Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Monster-Slaying Swords

(Trigger Warning: I wrote this a few days ago, and it's about anxiety again. Sorry.)



Last night I was afraid to go to sleep, because I'm still recovering from that medication switch-a-roo that had my anxiety cranked to 11, and every night for a while now I've had attacks and near-attacks and wake-up-just-in-time-to-have-one-more attacks, and there is just nothing more miserable in my admittedly sheltered little world than lying in the dark, doing breathing exercises, and teetering on that panic precipice. Nothing. Because I'm a wuss. Being scared scares me. Being scared of things no one around me is scared of isolates me.

I can be rational and understand that these feelings are lies. I know they are physical reactions caused by chemical imbalances, and that once my thyroid stabilizes the feelings will (mostly) go away again. I know it will get better.

But in the moment, when all is an unsettled, shivery blur, and fatigue chokes out the still, small, rational voice, it's hard to hang on.

So last night, I was afraid to go to sleep. More accurately, I was afraid of lying there for hours and hours while John slept peacefully beside me, even though he always tells me to wake him. Because waking John means something is wrong, which means I have to *admit* something is wrong, which means the monster is real and has huge, pointy teeth. Better to keep telling myself it's fine, I'm fine, and breathe, breathe, breathe.

I think this is why sometimes it hurts us anxiety sufferers to talk about it. Why it makes us *more* panicky to reach for the bottle of Xanax. Anxiety is as real as any virus, any cancer, but we want to believe it's something we can just will away. That if we just think enough calm thoughts, give ourselves enough pep talks, hang on to a hug from a friend just a few seconds longer, then we'll vanquish the monster.

But it doesn't work that way. You can't will away an emotional or mental problem any more than you can will away arthritis or a broken bone. It's real. It's physical. And while sometimes that reality is hard to cope with, it should give us hope. If a bone is broken, there are medical professionals who can mend it. In the same way, we have doctors and counselors who are (slowly) learning to mend our invisible breaks inside.

I'm guilty of depending far too much on will power, and saving even my ridiculously low dose tranquilizers for only real "emergencies." I've taken less than 20 pills per year. I suffer needlessly, convinced I should somehow be stronger.

And yet, these past few weeks have driven home just how much of my panic is caused by my Hashimoto's - by a real, diagnosable thing that's not me worrying too much, not me needing to "calm down" or "just relax" or any of the other ridiculous things people tend to say in panic situations. I'm more convinced than ever that the things we feel are tied directly to how our bodies are working or not working... so I need to treat it that way.

Can we agree to do that together, guys? To treat our diseases like actual diseases, take our medicine, see our doctors, and stop trying to tough something out just because there are people who don't believe we're sick? Can we agree to be proud of our doctor appointments, because it shows how hard we're fighting? And when we need a new session or a new medication, can we recognize it for what it is?: A sharper, stronger sword for slaying the monster.

"That's right, mofos, these aren't tranquilizers; they're monster-slaying swords. That you swallow. Which sounds wrong and painful, but that's just how bad-ass we are."


(I'm not sure this gif makes sense here, but dancing Wall-E wins all the things, so I'm leaving it.)


Last night John saw the tears as he hugged me goodnight, and after we talked, he convinced me to take a lorazepam. Then he held my hand, and stayed up all night with me. We left the light on and sat against the headboard and talked about nothing 'til nearly dawn, when we were punchy with fatigue. Only when he saw my chin start to hit my puzzle book did John allow himself to sleep - with the light still on, and the panic monster still at bay.

When I finally drifted off some time later, it was the best sleep I'd had in weeks.


Love and proper medication, you guys. Best. Combo. Ever.

101 comments:

  1. Thank you. I needed to read this today.

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  2. Thanks as well, from a long time lurker. I just got denied today for disability insurance because I was taking my meds so a bit of encouragement to keep on trucking is a good thing. Funny factoid of the day: the way this particular insurance does the ranking, having depression and not treating it is treated the same as having depression and not needing treatment, so going off my meds means I would qualify for coverage. *head desk* Because taking the medications is what keeps me from cycling through depression, but not taking meds is better by some weird insuranace logic because it makes the mystical thing go away? Still taking my pills though.

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  3. Jen, you are an amazing person, and I greatly appreciate your willingness to share with us. Hang in there!
    And yes, Dancing Wall-E DOES win at all things. :)

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  4. A nugget of good. Over time, the nuggets accumulate. May true sleep be yours and John's both.

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  5. I am in a group on FB and some of the members have Hashimoto's and anxiety and they are treating it with the "Golden Paste" have you thought about trying that since it is all natural? If you read up on it and want to try it please join the group called "Turmeric User Group" They tell you exactly what brands to use and give you advice and such.. not all brands and recipes are equal.. Gentle hugs for you.

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    1. Interesting, I *just* started taking Turmeric last week, though it's just a generic store brand. Off to google I go... thanks!

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    2. I have a friend who is part of that group, and she swears by her golden paste. I should probably try it, but I'm too lazy. They say the stuff you get in the stores is not good for long-term use. So proceed with caution.

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  6. Congratulations on your bravery. And for love and medication. I'm so glad you got good sleep. I hopes this is a sign of more good sleep in your future.

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  7. Jen! I love you for being open and sharing your pain with us. You are right, it is too easy to pretend it's not there, or that whistling through the dark keeps the monsters at bay. I was so happy/proud to see Jamie Lynn Sigler announce her MS diagnosis; she's had it two years longer than I have. Invisible illness exists! May you find the right balance of meds, and may your good days outnumber your bad. :)

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  8. I have been fighting with alot of anxiety the last few days....so not fun....

