“I’m finally ready to talk about my anxiety.”

NEXT STORY

"The upside of divorce is getting rid of...

A few weeks after the worst had passed and I was better able to function, I sat across from my therapist, curled up on her couch. She regarded me with concern and compassion in equal measure. I felt safe for the first time in a long time. I felt like we were going to fix this. Together.

“How would you feel if I said I think you had a nervous breakdown?” she said slowly, carefully, her eyes fixed on me in a cautious manner I’d not seen before.

I considered her question.

As she waited for me to elaborate, I noticed an internal rush of something that felt very much like relief. Yes, I was relieved by the thought I’d had a breakdown. Oddly reassured. The 12 days I had spent in a state of crippling panic and anxiety had felt as big as a nervous breakdown. And as bad. I wanted it to have a dramatic sounding name because that robbed my experience of some of its terrifying power. It existed. It was something that had happened to other people, people who had survived it.

Related content: “What if we could really read each other?”

I was also reassured because a nervous breakdown sounded rare. Not something you would have regularly in your life. Not just a paralysing new way of being. It sounded like an event with a start and a finish. A one-off. Twice, tops.

“Good. I feel good about you calling it a nervous breakdown.” I replied slowly. And I exhaled for what felt like the first time in weeks.

*****

……It had all started, oddly enough, with a week at a health retreat. This is where you’re meant to go to remedy a health crisis, not trigger one.

I can’t even recall exactly why I went although I recall it was a freebie; a trip offered in exchange for me writing honestly about my experience. It’s the kind of thing I usually loathe – group activities, no wifi, deprivation of any kind – but I was feeling a bit restless on my goat track and I recognised I probably had a few grooves that were running a little too deep. I wanted to shift my headspace.

They’re unnaturally intense places, health retreats, despite the surface pretense of tranquility. People tend to visit them when they’re at a crossroads, when they have a big decision to make or when their lives have somehow become out of control – physically or emotionally.

In my buggy on day 2 of the health retreat, happy after downing more Panadol

Addictions, relationship breakdowns, mental illness, stress burnouts, sudden career changes; people arrive at the gates of a health retreat with more baggage than Heathrow and there’s a very high ratio of dysfunction among guests willing to spend upwards of $10K for a week of outdoor exercise and extreme fibre.

People’s vulnerabilities tend to bubble to the surface at the compulsory communal meals as you’re stripped of the armour of your regular life. Lymphatic drainage combined with 5:30am tai chi and extreme carb deprivation puts a person quickly off-kilter.

When I’d enquired at this health retreat about a possible visit in the week before Christmas, they told me they would be delighted to accommodate me during their ‘sleep week’ program designed for people who had trouble with insomnia or other sleep disorders. The only sleep disorder I had was not getting enough of it due to 15 years of parenthood, a toddler and a business which was relentlessly sucking all available hours from my days and frequently my nights too.

As with most health retreats, this one informed me that the formal program of lectures and activities was optional but “we strongly encourage it so as to maximise the benefit of your stay”.

Related Content: "Imagine if we treated physical illness the same way we treated mental illness."

I’m very bad at resisting peer pressure and I suffer from chronic FOMO so I reluctantly decided to do all the activities and suck it up - even the 5:30am Tai Chi class, the health lectures and the group meals. I loathe group meals. I would rather self-harm with a fork.

I did enjoy my week, even though I hated everything for the first 48 hours with ferocious predictability. As you always do when thrown together with random strangers, I ended up bonding with some unlikely people including a hilarious wealthy couple who invited me back to their suite for a threesome one night after our sustainable, high protein group dinner.

He was in his late sixties, she her late fifties.

I graciously declined.

The regime at the retreat was strict. No sugar, no caffeine, no dairy, no wheat, no alcohol, no soy, no processed food and very few carbs. Basically my entire diet. Gone. Poof.

There was also no Internet or mobile phone use of any kind. For the first couple of days, I reeled. The withdrawal from sugar and tea and connectivity was brutal and I inhaled Panadol at regular intervals to deal with my crippling headaches.

But by day three I was kind of euphoric. Drunk on nothing but fresh air and pulses. The meals tasted delicious, the company was enjoyable and my chronic addiction to total sensory stimulation was interrupted. Much to my surprise, this interruption felt like relief.

Related Content: "When stress can be helpful, and 7 ways to cope when it's not."

I’ve always been happiest while multi-tasking. I like having stimulation bombard me from many different sources at once. Radio, screens, eating, drinking, TV in the background, the sound of people talking…I like to dive deep into sensory overload, even while I write.

Put me on a mountain with nothing except spearmint tea and a strict timetable of aqua Pilates, reiki massage and small talk with strangers and my system went into abrupt shock before reluctantly and then enthusiastically recalibrating itself.

I started loving the shit out of this clean living Zen business.

I’m nothing if not extreme. But would it, could it last? Was this kind of pure life sustainable for me?

The only other time I’d been to a health retreat, I’d celebrated at the airport on the way home by eating the biggest Kit Kat I could find washed down with a Chocolate Moove but this time I decided to take the detox home with me. Embrace it fully. Live the clean life forever.

This was a mistake.

At the time it seemed righteous and sensible. A clean break from my mildly toxic former lifestyle.

But it’s clear to me now that it was the most reckless and foolish thing I could have done and if you’re anything like me, I caution strongly against it.

You see, in the parallel universe of health retreats, there is - perversely - very little time to be idle or even think. Your days are jammed with activities, lectures, intimate conversations with strangers about bowel movements and treatments with exotic names and ambitious purposes like “Chakra Realignment Facial”. It can border on frantic. Also, everything is taken care of.

Someone tells you where to go and hands you a little card with your daily timetable on it each morning while you throw back your 6am shot of apple cider vinegar. You have no watch and no phone. There’s a team of people to cook and serve your sustainable meals and every need is pre-emptively met.. Someone is always there to tell you where to go next and what to do. You make no choices about food and you barely even have to decide what to wear; it’s 24/7 tracksuit pants, no make-up and dirty hair shoved under a cap. A health retreat is the opposite of real life in every possible way. It’s like being a very small child who is only expected to do the most basic of things for themselves, like chew their food and go to the toilet.

You’re also heavily indoctrinated in the evils of life’s pleasures: sugar, salt, alcohol, caffeine, bread, and connectivity. In one of my ’treatment’ sessions, I was warned by the naturopath of the carcinogenic effects of many of the things that held my life together, including stress. I instantly became extremely stressed about the idea of stress causing cancer.

Having drunk the sugar-free, organic Kool-Aid, when I returned home, I vowed with evangelical fervour that I would maintain these new healthy habits I’d formed in the previous five days.

I would make my entire life a health retreat dammit. Naturally, this meant dashing to the nearest health food store and spending hundreds of dollars on Amaranth flour, organic activated walnuts and Australian-grown chia seeds. I’d already bought every cookbook available at the health retreat gift shop, which, for someone who doesn’t cook, was impressively optimistic. I resumed none of my ‘bad’ habits after I returned home. No tea. No sugar. Few carbs. Nothing that wasn’t organic. Including beauty products and water. And I kept my external stimulation down to an absolute bare minimum including no radio of any kind, not even music in the car.

Of course this was much, much harder to do surrounded by a world of “normal” people who were just getting on with their lives than it had been when I was safely ensconced in the retreat bubble. This cooking my own meals thing was a goddamn bitch.

Still, I pushed through.

It was just before Christmas, work was winding down and we left for our annual summer holiday to Byron Bay with the kids. Just to make sure I stayed on message, the universe took this opportunity to crash the hard drive on my laptop. It couldn’t be revived.

The significance of this technology fail on my psyche cannot be overstated. As a writer and online publisher, I have an intensely intimate relationship with my laptop. It’s an extension of who I am. It’s my handbag, my wardrobe, my office, my creativity and my brain in physical form. I am hugely dependent on it not just to do my work but also to live my life. I think it would be easier for me to live without my car. Or tea.

So yes, thank you Universe for leaving me completely untethered and alone with my herbal fucking tea and my bullshit Acai berries.

*****

My nervous breakdown commenced very quietly on day three of our holiday, with a simple twinge in my lower abdomen one morning.

It was my ovary. I had cancer. It was obvious to me in the same way I knew I had brown eyes. An unshakable fact.

I knew ovarian cancer was usually terminal and that it worked quite quickly. It had few symptoms which would explain why I seemed otherwise healthy. But I was going to die. That small twinge on Christmas Eve as I got out of bed was all it took to catapult me into a crippling anxiety attack that would last 12 days.

On the outside I appeared relatively normal if withdrawn. My husband later said he could tell something was up but he was fairly accustomed to my moods so he had no idea what I was experiencing, even as we spent every day and night together with the kids. Children are wonderfully self-absorbed so they wouldn’t have picked up anything either. I wasn’t curled in a corner. I wasn’t in bed. I was walking around and talking and going to the beach and to dinner and all the normal things you do while on holidays.

"I posed for holiday happy snaps as if everything was normal"

We had Christmas and took photos and all the while, I was going through the motions while my mind and body were virtually paralysed with fear.

