ago I witnessed a very violent crime up close by one acquaintance on another. I developed PTSD because of it and it made all of my natural anxious tendencies explode big-time. I didn't want to leave the house, I was obsessive about checking that windows and doors were always ALWAYS locked, and I was such an emotional mess that I took Ativan for a solid month just to calm down enough to eat the occasional meal and get a bit of sleep.

    After the first few absolutely terrible months, I started to slowly, slowly feel a bit better. Time does help these things, and thank goodness for my extremely grounded hubby and the visits to the counselor, provided free by my employer's EAP.

    I learned and practiced CBT early on and ever since, but earlier this summer I realized I had plateaued in my recovery at a place I just was not happy with being.

    I went to my doctor and got put on an every day anti-anxiety/depression med, and I also asked for Ativan (lorazepam) to have on-hand for any terrible days or PTSD episodes. I feel better just knowing I have it nearby.

    Luckily, my daily med (Wellbutrin, which luckily I don't experience side effects with) coupled with "grounding" CBT has me feeling much, much better. I do of course avoid my big triggers, like crowds and closed-in areas (like you!) and stuff like that. But I'm functioning, and most days I'm content and I can shut the "kopfkino" down quickly and...it's better, thank goodness. Thanks for sharing your story with us. :)

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  91. You are cool, fuuny, interesting, and strong. I'm sorry you have to deal with these issues.

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  92. I have panic attacks too, not just anxiety attacks, but plain ol' PANIC attacks. I have suffered from them since childhood. For some reason I can go years at a time feeling moderately "normal" and then start having them again and have to spend, literally, years barely leaving the house.

    I completely sympathize with your posts and it is so nice to read your blog and know that someone else is experiencing similar things.

    Even though I have had problems since I was in grade school, my dad still feels I should just "buck up" and "pull it together". My mother is wonderful though and completely understands and helps me.

    I am so glad you have a wonderful husband who is there to help you! When I have read some of your posts about him going to the doctor with you or helping you through crowds at a con, and it warms my heart to think of what a great husband you have!

    Thank you for giving a voice to this problem!

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  93. Amazing stuff... thank you. I pretty much have the same panic attacks that you do. Doing much better, but it's still a daily struggle

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  94. Thank you. I'm only 22 but I've been suffering from social anxiety disorder since I was 10. My main problem is also with not having an escape route. Crowds, elevators, planes...not good for me. I'm a puppet builder, and I've recently moved to NYC to work with the Henson company. It is all I can do to ride the subway the 4 stops it takes me to get to work, and even then I have to hide in the bathroom for 15 minutes to compose myself before entering the studio. Lately I've been so embarrassed about my anxiety that I've contemplated moving back home. Thanks for reminding me that there are plenty of people who share my struggles. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone. You really do inspire me, and I hope you continue to share your personal stories on this blog. Just to be reminded that you can have an anxiety disorder and still be successful is a great comfort.
    <3 from the Big Apple.

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  95. I hate, hate, HATE when people try to treat depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder - and yes, they are disorders, as much as I hate that word myself - as though it's something you can beat with willpower, or by being tough, or by sucking it up, or whatever. They don't know what it's like to literally not be in control of your emotions.

    Reading your post made me feel less alone. Often I look around at the people in my life and wonder - how do they do it? How do they take trips, go to college, meet new people, go to parties or clubs, stay at another person's house on a whim? I can't do those things.
    Suffice to say dealing with a mother discovering a brain tumor and losing the hearing in one ear, an ill-executed house renovation because of water damage (including a four-month stay in a hotel while the house was being worked on), a mother dealing with breast cancer during said renovation and the busiest time of year for both of my parents, multiple problems with the house after said renovation, the death of a beloved grandmother, the deaths of beloved pets, and a father suffering a stroke..... It changed me.
    I am now unconsciously self-analytical (not as helpful as you would imagine) and willing to tell a doctor anything if it helps them help me. I'm on a crapload of medications just to exist without panic, or ADHD, or being covered in hives due to abruptly-heightened allergies. It's been a while since I've had a panic attack, but I know all too well what they feel like, and while the fear has gotten better, sometimes being afraid of having one is enough to make me run for the bottle of xanax. Somehow, I'm surviving.
    As Crunchy Jo said, it takes strength to get up in the morning, and every day we fight through is a testament to the type of person we are. It's a little strange to be able to say that I feel lucky I'm at a point in my life where most crises' in my life just make me laugh. There's nothing else for me to do but laugh, accept how ridiculous everything is, and find a way to deal with it.
    Having my family as a support network is one of the greatest gifts in my life, but Jen, you somehow keep being another. Your happiness, your joie de vivre when you write on Epbot on the good days, makes me smile. The way you have become a central point who can bring well-meaning, wonderful people together to fight for the good things (like Katie, for example), reminds me that there are truly wonderful people in this world. And the times you write about your anxieties, and your low points, and trust us enough to share; when we're all brought out of the woodwork to say 'Don't worry, I've been there, I know what it's like and you are not alone."...
    Reading those comments and your posts doesn't feel like a bunch of people throwing a pity party or lavishing attention on whom is to most only an intangible stranger: it feels like a group of people taking strength from one another and establishing a sort-of community where anyone can be open, and that openness helps everyone.


    ..... -blush- Okay, so, yeah. That post was wayyyy longer than I meant it to be (…. It might have been 13,000 characters before I edited it –cough-), and probably is a tangled mess that's incredibly difficult to understand, but what I'm trying to say is Thank you. Thank you for being you, obviously a wonderful person, and for bringing all of these other wonderful people together. And you can get through your anxieties. There is always light at the end of the tunnel -- if you don't see that light, then it's just a hole you've found yourself in, and we're all here to offer you a rope, a vine, a hand, a ladder.... whatever it is you need to pull yourself out.

    (Jen, throw me your anxieties, and I'll throw you the whip!)

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  96. Dear Jen,
    I think I just saw myself in your post. I am no wheres near where you are, but I have these moments when I act and react in ways I don't understand. I've suffered from bouts of depression since adolescence, some so severe I didn't think I'd ever get out. Only recently have I come up with a name for another problem...anxiety. When I finally talked to my physician assistant about it, she didn't hesitate to prescribe Ativan (for which I thank God). Even then, it's not something I tell people about much.

    The turn for worse in my life came when my best friend died five years ago at age 35 with a heart attack. Everything I thought I understood about life, and God, was called into question and, truthfully, I couldn't handle it. Fortunately I have understanding parents and married an understanding husband...and interestingly enough, I have two coworkers who suffer similar problems, so we're our own little support system. :o)

    Anyhow, I said all that to say this: THANK YOU! Thank you for finding the strength to speak up. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for sharing all of this with people who are, for all intents and purposes, strangers. *hug* Reading the replies...you're not alone. None of us are. I hope some day maybe you can go back to church (and thank God for that too!) and go to a movie. But I'm even more hopeful that maybe just one more person will now understand because you're willing to speak up.

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  97. YES THIS! A million times this! I have very specific phobias that are enough to give me nightmare about them. Things like heights and running noisy machinery (no lawnmower for me.)

    When you said that sometimes confronting a fear just makes the fear worse I wanted to stand up and clap and shout, becasue no one has ever said that to me before. Here I have been feeling like a failure because facing my fears did not seem to be helping.

    I wish more people understood that. You win all the internets Jen, from now until forever, and thank you for making me feel less alone. Thank you.

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  98. Hey, I think it's pretty brave of you to share this. I think you're pretty brave all around actually. I love this blog, thank you for writing all this.

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  99. This was beautiful, thank you. I don't have anxiety, but I know many people who do, and this really helped me to understand them a bit better. You are so strong, and obviously an inspiration to many.

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  100. Thank you so much for posting this! So many people have depression and/or anxiety issues, and don't tell anyone. I practically shout about mine from the roof. I don't want anyone to have to go thru this alone! The more people talk about it, the less of a "stigma" there is. And, the more people who need help will seek it.
    It isn't something you can just overcome with will-power. It's a chemical disorder. I have diabetes. I have to take medicine because my pancreas doesn't work right. I have panic disorder. I have to take medicine because my neuro-receptors don't work right. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. It's not in your head, it's in your chemicals!!!
    So, keep that head high, take your meds when you need them, and know you are NOT alone!!!!

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  101. Thank you, Jen! This post has obviously helped many people, me included. I've dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Mine mostly manifests these days as social anxiety. Dealing with people can be really tortuous. Your comment about how facing your fears doesn't always make those fears go away has been very touching, helpful, meaningful to me. I feel so much guilt sometimes, because I feel like I should be going out and and reaching out to people, because you have to, even though it doesn't get any easier.

    Like you, I've developed my own ways of coping, my own boundaries, my own joyful contentment, but these things still hurt me from time to time. Your words have helped me remember that what "they" might think or say is not necessarily true for me, and that is 100% ok.

    Thank you!

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  102. I'm a new reader of your blog and have never posted a comment, but I've known about Cake Wrecks for years (love it). I would never have guessed that you're one of us. Thank you so much for expressing so eloquently what it means to have anxiety disorder. I know it won't help, but I'll include you in my thoughts and prayers.