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  9. I've been fighting with anxiety for several years now, but I've always struggled with admitting that it's an actual problem. I always tell myself that it's in my head, I'm fine, I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I forget that it's actually a medical condition. I did start going to some counseling sessions, but it's been over a month since my last one. I was given a prescription for a daily anti-depressant/anti-anxiety med, but I haven't started taking it. I think it's because if I do, it's basically admitting defeat. I don't want the monster to be real.

    I wish I was as brave as you are.

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    1. From a fellow anxiety-sufferer: It IS in your head, doesn't make it any less of a real problem. Take the med. Talk to people. You'll find out you're braver than you thought. Trust me on this

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    2. I second David; take a deep breath, and *take that first pill*. It's not defeat, it's a victory - and it will get easier, I promise.

      One thing I've found: wondering if you're feeling anxious means you're feeling anxious. It's real. It's there. So grab those swords and start beatin' the daylights out of it!

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    3. I had the same battle with myself, worryng about taking my antidepressant/anti anxiety med. Because to finally do it meant a sort of defeat, that I wasn't strong enough to conquer this on my own, that it is really real. And the first couple days I took it were a few of the worst in my depression struggle. But I know it's helping. There are still bad days, but they're more manageable. I'm less anxious all the time, and I'm getting better in how I respond to my kids. I'm not crying out having my heart racing or my stomach in knots ask the time, I don't get as upset at the drop of a hat.

      You can do it. Bite the bullet, swallow the pill. I hate meds, but it really is helping. The situation is no more real now than before I took the first pill, but now I can see it more clearly and fight it head on instead of trying to hide in the shadows pretending everything is okay.

      It's not admitting defeat. It's making a plan of attack to kick the crap out of the invisible hands holding so tight.

      You're already fighting, so you are brave. You've got this.

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  10. Was expecting review of swords; this is much better. 10/10 would read again.

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  11. As a fellow anxiety sufferer way way away in Brazil, this brought tears to my eyes. It's amazing how these things can isolate us. I live with people who care for me (a partner) and would help me if I asked, and yet lying in bed trying to sleep my brain makes me feel guilty and weak for asking for help or disrupting someone else's rest. I know it's not true. I know it's temporary, it will go away, I will feel better and even be able to help/care for others too, but in that moment, you feel horribly alone, even lying next to someone you love. I don't think ppl without depression/anxiety can truly understand how that happens. Thank you for being open and talking about it, it's people like you who really helped me seek out treatment and information when I first started feeling like some alien creature from outer space.

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    1. Some of us who don't suffer from anxiety do know exactly how real it is. I have 2 daughters who suffer.(22 and 17) I am their rock. One was hospitalized almost a year ago. I was there every single day, whenever they allowed visiting hours. Then I homeschooled her because school was a huge trigger. We worked hard to get her back to school, I still drive her everywhere (17 years old), and pick her up between classes to allow her time to refocus and get back to feeling a bit more normal. The other daughter had panic attacks that I spent hours and hours helping to quell and dissipate. There are those of us who really do understand. I could go on and on, but it serves no purpose. We understand, we sympathize and we fight with you. Like I tell my daughters, I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE. Sometimes you just need that one person to tell you that. That is the person who understands.

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  12. "I'm guilty of depending far too much on will power, and saving even my ridiculously low dose tranquilizers for only real "emergencies." (...) I suffer needlessly, convinced I should somehow be stronger."
    That's exactly what I do. But I've already made an appointment with a doctor so I can start taking the right medication. Anxiety is like any other illness, yes, some will power might help, but it's not the cure.
    Hugs from Argentina.

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  13. I tend to react to migraines the same way. I go into denial that it's happening again. It's worse when I've had a few days without a migraine - my brain fog has lifted and I've decided that I'm all better now so I couldn't possibly be having a migraine.

    Since rescue meds work better the sooner you take them, I really don't have time for denial. I'm working on that.

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  14. I am gratefully recovering from overwhelming anxiety, but want to talk about a different physical illness today, because people treat it like anxiety. I have severe allergic reactions to tomatoes and wheat. Use the epi-pen, call the ambulance, get admitted to the hospital reactions to just the smallest cross-contamination. But people believe THAT is also all in my head, that allergic reactions are just mind over matter. So when my throat stars to close, I tell myself it's not happening. I try to talk it away until it's almost too late. I think people blame others for their conditions because of fear. If I am making myself have anaphylaxis or an anxiety attack, then they don't have to worry about it happening to them. It is my fault, after all, and they are just a better person than me because they don't fight the same demons. So really, it's all about fear. We all fight our demons as best we can, and blaming others for THEIR demons is a talisman against us having to fight them. Take the medicine; see your doctors; go to your counseling sessions. It gets better--I'm living proof.

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    1. No one believed I had 'real' allergies until I ended up in the ER. I still have people tell me - you can have a little bit . . . right?
      Wrong.
      Thanks for posting.

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  16. Hugs, Jen! I've been struggling with my own stuff lately and reading this has helped me. :)

    Yay, John! You seem like such a wonderful hubs! :) - See more at:

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  17. "be proud of our doctor appointments" that just made me smile. thanks for sharing your journey with us, it helps.

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  18. You and John are awesome and brave. So sorry you have to deal with this, but thank you for sharing. My anxiety is a tiny little kitten, that I can usually defeat by punching the living daylights out of something for a while, but it is a comfort to hear other people's stories.

