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Saturday, 02 June 2012 21:00

My Anxiety Journey: Introduction

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I started having problematic anxiety when I was 14 years old (I am now nearly 26). The combination of puberty hormones and all the life-changes high school entailed proved a toxic combination, triggering the change from High-StrungAshley to MentallyDisorderedAshley.


Intense anxiety kept me from attending my classes, depression kept me on the couch, unshowered, pajama’d, crying sporadically, and obsessed with bad television that would distract me, briefly, from my so-called life. This was my grade 9. Through talk-therapy, a very supportive and understanding family, hormone leveling (read: birth control pills) and “as needed‘ sedatives: I was able to get back into my life and keep things (mostly) under control.


I had issues here and there in the years that followed, but for the most part - things were under control. It wasn’t until I was finishing second year at university that my dark cloud truly reared it’s ugly head again. One fateful day, started out as a fun day with all my friends, celebrating the end of second year; ended as the (still) reigning champ for worst day of my life. There are tons and tons of photos of that, the last day of second year. To this day, it makes me chuckle to see the smile on my face: I had no idea how my life was about to change.


Two carloads of my closest friends were a half hour from home for a day of mini golf, laughs, and dinner. After dinner, one of the car’s wouldn’t start, so we hung around waiting for the tow truck to arrive. After about 20 minutes or so, I felt my digestive system gurgling, and headed for the bathroom. In a nutshell (sparing you too many TMI details), there was something wrong with the food. It hit me, and one of my friends, at the exact same time, while still at the restaurant, it hit 4 of my other friends very shortly after we got home. It hit me the hardest, also, as I have irritable bowels to begin with. I spent over 2 hours unable to leave the bathroom of the restaurant, with 10 of my friends and my new-at-the-time (now ex) boyfriend all waiting around for me so we could go home. Stressful, awkward situation for anyone: full-on traumatic event for me.


Cue my PTSD specific phobia. I rapidly became terrified of the idea of getting physically ill and not being able to get to a bathroom. While the phobia included vomit-ill and diarrhea-ill - diarrhea was the big one. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t just leave the cash register unattended to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, which made me too scared to even be there. When I went back to school, I couldn’t leave my house to walk to my classes, less than a kilometre away, because WHAT IF I HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM AND THERE WAS NOWHERE TO GO!? I started failing, due to never going to class. I stopped socializing with my friends, unless they were at my house or they had an apartment/house with more than one bathroom. I became mentally addicted to anti diarrhea medication, and wouldn’t leave the house at all without taking at least 2.


My doctor at home prescribed me Effexor XR, which I took gladly, despite previous aversions to resorting to medication: I had lost control, completely, and I knew it. I needed help. The starter dose of the Effexor gave me the typical brain-med startup weird feelings, but nothing too terrible. When we upped to the full dose: my body rejected it. Hard. I puked like I had never puked before. Perfect thing to happen to someone with my phobia, right? Fortunately (fortunately!?), I was so dehydrated, so quickly, I was too weak and groggy to properly freak out. I spent a full day in bed, attempting to put a sip of fluid into me, to no avail, slipping in and out of consciousness. Talked to my doctor, who told me to stop taking the medication IMMEDIATELY, and gave me a lecture on how I should have gone to the hospital already, blah blah. Hospitals scare the crap out of me - I bet you can all relate! I managed to talk my boyfriend into letting me not go to the hospital by promising that if the puking didn’t stop within a few hours, I would go. I got lucky, and was able to hold in a couple soda bisquits and a quarter cup of water, and didn’t have to go.


The university doctor, after I recovered from the Effexor incident, diagnosed me “bipolar 2”, and prescribed me Paxil. I won’t get into details about my experience with Paxil on here - that’s a whale of a tale for another day - but I was on it for close to a year. It took off the edge, but I still needed my sedation and anti-diarrhea medication to get myself out the door. It also seemed to numb me to all emotions but anger. When I decided to get off of Paxil - it was a mess. Again, another tale for another time. I’ve now been “clean” of proper anxiety/depression medication since March 2007.


After I refused any further medication, my school doctor said there was nothing she could do for me. I was at rock bottom, but in a strange way. Hopeless, but ANGRY. I was ready to fight, I just didn’t know how. I went back to my doctor back home, and she referred me to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program an hour from home. It was a 12 week, group program. And it single-handedly saved my life.