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  103. Jen, thank you for sharing. I had a panic attack once, years ago, when I was going through a stressful time in my marriage. Like you, I was convinced I was going to die. I could not imagine having to face that more than once. You are unbelievably brave.

    Also, thank you for explaining your fear. I have not had that kind of social anxiety and have no one in my life with it it either. Your story will help me understand if my path ever crosses with someone who does.

    I hope that you remain happy and are able to live life exactly how you want to, either with the anxiety or without it.

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  104. Jen, I have been reading your blogs( both EPBOT and Cake Wrecks) for quite a while now and never realized that you suffer so from panic attacks. I'm so sorry you have to deal with that. I commend you for sharing. Thank you so much for all the laughs and fun you have given me and I hope that one day this condition will, just as mysteriously as it came on, disappear! Love Ya!

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  105. Have you considered talking to Disney about why it's difficult for you to get to the Magic Kingdom? I know they were incredibly helpful and willing to accomodate a pregnant person (me) and a vegetarian (my husband) and try to give us as full access as possible to things, and it doesn't seem like it would be that difficult for them to figure out a way for you to be escorted into the employee entrance or something. Shucks, anyone reading your post today would have to believe it's a reasonable request under the circumstances.

    -jklGoDuke

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  106. I've never struggled with anxiety (though I did deal with severe depression for a while), so I don't know exactly what you're going through. However, I can relate to a lot in this post because I also have an "invisible disease"- something that you have to struggle with, but isn't seen by other people like a broken leg is. I have Crohn's Disease, and even before I was diagnosed, I had a lot of digestive pain and issues. The people around me always just thought that I was saying that my stomach hurt because I wanted to get out of things, or because I was stressing myself out. I wasn't stressed though, besides stressing about whether or not I was actually stressed. I had all this pain that most people thought was just mental. It was almost a relief to have a diagnosis (almost, but not really). I have to deal with it every day- with what I'm eating, my daily stress, staying active without overdoing it, even being careful about what clothes I wear. And it's just so hard to live with the idea that this is my new normal.

    So anyways, hugs to you! I'm glad you're finally learning to manage this and be at peace with it. Sometimes it's still a struggle for me, like when my friends really want to go out for pizza for a special occasion, and I know I shouldn't have it, and they don't want to go because they don't me to sit there with a salad while they enjoy pizza, but I don't want to change their plans because I know they really really want pizza... :P

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  107. Thank you for sharing. I know how much bravery it can take to tell your story like this.

    The sudden onset of your panic disorder reminded me of the part of one of my friends -- she did have a traumatic experience that kind of seemed to kick things off, though.

    She went through many many years of various medications and therapies and tests to rule out all sorts of physical causes to the anxiety (thyroid, etc). Crazily enough, the one thing that she's done that has made the MOST difference was finding out that she has celiac disease, and cutting gluten entirely out of her diet. Crazy.

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  108. Best wishes for tomorrow. And the next day. And whatever day you need it.

    I have milder forms that can be handled by avoiding the triggers, so I only know the edges of what you're going through. I explain it like an allergy. It's an involuntary response. So yeah, I'm "allergic" to large noisy crowds in enclosed spaces.

    Oh, and just because, and based on my own past experiences:
    "There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

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  109. so me again, I don't have any kind of panic disorder and while I don't much care for crowds I can enter them like a champ. What I do have however is claustrophobia, I can ride an elevator but I have to be the last on and the first out and door, I have to stand right next to the button panel to make sure people are pushing the buttons properly, yeah yeah there is only one way to push a button I get that. I have on more then one occasion just passed out from being in a small room. I don't realize it it but I begin to hyperventilate to the point of passing out. It is scary for the poor people who don't know this little fact about me. My husband at first used to laugh at my behavior in elevators till he went up to the top of the CNTower (largest free standing building in the world)with me and I change colors about ten times and none of them pretty shades. People keep telling me I am perfectly safe and it is a glass elevator I mean you can SEE the world all out there. I kindly point out to them that while I can SEE the world I sure as hell can't BREATH it as it is on the other side.

    The fear is irrational, and as a grown woman I get that. However like your panic it does not FEEL that way and just bucking it up does not work in the least.

    Believe me I live in a city where most buildings have elevators and our population is 2.5 million so you are NEVER alone and more people means less air (again I KNOW that air is pumped into them in case of emergency, I KNOW They have safety precautions in place my brain is NOT the problem)so I would love not to have this problem. I would love not to be looked at like I am rude when I push my way out of a crowded small box instead of waiting my turn. Thankfully I am usually to freaked out to care what these strangers are thinking about my rudeness.

    I just wanted you to know that I appreciate you sharing your fears and problems with us, it makes everyone who has one or who knows someone with one a little less alone. All our fears may not be the same, and we may all be at different levels, it is important to remember everyone fears something and a little understanding would go a very long way in the world.

    Thanks once again for being brave and sharing a little something that most of us would rather just hide away, you help so much who suffer in silence and maybe just maybe with your voice we can all feel strong enough to share our own stories.

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  110. I've been there. SOOOO there. I've been in the ER with the Dr. sneering at me telling me there's nothing wrong and I'm taking up a bed somebody else REALLY needs. I've had to leave church, McDonalds, work, etc, etc,etc...
    I have nothing to offer but empathy. You are not alone. You are not crazy, though, let me tell you, you feel like it sometimes. And it DOES affect your marriage. (My husband STILL, after 13 years, doesn't understand that I need sympathy instead of "Suck it up, weirdo." Just keep hanging in there. Like that cheesy poster of the poor kitty hanging on the branch. You are not alone.

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  111. I developed a panic disorder in college seemingly overnight. After going to psychiatrists and therapists and taking xanax and ambien, which only made the attacks worse (even now, anything that alters my perceptions sets off a panic episode, which sucks when I have to take benedryl) it turns out, I was "allergic" to estrogen birth control, and it was the cause for the panic. It took a long time to purge my system of the excess estrogen that was stored in my body, and a lot of anger at doctors for not catching what was causing it, that contributed to me failing the majority of a semester, but I try now to be very aware of what chemicals are in my body and the reactions I have. And I use Depo now.

    But having gone through it, it breaks my heart that others can't find as easy a cure as I had, but it makes me much more understanding, that no, you're right, there is no logic-ing out of it; it's terrifying, and it's not a choice.

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  112. *safe hugs* I am an survivor of abuse from my childhood and have recently been diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety so I know what you are going through. I applaud you for being so open and honest with everyone because I know how hard it is to explain to others about this. *safe hugs* We are all so very strong to be able to keep on trying (and succeeding) day after day.

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  113. I had my own little panic attack in an elevator last Friday. Thankfully I've never had any as severe as what you describe. Your bravery in sharing this is inspiring.

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  114. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Jen. My 18 year old daughter has panic disorder and the last few years have been quite an ordeal for her. As a mom, it has been very difficult seeing her struggle, especially since I have never experienced them myself. I have learned so much from her and I admire her for her ability to deal with the anxiety. We, also, celebrate the little victories. She enjoys both CakeWrecks and Epbot, so I know she will appreciate your story. Thanks again for sharing. :)

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  115. I don't know if this will help you, but a few years after I had my hysterectomy at 29. I started having panic attacks and anxiety. I spent 10 days in the hospital because they thought I had a heart attack and it was just a panic attack. Anyway, I then went to a Dr. that specialized in caring for women and was more into natural things, well they ran my blood to see my cholesterol levels and everything, including hormone levels. Well, since I wasn't taking replacement hormone therapy,(my mom died from ovarian cancer), it turned out I had almost NO hormones in my body. It was totally out of wack. Once we got my hormones under control all the anxiety and panic attacks went away. I still occasionally suffer through bouts of depression, but no more panic attacks.

    I wanted to tell you this just in case you have never had your hormones checked, it may not be a cure for you, but checking it out can't hurt.

    I also want you to know how much I admire you and enjoy all of your blogs and I think you are very strong and brave to share your personal stuff with everyone. Because as you know, it helps to know you are not alone.

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  116. Thank you Jen. I was having a panic attack for half the day today, out of nowhere. I am really lucky that I have a wonderful husband who was able to take out little boy out for a walk while I cried and slept... I really needed to read this. Thank you.

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  117. Thank you for such a well written, honest explanation of what it is like to live with a panic disorder. My mother has panic attacks and when I was younger I never understood. I felt inconvenienced by them, when she would leave me stranded at after school activities because she couldn't get in the car to pick me up. When I got a little older, I was angry with her for it. Why didn't she just go get help? There are medicines that could make her better, but she "didn't like them." Why was she so stubborn? Then, when I got even older, I started to be affected by depression and panic disorders myself. I'm very fortunate, because my symptoms aren't nearly as severe as they are for others in my family, but there have been days on end when even getting out of bed was impossible. I'm so glad that you were able to share your story with the world in this way. I hope it helps others to understand...because I know how hard it was for me to understand before I experienced it firsthand.