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  19. "invisible breaks inside" - best line EVER to describe panic attacks and mental issues.
    My mom battled depression her entire life and horrible reactions to 99% of medications. She would be so proud of this post and that line!. Great job, Jen, great job!!!!!!

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  20. I wish everyone struggling with these kinds of medical issues could read this. You are an inspiration and help empower people to understand that they aren't weak, they are stronger than most people know because of what they deal with just to get through the day to day. No one tells a cancer patient to get over it and just "buck up", remember that when someone tries to belittle your struggle. You can't see cancer, but you believe it when someone tells you the have it, it is no different with this kind of medical struggle.
    Jen, you are amazing and keep up the good fight and know that you help a huge amount of people out there, even though some don't have the strength to write in on here. Keep swallowing swords and inspiring us to be strong and face our demons and know when we need to ask for help and that it is not a sign of weakness but a show of strength to do so.

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  21. I'm puzzled why taking turmeric because it's natural is better than anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. I lost 13 years trying to manage my anxiety and depression on my own. When I realized that I was accepting the fact that I would have to kill myself because I couldn't handle the pain anymore, I got meds, and my life has been SO much better for the last 25. Remember that EVERYTHING in this world is, at some level, a chemical, and not all chemicals are poisonous. I have not turned into a zombie from the drugs; I have accomplished more, completed a rewarding career, raised my children (one of whom inherited this genetic depression/anxiety disorder that is RAMPANT in our family, the other did not. One on meds, not the other--just the way the ball bounced), because I put "chemicals" in my body. And I have worried I would get addicted to tranquilizers. Here's the thing: people with anxiety tend NOT to be addicts because they are so anxious about becoming one! HA! I have days that aren't so great, but none that paralyze me anymore. And if one drug is no good, there are many to try. Go to a really good medical center--Mayo Clinic is in Jacksonville--and get treated by a doc who sees this all the time. And the very best to you, Jen, and all who suffer. Just a word from an old lady who's been dealing with this full-time since 1975.

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    1. Thank you for this comment. I am not a fellow anxiety-sufferer, but I am a believer that not everything can be cured with a "healthy diet". I believe that God put different things on this earth to help us deal with all these various medical problems. And I also believe He inspires men and women that are way smarter than me to figure out how to treat these complex conditions. That being said, of course there can be side-effects (as Jen learned in an awful way recently) which make some medications not suitable for every person. But that doesn't mean they're innately bad medications and that avoiding medications all together is always the answer. I think it needs to be a healthy balance of looking for "natural" solutions as well as medications that can kick the butt of these demons. Do whatever is best for you Jen!

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    2. Not better, just different. My friend takes turmeric for her fibromyalgia, primarily. It does have proven anti-inflammatory properties, and it works for her.

      You found what works for you.

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    3. I go to a Naturopath who is also an MD, and in my mind he's the best combination of alternative and traditional medicine. Sometimes he'll start me on something "natural", and if that doesn't work, he gets out the RX pad. There are pros and cons to both methods, so it's true, you just have to find what works for you! I've found relief in both, so I'm wary of anyone who advocates all or nothing of one or the other.

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    4. I understand where you're coming from on questioning the "natural is better" line of reasoning. People use it to justify all sorts of behavior. It can result in things as dangerous as the anti-vaccination movement and utterly insensitive, useless comments. (A girl I barely knew from high school actually responded to a Facebook post about my dying mother with a whole "if-she'd-just-go-natural" spiel.) There are definitely pros and cons to modern medicine and more traditional/natural methods.

      But I will say that I think (and I can only go from my own experience here) that people who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, etc., often tend to be more sensitive to medications than people who don't. I've had medication that was supposed to prevent panic attacks CAUSE them, and even common cold medicine has managed to cause episodes of panic for me in the past. As in, one day, a cold medicine that never bothered me before suddenly left me shaking and in tears, and on the verge of panic. Many of the people who turn first to natural remedies may do so because they're wary of a possible negative reaction to more chemical options. Personally, I like to combat what I can with simpler solutions (that don't have a mile-long list of side-effects and potential reactions to anything else I might be taking) and save the big guns for when they're absolutely necessary.

      Also, I think it's worth pointing out that (at least, as far as I'm understanding it) the turmeric is being used as a way to help combat symptoms of Hashmoto's--the underlying cause for the panic attacks and anxiety--and not as a substitute for anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. It's an anti-inflammatory compound, not an anti-depressant.

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  22. After a couple of years of denial, I finally went got a new primary care provider (moved 2.5 years ago) and got more lorazepam and a longer acting anti-anxiety med. It's been a hellish couple of years, and it's amazing how it really is more stressful and scary to make the call, to go to the visit, to ask for help, to take the meds. But in the long run, so worth it. I've been on meds 6 weeks, and I can tell such a difference. I wish that it was as simple for everyone. I'm a little disgusted that I put it off so long...because I KNEW from past experience that it would.
    So...hang in, people. You're not along. Thanks so much, Jen, for giving voice to what is so often so hard to do.

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  23. You and Jenny Lawson are doing such wonderful work making mental health something we can talk about in the open! I'm guilty myself of relying too much on "will it away," but I'm working on it. I am finally going to the doctor on Tuesday for a different invisible issue that has plagued me my whole adult life but that I was too embarrassed to ever bring up. But I feel like we're all in this together, yes? We can buoy each other up when we are struggling to ask for the help we desperately need. And everyone needs help with something. Much love to you and John.