There was the clenching in my stomach. The absolute frantic dread that made my heart beat fast and my bones ache. All day. The unshakable belief I was dying. What about my children? I was so stricken at the thought of leaving them, I could barely function through the horror.

Every day, hundreds of times, I imagined saying goodbye to my family. I imagined my funeral in vivid detail. I imagined my kids growing up without me. And it was sickeningly real, like watching a documentary about someone else’s tragic life cut short by a terrible disease.

All overlaid with the utter certainty that this was real and inevitable and happening to me right now.

. I couldn’t tell Jason because by some magical thinking, that would make it even more real. I couldn’t deal with his reaction to my impending death. We would have to tell the kids I was dying and I couldn’t bear it,

I went through the motions of preparing for Christmas, buying presents for the kids, assembling a makeshift tree and it was all made deeply poignant and tragic because I knew it would be one of only a handful of Christmases left for us as a family, maybe the last. How the hell were my children going to live without me? How was I to bear the agony of not seeing them grow up?

If depression is a heavy, listless, exhausted feeling, this was the opposite. It was panic. Like I was under a dramatic, imminent threat.

The only thing that brought me any brief respite from the terror and dread was exercise. I went for long walks and runs on the beach, I did surfing lessons and I went horse riding. When I was active and madly distracted, the tsunami of fear receded just a little. Adrenaline and endorphins helped. So did wine.

I began to crave my nightly glass because it took the edge off. Within days I began contemplating drinking in the morning. The tiny part of my brain still rooted in logic stopped me from doing it but I could see how easy it would be to self-medicate anxiety with alcohol. Going a few generations back in my family tree, I suddenly saw how that may have been happened.

When I was exercising or drinking wine, I wasn’t able to have fun or enjoy myself - not even close - but it gave my mind some very brief respite from the anguish and grief about the fact I was dying and my children would have to grow up without their mum.

"I went through the motions of doing normal holiday things but I was numb and fearful during every moment"

Bizarrely enough, the only other time I could escape was when I was asleep. I had no trouble sleeping during the 12 days of my anxiety attack; something my therapist and other doctors later agreed was extremely rare.

I’ve always been able to sleep, no matter what else was going on in my life. It’s a gift. Or else I’m just really shallow. Either or. There was one other brief moment of respite and it came from Jennifer Hawkins. Just after Christmas, a new issue of Marie Claire had come out with a naked, unretouched Jennifer Hawkins on the cover. It was their ‘body image’ issue and it had provoked a predictable media storm during the traditionally quiet New Year news cycle. Many people were furious that a genetically blessed former Miss Universe had been chosen as a symbol of body acceptance.

Through the fog of my panic attack, I had strong feelings. I always do on the subject of body image. And so I borrowed my husband’s computer and I wrote about it with laserlike focus for Mamamia. The hour or two I spent bashing out my story was a blessed respite from the suffocating panic I’d been strangled by for days

And then it was back to the fear. The relief I’d felt from connecting to the world should have given me a clue as to a possible source of….treatment, if that’s the right word. Working, writing, engaging makes me feel good.

But I didn’t make the connection between my stringent detox and the anxiety that had parachuted in to fill the space created when I dismantled the very scaffolding around which my life was built.

This panic attack response seemed to be a massive fuck you from my mind, pissed off at having all its toys taken away.

Years later I would sit in a giant theatre listening to author Elizabeth Gilbert talk about how crazy she gets when she’s not working, saying of the creative mind, “If it’s not making something, it’s breaking something” and I would feel a jolt of recognition surge through me. That’s exactly it.

My mind had nothing to do so it was trashing the joint.

And I was feeling truly trashed. It was a dirty type of adrenaline this anxiety, like speed. I was utterly devoid of endorphins.

Ordinarily, the way I deal with things is to talk about them, with my friends, my husband, my Mum. But for reasons I couldn’t understand, my anxiety was trapping me behind very thick glass. It was like being in that nightmare where you tried to scream but no sound came out.

The worst part of mental illness of course, is not being able to find respite from your own mind. My anxiety was like my evil conjoined twin. My ugly shadow. And the realization that I couldn’t escape made me despair. I understood how intertwined depression and anxiety could become and I sensed myself slipping further down into the quicksand.

*****

About a week in, it got so bad that I considered seeking medical help. A doctor….hospital. But because I was in Byron Bay, my irrational mind was certain that if I tried to tell someone how I was feeling, they would scoff and assume I was just on drugs.

Eventually, towards the end, I began to open up. The first person I confided in was one of my closest friends who has struggled with depression. I knew she would understand the shame that comes with admitting your mind has taken a really bad wrong turn. I haltingly told her about the ovarian cancer and she interrupted me, insisting I speak to an ex-boyfriend of hers who had experienced the same thing. “He was convinced he had prostate cancer! Oh my God, he described it identically to what you’ve just said”

She gave me his number and promised to tell him to expect my call.

Within half an hour I was speaking to Mark and it was a revelation. My condition had a name: somatism. The anxious belief that you were suffering from a particular illness, often a form of cancer, that leads you to experience phantom symptoms of that illness, further convincing you of your diagnosis. It’s like a severe form of hypochondria but very specific. That phone call with Mark - who described my twisted thought-processes with incredible accuracy as he told me about his own experience and eventual recovery - marked the beginning of the end of my 12 day nightmare.

"The only respite I got from my panic attack was when I was exercising or intensely focussed on something"

Slowly, my adrenal levels began to lower, the anxiety gradually releasing its hold around my throat and my heart. After speaking with Mark, I found the courage to tell Jason and his reaction astonished me.

He dismissed my cancer diagnosis with an affectionate and sympathetic smile, like you would when a child tells you they’ve had a bad dream.

He encouraged me to call the therapist I sometimes saw and she was fantastic too, calming me down, and pointing out that my extreme detox had triggered a severe reaction.

*****

For the rest of my holiday and for weeks and weeks afterwards, I was exhausted. The 12-day adrenaline surge had taken a huge toll and I felt like I’d run 100 marathons.

I returned home with my family and began a series of medical appointments with various doctors and specialists to try and diagnose what had happened.

And of course the fear of it happening again walked beside me like a malevolent shadow.

Related content: "The words that could have changed your life."

Now that I was calmer, I had the time and ability to reflect. Slowly, I realised I had suffered from anxiety all my life. As I child I’d often been convinced my parents had been killed in a car accident when they were a little late home from work. I’d imagined my trusted babysitter was in fact a kidnapper who would rip off a mask and reveal her true self at any moment.

Since I’d become a mother, my anxiety had manifested into a chronic fear of flying. I knew with complete certainty that the plane was going to crash and my body spent the days before I had to board until the moment we landed, braced for that crash. I had to take medication to fly, even domestically. It was exhausting and debilitating.

Apart from every time I had to board a plane there were two other occasions when I’d experienced panic attacks similar to my 12 day nightmare.

The first time was 10 years ago when I was in New York six months after 9/11 for a work conference. I had been terribly anxious about going in the first place due to terrorism and my fear of flying was at its peak but while I was there there was a new terrorist scare and I went into an instant spiral of intense panic that lasted for days until I landed safely back home.

As always, I continued to step through my normal life but I was like a ghost. Twisted into knots inside, my mind racing, my mouth dry.

More recently, a couple of years ago the same reaction was triggered by a routine breast examination when my GP found a suspicious area and suggested I get a mammogram to check it out. She wasn’t worried, she reassured me, it was just a precaution but I couldn’t process that. On each occasion my mind skipped straight to the part where I was going to die with such unshakable certainty that it was excruciating.

This most recent attack had been the worst though, and unlike the previous two situations, which had at least begun with some real level of legitimate threat or health concern, this one had been totally sparked by my imagination. The brutality of it had left me shattered and shaken.

"After 12 days of terror, I was shattered."

Clearly, I had a problem. And with three children to care for, a business to run with my husband, employees to manage and a life to lead, I could not afford to live like this, waiting for the next attack. I needed help to manage it. So my therapist referred me to another counsellor she knew who worked specifically with anxiety patients.

This guy was a believer in anxiety attacks being the body’s way of dealing with some latent, supressed trauma. I couldn’t think of any major trauma in my life beyond the usual personal challenges that everyone goes through but his belief was that even minor trauma could cause major damage to our psyche.

In the one session I had with him, he said that he recommends just being still and curling up until it passes, even if that takes several months.

When I recounted his advice to my own therapist, she was dismissive. “For heaven’s sake, you have a family and a business. You can’t sit in the foetal position for three months! No. We have to fix this now.”

I was relieved to hear this because I was didn’t think I could spare three months or even three days to curl up and be still. Not to mention the fact a version of that is what got me here in the first place.

My therapist sent me to a psychiatrist who specialised in treating anxiety. He was a lovely man who listened to me and nodded and then gently said, “Mia, from what you’ve told me I would say you have a severe form of generalised anxiety disorder.”