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  118. Hm. How to begin - thank you for sharing,
    it's always good to know we're not alone -
    in particular for me, when "you are alone and nobody can understand" is part of the Standard Panic Mode...

    One thing I wanted to share, a trick I picked up at some point to deal with mild panic attacks.
    Apologies if this is totally insensitive, but I've found it helps me sometimes.
    Maybe it'll help you too, or other readers, at some point.
    It won't work on the big panics, though, it's just a small trick. But I found it useful.
    (Originally, I found it phrased as a trick against anger attacks,
    but I find it works just fine for panics, and sometimes just sadness attacks)

    So, the basic problem is: You panic. You notice control slipping away from you,
    and that increases your panic: You can't panic now, that would be awful,
    and inconvenient to everyone else, and oh my $deity, and...
    Result: You pretty quickly worm your way so deep into a hole that you can't get back out.

    Now, fundamentally this is just a feedback loop: Panic causes loss of control, loss of control causes panic, repeat...
    Of course, that hardly helps once you're stuck in the loop.

    But next time you feel this coming on, try doing the opposite:
    Notice you are starting to get afraid. Now instead of trying to push the fear away,
    and failing - try to increase it. Not a joke. Do it.
    Chances are, you'll manage that direction. There was something to be afraid of, now you're more afraid.
    Now, going back to the "loss of control" - this is the opposite.
    You just took that fear and consciously made it bigger.
    You're still in control. You can push your fear around.

    And that's really all there is to it.
    Once your brain realizes that - hey, I'm no longer losing control just because I got a bit afraid, I'm still in control -
    you can just take that emotion, put it into a bottle, label the bottle,
    and place it on a shelf for later use once it's needed - just not now.
    Sure, the trigger was there, but now you know your enemy and how to push it around.

    I realize this probably sounds silly.
    It doesn't always work - but contrary to what I thought when I first read it, it sometimes actually does.
    So, maybe this helps someone.
    I'd like to think so, anyway.

    So Far,
    BearPerson

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  119. I don't think I've ever commented before. And with 111 comments ahead of me, I don't know that you'll read all the way down to mine. But I want to add my voice to the chorus thanking you for being so open with this.

    Three years ago, I couldn't drive. I was ok riding in a car, but somehow my mild preference for being a passenger rather than a driver had gradually morphed over time into A Thing. A Thing I Couldn't Do.

    It joined a list that included Making Phone Calls To Strangers, Having Guests Over, Going To Parties, and Having More Than One Event per Week.

    I'm buying a car this week. When I did start driving again a year ago, I had my Dad come out with me, I planned all my routes ahead of time, I avoided cities, large intersections, and traffic. And somewhere along the way all those things dropped away, the same way they came on in the first place.

    So, thank you for writing about this. The thing is, when you're in the middle of a flare up (which is how I think of it when you are stuck in a hyper-sensitive baseline anxious state for days or weeks on end, like your body thinks there are lions outside the door and is getting ready to run)...when you're in the middle of that, you have to ration your will for the things that NEED to get done, or really want. The other stuff just goes. And it is hard for people to understand that from the outside, especially when they see your life seeming to just shrink.

    Anyway. thanks again. I hope you get your rides back someday!

    Kate

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  120. I was going to write you a long comment enumerating all the reasons I want to thank you for this post, but plenty have done that. Suffice it to say, as someone who has lived with Major Depression and anxiety disorders half my life, thank you. That doesn't even begin to cover it, but thank you for CW that makes me laugh when I can't get out of bed, and thank you for sharing your struggle, and making the face of our illnesses "normal"

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  121. Thanks Jen. I suffer from mild anxiety and even THAT feels crippling. Sometimes I'm just convinced that I'm going to die in a horrific way from mundane things. Or I think my loved ones have died in terrible accidents if they're half an hour later than they should be.

    Riding in a car is also a problem for me, although I prefer the back seat because the front feels too open and easily breakable.

    I guess we're opposites- I don't mind being in confined places, but it's the larger world and the things that could happen that terrifies me every one in awhile.

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  122. I'm not yet brave enough to tell anyone other than my husband and son about my panic attacks.

    First time ever was one year ago July. Out of the blue. Was reading some skewed current affairs post an acquaintance on Facebook posted and my chest exploded. I could not breathe. I freaked out. I did not know what was going on.

    The next several months were torture. I thought I was going crazy. I could not tell anyone; I'm the strongest of all my siblings - how can I let them down?

    Everything current-affairs scared me. I stopped going on Facebook, I stopped watching the news. My husband's attitude the first 6-8 months was bad; just get over it already. He did not get it. How did his intelligent, college-educated, gainfully employed wife become *this?* This lady who leaves the room when he switches the tv to the news, who sits bolt upright in the car gripping the arm rest, white-knuckled, when he puts on his political radio? Who cries in restaurants when overhearing people talk about the economy.

    I have family with panic attacks. I never understood them. Eyerolls abounded. Now? Now I come to their defense when other family members make fun of them behind their backs.

    It ruined vacations, friendships (I am not on Facebook anymore), but it taught me who my real friends and family were. The ones who have no clue what is going on, but seek me out anyway with phone calls and emails rather than Facebook.

    My husband knows now. He asks me if I have something else I can do, because he wants to watch the news. I go away and read. I have not had a panic attack in months now. I pray a lot. My faith in God has kept me going. I think things through in my head. I understand how crazy it is (I hate using that word...) that I feel this way. I'm supposed to be "normal," right?

    I'm one of the ones who "pushes through." and it's hard.

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  123. Don't go getting a swollen ego from this or anything, but your honesty, humility, and perseverance are pretty darn incredible. Thank you for posting!

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  124. Jen... I am a fellow geek girl who suffers from anxiety disorder. I am so inspired by your post because I have been there. I have suffered from anxiety since my parents abandonded me when I was 5 years old. It wasn't until I was 20 years old and married that I was able to finally tell someone that I had this problem. It took 15 years for me to tell people, even those closest to me. I greatly admire your courage to detail your story on your blog. I believe that if more of us were able to tell our stories that a lot of the stigma of having these issues would start to fade. Hopefully replaced with care and understanding. You rock!

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  125. I've been lucky and haven't had to deal with major issues, but I really appreciate you comment about how unhelpful the "suck it up" mentality is. I've recently gone through quite a period of unemployment mixed with a coupe of jobs that didn't end well and as you can imagine it has been extremely frustrating. Through all of that I had to listen to my family (extroverts) constantly telling me (an introvert) that I should just get out more. With all the stress I was already under the idea of "getting out more" was just beyond exhausting. And the sad thing is, it wasn't like I was doing nothing. I was very involved in my church and had a couple of good friends (the kind where I could totally be myself, both good and bad) that I would get together with, but every week when I'd talk to them it was the same thing, get out more, it will be good for you.

    So ya, I think the thing is when we are interacting with people who are having problems, whether severe of just one of "those days", we need to just allow them to deal with it in a way that is most helpful. For some that may be getting out more, but for many of is, it will be taking a bit and just hiding to regather our strength to face life again.

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  126. For as long as I can remember I have had panic attacks, and anxiety. I am terrified of bees, closed in spaces, can't stand to go grocery shopping because there are so many people around. Like you, I have learned what limits are and I try to push them when I feel stronger. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing. I met you in Richmond during the last book tour and would never have guessed that you had any anxiety issues. You are a warm, caring and funny person. You have a keeper of a husband and having that support is amazing. I know my family and my husband make dealing with my issues more bearable. Please keep writing your blogs and keep sharing.

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  127. Jen,
    My 19 year old son has panic attacks, severe anxiety, and now, cancer. I found two beautiful things in your post....your statement that "today's fears won't always be tomorrow's".... and that fact that you have John. As a caregiver, I know how hard it is to see the ones you love suffer. As a person with depression and anxiety, I've lived through watching my husband (of 30 years) walk out. He'd had enough.

    I've long thought, from your posts, that John is a Real Man. One who understands commitment, and love. So, I empathize with you, and commend you on your Perseverance. And for John....I empathize with his care taking, and thank him for being a real Human.

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  128. Jen, Thank you. You rock.

    Also, I think you can walk to the Magic Kingdom from the Grand Floridian. But, like the Contemporary, you may have to prove that you're a hotel guest at the guard's booth before they will let you on the property. (We always take the magical express from the airport, so I've never have to deal with the guards.) They might accept, "I'm visiting a hotel guest." Just something to think about. I don't want you to get there and then be turned away.

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  129. Thank you! I suffer from depression and it is the hardest thing my marriage has gone through too -- something about those amazing fixer husbands we married. :)

    There continues to be a stigma about mental illness. Thank you for speaking out and sharing your story. It is a sickness. Some days are better than others and there is always hope!