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  24. Jen, you're very brave and an inspiration to those who also suffer but haven't yet found their voice, or their swords. As a person who has also dealt with anxiety, both my own and that of a loved one, and also works with pharmaceuticals, I understand your reluctance to take your medication even though you know it will help. I take Lorazepam also. But I'm wondering if you've ever tried Buspar (generic name Buspirone)? It's used for anxiety but usually prescribed as a daily dose rather than just for use during an attack. It works a little differently than benzodiazepams, doesn't usually have the sedative effect, doesn't come with the "don't drnk/drive/use heavy machinery" warnings. It also isn't addictive so isn't a 'controlled' medication, which is very reassuring in my mind. My dose is fairly typical; I take it twice a day and can still take a Lorazepam if things get bad and I need to. I just need the Lorazepam less often because the Buspar keeps things on a more even keel. If you haven't tried this yet you may want to speak to your doctor about it; it is a tremendous help to a lot of people and would probably be helpful for you too. I sort of think it's magic. ☺ Best of luck to you Jen; you bring a bright spot in the day for so many people.

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    1. A dear friend of mine just saw an ENORMOUS improvement from starting Buspar, so it's definitely on my radar screen. Thanks for sharing; the more good I hear about it, the more likely I am to actually follow through and read up on it.

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  25. What an amazing post. Keep up the great work slaying monsters and the even better work helping people slay their own and understand the battles of others. Hugs.

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  26. I love John for loving you so well. He's one in a million.
    I have panic, and my daughter has panic. Every word you write could have come from my own heart.
    Now I'll go dry my tears and get ready for my doctor appointment.

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  27. You aren't alone!! Hashimoto's sucks, and the anxiety is like nothing I've ever felt before, and mine wasn't nearly what yours is. Keep you chin up girl, and do what you've gotta do! We all here love you (even if we don't ACTUALLY know you, we still do!!) and we just want what's best. If that means anything coming from a stranger:)
    Though there are folks out there helping their symptoms through diet, just a thought! The links below aren't to anything of mine, just a few women who have seen relief from their Hashi's anxiety. I just wanted you to know you aren't alone.
    http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2015/05/30/sophies-story/
    http://hypothyroidmom.com/how-i-inadvertently-cut-my-hashimotos-antibodies-in-half/
    http://asquirrelinthekitchen.com/hashimotos-and-anxiety-part-1/

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  28. "Love and proper medication, you guys. Best. Combo. Ever." Those words brought tears to my eyes. As someone who has had anxiety and depression issues off and on since childhood, reading those words touched my heart. For myself personally, I add prayer to that statement. It took me years (and a visit to a counselor) to even understand that it was anxiety and depression and bottling those feelings up that were causing me to feel the way I was. I find it easier to talk out my feeling with others now. I also found after talking to the doctor, that I had to switch the time of day I was taking my meds as I had difficulty sleeping if I took them in the evening.

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  29. Thank you so much for your courage to share your experiences. It so helps to know that we are not alone! Hugs to you!

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  30. This is one of the best things I've read all week! (also? I love this: "That's right, mofos, these aren't tranquilizers; they're monster-slaying swords. That you swallow. Which sounds wrong and painful, but that's just how bad-ass we are." I'm totally borrowing it!)

    Double also? You and John are both awesome! Thank you for sharing and being willing to talk about it!

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  31. I just love John so much. He's really an amazing man and you are so, so lucky to have him (and i am sure he is also so, so lucky to have you). Is it weird that two of my favourite people in the world are people i've never met, or even spoken to?

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  32. Lorazepam and a supportive hubs for the win!!
    Speaking of which, can I just say how utterly obnoxious it is that I have so much trouble keeping a regular supply of the stuff around? I went through like...30 lorazepam pills in 2015 because they hate to give a prescription out for the stuff, and never with any refills. I mean I get it, it's controlled, but good lord, I wish I could keep it around dependably for nights just like that one. I manged to convince them to give me a bottle of 15 (!) after my uncle was killed by a drunk driver and I had to not only deal with that but drive the 8 hours by myself to the funeral...and then another tiny bottle when my anxiety flared up after a medication change. It sure would be nice to just like, can we agree to let me have a bottle of 30 every two or three months? I've proven for YEARS that I'm not addicted to the stuff. -sighhhh-

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    1. Oh man, this is SO true. But docs get audited, and called on the carpet about prescribing "too much," so they under-do it. I actually, after using fewer than 30 FOR YEARS, was stunned to get 60!!! at once. Of course I used them all in one day. No, actually, I have many many less, but less anxious because I don't feel I need to hoard. I tend to use half of a .5, by the way, dear doc.

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  33. Lorazepam is awesome. I have some low level anxiety that creeps in once in a while (and manifests itself in irritable bowel issues. "Scared the shit out of md" is not just a funny phrase...let's leave it at that.) I don't know what your dosage for lorazepam is, but I find half a dose about 3 hours before bedtime, with a full dose AT bedtime along with a melatonin supplement is exactly what I need to get a full, restful, quiet night--with a better calmer morning.

    ((HUGS)) and good luck.