Today, I have had a new perspective, and been in near-full control of my disorders for nearly 5 years. I don’t remember the last time I took an anti-diarrhea pill (though I do still carry them with me 100% of the time…I doubt that will ever change). I still feel anxiety, I still feel depression sometimes, and I still have my seriously low, setback days - but it never, ever controls me anymore. Generally speaking, when I feel panicked about going somewhere, or doing something, I now come at it with a competitive perspective. You could say I’ve become addicted to the high of going to war with my disorder, head on, and WINNING. I consider my disorders to be in remission. I don’t believe you can ever truly “cure” most anxiety disorders (unless entirely circumstantial, rather than biological in any way) - but I am walking, talking, laughing, LIVING proof, that they can be overcome.


I plan on blogging about the things I’ve been through, and the things that have worked for and helped me along the way. I know we all get told all sorts of things to do and try and whatnot, but so often these come from textbooks, or therapists who KNOW about it, but have never FELT it. I know about it, and have felt it, and I plan to share with you the things I have first-hand knowledge of. That doesn’t mean they will work for you, but they will come from someone who truly understands.


Feel free to contact me at any time, for any reason (except to hit on me, please) - I am an open book about all the gory TMI details of my journey; you just need to ask.



Last modified on Saturday, 02 June 2012 21:12


  • Comment Link maggieboo93 Wednesday, 12 June 2013 04:16 posted by maggieboo93

    :(( i would really appreciate it if youd let me know about more of your experiences on the medications because i was diagnosed with bipolar 1 but i havent taken anything yet because im too scared

  • Comment Link OwlJulie Wednesday, 20 March 2013 11:15 posted by OwlJulie

    Thanks for sharing your story. I would want to ask you if you still do cbt worksheets/journals, and how much effort does cbt take on a daily basis. I did try cbt for 6 weeks but I never was able to make a habit out of it.

  • Comment Link pandora Friday, 15 March 2013 01:27 posted by pandora

    good on u ur a very strong person to have been able to fight this and go off ur meds. i have a phobia of being sick and get panic attacks when i feel nausea im on antianxiety and depression meds and have been for a long time have reduced and tried to come off but end up relapsing and going back to higher dose

  • Comment Link Rusty Covey Tuesday, 03 July 2012 16:52 posted by Rusty Covey

    A few months ago I learned something new about myself. Though out my life I have used meditation in the form of walking.
    A child will do this all day. When a child goes outside they are fascinated by everything that doesn't have people in it.
    Learn a song, sing each time an attack comes on, take long walks get into the trees how they dance in the air.
    Twice a week get up a little before the sun comes up. Go outside and listen with your eyes closed and smell the air. The sound of the birds singing and the fresh smell of the morning air should help you feel better.
    Most adults spent most of their time outside as a kid. Rekindle your childhood years by going outside to explore things like you did as a kid.

  • Comment Link Greg Weber Friday, 29 June 2012 02:06 posted by Greg Weber

    Wow! Thanks for your powerful story. I can relate. I too choose to fight, and I think that feeling of battling and overcoming is a lot of what keeps me going...

    I have a touch of the bathroom fear as well, which I think is some lingering PTSD from a VERY traumatic childhood incident. I prefer to be near my own bathroom, but I can deal with not having one immediately handy.

    Isn't it weird how anxiety can sneak up on a totally unsuspecting person?

  • Comment Link jenpooh70 Thursday, 28 June 2012 19:20 posted by jenpooh70

    Enjoyed reading your post. Would love to hear rmore on how you manage your anxiety!!

  • Comment Link iuqaj55 Friday, 22 June 2012 02:56 posted by iuqaj55

    i honestly do not know what kind of anxiety i have :{

  • Comment Link Salomon Ptasevich Sunday, 03 June 2012 06:49 posted by Salomon Ptasevich

    excellent post! Gald to have you on ASN!

  • Comment Link Susan smith Saturday, 02 June 2012 22:51 posted by Susan smith

    My health anxiety started because of IBS, although I already had social anxiety, but one bout of bowel trouble set of a whole new fear for me. I'm happy for you that you've managed to control your thoughts and would be interested in reading more about it.

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