He explained it to me like this. The adrenal gland in most people will release adrenaline when your mind senses you’re in danger. So if you’re walking down the street and you hear footsteps, it will release adrenaline so that if you need to run or defend yourself your body will be ready. The is known as the fight-or-flight response. But just say those footsteps pass you and you realise you’re not actually in danger, your adrenal gland will stop releasing adrenaline, your heart will stop beating and your mind will stop racing.

When you suffer from anxiety, your adrenal gland behaves as if a homicidal maniac is chasing you, even when you’re sitting alone in your lounge room drinking a cup of tea.

It’s a chemical imbalance. One that can be treated with medication. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to treat anxiety that can also work. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be effective for some people and so can regular talking therapy.

But if anxiety is impairing your day-to-day functioning as it was mine, he explained, medication can make a big difference.

He prescribed a drug called Lexapro, which is used to treat anxiety, and he cautioned that sometimes when you start taking it, the symptoms could get slightly worse before you feel better.

This terrified me and so he suggested starting on half a tablet. I was still wary and he smiled patiently before he very kindly said, “I can see you’re getting anxious about your dosage of anxiety medication”.

We had a chuckle about that and I left his office feeling massively relieved.

*****

Four years later, here’s where I’m at. I take Lexapro every day and it has changed my life. The knot in my stomach is gone. And it was only after it had gone that I realised how prevalent it had been.

For me, the cancer fear and the somatism was an extreme manifestation of my anxiety but on most days of my life, I had just lived with an uncomfortable sense of unease about nothing in particular. Occasionally I could tag it to a particular situation in my life but mostly it was just….there. Making everything feel somehow ominous and joyless.

I still get breakthrough anxiety sometimes and I’m still paranoid about cancer. But when I started talking about my anxiety to my friends, my colleagues and my family, I was startled to learn how common it is. People with anxiety can remain very high functioning – on the outside. They can still care for their children and do their jobs and go to school and mix in with the world. But they’re going through the motions, living with their minds somewhere else and with fear in their bones.

It can be chronic and crippling.

Along with Lexapro, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety in other ways too. I need lots of sleep and I need to exercise every day. I need to keep my mind busy and active and I don’t drink coffee or take drugs. And I try to limit my exposure to stories about cancer or mothers being suddenly taken from their children.

Also, I name it. When I’m having a bad day I say to my husband “my anxiety is really bad today”. Or when I get a twinge or a pain and I feel that familiar fear, I will say to him quite seriously, “Do you think I’m…sick?” And he will reassure me and I will remember that my mind likes to play tricks on me.

I also have regular health tests; mammograms and ultrasounds. I do it probably more for my mental health than my physical health and it’s expensive but I don’t apologise for it. If that’s what it takes to help alleviate my anxiety, it’s worth it.

It’s taken me a long time to write about this. Years. There is a stigma about mental illness, no matter how much there shouldn’t be. There are also ill-informed buffoons who shoot their mouths off in the media, sneering that it doesn’t exist, trying to shame anyone who seeks help for anxiety or depression and calling them whingers or wimps or bad mothers.

Actually, I find the opposite to be true. The best thing I have ever done for my children, my relationship, my career and my SELF is to seek help for my anxiety and to take the advice of experts.

I come from a long line of anxious people and sadly, many of them were unable to benefit from medication or social and medical understanding of mental health conditions like anxiety.

Gratitude is a word that is overused these days. But I don’t think I’m being trite when I say how grateful I am to be able to seek help, to get it and to speak about it so that others who are suffering in miserable, anxious silence might be able to do the same. If you think you have a problem with anxiety, you probably do. But it’s a problem that can be fixed. Reach out. Get help. It’s the strongest, bravest thing you can do.

To find out more about anxiety – including what causes it, the signs and symptoms and the types of treatments available – click here to go to beyondblue. 

To subscribe to Mia's free weekly newsletter where she writes exclusive content about her life, shares links to what she's reading online and includes photos of her often ridiculous outfits, go here. 

At Debrief Daily we are committed to telling honest, personal stories about the real-life experiences of women. If you would like to submit a story for publication either in your own name or anonymously, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at info@mamamia.com.au

To find out more about living and dealing with anxiety try 'Finally Free' - a strategy filled e-book that teaches you how to understand, manage and conquer your panic and anxiety. Read more about it here.

What do you think?

lol
happy
love
wow
sad
angry

Join the Conversation

  • Sarah Dow

    I read this thinking, thank god it’s not just me! ALL of it from the mammogram scare to the insane fear of flying, imagining your funeral, imagining the worst case scenario about everything. Some days I actually stop & can feel how exhausted I am from this constant crushing worry & fear & I don’t know how I can go on forever feeling like this. I told my husband on New Year’s Day that my resolution is to get my anxiety under control & reading this has made me more determined.
    I want to be free….

  • Piper Packshaw

    I’m crying- Thank you for so beautifully and painfully articulating what so many of us suffer with each and every day. I feel stronger and braver after reading this, I feel not so alone in my own struggles.
    Honestly, thank you Mia. x

  • Brannon Stark

    I used to suffer from an anxiety disorder for about 15 years so I am very familiar with the horrible symptoms that anxiety & panic attack sufferers have to live with both physically & mentally. After spending countless hours of online research, going to specialists, online discussions & various medications I finally found great relief from my anxiety disorder which has calmed down dramatically over the past 18 months to the point I would now consider myself anxiety free. Ive written some tips for anxiety sufferers below:

    1. Take Valerian supplements. It is one of the best supplements for anxiety because it increases the availability of GABA in the brain. Valerian also helps with insomnia and is known to have very few side effects.

    2. Follow every step in the video & guide at:
    curehealthproblem*com/anxiety (obviously change the * for a dot as it won’t let me post links here). This will tackle the root of anxiety in a NATURAL way via the ’60 ss’. This is very important!

    3. Take up one of the following: tai chi, yoga or meditation (any other sport will also work). Not only will it boost serotonin in the brain through exercise but it will improve mental state due to offering yourself a distraction. While you are distracted for long periods of time your brain will even forget anxiety exists and so its important to do this for as long periods as possible.

    Try those two steps and hopefully you will get as much luck with getting rid of your anxiety as i did. Obviously regular exercise, certain diets (drink camomile tea) & losing weight etc will have a positive effect but you should try tackle the root cause of anxiety, and remain strong minded about it as you don’t have to suffer forever. Good luck <3

    xxxx

  • James

    Thank you. Very similar to what happened to me also, although for me it came out of the blue as I do not think I had been much of a worrier previously. The worst part is the various phantom physical symptoms that are so real. And in my case it came with severe insomnia which of course became its own source of anxiety. Knowing what medication you use was very interesting as being on medication also fed my anxiety and so to hear about experiences such as yours is very helpful. For me, and I’m sure many others, it was not a decision taken lightly as some seem to assume.

  • Jessica Williams

    What will i do to thank Doctor Atete the great spell caster for the help he rendered to me? how do i appreciate him for helping me get my lover back after 9 years of breakup? this is a testimony i must share because Doctor Atete is a God on earth. My heart is filled with Joy because Meyer the father of my three children is back. He left me 9 years ago for Jessica and said he does not love me any more because we had a fight, though i did all i could to get him back but my effort seems abortive just 4 days ago a friend of mine told me about Doctor Atete who helped her to solve all relationship problems so i decided to contact him also via email. Today i want to let the world know that Doctor Atete’s spell is active, he is a man of his word and can be trusted 100% because as i speak now Meyer the father of my three children came back to me yesterday on his knees begging me to forgive and accept him back. Do you need help of any kind then Contact Doctor Atete today via Email: doctoratetespelltemple@hotmail.com or website:http://drzazazworldofpowerfulspellwebscom.webs.com or Whats-app: +2348068784784 or call him: +2348068784784 or +2347056505954

  • rsanchez1

    From what you wrote, I get the feeling your psychiatrist didn’t tell you the whole truth, either through lack of knowledge or deliberately to put you on pharmaceuticals.

    Your adrenal gland doesn’t behave like a homicidal maniac. Your adrenal gland is working as intended, preparing the body for a perceived threat. The brain identifies a threat and the adrenal gland responds to better enable the body to survive the threat. The brain’s adaptability enables it to identify the threat more quickly next time it appears beyond the need to be consciously aware of it.

    The problem is when this adaptive system starts identifying anything as a threat. This is not a permanent chemical imbalance that requires pharmaceuticals to fix. Change the brain’s response to threats and the brain’s same adaptive system will stop prioritising detection of those perceived threats. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the therapies that aims to change the brain’s response to threats.

    Some people start associating the adrenaline rush’s effect on the body as a threat, and this can cause anxiety that sustains itself for some time. Adrenaline increase muscle tension and when this is sustained you can feel pain in all sorts of weird places, which can cause fear of having heart disease or cancer. The fear will of course feed back on itself to leave you paralyzed with anxiety. But breaking this cycle of thought can help relieve symptoms over time.

    You were startled to learn how common this is because you did not know this is a system developed through millions of years of evolution that is working as intended in almost everyone we know. The problem with us anxious folk is that the system identifies non-threats as threats, but this can be resolved. True recovery doesn’t come from avoiding adrenaline or avoiding triggers like stories on cancer, but in facing these triggers, knowing they are not a threat, and reducing your response to them over time.