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  34. A few evenings ago I started having a panic attack and it was so awful being alone, but I also hated the thought of anyone seeing me like this. I ended up texting my husband asking if he was coming home yet (it was getting late) and he reminded me he had to go to his dad's house after work. Well, damn. He offered to pick me up first, but that made no logistical sense and I was worried I'd embarrass myself in front of his dad, so I lied and said I was fine. Then I remembered the cold water trick you mentioned in another post, so I decided to fill my sink with cold water and dunk my face in, for good measure. I don't know if it was a placebo effect or not, but as soon as I dunked myself I actually felt MUCH better! Then, as I'm standing there bent over my sink with my face in a pool of water, it occurs to me that I must look like I'm using a pensive from Harry Potter. Then I have to pull my head out because I am LAUGHING so hard! Actually laughing! Then it spontaneously turns into crying and I begin to panic again, so I continued using my pensive repeatedly. After several uses (and a failed attempt at visualization when I pretended it was a pensive and tried "viewing" a happy memory) I actually felt . . . stable. Not completely better, but I stopped spiraling into hysteria and was able to distract myself with silly fanfiction until I felt normal, which may be a first for me. I even talked my husband into trying the pensive (damnit I AM calling it that!) last night when he was feeling panicky over some work problems, and he said it helped a bit. So, thank you!

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    1. Aw, I love this - minus the icky panic part, of course. The cold water trick is for real; I've had a paramedic and plenty of literature confirm it, so keep the Pensieve trick in your magic bag of remedies for the future! (You can also ice your hands, so hang onto a frozen bag of peas while you're dunking. ;))

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    2. Ah, thanks! Good idea!

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  35. Dancing Wall-E ALWAYS wins. And you will too, sweetie. You are SO strong and SO brave to talk about all this and make it easier for all of us to do the same. Like commenter "R" above, I feel such gratitude to you and Jenny Lawson for making the conversations possible.

    I LOVE the monster-slaying sword moniker for the meds. Grab that weapon and take that nasty orc DOWN!!! Then go give that amazing husband of yours a hug from all of us because we love him, too. :-)

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  36. I understand the fear of falling asleep! For about a week now, I have been having bad dreams of having vertigo ( I had a very long fight with that last summer) and I wake up feeling like I still have vertigo! Then I cannot get back to sleep. I have been napping in the daytime (funny, no dreams) because I am so tired! Cannot figure out what I am doing differently that would trigger this. You are so lucky to have John, I've been married to a great guy for 33 years, but he does understand my invisible issues. Hard to get the support I need from him. Can I borrow John? I promise to give him back.

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  37. *cry* Ok, so, see, I've had anxiety for 7 or 8 years. Diagnosed as such since October 2012. So that's... 4 years or so where I was just living in agony, afraid to go to sleep, afraid to confess how I felt to anyone because my mother thinks psychology is phony and believes "it's all in your head." Well, yeah! It's chemical imbalances in my brain! That is the most literal in-my-head that I can get. I got on medication not that long ago, when the herbal supplements and the breathing and the journaling stopped working. 2014, maybe? Can't remember. Doesn't matter. The point is, I'm glad I went and got the Lexapro, but it still takes so much for me to take my medicine. I FEEL YOU, JEN! I FEEEEEEEEL YOU. I keep thinking that if I don't take the pills, somehow I'm superior to the version of me that pops one of those tablets before bed every night. But that's not true. And it's a lesson I have to keep teaching myself, time and again, that it's okay to need my meds.

    All that to say, I like it when you post about anxiety. I'm sorry you're suffering--it breaks my heart, truly--but I'm glad to know that my favorite blogger gets me, and I get her, too.

    PS: When they invent cloning, I expect a copy of John (THE most supportive person I have ever seen in my life!) in my mailbox. Well, that would have to be a very large mailbox. Better Fedex him. :P

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  38. I hate that anyone else ever has to feel what I feel sometimes. And yet, to hear someone else describe to the point what it feels like to huddle in a ball in bed, in the dark, barely staving off the panic and waiting for morning to come... Thank you for making me feel like someone truly understands :) I haven't had a bad spell in years now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. And I have found that by putting my struggle out there, not being afraid to let my friends know that panic attacks and anxiety are a part of who I am, I have been able to comfort and help other friends who had never felt ok to share their anxiety or depression. There is so much power in understanding and supporting each other :)

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  39. Awwww, I'm crying, not because you are having bad nights, but because John is such an awesome guy! Glad that God saw fit to balance your anxiety with the perfect person to help you through it.

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  40. I'm so proud of you, Jen. Just keep persevering! I know you'll find the right combination of meds and/or supplements someday that will be the magic elixir for your anxiety and Hashimotos.

    I realize that when something seems promising and then doesn't end up working, it kind of sucks all the fight out of you, but you just have to keep trying. Eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, something will work, and your mind and body will be yours again.

    I am so incredibly glad that you have your soulmate to help you through everything. You two make a great monster-slaying team!

    Best wishes for restorative sleep, serene days, excellent doctors, and vibrant health,

    KW

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  41. I'm and ADHD girl myself, and I've done life medicated and unmedicated. Medicaid is much better. It took me awhile to get over the sense of failure that I couldn't "do it on my own," but now I look at it like my dad's diabetes. He wouldn't feel like he was weak or a failure for not powering through without his insulin; why wouldn't I have the same outlook?

    I do look for things that help me that aren't medications so I can take the lowest dose possible and be healthier overall. Also, I have a daughter who cannot take ADHD medication now due to other medical issues, so anything that helps me, helps her.

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  42. Long time lurker and huge fan. Also first time posting. I'm a therapist and your post means a great deal to me. I see people every day with these problems, who every day feel like they're the only one going through this. We still live in a world with awful stigmas of mental illness (though I do believe its sloooowly getting better). Posts like yours are incredibly important to keeping the conversation going and so people know that getting help is a really, really good thing. I'm proud of you and everybody else on here who is willing to say "I'm ready to grab my sword."