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  130. I am so glad you posted about your anxiety.
    I NEVER had anxiety problems until my marriage ended. I know mine are connected to emotional distress but that doesn't make it easier to handle them when they occur.
    I consider myself lucky that my attacks are very mild and I can usually "breathe" my way through them.
    But hearing my friends say things like, "just get over it", or my favorite, "Life is short" just irks me to pieces!
    I know life is short. Do they really think I want to waste time fretting over something I can't control? GRRR
    At any rate, it's comforting to know that I'm not alone.

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  131. thank you for this post. go you for monitoring and managing in all the ways you can, and good luck continuing to take care of you in the future. <3

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  132. You are my anxiety role model.

    I have had my own issues with anxiety that I have been dealing with for the past 7 years or so, and reading your blog is inspiring. When I label myself as a "loser" because I have this anxiety "weakness", I can always say, "But look at Jen! She has anxiety stuff going on and she's super awesome! So, just maybe, you're awesome too."

    Thank you for sharing all of your courage in this blog, because seeing someone I really respect deal with all of this makes it so much more real that I can do it too. And I am always sending good universe vibes your direction, since you have sent so many in mine.

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  133. Thanks so much for saying this, Jen. It drives me nuts when I'm shaking and hyperventilating and people tell me that if I just suck it up and do whatever it is I'm afraid of, I'll feel better. Thanks for sharing. Perhaps it will inspire me to explain my anxiety to the people who tell me to "face my fears" :)

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  134. thank you for your post. i'm (nearly) a psychology teacher and my father suffers from anxiety... i hate how people think you should 'suck it up' or 'get over it' your bravery in posting your story will (hopefully) help break down some of those misconceptions. and i love the quote... altho i also agree with crunchy jo... it does make you incredibly strong.

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  135. I read ALL your blog entries but I'm terrible at remembering to comment. This deserved a comment for sure, though! I have never lived with the anxiety you're describing. Honestly, it sounds hellacious. I am so glad and proud and in awe of you (and other anxiety sufferers like you) who can find the courage each day to face whatever you have to.And,on days following anxiety attacks, trying again to go out and live your normal life. I honestly don't know if I would just give up and be a shut in. I hope and pray for you that your good days outnumber your bad, and that you continue to regain access to things you love.

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  136. Jen, I think part of the trick is picking and choosing. You know the things you really want to do, and you know when they will be, so you really rest and take care of yourself before them so you can do them, because they feed your soul and make you happy.

    Really, as a doctor I talk to people about knowing their limits in all things. For some it's athletic, for you it is social. Fine. Makes no difference in the long run.

    You take care of yourself the same way any athlete does, or anyone who rests before a big test when they are in school. You are taking care of yourself, and that is all there is to it.

    And you are getting better at it, which is fantastic. Congratulations!
    Liz

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  137. Ah, Jen. Thank you for sharing your story. After suffering a horrible, sudden life-changing event 12 years ago what I've been telling everyone ever since is that I never forget what happened. I carry it around always. But I move forward. Sometimes it takes me months to take a step. Sometimes I can take b-i-g step. I never beat myself up or berate myself or tell myself to "Just buck up and be a good camper!" But I move on. I keep moving on. Growing and dealing and adapting my life as best I can, when I can. You go, girl. Maureen

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  138. Jen, you are incredibly strong and brave. So many more people have expressed that more eloquently than I so let me just say that I am so glad you have John in your life. Both of you rock!

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  139. Thank you for writing this and your honesty. I believe I've been having panic attacks on and off since about 16. I didn't know what it was for the longest time since it was so infrequent and honestly I would wonder what in the world I was even having anxiety about at times. I had an elevated heart rate and had a hard time breathing. I'm almost 30 now and haven't gone to get help and your post is encouraging. I think too many times I've tried to just suck it up only to end up a huge, hyperventilating mess. I think I even had a panic attack during my 2nd sons birth and my mid-wife yelled at me to snap out of it and then got me some air. So I'm going to pray and see if I can actually get some help......but I haven't had very good experiences with mental health professionals in the past helping my husband so I'm a bit wary.

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  140. Jen, I don't know how you'd feel about attending church online, but I happen to know a great one. It's found at rezonline.org It's a United Methodist church in Kansas, with a variety of service types and times throughout the week online. My husband used to work for them, so I know a lot about it. Just wanted to pass that along to you in case you want to still attend church, without having to leave home.

    Thanks for posting this. Thank you for having the courage to put words to this, and publish them for all to see. It really helps folks who are in similar situations who can't speak up, or don't know how. Thank you for helping to demystify anxiety disorders!

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  141. Thank you for sharing your heart with us, Jen. It takes an incredible amount of courage to be so open and completely vulnerable to an Internet full of strangers.

    I don't know if your church does this, but our church uploads all their sermons to iTunes and have their own podcast. They even have music by the worship team to listen to and download - all for free! The website is: www.valleychristianchurch.net
    Click on "Media" and you will see it all.
    It might be a useful tool for you <3

    We (your goofy, kooky, loyal readers, fans and friends) are here for you - through the good days and bad.
    xxxxxxx

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  142. I haven't read all the comments yet so I apologize if I bring up something 50 other people have already said, but to me it sounds like you might have PTSD. I had a traumatic medical emergency earlier in the summer and ever since then my anxiety has gotten worse. I just recently started seeing a counselor and I feel hopeful, although it is too soon to see any results.

    I hope that you can find something that helps you, because it really is a miserable feeling and you deserve to be able to do the things that bring you happiness.

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  143. Yay! So glad someone(s) already pointed out the walkway to you. I was just about to do so. :)

    I struggle with anxiety and occasional depression. For lack of a better phrase, it's a b----. We all have our "things" that are too much for us. I struggle to pinpoint mine, as, like you, they change. It's really hard on a marriage. I take Xanax PRN right now, but I've had a lot of success with Buspar in the past. You take it everyday to prevent panic instead of like Xanax, which is more like a bandaid once something has happened. It might not be the best for you, but I say all this to let you know there are other alternatives out there. What works well for one person may not work for the next. I know doctors aren't really your thing, but it might be worth it to talk to someone about some options that might be more positive for you.

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  144. After the birth of my first son 4 years ago I dealt with some anxiety as part of post partum depression. Then when I was pregnant with my second son I had to have an MRI and experienced my first ever full on panic attack. The feeling of complete terror along with the total loss of control over myself was an incredibly awful experience. After my son was born I unfortunately experienced PPD again and this time it was accompanied by almost crippling anxiety. At the worst I could barely stand being in the same room as my children. Fortunately I responded well to antidepressants and also keep a small stash of Ativan on hand for "just in case" which I definitely needed for my follow up MRI 2 weeks ago. I had to take 3 but I made it through! Like you, I really dislike the druggy after effects that come along with taking the meds but I think the hardest part to reconcile was the sense that I had lost something of myself. I'm usually the person others turn to in time of emergency or for advice and now I don't really feel like that person anymore. It's crept into other areas as well. I was working out the other day and the heavy breathing kicked off the start of another panic attack. I was able to fight it off but it was upsetting and embarrassing to have happen in public. I guess you never know when something like this might change your life but judging by the comments here it's a lot more common than we might think. Thank you for talking about this so openly and giving others a platform to do the same! What helps me is to remember that a bad day is just a bad day. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start so take care of you and do what you need to get through. Good luck!
    - Monica
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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  145. Anxiety and depression are awful disorders to deal with. I am sorry for the difficulties you are going through. However, I am so glad you have shared your struggles. You continue to be an inspiration to me. Know you are not alone and you have many more "cheerleaders" in your corner.

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  146. Jen, thank you. Some of us know what you're saying from experience and I've re-written this comment 3 times. It's a lot shorter and I have had a few good cries.

    Different things work for different people but therapy almost completely stopped my panic attacks. It's all about finding someone you feel comfortable saying things to but who also "challenges" you by asking questions that make you think (not challenging you to "just try" or "being pushy). A counselor may do- it doesn't have to be a psychiatrist or psychologist.

    Also, for some of us, Xanax isn't the best choice due to the side effects. There are other meds to try and we all have different needs. A doctor you feel some trust with can help but it's trial and error, unfortunately.

    Hugs to you and John, both. I am stronger than I ever knew and it is not a weakness but sign of the depth of our hearts; only those who feel deeply and care passionately have overloads like these! ;)

    -Barbara Anne

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  147. Thank you so much for posting this. Sometimes I forget that I'm not alone in this whole anxiety thing, even when I know it's not true. Reading about other people having it too makes me feel a little better about the things that I just can't do.

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  148. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! And for being the wonderfully open and strong person you are for us readers. You describe the struggles of anxiety so well and you are such an inspiration!

    I am a long time reader, but never commented until I read this post. Anxiety and depression recently (in the last several years) turned my life upside down and I'm still trying to figure out how to regroup and recover. Knowing that I'm not the only one who has faced these type of challenges means so much. And knowing that others face the daily battles and second thoughts.

    Thank you especially for addressing the comments of the well-meaning who think that somehow facing fears and just doing it will allow someone to move past all their fears and emotional baggage.

    I've long admired your defense of geek girls, thank you for also defending all those who suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses.