  • Response to Mia Freedman’s article – recieved via email:

    As a mental health researcher and clinical psychologist I can tell you that mental health issues are not discussed enough, so it is commendable that Mia Freedman has chosen to spread the word to help others. Given the online response to her article, her story has resonated with so many readers. The symptoms she describes are typical of anxiety disorders which are suffered by approximately 1 in 8 people. While Mia describes one type of anxiety, there are many different types. For some it might be health concerns, a fear of a specific object like a spider or high places, or fear of talking to people. Some people worry about lots of things, others only about one. What is similar about anxiety disorders is that they all refer to heightened periods of anxiety symptoms, such as constant feelings of unease, racing heart or shakiness, dizziness, chest discomfort, and an upset stomach which cause interference in a person’s life.

    We all feel anxious sometimes; we are meant to. Anxious symptoms are there to alert us to danger. However, sometimes anxious symptoms persist and are activated by only mildly threatening situations, like running late or having too much to do, and get in the way of being able to function in life. This is when we need to do something about it.

    Fortunately there are really good treatments available. Both medications and psychological treatments can make tremendous differences to people’s lives regardless of what type of anxiety a person suffers. There are also some simple things, such as exercise and getting enough sleep that can help reduce anxiety, but are often not enough when anxiety is really bad. Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective type of non-pharmacological treatment for anxiety. It works by teaching people to refute anxious thoughts and to focus on the reality of what is most likely to happen rather than the catastrophic thing our mind might be suggesting. In addition, cognitive behavioural therapy (also called CBT) teaches people to approach fear rather than avoid it. Avoiding things that make us feel afraid actually maintains the anxiety and fear. Instead, by approaching the fear repeatedly we are able to learn that the situation is not so dangerous after all, and that turns off the danger alarm system in our brain that was activated to cause the symptoms in the first place. Research shows that CBT is the most effective psychological treatment, that is short term (8-12 sessions), and focuses on current problems. The benefits are long lasting as they teach people skills to manage their anxiety that they can use if anxiety pops up again.

    Two of the biggest barriers to people seeking help is people not recognising that their symptoms are bad enough to warrant treatment, or a desire to help themselves. When anxiety symptoms start to impact on happiness and functionality then it is time to do something about it. People can talk to their GP for a referral to a psychologist that specialises in CBT, or ask to see a psychiatrist if they’d prefer medication. People can also visit the referral directory of the Australian Psychological Society http://www.psychology.org.au to find a psychologist in their area (look for one that specialises in cognitive behavioural). Readers local to Sydney can get CBT at the Centre for Emotional Health Clinic, Macquarie University, North Ryde for children, adults and older adults http://www.centreforemotionalhealth.com.au. For those who would prefer online CBT treatment visit http://www.ecentreclinic.org.au, and there are also good self-help CBT books that can help you to apply CBT to your anxiety.

    Dr Viviana Wuthrich, Centre for Emotional Health

  • Richard O’Neill

    Thank you for writing and publishing this.

  • Krista

    A very beautifully written piece that has left me feeling extremely emotional. I sit here with tears steaming down my face as my husband and child are sleeping, I feel like waking him up and making him read Mia’s words. I have suffered from anxiety ALL my life, I was extremely shy and anxious as a child and now have a child (with Austism Spectrum Disorder) who is himself extremely anxious, watching him at times is like watching myself as a child. I’ve been on medication for anxiety and depression for more than half my life, I’ve tried many different medications over the years, but Lexapro isn’t one if them. I’ll be calling my (latest) psychologist in the morning to make an appointment to see her again. I don’t drink alcohol, instead I eat and right now I’m trying to resist.

  • David Barrow

    October 2014, in a defamation trial against Andrew Bolt (of the NewsCorp stable), I publicly disclosed for the first time that that I have a bipolar condition well-managed with medication since 2007.

    One ‘benefit’ (sort of) from having an illness that was raging untreated for so long is that I have some lengthy comparative time periods with and without medication.

    Here’s my timeline:

    1989: age 19 onset of bipolar symptoms: disruption to relationships, career and finances due to manic and depressive moods. This raged for the next 18 years.

    2005: age 36 first bipolar medical diagnosis after attending psychiatric sessions for 6 months.
    Diagnosis confirmed through second opinion of world leading psychiatrist Prof Isaac Schweitzer.

    29 March 2007: after 2 years of resistance I finally started taking Lithium. Very positive results stabilising moods which enabled me to work the regular hours of a job again. Since then have taken Lithium daily for 8 years and added Lamotrigine in Dec 2007 to give more protection against depression. It should be noted that these bipolar medications can have serious harmful side-effects; although I have not suffered
    any that I am aware of or have shown up in regular blood tests.

    Summary: 19 years with no symptoms; then 18 years bipolar raged without medication; then 8 years on bipolar meds and have achieved mood stability.

    I would recommend people with disruptive moods seek out an opinion, or a couple of them, from a healthcare professional, and also consider medication. For me it has been a miracle and perhaps it will work wonders for you as well.

    For all the insight and empathy-awareness that came from the 18 years between 1989 and 2007 of whiteknuckled, untreated rapid-cycling bipolar chaos, I would have preferred that someone encouraged me to explore medical help earlier. In my case, it would have saved me much needless suffering.
    David Barrow

  • David Barrow

    Mia Freedman’s father Laurence Freedman responds to a nasty piece on this article by the usually insightful Guy Rundle (Crikey):

    Re. “Rundle: the dark side to Mia Freedman’s life blather” (Monday). Guy, I regularly read your posts with interest — insightful and relevant. However, the post about Mia Freedman was both cynical and uninformed. You assumed that someone else wrote the piece. Not so. She did write it — her language and style is unmistakable. You trivialised the problem of her anxiety, clearly having never experienced it. Regrettably your cynical comment about her mentioning the drug that has helped her and her search for therapeutic help lays you open to the same criticism of style over substance- something not often seen in your posts.

    A little research, or direct communication may have resulted in a more understanding article and a more sympathetic take, not only on her particular plight, but that of the many sufferers of anxiety and depression. Knowing something of the media myself, I understand that, in the same way as Mia’s writing is in the language and style of her audience, so is yours. However, your target demographic is quite different from hers and in my opinion, by using the language that you did, you missed your target. A small, yet important, lost opportunity. Look forward to reading your next posts. By the way — liked your in-depth post on Malcolm Fraser. He sat on our boards for about 15 years. Chaired a number of audit committees. Always difficult for him to open up, due to shyness which came across as aloofness. Had little small talk but loved to talk about cars and always chose expensive wines for meal times and armagnac after. Not so different from most men.

  • I love this story Mia. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anita Johnson

    THANKYOU Mia! I burst into tears when I read your piece. I’ve been plagued by crippling anxiety for the past three weeks. It started with an overactive bladder one morning out of the blue. Something in my head switched on and I’ve been completely debilitated with fear that I have some awful, chronic condition like MS. The symptoms are as real as the anxiety itself. I had another attack almost 12 months ago to the day with chronic headaches and fatigue thinking it was terminal. Then I had an attack again that manifested itself as pulsatile tinnitis late last year. Nothing in particular triggers these attacks. They just appear, like someone has turned a switch on in my brain. And, like you, I live with an uncomfortable sense of unease in between attacks. When I’m feeling OK, I then worry that I’m not worrying about anything. I first started to notice it when I was studying nursing. Studying microbiology triggered an attack of OCD where I would scrub my hands to the point they were raw. I found a way to somehow talk myself out of it. I then had an anxiety attack during my mental health placement and was counselled by my nursing facilitator who suggested that I had GAD. I laughed it off at the time and have managed to deal with it over the last 10 years, although it has constantly rumbled under the surface. Over the last few years the daily pressures of work and family life have taken its toll I guess and I can’t seem to manage my anxiety as well. I am always on the verge of tears, irritable and on edge. I find it difficult to concentrate. My mind feels dull. When I have attacks, like you, sleep is my only release. I had a breakdown at my GP and she has suggested starting me on Lexapro. I need to go back and discuss a mental health care plan as well. Reading your article has given me so much comfort and a sense of release that I’m not going crazy. That my somatism isn’t just “in my head”. Thank you Mia. Thank you

  • Vanessa

    Oh my, your story is mine, besides the running of my own business, but right down to the medication… thank you so much for writing this, it just goes to show that we arent alone.

  • Lucy Dinoto

    Thank you for sharing your story. Mine is very similar and im lucky to have a wonderful family to support me. I didnt know how common and painful it was until it happened to me. I now know how strong i can be because nothing is more frightening or painful then trying to get through it alone. Be brave be mindful and ask for help.