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  43. This was an amazingly accurate description Jen. It's like you've been inside my head and saw my brain process during anxiety. Thanks for putting that picture into words. I am going to have my husband read this, not because he's not wonderful in to midst of my anxiety attacks, but because try as he might he can not 'get' it. He's the least anxious person I've met, panic attacks evade his logical understanding. Poor man, I'm illogical enough without the attacks, add them in and he's at a bit of a loss. Anyway, thanks for being a supportive voice in the darkness of anxiety!

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    1. Aw, John needed some adjustment with my anxiety, too; irrational fears are just so hard to understand, much less accept! You might have your hubby read this post, too; it's everything John & I have learned the hard way: 5 Ways To Help Your Loved One Through A Panic Attack

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  44. That bit about John at the end brought tears to my eyes. That's real love, there. Thank you for sharing this, all of this, with the world. Your anxiety, your love, all of it. It's real and the world needs more real.

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  45. Jen, you have a wonderful husband, and you are a truly brave person.

    I don't know if this is just my personal quirk or if it's something that might work for others, but one thing that helps me when anxiety strikes is to press hard under my armpits - particularly the left armpit. It sounds silly - and probably looks sillier - but it works, for me at least. If I'm trying to sleep and having problems, I'll tuck a pillow or a doll under my armpit to provide a little bit of pressure, and that helps too.

    I don't know if it helps because of an actual physical reaction - there are a lot of nerves and big veins there that pressing on could conceivably affect - or if it's just some unusual self-soothing ritual unique to me alone, and it's certainly not a replacement for needed medications, but it's something harmless to try if anyone else wanted to see if it helps them, even a little.

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  46. It is wonderful to have other people outside of the medical world understand what I go through. I have "general anxiety disorder" which sounds so mild compared to the lightning storm of terror that attacks my mind. People don't understand what it's like to be terrified of nothing and everything all at once and have others convinced there is nothing wrong with you because they can't see it. Thankfully, I met a wonderful man who loves me enough to help me with the "invisible broken" and saved me from a death spiral of panic and alcoholism. Keep taking your meds, folks. There's nothing "wrong" with needing help.

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  47. Thank you for this, and bless John for being such an all-around wonderful guy.

    I agree, there's no shame in needing help, while it can be a high hurdle to clear for some, getting help - from partners, doctors, therapists, etc - is SO vital to managing, and even overcoming. Keep fighting the good fight. And keep talking about it, too.

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  48. Thank you for summing up exactly what it's like to have a mental illness. Thank you thank you thank you for showing how brave it is to ask for help and to accept that help.

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  49. I don't have your health issues, but as someone who wishes to support those who do--THANK YOU for your post. I see so many memes that say "you won't understand" "I cover my pain/sadness/anxiety" "I suffer alone". All of these things are your right, and if you don't want to share, that's totally cool, but I beg those who do want support-- Please share! I want to support you in whatever way you need, but I'm not a mind reader. Tell me you need help, and I will help. (all "yous" are general, of course)

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  50. I wish our affection and respect could cure illness, Jen. You'd never have another bad day for the rest of your life.

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  51. Hey Jen? You really really don't need to apologize in your trigger warning. You don't have to apologize for having anxiety, or panic attacks. You don't have to apologize for writing about it. As evidenced by all the comments above (and presumably below), we understand, and appreciate you being honest and transparent. And that vulnerability does not require an I'm sorry. :) :)

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  52. I have a phobia (of dentists, driven by certain prior negative experiences), not an anxiety disorder, but your description mimics a lot of the way I feel towards it. It's so much harder to convince yourself that mental problems are "real" and legitimate as compared to physical ones; I have no problem taking painkillers for a surgery I've just had, but it took me ages and the insistence of my mother before I finally convinced myself that I needed medication. I've always felt that taking medication was somehow "weak," that it meant I had "lost" or given up. I love this description; thank you so much for this!

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  53. Even a Jedi carries a lightsaber.
    Sometimes the mind is not enough, which is good because sometimes it is the enemy. You can't defeat a red dragon with fire, girl! The dragon will laugh and you. And eat you. Or, in the words of Dr. Carson Beckett, "Son! You don't cut leeches off, you pour salt on them." (Thirty Eight Minutes episode) A warrior chooses his weapon with the enemy in mind. Knowing which weapon is most effective, and USING IT, is what makes a victorious warrior. Thank you for sharing your battles with us. "So that way you learn." - George Lopez.

    -Just Andrea

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    1. Your reply was the first thing I saw when I clicked on comments, and I have to say... Jen's post didn't make me emotional, but your first statement did. It made me cry, because it's so damn true and we think we've got to be so strong yet the people we herald as what we want to be, they need their own arsenal to be strong!

      Thank you.

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  54. I too have anxiety, and although I can push through it most times, every now and then it gets the best of me. I have problems with ordering fast food, calling strangers on the phone, and at the tender age of 35 - I am still afraid of the dark. I also blush like nobody's business, which increases my anxiety and makes me feel self conscious. However, I have found that if I don't let it get to me, or just accept or ignore the discomfort, I sometimes feel better. And by the way, you're awesome! Oh, and I 'met' you in Exton, PA when you were doing the book tour in 2011. SQUEE!!

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  55. yes Ma'am! i have moderate to severe depression with a possible diagnosis of dependent personality disorder or co-dependency (kinda depends on how I look at it.. could be both). My depression rears to life when I feel someone choosing to 'abandon me', to walk out of my life. Usually.. boyfriends! Which feeds the monster of my depression which is 'I am not good enough.' This time around, in order to get myself under control when I started to spiral, I am now on 20mgs of Prozac, and I am seeing a therapist who is helping with the depression and also with.. helping me feel like an adult and learning to be indepedent (My 20s have been spent taking care of my dying parents whom have both passed now. This has kind of left me feeling WAY behind my peers and like I am still that young college student instead of a home owner with a great job that I may have for the next 20 years).

