Most people struggle with Anxiety for many, many years before being diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder. The same is true with me. Looking back, I realize that I had been having Anxiety symptoms for over two decades before I was finally diagnosed as having Anxiety Disorder and treatment began.
My experience with Anxiety Disorder began to severely inhibit my life about 2003, after decades of struggling with bipolar disorder. I had always been fearless and outgoing, but suddenly I was so overwhelmed that I could no longer leave the house, speak on the phone, or bear the presence of more than one other person – even family members.
The first symptoms were a reluctance to go to concerts, where the crowds made me extremely nervous. That progressed to any gathering of people over five or so, then to any gathering of people outside my immediate family. Being a musician, that cut me off from enjoying live music, as well as playing in an orchestra, which I had been doing since my pre-teen years.
If put into one of these triggering situations, I would start having panic attack symptoms, my voice would quiver, my mind would become cloudy, and all I could think about was running away.
Accompanying this was an increasing panic when in small spaces, which eventually lead to the inability to take car trips or ride on elevators. I have not visited my in-laws, who live in another state, in many, many years. We have not gone on a vacation in the same period of time.
Another strand was a growing inability to talk on the phone, first to answer calls, then to make them. This extended itself to reading and replying to emails and to talking to others one-on-one. I was teaching in my private studio at the time, and remaining in touch with students and parents was essential. My studio deteriorated as I was cut off from communication with current and prospective students.
Eventually I could neither listen to music or play it. In simple terms, I was cut off from the outside world and the things I hold most dear by this Anxiety Disorder.
These symptoms coincided with a deepening of my Bipolar Disorder. Between the two, I quickly became unable to work. Finally, in 2005, I had to give up my studio business and retire.
The precipitating event that led to my being diagnosed with Anxiety was a panic attack I had in my car while driving to work in 2003. My face, throat and chest became increasingly restricted and I found it harder and harder to breathe. I started hyperventilating. The world around me became distant and very strange, and I started seeing black spots like I was about to pass out. I was terrified that I was going completely crazy, was dying, or both. I had to pull over to the side of the road to recover and was late to work as a result.
When I related this to my psychiatrist, he told me that I had been having a panic attack and asked me a series of questions that led to his diagnosing me as having Anxiety Disorders. He started me on medication that day, and I have been taking it ever since. I have since then been diagnosed as having Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Social Phobia besides the bipolar disorder.
I was determined that my ailments not render me a quivering mass for the rest of my life. I have fought hard against these mental conditions with the help of psychiatrists and psychologists, and now have gained a measure of control over my symptoms. I have actively sought for ways to help me become functional, and I’m proud to say that I have had some great successes.
Although I have not been able to work outside the house yet, I can go to a growing number of places, I can communicate with others in small groups and I can ride in the car for up to two hours. I still have a way to go, but I work on it every day to the utmost of my abilities.
Besides having excellent professional help, over the years I have read extensively about my mental conditions, searched for many, many days on the internet for help, and have thought deeply and written at length about Anxiety Disorders and bipolar disorder.
This blog is the result of my many years of study and work. I hope to give you the benefit of all my research, so that you can have a head start moving toward health. There are also guest posters, who give you a unique perspective on Anxiety in all its different forms.
And it is a chronicle of my daily journey toward complete health, wellness, wholeness, and control of my mental conditions.
I welcome you to take it with me.