  • ELISSA LANCASTER

    Mia,

    thankyou THANKYOU for putting your anxiety into a relatable ENGLISH context. I have passed this on to many of my family members who for years have never understood what I was suffering with. I have had anxiety since the age of 9 when my Nanna passed and I was catapulted into a world where I now knew death existed, so of course from that moment on I believed everyone around me was going to die. I was afraid to go to school, I switched off all the power in the house at night just so I could sleep and my family didn’t burn alive while I was off watch. I was just a child and I felt it was my responsibility to worry enough and keep my family alive as long as I pre-empted all the bad things that were going to happen. Now that I am a mother my anxiety has been magnified and I have had many long weeks without any sleep as I continually get up to check everyone is breathing or am just so generally sick in my stomach sleep is impossible. 2 months ago, after endless suffering, numerous psychologists and 1048 yoga classes, an empty shell of myself shrunk down into the doctors chair, where I begged her to let me escape myself. Just a moment away from my own mind so I could breathe, reset and face another day. but its impossible to escape your own body and the horror and fear of this was eating me alive. Finally she suggested the big M WORD. MEDICATION, and finally I agreed. WELL THANKYOU GOD WHO COMES IN THE FORM OF MY DOCTOR. I am a different person thanks to Lexapro. I AM NORMAL. My kids complain of a headache and the rational part of my brain, (who knew I had one?) tells me its dehydration, not a brain tumour. they’ll cough and I no longer find myself late at night uploading youtube clips of whooping cough noises and sneaking into their room to compare sounds. Last year I diagnosed myself with a brain tumour (to name one!) and had numerous panic attack each time I had a headache as I thought this was finally it, I was going to die and leave my kids alone with their dad. I know, TERRIFYING! Thankyou Mia, thankyou for giving me the words I could never get out to have my family finally understand me. Because I was going to slap the next person silly who told me to “just relax” or “just don’t think about it”. I hope you have inspired other sufferers to give medication a go. Thanks to that tiny pill I take each day I am finally living, because before Lexapro, I wasn’t living. I was just surviving.

  • Thanks Mia! I’m a psych student and have only just realised through my studies that I’ve also been suffering anxiety most of my life. I was completely convinced as a child that if die when I was 14, thought I had AIDS for no good reason (those grim reaper ads traumatised this child of the 80s), thought my parents would die, then as a teenager I engaged in suicide ideation whenever anything went wrong, and these days its a fast-paced stream of anxious thoughts about my house falling down, dying of cancer (yes, me too), my children not meeting their potential due to my crap parenting etc etc. Exhausting! I went to my doctor hoping for medication but he just told me that he got tired doing post-grad studies while being a parent. Sigh. Not helpful.

    Anyway, if anyone wants to do CBT on themselves (unhelpful doctor, fear of psychs etc) then this website is useful: http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/resources/consumers.cfm The last link is for Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

    All the best!

  • Caro

    I’m actually a bit appalled by this article, and by the comments.

    It’s a serious drug you’re all taking, you know. And it has some serious side effects – like, no pregnant women should be taking it as it can cause birth deformities – and that’s just the start.

    I mean, didn’t anyone ever think of, you know, getting yourselves together and dealing with your anxiety, rather than masking it with a pill?

    • Petunia

      The process of taking medications and getting psychotherapy has completely changed my life for the better. I couldn’t do either without the other. OF COURSE the risk/benefit is weighed up, that is the job of professionals. The medication I take doesn’t mask anything – it is actively helping me “rewire” my brain and change permanently. Every time I react to a situation without unnecessary worry it makes it more likely I will react that way again when I am not taking medication. Don’t just take my word for it – there is ALOT of solid data out there to prove it. Lastly, dealing with the stigma of mental illness “just get myself together” is about 90% of the reason why people never get help and live with crippling fear, every damn day, about the tiniest things. Some worry is completely normal, and I hope that is the case for you – not for me. Am I worried about the effects of my medication? You betcha. But I work with my doctors to get the best outcomes. Under their guidance I will be coming off medications to try to get pregnant, and if I don’t need to take them again after that then great – but if not then the risks for me are worth it. Please educate yourself before judging people.
      Edit: on second thought just educate yourself – don’t judge people. You never know what someones journey has been like and what daemons they battle.

      • Faitchichi

        I agree with Caro.
        I really liked Mia’s story until the last paragraphs. Her journey was filled with ups and downs and she managed to tell her story with all she had. It was a story of a journey within the anxiety and i was looking forward to the end. Quite a suspense story really. Starting with the “make up world” of a health retreat to the revelation of the inadequacy of life. Reason vs ” demoniac illusions”. Mia managed; pointing out all the facts, we understand her very realistic attitude to deal with it: her daily live, her quest to ease this awful state… until the end, and the prescription of the drug. She said it herself,
        “Four years later(..) I take Lexapro every day and
        it has changed my life. The knot in my stomach is gone. (..) Occasionally I
        could tag it to a particular situation in my life but mostly it was
        just….there (..) Along with Lexapro, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety in other ways too”. Suspense of over. She is tired of dealing with it. She gave it up and handled it to the drugs. Back to square zero, she is still not coping, she is now in the hand of the para-pharmaceutical world dealing for life with the problem. ( she said it her self she is still managing it). Every day she takes that pill it is a reminder that she has anxiety. Is that a way to deal with it? Every day a woman takes a contraceptive pill it is to tell herself “next time i have sex i would not be pregnant”. There is nothing wrong with it. But it is what it is. The drug is a reminder of what we don’t want. I felt that Mia dealt with the disease better when she was actually in it than now she is asleep with it because of the prescription drugs that reassures her every day that she has that disease but it is ok. To all telling us that we are un-educated, relax! it is always unconformable to have another take on personal/ emotional subject. it is easy to jump into conclusion. We are all women. Let the expression of thoughts be free! Maybe take it on board and seek for another solution. Yes of course the drug can help, is helping. But i feel that Mia is not free. Mia’s encounter with anxiety is not an happy ending. i certainly can’t related to it as an inspiration to “a fell better” outcome. She is prisoner of the disease with or without the drug. In all, this is a sad story. I can only hope she meets someone who will really help her. I can recommend the reading of Dr Libby’s books. No judgement, just another approach. You can only try, until you are truly free.

    • Silly response Caro. Please don’t ever work with mentally ill people. If people could ‘get themselves together’ don’t you think that they would have?! This is a seriously debilitating illness and you can’t just switch it off. Psych interventions have the highest rates of efficacy but medications are also recommended for those with severe anxiety. You should have a look at the Beyond Blue website and educate yourself.

    • Krista

      I’m finding it difficult to decide whether you are serious! It’s this sort of unhelpful, clearly clueless opinions that make people with anxiety try to get through by themselves and not seek help for fear that they will be considered weak. In future Caro please engage your brain, prior to your fingertips, before making any further hurtful, uninformed comments again.

    • Caro

      If you are all completely and utterly paralysed by anxiety, unable to function at all, desperately in need of help – sure, take whatever you need to, it’s not for me to judge.

      However, I think we are often too quick to pop a pill for the slightest issue. Psychologists are currently working with other techniques, such as Mindfulness, which are helpful and can be explored – and might stop you needing to take a serious drug for who knows how long. Or sometimes we need to adjust our lives and attitudes and expectations.

      Someone above said they were tired all the time and someone else suggested she “get help”. Do we really want people on medication for being tired? Is that the way we’re all going – a world with everyone experiencing stress living their lives on mind altering medication?

      And finally, I am also concerned about the drug name mentioned here and whether this is really just a sponsored post or clever form of advertising.

  • Rose

    Thank you for sharing your story. I tried to avoid taking medication for years by changing my diet, swimming and going for regular walks but when my work load increased dramatically, this was simply not enough to take the edge off. I have been taking Lexapro for 9 months now. It has stopped the knot in my stomach also and allowed me to function better at work.

  • Gabrielle Mary Morgan

    I am a longtime Lexapro Lady…every so often I over focus on taking the pill rather than the underlying necessity of why; I was told if I were a diabetic I wouldn’t queston insulin to assist the condition. I have been told over worrying about illness or another unrealistic concern may be masking an overwhelming sense of responsibility or having too many balls in the air. Thinkin we are sick makes us stop, direct our focus inward because often we need to justify feeling crappy with a medical justification. The voice in our head is not a friendly voice: and it certainly doesn’t condone when mind trumps body…..YOU WILL BE OK -l.ROCK ON

  • Debra

    Thank you so much for writing this. It could have come straight out of my own head – I have the same type of GAD. The more we talk about it, the more it helps others.

  • Paula

    Thank you for sharing your story. Even though I know there are so many people suffering from anxiety and depression it is nice to be reminded that I’m not alone and I’m not crazy, I’m doing the best I can in managing my mental health. I now think of it as people have Diabetes and take medication adjust their lifestyle and depression/anxiety is no different, it is just part of who we are.

  • Satyam

    Thank you Mia for sharing your story so honestly and openly. Medication can be a great short term solution to anxiety however there are better long term solutions, such as dealing with and feeling the trauma. From your description it sounds like you have a fear of death, which we all have, and avoid feeling and facing for most of our lives. As a result we avoid really living life, which is meant to be easy, joyful and happy. Your experience is a wonderful opportunity for transformation. Check out this movie: http://www.deathmakeslifepossible.com Take care and wish you all the best for your healing.