    I have recovered so quickly and I am amazed at how the prozac can affect my mind. I feel so much better! I had to briefly switch medications because I broke out in hives and now we're back to the prozac to see if it happens again and that medication switch SUUUUUUUCKED. Oh the mood swings, the rumination on bad thoughts, the living in the past, MY BRAIN WOULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE BREAKUP. Back on the prozac.. a few days.. literally a few days later and I was feeling so much better, back to singing and dancing around my house, chatting my coworkers up at work, I stopped picking my scalp, I could focus..

    So yes.. here's to understand that we have diseases. here's to accept that these diseases must be managed.. much like a someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and possibly take insulin. And here's to love to support us.

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  56. Jen, thank you for this. I myself am not a sufferer of anxiety but my 5 year old IS and it's a daily battle for me to understand him and what he needs from me. This is the best written description I've seen of what it must feel like to him as I'm making him go to school. We are just starting to try to figure out his individual puzzle, and have even changed insurance to make finding help easier. As always, thank you for opening up about your personal fight, it's shining some light for a mom who is feeling totally lost in the dark.

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  57. Oh, Jen. I'm so sorry you still need to fight this so hard. Thank you for being so open and honest about this. Over the years, you have given me so much support and I couldn't even say thank you. Now that my anxiety has receded, I can post a comment without a panic attack. Unfortunately, I can't recommend my 'cure' to anyone. Early last year, I lost my first pregnancy (after years of trying) and ten days later, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This caused a radical shift in the way I thought about what is important. Embarrassing myself in front of strangers simply isn't even a blip on my radar anymore.

    With the help of the Livestrong program at my local Y, I have gotten physically strong again. I keep thinking that there needs to be a similar program for people with depression. Depression is harder to fight than thyroid cancer. As much as this last year has sucked, it was worth it. I am coming out of it able to be myself and live my life without fear. I still take my meds and still need my rescue pills from time to time, because I still have a chronic disease, even if it is controlled well.

    This is my first non-anonymous post ever. Thank you all for contributing to this wonderful place.

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  58. Normally I don't think of you and Lena Dunham together, but her latest post on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BA0_eyZi1Io/) rings true:
    Lately I've been noticing that nearly every pop cultural image we see of a woman on psychiatric medication is that of an out-of-control, exhausting and exhausted girl who needs help. But guess what? Most women on meds are women who have been brave enough to help themselves. It's important that we see normalizing portrayals of people, women, choosing to take action when it comes to their mental health. Meds didn't make me a hollowed out version of my former self or a messy bar patron with a bad bleach job. They allowed to really meet myself. I wish that for every lady who has ever struggled. There's really no shame.

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  59. love and e-hugs coming your way, you amazing dragon slayer you!

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  60. This is something I have to remind my husband of on a regular basis. He is bipolar, and there are times when he thinks that having to take meds means he is a failure because he can't do it alone. I like to remind him that all our brains are like an engine, some can just chug along with out any maintenance. Ours are more like a fancy, high end, foreign model, they require more specialized care to keep functioning at max performance. And it can take time to find the right people who are familiar with your non-standard model, but it is worth it. Just because you can't see our illness on the outside doesn't make it any less real, and why shouldn't we arm ourselves with every weapon possible to defeat it?

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  61. I now recognize that I had anxiety as a child. No help at all (it was the '70's). As an adult I have done a lot of counselling, EMDR, group therapy. I rarely trigger any more because I now understand that it is okay to NOT do things that trigger . . . I can always tell when anxiety or exhaustion is hitting me, wow, do I swear a lot!

    I always appreciate your posts, time for a nap.

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  62. I'm not sure what your "sleep habits" are like, but when my daughter was hospitalized (for depression/anxiety/suicide attemps)they really focused on her getting "good" sleep. That meant taking medication to help with that. Your brain heals when you are asleep so this has been a big part of her treatment. Medication, therapy, good sleep, knowing your limits... I know you probably know all those things, but it's surprising how sleep, good, quality sleep, can really help you to heal. Yes, it's still a slow process, but it's a start. Thank you for always being honest Never stop fighting.

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  63. God bless the people who give love to anxious people. Last night my anxiety was being a real butthead and I was really upset, luckily I have an amazing friend who talked me through it.
    Jen, thank you for being an inspiration to me. I so frequently wonder how I'll be able to grow up and deal with my anxiety and of course the anxiety tells me that no one will ever want to love someone who's too scared to drive a car, but when I read your posts I remember there are amazing people like John and my best friend who will give us anxious people love. Jen, you're amazing. You're beautiful and kind and funny, and I look up to you. Don't ever apologize for posting about your anxiety, because it gives me hope and courage. *hugs*

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  64. Thank you for reminding us that medication is necessary and not something we should put off. I, like many others, have been struggling with a few health problems recently. I hate the fact that I now must rely on medication to keep breathing and stay alive. But I will try to keep in mind that I am swallowing "monster-slaying swords" instead. Thank you for all you do for us. You are blessed to have John and he is fortunate to have you too. Love the Wall-E gif - he and you post are just what I needed today!

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  65. Just wanted to share - It's been really helpful for me to learn how all the different medications work (not the least because it helped to find the right ones) and how they affect the brain. My favorite website for that is http://www.crazymeds.us/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage - it's a layman's site, but it has real medical information along with forums for anectodal experiences.

    Medicine that works is good.