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  149. Thank you. Not only are you cool, geeky, crafty and funny but also inspirational. Thanks for putting yourself out-there even when it's about why you sometimes can't be actually - you know - out-there.

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  150. I also wrestle with anxiety and panic disorder, and I've gotta say, I completely understand where you're coming from. In some ways, you're lucky because you've got a good idea of what your triggers are. I'm still finding mine. What was okay last week is sometimes not okay today. My whole life, I never had this happen to me, and in the last year, it's come on hard and fast.

    Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities. Some days are easier than others. It's often difficult to explain to people who haven't been here what it feels like. "Bucking up" isn't an option. We manage what we can manage--some days, that's sitting in your bed with laptop, and some days, it's walking into WDW. Celebrate the victories, and recognize the dark days are temporary.

    Sending love, sister.

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  151. Last time I went to Disney we stayed at the Pop Century noticed the bus that takes you from the hotel bypasses the monorail/ferry part and just leaves you right in front of the Magic Kingdom. I realize you probably won't be comfortable in that bus either, but the point is there is a way to drive there. You probably just need to ask for special permission to park there.

    One of my best friends has a 7 year old with a mild case of Asperger's and they were super accomodating. She just went up to someone at the entrance and asked if there was any help they offered, thinking it was just for future reference and next time she would bring a doctor's note or something (we live in Miami, so we're close)and they just gave her a pass right then and there, so that they could bypass lines and/or get out if he gets uncomfortable in a ride. This was just a month or two ago, so I know it's a current practice.

    Finally, maybe this won't help your specific case, but it could be worth a try. I have vertigo. A bunch of different things trigger it and everything starts spinning and I want to throw up and it it get's really bad, can't even walk without knocking into a wall. I find focusing on one item helps. It won't make it go away completely but it helps. The worst one I had lasted an entire week. That's when the Phantom of the Opera became my best friend. I have some Classic Monster action figures on the top of a bookshelf right next to my bed, and TPOTO is the one at the end. I would just stare at him and it would keep me from throwing up and the room would stop moving as long as I kept my eye on him. I know the trick is that is something I can tell myself, "if he's not moving, the the room is not moving either". I don't know, maybe I'm way off, but since your trigger is loss of control, having something you have control of, like a totem in your hand might help.

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  152. Hi Jen! I'm actually a CM at the Contemporary, and they're super hesitant to let people park at the resort who aren't hotel guests or don't have a reservation at one of the restaurants. You can always try to say that you're picking someone up or meeting someone or you wanted to try to eat at The Wave without a reservation, but they may still turn you away. Just wanted to give you a heads up!

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  153. Ten years ago, I would have been firmly in the "face your fears" camp, but ten years ago I hadn't yet realized that my little quirks (extreme discomfort getting too close to the edge in high places, putting my head under water, driving in heavy traffic, talking to new people, calling strangers, etc) were anything other than a well-developed survival extinct and standard issue teenage awkwardness. Today, I'm able to pick my battles (I don't *need* to snorkel or see what's at the bottom of this cliff or eat at this incredibly crowded restaurant), but over the last ten years, I've noted the anxieties slowly encroaching further and further on my life and know that some day they might very well be debilitating. My husband sees it happening too, and together we're tryng to break those anxiety feedback loops as they occur. He doesn't judge and understands that just because a fear is irrational and unfounded doesn't mean it's not real. We both love to travel the world, so we're hoping to keep it in check, but no matter what happens I know he'll be there for me, and that knowledge alone is the best medicine for me. Thank you for sharing so eloquently what it is like to live with an anxiety disorder. This will be eye-opening for so many people. Keep up the good fight-I hope to meet you at WDW someday too!

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  154. I was never in your shoes. My problems seem so more common and unimportant. But I do envy your support structure. Because i have to go through everything and anything all by myself.
    Good luck in being able to go back to the Magic Kingdom and enjoy the victories that matter to you.

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  155. It's great that you are letting people know about your anxiety disorder. I have one too and can't work because of it. For a time I also ride in planes because I couldn't get off if I got air sick or couldn't sleep.

    If Xanax puts you in a funky state, I would suggest trying something else. I used to take Xanax, but I needed to take 2 instead of 1, it would put me to sleep, so I changed to Atitavan and
    it works very well for me.

    I anxiety can be a long hard battle and many people like to keep it private. I congratulate you on sharing your experiences with it. I think there are so many people out there who have no idea how many of us are dealing with the same things. This helps People to realize they're not alone and this is why I talk about it whenever the opportunity arises. Besides having an anxiety disorder, I'm also bipolar and before that I was just dealing with depression and anxiety.

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  156. I am so proud of you. I am sure it took a lot to write this let alone post it. Once again you are an inspiration to others. Thank you.

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  157. Most of my life I’ve suffered from nearly crippling anxiety and depression. It stops me from leaving the house, going to parties, seeing my friends whom I love dearly and just about anything that involves a group of people I actually have to interact with. I've always had serious anxiety about school and until I graduated high school assumed both my nervous stomach and anxiety would disappear when school did. It didn’t and it still affects me to this day. I’m lucky that my parents both, to some degree at least, understand and don’t push me to ‘get out there and just do it!’ as most would probably do.

    There have been some exceptions to that rule however. One of which was going to your Wreck The Halls book signing. I’d been planning to go for weeks (I had even picked out what I was going to wear) and was really looking forward to talking to you about Epbot and maybe scoring a Epbot pin for my collection. When the night rolled around though I freaked out about it completely and decided not to go at the last minute. My dad had heard about the book signing and was familiar with both of your sites, and had seen how excited I’d been about the event. He convinced me into going, even if that meant just sitting in the car outside the B &N and never actually going in. We got there, my hands shaking the whole time, and you know once I got there I had a fantastic time.

    I got to hear your presentation, meet and talk with you and John and chatted with fellow fans in line about everything from my Labyrinth shirt to my steampunk heels. You signed my book and I left feeling better than I had in a very long time. Honestly I think it was one of the biggest confidence boosters I’ve had both because of how well the whole event went and the fact I’d managed to go at all. I can’t thank my dad enough for convincing me to go, without him I never would have had the chance to meet you.

    I still have lots of days when I can’t go clothes shopping or meet up with a group of friends or sometimes even leave the house at all. Not all my days are so scary but when they are I remember there are other wonderful amazing beautiful crafty people that understand what it’s like to know fear as a constant companion and still manage to be amazing and inspiring. Reading your blog and the Bloggess’s have both lifted my spirits on my darker days and I cannot thank you enough for that.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, I know it must have taken some serious courage to post it.


    PS: I've been sitting here looking at this comment for the last hour, having anxiety over posting it. Here goes!

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  158. Thank you for sharing this. I've seen you mention your anxiety before, and always hoped that you would write a post about it. I'm really glad that you talk about accommodating your anxiety. I feel like people with anxiety disorders are frequently told that they are weak, or failures if they can't fully overcome their anxiety at all times. When I look at your life and your struggles with anxiety, I feel like you are actually a really good example of someone who is successfully living with anxiety.

    This post comes at an especially helpful time for me. I could use a little hope. I've struggled all of my life with anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia, sometimes I do pretty well, other times not so much. Right now is one of those not so much times. In June, I was so excited when I saw that second line on the pregnancy test the morning that my husband was leaving for what was supposed to be a 4 month TDY. The pregnancy hormones wreaked havoc on my mental health, but I knew that if I could just tough it out, it would all be worth it. About a month in he found out that 4 months was going to become 6 months. It sucked, but again, if we just toughed it out it would be okay. He'd be there when the baby was born, and that's what was really important. None of this actually turned out to be worth it though, because at my 12 week check up I learned that the heart had stopped and there hadn't been any growth since week 10. To top that off, my body hadn't gotten the memo, and I was going to need a d&c. This all happened the first week of August. I was lucky that my husband got to come home for 3 days the following weekend, and I got to go see him for a week at the beginning of September, but ever since I got back from that trip, my anxiety has been THE WORST. I'm going to therapy twice a week, but I have to take half a xanax just to get there. I have a trip planned for the end of October to see the most awesome kid I know, my niece, but I'm currently having nightly panic attacks about the whole traveling thing. That all got kind of weird and ranty, but the point is: Thank you for sharing. You are doing great, and your an inspiration to people who aren't doing so great.

    Also, do you drive? You mentioned something about driving in your post. I ask because I'm 27 years old and have never had a driver's license, and I tend to feel like I'm the only person in the world over the age of 16 who doesn't drive.

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  159. Inderal saved my life. thanks for being so brave and posting about this.

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  160. Hi Jen,
    I don't have anxiety disorder - if I have anything, I have low self esteem and depression. But I think my boyfriend of 5 years does.

    He seems to be exactly the same. We used to go to the theatre, cinema, out for day trips to see street shows - then one day, that all just seemed to...stop. He'd be late for dates or he'd not come at all. He'd turn down going to see films he'd originally be thrilled to see, blaming "the loud idiots in the front row." If he did go anywhere, like one of my shows, he'd be testy, and constantly popping outside "for a cigarette." We had a lot of arguments about it, nearly broke up at least once, and it very slowly became just the way things were that we'd just meet up at his house.