  • kelly

    Thank you Mia. Your story truly mirrors mine… the self diagnosis of disease, the visions of my funeral, my children without a mum, fear of flying etc etc. All of a sudden I feel normal, I feel sane and I now know others have the same story too. What a relief!

  • Katherine Garske

    I am one week in from a complete breakdown. Even though I’ve sought help, this has come like a rope being thrown. We struggle, bravely and all too often silently through this life with a cloud without a name. Thank you Mia.

  • Joanie

    Wow Mia! Thanks for sharing a difficult experience and allowing the opportunity for discussion to be opened up.

    Can anyone tell me their experiences with side effects from lexapro or other anxiety meds? I know someone who went off them because of weight gain/ flatulence – both which made her feel self conscious and socially awkward. I have had anxiety since I could remember but I’m finding it hard to make the leap that I might need medication especially if it’s going to give me side effects. Loss of libido and insomnia are not things I want to deal with, considering both would really be just as life affecting. Are there people out there who are on anxiety meds and have had no side effects?

    Also, since I’ve had this from childhood, does that mean I was born mentally ill?? Why does normal have to be happy-happy, arn’t there different types of normal just as there are different types of personalities or eye colours or hair-types? I’ve just always accepted that this is my normal, that there are some people who are happier types, some people who are quieter or sadder, some people who are more anxious – I’m also a creative type and I know creatives seem more prone to anxiety/depression. I’ve always had that knotted ball in my stomach, sometimes it’s worse, sometimes not so bad, depending on what else is going on in my life and stress levels. I’ve had three panic attacks in my life, the first two due to a crappy life event and the third unexpectedly when I was in a crowded place, but I realised what was happening and removed myself, breeeeeeathed and got it under control.

    I also find my anxiety is definately affected by sleep and also excersise and diet. Magnesium supplements help a great deal. I understand that when it gets to a level like Mia’s then medication is necessary but what do others think about whether it is manageable by being careful with these other aspects of your life rather than going on medication? Have others tried this and needed meds anyway?

  • Kath

    Thank you Mia. :) xo

  • Tegan Kruger

    Wow, this is my story to a tee except I took far too long to seek help. Thanks for sharing, it makes me feel slightly more sane x

  • Tiffany Lou

    Thank you Mia for sharing your experience. Your courage is applauded by myself and so many others that have experienced various forms of mental health challenges along their journey. The more we are all open about what we have had to suffer, face or endure, the less stigma will be attached hopefully. If the conversation continues, less people will feel alone and hopeless and will find that life CAN be lived abundantly …. Bravo, brave and strong Mama!!

  • Kylie Oehme

    Thankyou Mia :)

  • Emily

    Thanks for sharing Mia, I can absolutely completely empathise – anxiety is a mega bitch!! Seriously though, thank you for telling your story, it is some how comforting to know that some one who externally seems to have it all managed perfectly still suffers from the same mind tricks as I do.

  • Heather Dowling

    Thank you. Really, sincerely, thank you for so eloquently explaining what it’s like to have this horrible illness rob you of the enjoyment of your life. I’m going to ask my loved ones to read this article because it explains how I experience the world with anxiety so accurately. Thanks again for being brave enough to share your experiences.

  • SarahW

    I am in total awe. Thank you. I still can’t talk about my anxiety and am deeply embarrassed. Your story is so familiar to me. You have made me feel that taking medication is normal. I am normal.

  • Mishka

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story. My take: your mind is fine. What you suffered is a spiritual attack (not nice). When you went to the ‘health’ retreat, you probably participated (unknowingly) in something that ‘opened’ a door. The result is, feelings and beliefs you think are yours – totally convincing – but they are not from you and it is not you. Your mind is fine :-)

  • Gin Savage

    I found it so helpful to read this. Thank you so so so much for sharing your experience. I am so glad to hear that you have found something that works for you and that you can enjoy your life more xoxoxoxoxoxo

  • Nikki Duff

    Thank you for sharing your journey Mia. Its very difficult & scary at the time, but its amazingly surprising on how many people out there are suffering this challenging mental illness, in silence. Again, thank you for sharing and I hope you continue to take care of yourself. #bekindtoyourself Xx

  • MaeBear

    I’m sending this link to people to help explain my situation- it’s all me…
    The chronic fear of cancer, me dying and leaving my 3 children, my childen dying and leaving me. Trying to raise the children whilst running a business and house. The chronic fear of flying that developed when I became a mother (crippled in fear for months before I fly and absolutely could not fly unmedicated even domestically). I too am on lexapro. I tried to stop 18mths ago as I have put on 10kgs since starting but I couldn’t even cope with mundane things like seeing dishes pile up. I spent so much energy trying not to fall apart and reinforce my thought with positive thinking that I was exhausted. So exhausted I had no more patience left for my family. I didn’t want to be a bad mum or wife so made the decision to go back on lexapro. I said to my husband “I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and scared” ☺️

  • Solidarity

    Thank you Mia. In some ways, it’s the isolation and loneliness of the experience that are the most depleting and debilitating. The feeling of being undetstood (which your words offered) is so significant to others with the same illness.

  • Claire

    Bravo Mia. Thank you for sharing.

  • blob_the_builder

    I came here on a link from Guy Rundle’s article at crikey.com thinking it was parody … and I’m still not sure.

    • Caro

      Sadly it’s not. And this website is likely getting p a i d for promoting this drug.

      • Louise

        OMG!!! You’re so right. And this is so wrong.

  • This is so refreshingly open and honest. Thank you! I used to refer to this as being “A missing person in a body”. It’s terrifying.

  • Phoebe

    I tell everyone I know that feels this way to go to their dr and get lexapro. I started taking it for post-natal depression and haven’t looked back since. I realised that I had suffered anxiety since I was a kid and had not really enjoyed life properly because I was always “stressing” about something. I still feel a little embarrassed that I need meds to get through life, but quality of life is more important!

  • Guest

    Thank you for sharing this Mia. I too have been suffering/living with GAD for much of my adult life (I’m 32). One of my anxiety triggers is actually being afraid that I have some deep-seated trauma in my life, and so hearing that a specialist you went to see recommended this as a course of treatment does rattle me a bit. But ultimately, following that whole treatment approach doesn’t alleviate my anxiety, so I choose not to partake in it.

  • Rebecca

    I am a bit of a cancer girl myself :) Off to watch some Scandal.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks Mia. Describes it all perfectly. For me, it rocked up when I was supposed to be relaxing. I think the body just says WTF – when you have been living on adrenaline for years. Sooooooo many people I know are suffering like this and won’t talk about it. I found enormous relief in just being open about it. I really hope this happens for you too. One of my best stress relievers is just having a laugh about the way I am behaving when I am in the middle of it all. It would make a great sitcom. Of course, I can only laugh when my drugs are right. :)

  • Michelle Argles

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I can’t believe how relieved I feel to relate to this and know I’m not alone with these anxious thoughts of mine!! This article describes my experience perfectly over the last 12-18months. After a bout severe illness I became convinced I had MND and was going to die and never see my baby grow up. I truely believed it and the terror I felt daily is completely indescribable. I have been paralyzed for the last 6 months and the constant physical “symptoms” remind you hourly “tick tock tick tock” you are dying. So glad you can talk freely about this as it’s very hard for people to understand this when they have not experienced it. X

  • Trudy Withnell

    all I can say is…thank you!

  • Donna B

    Mia,
    you are an inspiration. Like many who have already commented, I also share your
    story. I do not have children however, and can only imagine how much harder
    that would be – dealing with the nasty thing that is ‘anxiety’ while raising a
    family. I have been on medication for approximately 5 years and it has certainly
    been a significant contributor to being able to live a ‘normal’ life, almost
    free of anxiety and fear. I would like to stress to whoever may be reading this
    and is thinking of seeking help, there is a way out and from personal
    experience, it involves a good therapist, some hard work, and possibly some
    medication thrown in for good measure. I was once unable to stand up in the
    shower, now I am driving! Thanks for sharing Mia, we are certainly not alone.

  • Talia Frankie Zellmer

    Thank you so much Mia!! I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life, but never addressed it untill I was 25. I’m still learning my triggers, but your article is an amazing explanation of how an anxious mind takes one tiny thing and tells you the sky is falling. I have trouble describing it to my friends and family…they will now get a link to your article hehe

    Thank you for being so open and taking the time :)

  • Melissa

    What a beautifully honest post! I’m sure it took A LOT of guts to write this. I struggle to tell even my closest friends about my anxiety/depression and you’ve put it out there for anyone to read – so brave. I talk about how I want people to be more honest about mental illness and more kind to those that are suffering yet I keep mine mostly a secret as I worry I will be judged. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story, it’s a reminder that I’m not alone with this. Maybe if I am more honest too it will help others to feel less alone with it….