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  66. You are amazing, and John is inspirational. I'm a partner to someone living with anxiety, and I try hard but don't always manage to do the right thing or react the right way. That image of John staying awake with you all night brought tears to my eyes, but also gave me something to aspire to.

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  67. Thank you for sharing this. You are a total monster-slaying sword swallower!

    And now I'm trying to decide if it's more bad-ass to slay monsters and swallow swords, or to swallow swords that slay monsters :)

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  68. I saw this on facebook and knew you would appreciate it. Disney dubsmash: https://www.facebook.com/Pulse102/videos/1064348010242363/

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  69. ..and Jen, can we do this for EVERY "invisible" disease? Like chronic pain conditions - CRPS, firbromyalgia, CFS, and so on? kthxbai!

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  70. I feel the same way every time I reach for my also extremely low dose Xanax, like I should somehow be stronger and be able to handle my anxiety on my own. Thank you for talking about your anxiety, for taking away its power. We're not broken, and we're stronger than we think.

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  71. And once again you have reached into my head and drawn out the words to explain what I wish I could get at when talking to people about anxiety and panic. I have been much, much better and have learned my own coping techniques but the fact remains that panic exists and, even if it becomes rare as a unicorn, it is there and I know it exists. Even if no one else does. It's that silent, sneaky monster and we always think will power is enough, don't we? I spent years ignoring panic attacks and pretending that I could power through them, telling myself I was overreacting or just weak. It took a particularly kind and patient doctor to convince me that medication has merits.

    As a side note, I 100% understand and agree with the idea that acknowledging it gives it more power and how very WRONG that idea is and should be. However, I continue to think it. I have even gone so far as to warn a supervisor that, if I seem upset or stressed, do NOT ask me "are you okay?" because I will try to lie but I am a crap liar and so will have to tell the truth and admit that I'm not okay... Which sets things full speed ahead to tears. XD

    Thank you for being so brave and open and wonderful. You are strong and inspirational and just cute as hell.

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  72. Good on you for taking control. Use what you need to use to get yourself propped back up to quasi-normal! For years we were in denial about our son's ADHD. No meds for him, we said. But then he started feeling horrible about his inability to focus and get good grades despite trying so, so hard. So we started him on medication. It changed his and our lives for the best. I'm not saying it's the path for everyone to take, medication, but if you need it, you need it. Take it. It might just change your life. Chin up, Jen. Hang in and hang on. You have a great support in your John. Use him and whatever else you need to use to find your footing again. Cheers!

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  73. The image of John sitting up with you made me cry right here at my desk. He is a good man and I am so glad and grateful that there are so many wonderful people like him in the world.

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  74. I wish my boyfriend would understand that he can't will away his depression and PTSD. He refuses to get any kind of help because, "talking to strangers doesn't work and pills are for turning people into zombies and I'd rather feel everything and then shove it down inside than be a zombie."

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  75. Thank you. You don't know how much I needed this tonight. For the first time in about 7 months I had a semi-major panic attack, and I felt like a failure. I felt like I had taken about ten giant steps backwards. I also at one point in the past stopped taking my antidepressant because I tricked myself into thinking I didn't need it (I also wanted to be "normal"). That mistake led to my first set of panic attacks, which after a week of no sleep or eating, as well as constant panic and an almost suicide attempt, led to a trip to the Psychiatric ER. Thankfully, I was given a great support net of people to help me recover. I'm now on a new antidepressant that I take religiously, and I try to be more open to people with how I'm feeling, so that they are equipped to help or get me help if necessary. Yes, these illnesses are "in my brain", but that doesn't make them any less important or real than a physical ailment.

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  76. I often think of my anxiety as a giant wolf that's keeping me penned in. It's hard for people to understand, but for me, having a face to my inner monsters helps me focus and gives me something to fight against. Late at night when the monster sneaks in and tries to devour me, I pretend I'm Alice fighting the Jabberwocky with my vorpal blade (snicker-snack)
    It doesn't always work, but it's nice to know that I've got meds and a partner I can rely on in the middle of the night too.
    Take care of yourself, because we're fighting for you, just as we know you're fighting for us.

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  77. Sending you and John some mega cyberhugs. I don't personally know what it's like to have to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, but from what I've heard from you and some of my friends who do deal with it, it really doesn't sound like fun at all. And I do know what it's like to not want to ask people for help in dealing with stuff because it seems stupid and I should be able to handle this myself, and I shouldn't bother them with my problems when they already have their own. But like you said, it's lies, all of it. We need each other to stay sane and help each other through whatever life's throwing at us at the moment. I've been reminded of that a lot lately, and this was one more reminder, so thanks. And thank you for being brave enough to share that with us; I know it's never easy to talk about this kind of thing one-on-one, much less publish it on the Internet. So, you go, Jen! Attack those monsters! Fight! Win! And call me when you get back, darling, I enjoy our visits.
    (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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  78. The love you and John share is amazing. You are one soul in two bodies, he fights your fight, as you fight it as well. You have a true partner in him, and it is truly heartwarming. With him by your side (and us silly EpBot-ers) you can conquer anything. Your strength to just talk about your disease and troubles makes what we are ALL going through a little easier, you give us a place where we feel comfortable talking about them, and can be loved, respected and comforted. In a world where internet trolls thrive, you have given us solace in Epbot, and for that I am forever grateful!

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  79. I've had one xanax left for months and am to nervous to go to the Dr to get a refill. I try to push through it as well. Does anyone else have a "happy thought" or place? For fear or pain? Mine has always been old school my little pony, before the reboot 😳

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