    Then, one day, me and my best friend met up with him to go see Kung Fu Panda 2. When we were waiting to go in, having a coffee somewhere, I could see he was wound up, so I was trying to calm him down as best I could. All of a sudden he stood up, said "I can't do this", and ran off for his bus home, turning me back when I followed him. I have never, ever felt as much panic and guilt and worry for another human being in my life. I love him more than I have ever loved anyone, and I had put him into a situation like that.

    He is really slowly getting better, a year or so on from that happening. He's at uni, and even though he goes straight from classes onto a bus home, he's coping with the crowds, and I'm so proud of him. I just wish I could help him more - he knows exactly how to pull me out when I have a depression spell ("Wolfy, look at the puppy!"), but I have no idea how to help him when he gets wound up or anxious.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is thankyou for writing this. It's given me some insight into something I have no idea how to help with. I admire both of you so, so much for getting through the things you have been through.

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  161. I am so in awe of your courage and openness. I already loved you for Cake Wrecks and Epbot, but now I think you rock even harder! As a fellow lover of all things WDW, what hit me hardest was your difficulty with Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. No fair, life! It is possible to take the chicken exit at the HM right after the stretching room (and it maintains the theming, with bell ropes and a broken clock and cobwebs, so it's well worth seeing for its own sake), although I do realize that the stretching room is the very definition of a place you can't exit, albeit just for a short time. I wish you comfort, dear girl. And I want to thank you. A while ago, you posted about being overwhelmed prior to a book tour and putting everything on hold and painting your toenails green. You mentioned the quote 'Sometimes it's enough if all you do today is breathe,' and that has been a go-to quote for me on tough days. You are wonderful and help so many people know that they aren't alone in their challenges. I can't say it enough: you rock!

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  162. Jen, you are so brave to share not only your awesome costumes and cool pictures and sqee-worthy videos, but also the really hard parts of life. It would be easy to present all your positives (and you have so many!), pretending like the difficulties don't exist. Your honesty and courage are inspiring!

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  163. I used to be one of those "shake it off" types, until some experience gave me perspective. I don't suffer personally, but I am affected by depression and anxiety in people I love. These people are usually strong, smart and funny, but their struggles render them closed, miserable and unable to function as normal. I'm in a different country, so the help I can offer is limited to lengthy skype calls at 3am, but I will do that, and I would do anything else they needed me to do.

    I had a conversation with one of said sufferers this very morning and most of it consisted of testing each others' boundaries as far as curiosity vs. nosiness goes. It struck me that so many people are so scared of offending or upsetting that they won't ask these questions, so it's important for those of us with some knowledge, be it from an inside perspective or from someone who only sees the impacts from the outside, to teach, inform, and aid understanding of the subject.

    It's easier said than done though. I know how hard it is to say these things, and I'm on the outside.

    I am so impressed and honoured that you feel you can tell us what you've been through. Thank you for being so strong.

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  164. @ Jordan - I don't drive much anymore, no. In fact, the last time I took a short trip by myself I got stuck in construction traffic and had an attack, so I'm skittish about driving solo. I think I'd be ok with John in the car, but at that point, I figure I may as well have him drive. :) That's laziness On my part, tho, and I really should make more of an effort.

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  165. Jen and John,

    I just wanted to comment to say thank you. I, thankfully, don't suffer from anxiety or panic attacks... so I can't imagine what it must be like for you to face this and put it into words. It was certainly a very brave thing for you to do and I hope that it has helped you in some way.

    Before yourself and the bloggess I didn't really know much about the condition, and most likely would have been one of the people telling you to just calm down or to face your fears. Now I wouldn't say something like that.

    You've both opened my eyes to something that I was pretty much blind to... thank you, to both of you.

    I hope that the worst of it is behind you and that the sun will shine through your grey days

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  166. i don't have anxiety, and i can't really imagine how you feel (sorry about that - i can grasp it on a rational level, but not on an empathic level.).

    But here's my promise to you: i'll never ask for a europe cake wrecks tour. i don't want you to have to explain why you won't go on a 12 hour flight. twice. that's fine, i'll just read your blog and buy your books. and maybe i'll make it over to your piece of dry earth crust while you are touring someday.

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  167. Back in Oct. 2000, I had a "major freak out" in public, as I called it, just got more and more upset; I thought I was dying. I was working at a job I loved, got a phone call that upset me, and the next thing I knew, I was hiding in the storeroom with the phone, begging my then-boyfriend to come get me. What I didn't realize at the time was that not only was my "freak out" (and others before it; thank you Interwebz) was a panic attack, and that by having it when I was in public AND sorta alone was setting me up for one crazifying case of agoraphobia. As a doctor help me figure out later, it wasn't just that I couldn't go out at all (though it happened then, and still does at times), but that I absolutely cannot go anywhere while ALONE. It's never really been something I was fond of, and always tried to avoid, but for nearly 12 years, it has been out of the question. ME, the outgoing, Con-loving loud-ass cut-up that used to run around a theatre full of people in my underwear... I can't go to the store by myself. It makes me feel both weak and stupid. But... there it is. And so many people that I thought knew/loved me either dropped me or Just Don't Get that I'm mentally disabled-- what's your problem, why can't you go to this or that, why are you SO pissed at me for just dropping by without calling first, you always used to LOVE surprises? Trying to explain that your adrenal "fight or flight" response is SO screwed up that the slightest weirdness can make you want to RUN is met with blank stares. But they know I have migraines as well (ANOTHER anxiety trigger; will the place I'm going to have flashing lights or idiots with too much perfume or other migraine triggers?!), so sometimes I just blame it on that, because they can wrap their minds around an uncontrollable *physical* problem, but NOT a mental one. I feel bad for fibbing, but oh well.

    When my brother passed in Jan '11 (again I point out; he died from taking Xanax AND drinking, which caused major organ failure. All you Xanax folk, for the love of Bowie, DO NOT DRINK WHILE ON IT), it sent me into a major depressive episode the like of which I've never dealt with, and pray daily to never face again.I found out *on bloody Facebook* that my brother had passed (ten minutes before our mutual best friend had a chance to tell me), and that coupled with some other issues (like People I Never Wanted To See Again CONSTANTLY Friending Me and the always fun People I Always *Thought* I Knew/Loved Turning Out To Be Political And/Or Religious MORONS) has made FB a place of bad news and panic for me; I haven't been on in well over a year. When It cut off my one link with the outside world, the one way even people who I KNOW in my heart love and care about me stayed in contact with me, because they're so busy (and NO ONE SEEMS TO USE THE DAMN PHONE ANYMORE) and I never go anywhere. *shrug and a sigh* I am working on that one; I plan on having a small party here at home and MAKING them come to ME! :)

    (...the hell?! Apparently my rant is too long for Blogger to deal with tonight, though I KNOW I've typed longer before! Continued next post!)

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  168. Thank you for posting this, which has brought some light to some issues that I am dealing with and cannot quite understand. The other comments have also been helpful to read.
    I have some sort of social anxiety that is a problem with having guests. I don't feel like I have "my space" and I simply socially burn out - I cannot even say good morning or good night to someone staying here. This led to huge issues when my mother-in-law came recently to stay with us for a couple of weeks. It was the first time I met her, and my partner's brother also invited himself over to stay as well as a cousin.
    No one - even myself to some degree - understands why I cannot handle having people spend the night here. It makes me look like a really mean and horrible person, and indeed makes me feel like that. The whole experience - because of course the mother-in-law really hated me for it - was one of the worst social experiences I have ever lived through. In addition to her wanting my partner to break up with me, it left our relationship in pieces. It was so hurtful that my partner took his mother's side and was upset that I wasn't nicer to her.
    This feeling of being trapped and not having that quiet space of my own is so upsetting and simply out of my control. I wanted to go stay at a hotel during this experience.
    I'm going to have to find solutions for this, as my partner's family always wants to come and visit (and stay with us). It is really helpful to have this new perspective of thinking about this. It's helpful to know I'm not alone and that it might take time for my partner to understand, as you mentioned it took time for John to understand.
    Thank you!!!