  • Sandra Lynn

    Hi Mia. I want to tell you honestly, (for my own reasons) I don’t read your work, and when I saw the headline on Facebook, I was only curious (in a negative way) about what ‘you’ might have to say about Anxiety. So let me start here by apologising for my judgement. I am so glad I pushed through my cynicism to read your piece on Anxiety … All of it. Your experience sounds much like mine, despite mine being a life long struggle with obvious ‘nervous breakdowns’ along the way, many of them. Ironically, today I was getting to the point of a heightened attack because I have been putting off starting a new medication, you see I have had terrible responses to the last two medications I have taken. And so, here I was slowly gaining interest in what you had to say as I read through your experience of Anxiety, when there it was … Lexapro, the new medication I had just been finally brave enough to swallow one half of. I’m hopeful my experience with this new medication will be as positive as yours has been. Thank you for sharing your experience and I wish you all the best. Sandra :-)

  • Ladybug

    The wonders of Lexapro. I too am on this medication after I had a severe breakdown, triggered by surgery and my unshakeable belief that I wasn’t going to wake up. Even though I did and it all went well, I was in an anxiety spiral which didn’t ease until I ended up in hospital for two weeks. The worst and best thing that ever happened to me. In hospital I saw a psychiatrist and psychologists, I went to group sessions and I learnt so much about why I had spent to first 36 years of my life living with this constant, background fear and tenseness. I only wish I had gotten some help years earlier because my days now are so much ‘lighter’ than before. It’s so, so horrible to have anxiety but it can be treated and managed.

  • Carmel Elliott

    I loved your account, but After living with depression for fifty years
    now, I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the pharmacology
    involved. I have taken just about every antidepressant over the years
    and most have had some affect. Our Western medicine has embraced
    medications as the answer a little too strongly. I have been
    antidepressant free now for 9 mths and being treated by an amazing five
    elements acupuncturist. I am feeling the strongest I ever had, I lost
    14kg by just coming off the antidepressants. My anxiety and depression
    are slipping silently away. I have taken lexapro, Its OK. Think about it
    though if it cures you – no more money for the drug companies. Its not
    in their interest to cure you, just keep you almost there and still
    taking it.

    I have tried just about everything for my anxiety/depression – kineasiology, acupuncture, faith healing, homeopathy, western antidepressants just to name a few. I highly recommend a good wholesome 5 elements Acupuncturist. It has been the only thing which can within one treatment make me OK. Who remembers the “oh you do have to wait a few weeks for the pills to kick in”.

  • Hayley

    You have just written my life story for the last 10 years. Mine got progressively worse after having my children. I knew I had to get help when my 2 boys were in the bath and I started crying because all I could think about was the fact that they would grow up without their mum (there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, it was all in my head). I went on medication for 12 months which really helped. I then cut back on alcohol and saw a hypnotherapist, and was able to stop the meds. I haven’t had a anxious thought in over 12 months. Thanks for sharing your story, hopefully someone who is going through thi right now can read this and not feel so alone.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I am on Lexapro too after waking up with a knot in my stomach for so long and being sooo anxious that I just thought it was normal until it was gone. Now I know what life is like without it!

  • Dom

    I know now that I need help, I need to do it not only for myself, but for the benefit of my family. This anxiety has me frozen from the inside, but I look normal and highly functioning from the outside.
    Thankyou Mia

  • Chasity Ijames

    I am suffering all this now with two kids running my own art business and I am petrified , thank you for sharing because I was tinking about a retreat …

  • Caroline Spratt

    I have anxiety plus a very bad fear of panic attacks .fear of losing my mind ,I’m on sertraline 50 mg and mirap 15 mg to help me sleep .I to excersise and medadtite .if I didn’t do all of above I don’t know what I would b lihe xx

  • HeatherGraceful

    Oh, well done, Mia. Good on you for seeking expert advice and assistance. It’s wonderful that you can now “talk” about this. There’s no shame. :)

  • Sophie Miskinis

    Thank you so much for this Mia. Reading this has actually really helped to normalise the anxiety attacks I’ve suffered from. Love your work!

  • Jodie

    I too suffer from anxiety & depression. My most recent breakdown was when I was 42 following an intense period of personal ill health & relationship breakdown. Neurosurgery in November 2011, breast cancer diagnosis in February 2012 (my mother had passed away from it when I was a teenager), double mastectomy, expansion & reconstruction from March through to December 2012, starting hormone treatment for cancer that put me into chemical menopause for 3 years from March 2012, working full time all the way through with minimum time off after each surgery to be the least disruptive to my partner of 2 years, his children & my life (there were 6 surgeries in 18 months), and then the last thing, my partner telling me 2 days before new year that same year (I was still home recovering from my final cancer surgery) that he didn’t love me anymore & wanted me to move out. Well, suffice to say this was the straw that broke the camel’s back & I became a shaking nervous wreck. I was hospitalised & it took me a few months to start getting back to my life & work. 3 years on & I take lexapro daily, I’ve just finished the main part of my cancer hormone treatment & have just returned from an overseas holiday with my best friend. I’ve realised it’s not a failure on my part that I suffer from anxiety or that I can’t cope, in fact I think we cope as well as we can given the circumstances. There’s only so much stress our bodies & minds can put up with before it overflows. I still have my moments, but am in a much better place & recognise my triggers & signs more readily now. If we need medication or therapy to help remain on an even keel, then so be it! Thank you for sharing Mia as there are so many more out there suffering silently & feeling alone. When we open up we realise we are not alone & can find the strength in the experience of others & ultimately in ourselves.

    • Sandra Lynn

      Wow! Thank ‘you’ for sharing ‘your’ story Jodie … My God, you have lived through more than most could even imagine. I am so glad to hear you have come through it all and I wish you the very best in health and happiness for the future xo

  • Yvonne Bolton

    Thank you Mia for being so brave and sharing your story about anxiety. It can be such a debilitating condition and you will help many with your beautifully written article.

  • Yvonne Bolton

    Mia thank you for being so brave and exposing your struggle with anxiety. You will help more people then you will ever know.

  • Hi Mia. I as everyone else have the same story and tried the medications years ago and they didn’t work. alcohol became my friend until I realised I couldn’t stop and was scared of stopping but my Husband made me. I ended up in hospital on several occasions for stop starting alcohol and put my body through the ringer, but to me it was preferable over the drugs. I now take the drugs and the doctor won’t let me drink because they think it was from alcohol, you know the chicken or the egg but I can assure you when I was 7 years old I didn’t drink, I know what came first, the anxiety and when you are a child you don’t know what to do. Now I am labelled as a person with a mental order and an alcoholic which makes me so mad and I can’t go to parties or dinners and drink and it’s like I’m being punished. I just have to go with the flow and accept it all but it’s hard. Some days are better than others though. Good luck to everyone in “club med” as I call it. Everyone take the tablets it corrects the chemical imbalance it’s not like taking drugs :)

  • Kristin Green

    Amazing ..I could have written it .. Exactly like my life. Thanks for being so brave and sharing your story with us

  • squirtle02

    Ok I’m feeling like I’m drowning daily however I’m stuck. I can’t do anything to get past this feeling as if I fall apart the rest of my world won’t cope.. I’m a mum of 3 amazing boys work in a job everyday that I despise and unfortunately have a husband that just thinks you should be ok because really there is nothing wrong with our world. I have knots in my stomach so tight I feel like I’m suffocating dying inside but no one can see this as I have to be ok as I have always been the one to be ok and I just want to scream and cry and shout but I have to get up everyday and be ok. Please how do you make that first step like you made before I do really fall apart HELP.

    • Petunia

      You already have made a big step. Recognising there is something wrong and that you want to change is HUGE. Anxiety is really treatable and the first thing you can do is see your GP and tell them how you are feeling – you can also check online resources and read up while you wait. If you can’t wait then look up a psychologist who’s speciality sounds right for you, you will have to pay upfront for this (the GP can get you Medicare rebate).
      Believe me it will be hard – but it is so worth it. You won’t know yourself once you start getting help.

      Things will get better.

      Wishing you all the very best
      (If you think you might hurt yourself or someone else to then please talk to someone ASAP)

    • hellotohangup

      Book a long appointment with your GP to fill out a mental health plan. You can get up to 10 sessions with a psychologist on rebate with referral from GP and if you see a psychiatrist those sessions too can be claimed via Medicare.

  • Enjay

    Oh Mia, thank you for sharing. I too have generalised anxiety disorder and chronic cancer fear which started after the birth of my first child. Looking back I think my slightly OCD perfectionist nature meant that I was always an easy target for anxiety. I have had this thing cripple me at times, mostly when I am on holiday so naturally I avoid anything that has to do with ‘down time’. I suspect it is because if my brain is too restful it allows these thoughts to overtake. It has meant that family relaxing holidays (especially if it means planes- Yep another trigger) kinda bite. Holidays usually end with me checking in with my GP and asking for an increase in my lexapro so I can stop my obsessive checking for the cancer I swear I’m riddled with. My major problem is I’m a school teacher so while most teachers are enjoying taking a break over the long holidays I actually dread it. Oh yeah, the irony is not lost on me. The last holidays ended up with my husband finding me in the foetal position crying my heart out when I finally couldn’t take it anymore. This was after days of trying to push through. It is so damn tiring fighting with your own thoughts all the time. He has seen it many times before and knows the drill . Ask no questions, don’t try to talk me round and especially don’t say everything will be alright. Simply make the dreaded phone call to the doctor and hold my hand while I am a blubbering mess in the GP’s office and answering the usual anxiety/depression questions.
    So, what comes next? Well, the last time I Went in for a new script my GP recommended cognitive therapy. While it is something that I know I should try again, I just can’t bring myself to do it at this stage. The emotional investment and fall out from talking about this crap actually triggers more anxiety than it solves. I kind of view my ‘deficient’ brain like diabetes. It can be managed with a healthy lifestyle but also requires medication to keep it in check. I just figure that medication is what I need to stay on to be ‘normal’ for the rest of my life and I am way cool with that. Anyway, thank you again for sharing Mia, it’s great to know that there are kindred spirits out there and I admire your courage using your own life as a platform for helping others xx

    • Libby Willis

      Don’t put off doing the CBT, it’s hard work but so totally worth it for the long term benefits. They may not be immediately obvious, but as time passes, you will realise that things are actually improving & that you’re feeling better. It’s like being a diabetic on insulin – the insulin is only part of the solution, you need to eat the right foods for it to work at maximum efficiency. Medication is important but only part of the solution.

