Anxiety Q & A
Many of you have written to us at Ask the Anxiety Sisters, and we have loved hearing from you, but we’ve been having an issue: unless you put your email address in the body of your message, we cannot see your address. Which means we have no idea who to respond to! We originally designed the feature this way for confidentiality reasons, but we have come to realize that it has made it impossible for us to answer so many really important questions.
While we are having our tech team fix the feature, we have decided to answer a few recent anonymous questions with the hope that, if it is your submission, you will recognize it. Please accept our apologies for not being able to get back to you sooner.
I lost my youngest son to an accidental overdose of prescription drugs after back surgery. He struggled for years trying to beat his addiction. He lived with me the last 7 years of his life. He’s been gone a little over 3 years. I’m finding that as time goes on my anxiety has gotten worse. I used to have the heart racing type of panic; now I have the throat tightening with intense fear. I see a therapist and run a grief support group for moms like me. Some days I feel like I’ll never feel normal again. That same year I lost my job and my dear friend died 10 months after my son. Thoughts???
We are so so sorry about the loss of your son. We imagine that the years he struggled with his addiction were incredibly difficult for you and your family. It must have been a devastating blow to lose him to this insidious brain illness. (We do believe addiction is a brain illness, and we know that all brain illnesses need more research and treatment options.) You may also be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—due to his long illness—along with your grief. As we have written many times before, anxiety is very much a part of both the grief process and PTSD.
You said it feels like you will never be normal again. We know that three years is a long time to miss your son, but, in the course of the grief process, it is a very short amount of time. It takes many years to integrate this enormous loss. Integrating and figuring out how to manage, however, is not the same as forgetting or being over it—neither of which is possible. When we say integrating, we mean finding a new normal.
A lot of parents say that, after the loss of a child, finding a meaningful outlet that connects them to their child is what helps the most. You are doing this by leading a grief group, which is a way to help other people and a way to find meaning and growth for yourself. This is part of your journey to a new normal.
Lastly, you mentioned that you lost both your job and a close friend soon after your son’s death. For some people, staying busy with work is very helpful in the grieving process. Likewise, when things are tough, we turn to people we really trust and love. You lost your work and a friend—both of which would have helped you cope with your pain. It is really important to recognize this—that you are dealing with multiple losses—and let yourself grieve each of them.
We are here for you whenever you need to write. We invite you to tell us about your son and share some memories (good and difficult). We know he was a whole person with strengths and challenges, and we would love to know more about him.
Mags & Abs
I deal with panic attacks, depression, anxiety and PTSD. I now have social anxiety as well. I take medication but I’m not handling it well. I feel so alone even when I’m with or around people. Being around others makes me a nervous wreck. My family and kids don’t understand and tell me to “get out and go somewhere” and that I need to “get over it.” Oh how I wish I could. I only wish someone understood me and could understand my thoughts and feelings as well as my fears. Thanks for allowing me to express my pain.
Thank you for writing to us. We definitely understand your pain. In fact, you are in a community of more than 37 thousand sufferers who understand too. Often PTSD, depression, and anxiety can result in severe social anxiety. When you are not feeling well, socializing or even just being around people can feel oppressive. You are trying so hard to keep yourself together that the idea of interacting with others is inconceivable. It’s like being told to juggle while you’re treading water! Likewise, during anxiety, our sensory systems feel absolutely overloaded; thus, noise, crowds, smells, and visual stimulation may all further trigger us.
It is really hard for people without a brain illness to understand that what we are dealing with means we cannot do certain things—that it is not a choice or a weakness or a personality trait. If you can, please share our blog from March 7, which includes an explanatory letter to families and friends of Anxiety Sisters.
Encourage them to look around our website because we try to make sure that it is descriptive and accessible—even to those without anxiety or depression. Also, if you are in any kind of therapy, your family may benefit from coming with you to a couple of sessions.
We are sorry that you are feeling so alone (we have been there). You may find great support from our new Secret Anxiety Sisterhood on Facebook, which provides daily access to us and its members in a completely confidential (private and unsearchable) and intimate setting. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.
Mags & Abs
I live in a state with a lot of stigma against medication. I used Xanax for many years and found it very helpful. However, my doctor moved away and no other doctor will continue my prescription. I have tried other medications and they do not work. My anxiety has become so bad that I usually don’t leave my house anymore.
You are not the first person to tell us that they can no longer get Xanax or other medication that has helped so much in the past. Unfortunately, due to the crisis with opioids, many anti-anxiety meds in the Benzodiazepine class (like Ativan and Xanax) have gotten lumped in as “narcotics” considered highly addictive and therefore have become much less frequently prescribed.
The problem with this is that many people, like you, have benefitted tremendously from Xanax (and other drugs in its class) with no addiction issues and have been unable to find an effective replacement. One Anxiety Sister we know now goes to Mexico in order to buy her Ativan (yes, this is illegal) because she feels it is medically necessary. We’re sure she’s not the only one.
Clearly, this is a big problem. Here are some ways to try to solve it: (1) keep discussing the issue with your doctor and explaining that you have never had an addiction issue, and that you have tried other medication to no avail. Be sure you are honest about feeling unable to leave your home. (2) Have you been to a psychiatrist as well as your internist? Some psychiatrists have stopped prescribing Xanax as well, but you may find that doctors who specialize in anxiety medication may be more understanding of your situation (as well as the differences between Benzos and Opioids). (3) You may have to travel out of your area to a larger metropolitan center to find a responsive doctor. (4) Have you tried to contact your original doctor and ask him/her to speak with whomever took over the practice?
All of these suggestions can be both expensive and difficult solutions, but it sounds like your basic functioning depends on having the medication that worked for you so well. Our medical system is really dysfunctional in so many ways.
We are so sorry for your struggle. Please let us know how you are doing.
Mags & Abs