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  169. Again, I share another thing in common with you and others here; I am blessed to have a partner that loves me to bits, that fell in love with me knowing I was kinda zany and had crazy crooked teeth. He not only bought me new teeth, but when I confessed to him what was happening to me, and that I was scared to death he'd leave me, being the Vulcan that he is, he said "Don't be ridiculous. I love you, and you have a *medical* problem of some kind-- we need to figure out what. If it's mental, so be it. I wouldn't leave you if God forbid you developed diabetes or cancer... why would I leave you for this?" Goddess of mercy, I am crying right now, thinking about how blessed I am to have this man as my best friend AND husband. Crazy as I am, he sees something in me and feels enough love for and from me that even through all this, even though I can be a SUPREME PITA, he not only married me, but gave me the wedding of my dreams. And I honestly don't know why, it does my head in sometimes, trying to understand why he stays and works so hard out of the home so I can stay safely in it and make costumes (and being rather taciturn in manner, he's not gushy and mushy with the loves). But he tells me to remember Amanda, Spock's mother, who lived her life having to simply *know and believe* her husband loved her, because even though he was forbidden to say "I love you", he SHOWED it in his ACTIONS, every single day. It helps. ;)

    To those of you out there who have never had a partner because you're too scared/worried/anxious, and to those of you who have had someone who wasn't man enough to love you like you DESERVE to be loved leave on you-- take heart! I had a man for 3 years I thought I'd marry and have fat Irish babies with... until the day he really realized that I had major depression and needed help badly. What did he do? Pack a bag and move back in with his Mommy, leaving my depressed unemployed ass out in the cold. I never thought I'd find a man that could (or WOULD) deal with me and my problems, but six years later, I did. Together 14 years in December! It CAN happen, they DO exist! If a man (or woman, for my lesbian sisters and the Random Dudes) is *truly* your best friend as well as your lover, he will do anything to make you happy and well, just like your bestie should!

    Wow, Storm, tl;dr much? Sorry; like I said, I'm a shut-in that doesn't Facebook anymore, so thanks for letting a sister vent, and for CONSTANTLY AMAZING ME IN SO MANY WAYS. You are such an amazing person, Jen, honestly. You almost make me wish I lived in Florida. ALMOST. I'm not THAT crazy. ;)

    Cheers, thanks a lot, and ultimate love and respect,

    Storm

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  170. Jen, THANK YOU for this incredibly articulate post that does such a marvelous job of explaining this kind of condition. I feel bad now for being one of the "buck up" commentors on your post about fearing the doctor--I didn't realize you were dealing with THIS. My daughter has grappled with a much milder form of panic/anxiety so I've seen first hand how it works. It's physical, not mental, so no amount of "buck up" is going to make a bit of difference and only serves to make the sufferer feel worse. As if you need that when you're already baffled as to why this is happening to you! I hope this post helps people to understand better what it's like to endure this kind of ailment. Thank you for the effort and courage it took to write it!

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  171. THANK YOU! I have anxiety as well and it's so hard to explain to people sometimes. I'm bookmarking this so I can share it with people.

    Last year, we met up with my fiance's family at Disney for the holidays. Crowds + packed lines = panic attacks galore and some of his family just does not understand. I will probably never be able to see icicle castle again, but I have pictures.

    I wonder whether the Disney staff has a solution for anxiety-prone people getting stuck on rides. I bet they do.

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  172. Several have commented on how much your sharing your story has meant given their own struggles with anxiety and other mental disorders, and I could easily echo that sentiment and leave it as good. However, I want to add to it, thank you for posting this now. Just this weekend I gave up battling with mine in terms of trying to shove the irrational fears into a box in the corner of my mind's attic and suck it up. It had become so bad that all of the things I need to accomplish and all of the things I enjoy went undone because I was literally frozen by my fear. So, I agreed to being medicated and seeking therapy and at the same time felt so lame and weak for not being able to fix something when I know, logically, my fears are irrational. My husband, like yours, is supportive, but as of right now just doesn't get it. Anyway, long story short, your post came at a time when I most needed to hear it, to have my concerns and emotions validated, and to be reassured that I'm not the only one out there. Thank you again.

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  173. Thanks for your insightful post. Someone else mentioned it, but I wanted to re-encourage you to read the Spoon Theory. It's a really well written essay by Christine Miserandino, and it is a great metaphor for any of the struggles that a lot of people face every day. You can find it
    here. It really helped me understand some of the struggles that a few of my friends go through.

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  174. Thank you for sharing this. Can I just say I'm amazed and in awe that you've been able to do things like Dragon Con.

    Now to find you a way to walk to the MK. We've walked over from the Contemporary before after doing the character breakfast there. I don't know if they'd let you park there (we were staying at another resort which gave us a parking pass). I would call and see if they could do this as a reasonable accommodation.

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  175. Hi Jen,

    I just wanted to also say, I understand. I started to suffer from anxiety attacks over 12 years ago, when I was back in college. Except mine began as spasm attacks (how great it is to break down in class when you hate attention), so for years, the doctors didn't figure out what I had. Between my manipulative, verbally abusive mother and my manipulative, abusive boyfriend of the time, things just got worse.

    I hit my own personal rock bottom 8 years ago this month: I was out of university, had moved out of my parent's house and in with my new boyfriend (still my spouse today and father of both my kids) and had no job. I was fired from 2 receptionist jobs within 2 months - I had just finished my BA and couldn't get any better jobs, which also made me feel like crap - it took the biggest effort to leave my apartment in the morning, I was seeing spiders everywhere, or was terrified of seeing one (I have arachnophobia), I even became suicidal (again). My spouse was a wonderful support and he pushed me to seek medical help, came with me to see the doctors and told them what he had noticed. I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed Paxil, and also some other meds for my anxiety attacks. 3 months later, I found a new receptionist job that I ended up keeping for 5 years; at first I was hiding in the bathroom to cry because I found it too hard to be out of my comfort zone, but since it started put as a 3 weeks contract, I pushed myself and made it, one day at a time. A year after it all began, I started fashion school at night and now have better jobs.

    I doubt I ever reached your level of anxiety, but I still sometimes get attacks. Nowadays, I carry a bottle of "Rescue" spray in my purse in case of attacks (Bach Flower remedy, totally natural).
    I still have demophobia (fear of crowds) and can become very agitated and stressed at the grocery store or the mall if there are many people.

    As for my spouse, the reason he understood so well is he suffers from generalized anxiety disorder. He has been suffering from it since he was a teenager. In his case, it manifests as stomach aches. They were so bad as a teen that he was hospitalized every 3-4 months and again, the doctors didn't know what caused his pains. He has told me they were so bad that he once considered throwing himself out of the window, if only he hadn't been so weak he couldn't reach it. It has followed him into adulthood and he has taken quite a few rounds of meds for it. He is currently in therapy and it is helping him.

    You are not alone, and some of us understand why you don't want to get on silly rides at WDW.

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  176. Hi Jen, I wonder if you might find some comfort in Taoist Ti Chi. Helped me. The focus on the slow gentle rhythmic movements is calming, you learn at your own pace and can pick it up and put it down as the mood takes you. The Healing Center is in Ontario but I know there are groups all over the US too.

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  177. Thank you. This is amazing. If you don't know Glennon Melton of "Momastry" you should look her up. The two of you should def meet. She's you Florida neighbor now. :).

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  178. I would love nothing more right now than to hug you. What an incredibly brave post from an incredibly brave woman. That you are dealing with this horrible problem and still delight all of us almost every day both here and at Cake Wrecks leaves me in awe. You're an inspiration, Jen, and you've got a gem of a husband. Here's hoping your next trip to the Magic Kingdom (and yes, you SHOULD go now!) is as anxiety-free as possible and is every bit as magical as it SHOULD be.

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  180. If you walk from MK to the Contemporary you can easily get a cab anywhere. It's a short walk and you skip all the crowd.

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  181. I have had panic attacks for years. Sometimes I can leave the house, sometimes I'm homebound for a year or two at a time. I can't fly, I can't ride in a car, I can drive locally only. I can make it to my front porch, but not to my mailbox. I can't go to church, and I can't go shopping. I can't go anywhere where I might be expected to stand still...such as in a line to check out, or wait for something. I could never take a cruise or a vacation to an island or a foreign country. I can ride the train...it's like being in a cocoon. I don't know what to do about it, I've found nothing that helps, my husband doesn't understand. Instead of saying I'm having a panic attack, I tell him I'm dizzy, or my chest hurts, or I can't breathe, or describe the physical symptoms. He seems to understand that a little better, but keeps insisting I go to a doctor to "fix myself". I'm glad you have John to help you!

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  182. I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate you sharing your hardships with us. It really brings home that you're a real person and not just some internet persona.

    I don't have anxiety to the degree that some people do, but I have had a couple crowd-induced panic attacks. I went to a concert in college by myself, and was on the floor. I almost got crushed in a mob of drunken frat boys who kept elbowing me and shoving me out of the way, even though I was shorter than them. But the crush of people rushing the stage was so strong, I couldn't actually get out of the way or out of the crowd. I was panicing and couldn't breathe and I just had to suffer through it until the band was done and the crush of people eased up. The rest of the show I stood as far back as I could and flinched every time someone even came within two feet of me.

    Ever since then, really overwhelming crowds get to me. Obviously it's not the same, but I do know what it feels like to be afraid, not just in the situation but of getting INTO another situation. I want to go to Dragon Con but the idea of the sheer press of people kind of terrifies me, the same thing with Comic Con out in California, or PAX. I'd hate to go to all the effort and money just to end up huddling in my hotel room for fear of the crowds.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and giving people who do suffer from anxiety in any form hope!

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  183. While visiting WDW recently with a friend I learned a couple of things.
    1. Some rides that "don't stop" have to be stopped to load wheelchair riders. When this happens, they don't tell you that, because they don't want you to single out the disabled people. So you just get a message that says the ride will resume in a moment.
    2. Haunted Mansion. You can tell them you have sensory issues and the will let you skip the stretching room. (You go in through the back.)