      • Enjay

        Thanks Libby

  • Michelle Peters

    Thanks Mia
    I’ve suffered for years with Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. At times these can be crippling. Thank you for talking about it. Only through discussion does the beast become less, the stigma fade away and healing begin.
    It’s nice to know that we’re not alone!

  • Sarah

    I have been living with anxiety for more than half my life. What you list here really rings all too true. It is a constant daily battle that continues for the rest of your life. It isn’t about cure but about management and having the support network at hand. My breakdown happened 4 years ago and the 12 worst months of my life involving 10 medication changes. If that didnt kill me, I’m far stronger than I give myself credit for. This bastard is beatable. You just need to have faith that you can!

  • Petunia

    This is my story too. It’s hard to accept help and face your fears but it has been so worth it.
    Thank you Mia

  • Bobbie

    Here here Mia you know not what you have done … brace yourself for the torrent of emails and comments, bravo!!

  • musi_

    thank you so much mia x

  • Allison

    Great article Mia. I am petrified of allergic reactions (not cancer) and now too have a fear of flying. My story is scarily similar to yours but my ‘trigger’ for the breakdown was surgery. I now think I can never have surgery because it could cause an allergic reaction. I can laugh at myself (because allergic reactions aren’t that common) but can’t stop the fear/anxiety. My fear is also of leaving my three kids. It’s so reassuring to know I am not flying solo. I am getting help which has been amazing. Thanks to all those who have commented too…It gives me hope

    • boy0hboy

      Oh I have anxiety about allergic reactions too (plus cancer and anything else that can kill me!!). My 3 boys have allergies so after years of dealing with it and being hyper alert I’ve started getting some serious anxiety about it all. I’ve stopped eating foods (despite having no allergies myself) because of my anxiety. Have just started seeing a psych and feeling better already but it is hard work. Good luck!

      • Allison

        good luck to you too boy0hboy. I’m sure we’ll both get there!! I go through stages of not eating also (although the scales don’t show it ;))…and medication is just out of the question!!!! Anxiety sure knows where our weak spots are!!

  • Margaret Hayes

    Thank you for sharing your story. We are going through this same situation with our Son. he is very open about his anxiety, and I am so grateful for that. Sharing your story not only helps the sufferers but their families. Thank you xx

    • Petunia

      He is very lucky to have you! Good luck x

  • Gee

    Thank you Mia. Very brave of you to speak about this. Now that I’ve read it in black and white, I can tell that I have basically had this since I’ve been born, and never known what it was. Rationally I’ve known that I haven’t had a brain tumour or multiple sclerosis, or HIV, or heart disease but when I am stressed about other things, I cannot help but focus on these health related issues and dying, which seems to be at the root of all of it. I don’t go to the doctor or tell anyone,because I logically know I don’t have a problem, but it really honestly consumes me for significant periods of time (which feel longer when I’m in them). I tIoo can remember worrying about mum and dad dying if they were a little bit late, or vomiting when I was very young worrying about dying myself.

    I have period of time where I’m fine, but also periods where the anxiety is all consuming. It’s generally not when I have normal life stresses- I can deal with those at the time, but it creeps up afterwards , which is possibly my bodies way of saying ‘you haven’t quite dealt with it.’ Luckily my partner also reassures me that I’m fine and doesn’t lose patience with me constant questions.

    In normal every day life- I am so beyond needy it’s ridiculous. I’m constantly being told that it’s okay to accept help, not be so independent but as soon as the anxiety strikes I become needy and it’s exhausting!

    I’m not medicated, but it’s something I’m going to look into. I don’t think I want to be medicated all the time, but I do know that when I’m anxious, I lose all motivation for life etc so perhaps something in the times when I am particularly anxious would help

  • elli

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve had some real ups and downs with GAD and panic attacks over the last 10 years but always managed it with talk therapy being scared of meds. In January had my worst breakdown ever, I was referred to a psychiatrist and was put on Lexapro too. After being so scared of meds I’m now starting to see them helping and glimpses of what life can be like without anxiety pervading everyday has brought such relief. So thank you for your story which helps reinforce the path I’m now on.

  • Irene Wentworth

    You just summed up the last 12 years of my life… Minus the health retreat. Our mind can be our greatest asset and our worst enemy. I am exhausted from pretending all the time. Remember everyone to be kind to yourselves.

  • Melanie

    Hi Mia, this is a very brave and powerful article. I would not expect everyone to understand what you are describing, or the fact that writing this article was brave. It is because of people like you (particular people in the public eye) who are willing to be open and honest that depression and anxiety will lose their stigma. Thank you for sharing this. And I completely agree that (counter-intuitively) it is often the lack of activity and busy-ness that can be anxiety provoking. It is about finding what works for each person, and for some people, a busy schedule, caffeine, stress and screens are healthier than stretches of emptiness and the absence of stimulation. Wishing you all the best and congrats on how influential and entertaining your websites are!

  • Pearce1980

    Light bulb moment for me- would explain why Im so bloody exhausted all the time. Thank you Mia

    • Petunia

      trust me, it’s worth getting help to change. You won’t know yourself once you start. Good luck!

  • Tara Patricia

    Thank you Mia! I recently became a new mum to my beautiful 9yr old foster daughter and at the same time had a devastatingly traumatic break from my family.
    My anxiety started with a stomach bug which left me desperate to crawl out of skin and leave. I was too tired to sleep, it was too painful to watch tv and after a week of hell physically and mentally my daughter got sick.
    Since then just the news that someone has vomited can make me spiral.
    I have to admit I thought I understood anxiety before but since experiencing this constant pit of fear in my gut and almost daily fighting the instinct to run I know I knew nothing before.
    Thank you for being so honest. I find it so hard to share with my friends and even my partner. They all try to be supportive but all ask why and I don’t have an answer why. Sometimes there are no obvious triggers and no real reasons. It’s just there.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your journey. xxx

  • dani

    I feel like i could have written this. I have self diagnosed myself with a degenerative disease of which i hope to have an answer for this week. However regardless of the diagnosis, my anxiety is out of control & i am seeking help now. It is crippling both mentally and physically.

  • missashdee

    Thank you for sharing Mia. I’ve followed your career since I first started reading the pages of cosmo as a teenager, and I’ve always admired your work. This piece of writing is quite possibly the best I’ve read from you yet. Congratulations on creating such a clear and easy to read explanation of anxiety, that so many of us have struggled with before! Attempting to explain to friends and family is often the hardest yet most beneifical step! Wishing you all the best, and thank you for taking the time to reduce the stigma just that little bit more!

  • LJ

    Thank you Mia, I needed to read this today and can relate to much of what you have generously shared. Tomorrow I wIll use that referral I have had sitting in a drawer and make an appointment with a psychologist.

  • Shannon

    I love how the universe works! this was exactly what i needed to read today. After recently having my own break down/major panic attack I too realised i had been living with anxiety all my life but had come to think that it was normal to expect my world to fall apart at any moment! Some days are good and some bad but the more I learn about anxiety the more good days I have. The best advise I was given was to be gentle with myself, without judgment. Thank you Mia.

  • cazee

    thank you so much mia. i cannot say that enough. you know that moment when you think ‘hopefully this helps one person’ well you just have….i’m going to brave up and show this to my husband….THANK YO

  • I could have written this! I have been taking lexapro for years, cleaned up my lifestyle a bit, exercise and meditate. ALL SUCH A PAIN IN THE ASS, but necessary for me to function. I also put my hand up when I am flailing.

  • Brisbanite

    Wow Mia, thank you for sharing your story. I almost had an identical experience over Christmas. I was withdrawn, did not want to see my friends and family and just didn’t feel “festive” like I normally do over Christmas. I still “functioned” in the eyes of others, but I did not enjoy anything and instead I spent the entire time dwelling. I can directly attribute my experience to stress in my life. A couple of months later, I am not 100% well and I believe it’s from stress I experienced pre-Christmas and what I think was a near-breakdown over Christmas. Hopefully the future is brighter and filled with far less anxiety.