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  184. Jen. you are so awesome for sharing. I just want to encourage you not to "give up church" There are some many AMAZING online churches that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your couch! Here's one http://www.woodcrestworldwide.org/ The cute bass player in the band is my hubby!

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  185. I have had similar anxiety problems, except that I think mine are linked to depression, which is of course its own monster.

    But like you, my first panic attack happened out of the blue, for no real reason at all. It was a crowded room (which I'd never had problems with before) and....I think there was something about my shoes? I don't remember, but I remember it being linked to my shoes somehow. Anyway I completely flipped out, and the scariest part was not knowing why I was so scared.

    After that they became a relatively regular part of my life. I learned to avoid crowded or small spaces. I saw a psychiatrist about them, and that helped some, but didn't solve it. My friends were full of morbid curiosity and advice like "It'll be okay, you just need to get over it!" I had two friends become angry with me because they tried to hug me for comfort during an attack and were I guess offended that they made it worse. Like it meant I didn't like them or something, rather than was feeling outrageously claustrophobic and couldn't handle being restrained.

    Over the years I've come to realize that I only have anxiety problems while I'm suffering from depression, but sometimes it feels like a useless, trivial fact. Tackling depression is just as difficult as anxiety, just in a different way.

    SO LONG STORY SHORT: Thanks for the post, it was nice to hear that someone understands how I feel. It's wonderful to hear "Yes, it's a stupid fear, but how does that make it any better?" from someone else; maybe I'm not as crazy as people think. Thank you, and best of luck in your recovery process~

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  186. Thank you, Jen! I'm printing this out for my dad. My mother had a stroke 5 years ago, and has had panic attacks ever since (she was always in control before; not being able to control what her body does just broke something). It's been really hard for my parents because my dad is used to my mom being fearless, and now she's regularly afraid. It's been a complete reorder of his life (and hers, too, of course). Reading this might help him understand a bit.

    I personally have fears while driving. I have slow reaction times, and I'm terrified that something will happen, and I will end up in a car crash because I didn't react in time. My husband doesn't understand why, when I didn't have it when we got married. I think he figures there has to be some sort of traumatizing experience to bring something like this on. I doubt he'll ever really understand how much it scares me when he waits "too long" to hit the brakes (in his defense, he's never hit another car by waiting too long to hit the brakes. It's not a rational fear).

    It's good that you have John, who does understand. He's a gem.

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  187. Thanks Jen for your story. I'm sure it took alote of courage to do so.

    Last year I had about the same thing happen to me. My heart was pounding so hard i tough i was dying. Long story short, i poison myself with oil peint. That my job, i'm a comptamporaint artiste and oil peint is poison when it's old and not dry and you work in a claused in environment.

    I panic for a bit and finaly a got trew it. I'm almost there.

    So take your time and injoy life in what ever form it takes.

    Regards Nadia

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  188. Hi, I have some more ideas for Disney World trips. The Contemporary doesn't usually allow non-guests to park there so you may need to work around that. One way would be to make a restaurant reservation and just have one of your meals there. A more round-about way is to have John drop you off and then park back at ticket & transportation center. You can then meet up again at the Contemporary or in front of the Magic Kingdom. There is no walkway from the Grand Floridian. There is a nice walk heading that way but it ends at an inlet.

    If you are OK with buses (I realize that is a big "if") you can take the Disney buses from other resorts or from Downtown Disney to the front entrance of the Magic Kingdom. The bus stops are to the left (as you are leaving) and completely bypass the ticket & transportation center.

    If you need a quiet stop at Epcot to sit and be out of crowds, the treasure of Morocco exhibit is wonderful. Quiet, subdued lighting, air conditioned, nice benches, very few people ever seem to go there, and wall outlets so you can charge your phone if needed.

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  189. As one of your fans, thank you for all the touring and book signings you do. I can't understand how much of a challenge it has a potential to be, but I'm very very greatful that you've given us the opportunities to come out and meet you.

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  190. I don't consider myself someone with anxiety issues, but having read your post now I totally get what you're saying. I've been in that white knuckled panic phase before but only for a couple of hours, but couldn't imagine not being able to shake that feeling for days. Holy shit, wow... I will do my best to be more understanding when someone says they have anxiety issues and not push them. Wishing you many episode free days in the future!!

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  191. Thank you for sharing Jen. It was a great reminder that no matter what challenge we each face we should be kinder to ourselves. And we should remember not to be so quick to dismiss the challenges of others but instead just be ready to help. Thanks for the reminder to not focus on the bad but instead look for the silver lining and appreciate the good you do have. And thank you for sharing your creativity and humor to help pick up others when they might be having a down day. Hope you get to walk to the Magic Kingdom soon. ;)

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  192. You know, that's what seems to unite all of us (that's right, us lions, he said US lions find that quote for geek points) that battle "invisible" issues/diseases. We dig in and we fight. Mine happens to be a learning disability compounded by depression.

    There are days that I really do think I should get a ticker-tape parade for getting out of bed. Or for not breaking down in a sobbing mess at work (I work in a bookstore and love my job--books and booklovers, what could be better to be around?!) after dealing with an angry customer.

    We who fight depression and _______________ (add your own enemy in here. I named mine) we are fighters. We wrestle, we battle, we struggle, we choke our issue until it is wheezing in our grasp (you never let go though, the sneaky bastard might be shamming) to the very last day---we fight. Just call me . . .Ahab.

    I am more and more encouraged to find such amazing people in this place that no one really wants to be. Not only am I not alone, I'm in really cool company!

    And Jen, I didn't have the delight of knowing you before Cake Wrecks and after you were introduced to your personal health hydra but I must say you are rather spiffy.

    You've made me laugh through tears and John has put my monitor more than once in jeopardy of spewed hot coffee.

    Thanks.

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  193. I am heading over to a friends house today to talk with her about her anxiety and how it paralyzes her. As a panic attack sufferer myself, I am talking myself into it because I don't want to go but I know it will be good for both of us.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am not at all glad you have to go through this, but it does help to know I am not alone. I have cut a lot of things I don't need out of my life to help cut down on the panic but it still comes out of nowhere.

    Just keep swimming.

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  194. Thanks for sharing. I'm okay in public but have a totally insanely irrational fear of spiders. Not just big ones. I took the air conditioners in this weekend and there were two spiders on a piece of wood we use to prop up the AC units on our vinyl windows and I cried until my husband took them outside.

    I was never this bad until an ex-boyfriend held me down as one crawled closer to me on more than one occasion. So I can wholeheartedly say that "facing your fears" can be the worst thing. I've gotten better than I was on my own but those two smallish ones on Saturday did me in. Maybe because I was home and my husband was there to help. I've been able to relatively calmly take a shoe off and kill some small ones at work, thankfully...

    I also have anxiety about getting lost. Wore a Slave Leia costume to SWCVI and was a bit more anxious than usual when the hubs had to use the mens room and I got asked for photo ops with random people without the safety of having him right there instead of me being able to retreat into the ladies room.

    Thanks for blogging and sharing. You're awesome & we've all got our quirks. Some just have better stories than others. (It's all about perspective)

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  195. Thank you. Teary here. I needed to read this and today was the perfect day to find it.

    Ninian
    silent lucidity

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  196. Long time lurker here... Just wanted to say that I'm glad you're content today, and that I think you're so brave for dealing with the anxiety the way you are.

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  197. Thank you for sharing your story. It is so helpful to be able to hear about this from your perspective. I've never suffered from a panic attack, thankfully, but your story helps me to have more compassion and understanding for those you do.

    If you are still affiliated with a church and miss the messages, you might check and see if they stream or upload their services to a website. Many churches have compassionate outreach for those who cannot worship in the building and would provide support if they knew what was going on. I understand that sharing that part of your life must be incredibly difficult, and this may not be an option for you, but it might be something to consider.

    Will continue to pray that one day you are able to make a full recovery! You are a brave woman for facing such difficulties!

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  198. I'd just like to beg all non-sufferers, if you don't understand a friend or family member's disorder, GOOGLE IT! Find out about it. Myself, my son AND my daughter have generalized anxiety disorder and if I hear 'What are you worried about? You don't have anything to be worried about' ONE MORE TIME....... so, please, be as understanding about neurophysiological disorders as you'd be about regular physiological disorders - we don't CHOOSE to be like this! Thanks, Jen, for being so super-brave and letting people know how we cope. My lovely boss recently told me how well I do controlling my anxiety disorder at work. In the back of my brain, I was thinking "But if I DIDN'T have anxiety disorder, I'd be YOUR boss". It's hard when I know intellectually I could do so much more, but realistically - I can't. We survive - sometimes we thrive, sometimes ... we wait for things to get better.

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  199. I am in the same boat. I have agoraphobia. I'm currently trying CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy)at one of the best centers in the country and hoping that will help. It works for over 70% of people with anxiety disorders. I'll let you know how it works for me.

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