Sunday, September 30, 2012

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” *

Ouabache State Park in Bluffton, Indiana is the one place where I feel most connected to earth and space and God and sense of well-being. This is where I come to feel most freely. I come in the spring to feel hope. I come in the summer to experience joy. I come in the fall to witness change. I come in the winter to know restfulness.

A forested place, the pine trees – ever freshly green no matter the season – stretch up into the sky so high I can barely see their tops for the sun. There are oaks as well, and probably maples. I am no arborist, and not quite a tree hugger, but I am happy wandering the paths under these many boughs.

In the spring, there are leaf buds and flowers of different kinds speckling the branches. Walking the dirt trails among these trees coming alive from a winter’s sleep is an exercise in expectation. Each day brings new growth to every branch. Each week brings new nests and fresh-laid eggs as long-gone birds return to raise new families in familiar woods. Each walk shows promise welling up into fruition as acorns grow, leaves unfurl, and the native fauna begin the rituals that will bring new life into the park come summer.

Walking into summer, I see how the park has grown into its potential. Now the boughs of the deciduous trees are fully leafed. Green does not begin to describe the various hues of color I can see above me now. There are dark and light greens, yellow greens, olive greens, fern greens; so many shades I cannot name them all, but my eye discerns their differences. As I walk the trail around the long, wide lake, I climb the berm and come out of the trees for a while.

At the edge of the lake are cattails and other water plants. Dragonflies practice map-of-the-earth flights and take their brief respites on the gently swaying reeds. Water-spiders glide long-legged across the surface, causing hidden frogs to appear at the offer of such a tasty lunch. Farther out, there are pops of water where fish surface finding their own food. Lazy concentric circles flare out from the pops in seeming unending rhythm, merging into other circles from still other fish bites. Farthest away, I can see the sun’s reflection on the ripples the breeze is causing. The trees across the lake throw long mirror-like reflections onto the water.

Fall comes. The leaves of trees and bushes are tinted with orange, red, umber, and brown. As autumn progresses, the foliage reaches what all the nature lovers crave: “peak color”. The fiery colors blaze forth in such glory that I hold my breath at the wonder of it. Back into the woods and the well-traveled trails, there is a canopy of color that can rival any impressionist’s palette.

Walking the trails deeper into autumn, I am privy to the leaves making their slow, sensuous, spiraling fall to the ground. They flirt with the breeze, swaying this way and that as they come finally to land. Now my walk is strewn with a thick layer of fallen leaves and pine needles. My steps are softened, but the sound is heightened by the crunch of crispness underfoot. I can be heard more easily than any other time of the year, and my footsteps alert the deer that are grazing out of my sight. I can hear them leap away deeper into the woods though I can rarely see them. Only sometimes am I able to glimpse a white tail or a flash of leg. It won’t be until winter when I will see them fully.

At last, winter. Deep snow, bare branches, and a frozen lake are now the stars of the show. Canadian geese fly in and land in long slides on the solid surface of Ouabache Lake. The deer are seen browsing bushes that still have forage. It is face-numbingly cold now, but the sun on the snow is blinding bright. Footfalls are hushed by the deep snow whether on the trails or in the open areas.

I come to Ouabache throughout the year to experience and acknowledge all the beauty nature gives in her every season. I am never disappointed. I am never bored. I am always delighted and surprised by some new thing I am shown and allowed to know.

* John Muir

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Life is the only real counselor..." *

With a soft, southern drawl harking back to his Arkansas roots, Kevin Thompson’s voice invites you to sit back and be comfortable, open up, talk about yourself, and discuss the heavy things of life or laugh at the craziness of it all. That’s a good thing because Kevin is a counselor at the local mental health center. Getting people to open up can be a difficult thing when they are dealing with bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, or any number of other mental illnesses. But Kevin has a voice, and a knack, for letting people feel they can safely do just that. It also helps that Kevin knows quite a lot about what you are going through; he himself has bipolar disorder.

“I know the depths of the pits, the highest peaks of the tallest mountains, and everything in between.”

And indeed he does.

After leaving college in his early twenties (he freely admits to being there for “nothing but fun”), Kevin joined the Air Force as a firefighter. He was active duty for three years and twenty days. Before he left, however, he was hospitalized for what was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Mania. Depression. It was all there and it came to a point where being inpatient was required.

It was not a positive experience.

“They didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” he says of the hospital staff. “They were babysitting me…thinking I was just faking for a medical discharge.”

He wasn’t faking, and he did get medically discharged.

That time spent in the hospital became his inspiration to become a counselor.
Armed with his experiences in the military’s psychiatric hospital and an understanding of what it was to be bipolar, he returned to school to pursue a degree in psychology.

In spite of dealing with his own illness, Kevin graduated with his Bachelor’s degree at 25 years of age and his Master’s at 27. During that time, he worked at the mental health clinic as a peer counselor. Now a licensed counselor, he has two peer counselors working under him. (A peer counselor is a person who has similar issues as the people he or she is helping and is successfully dealing with them.) The program Kevin leads helps about twenty clients in various group and individual sessions.
When his clients find out that Kevin is “one of them”, their first reaction is often surprise.

“Oh, really?” they ask him. “Can you do that?”

He points to all the certificates and licenses on his wall and assures them that yes, he can do this.

Not that everyone thought he could. The vocational rehabilitation counselor at the VA hospital told him that he couldn’t become a counselor.

Kevin’s response to that was, “Are you sure about that?”

“I was going to do it whether or not he thought I could,” Kevin says emphatically.
And he is doing it.

That isn’t to say it’s easy all the time. “I feel less effective when my meds wear off in the morning,” he admits. “I still do (all my work); it’s just harder.”

Still, one of the best things about his job, he says, is when the clients look at him and say, “You know what you’re talking about.”

Asked about his motto for his counseling career or his life with bipolar, Kevin is quick to answer: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He quotes not Freud or Jung, but Saint Paul.

He has Christ, and he has his family. Kevin’s biggest fan club is comprised of three matriarchs in his family: “Momma, Memaw, and Auntie.” Asked how they encourage him, he says with a childlike grin, “They tell me how wonderful I am.” His father, too, is a big supporter. When Kevin took home pamphlets on bipolar disorder, his father not only read them, but took them to work to share with others. His bipolar is not a secret or a shame in his family. Kevin is just Kevin.

In spite of all the difficulties having bipolar can bring, Kevin still counts it a blessing in his life, especially as it pertains to his counseling.

“It’s helped me understand the extremes of human emotion,” he says, “and to be able to talk people away from the edge.”

* Edith Wharton

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." *

About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I don't remember exactly when, but sometime before Thanksgiving of 2005. I remember because I was in the hospital, again, on Thanksgiving of that year eating beef and noodles for dinner. I have spent an Easter in the hospital for depression, and Thanksgiving as an inpatient for bipolar. They are odd holidays to be hospitalized for feeling so down you want to die: a holiday of hope and new beginnings, and a holiday of reflection and gratitude.

Just over six years ago, I moved home to Texas from Indiana. I couldn't hold a full-time job there, my husband was leaving me to come to Texas for marital counseling, and being up there alone to figure things out didn't seem to make sense. My parents said, "Come home." And I did.

Five years ago, I started a part-time job at Cracker Barrel. It's part-time not just because they don't really offer full time positions much, but also because some weeks working too much can trigger bipolar symptoms and some months I need time off to deal with med changes or other issues from the bipolar. Still, I've worked there for five full years and have received my first pin -- given at 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. Much as I like my coworkers and like my job, though, I don't want to get my 10-year pin.

Three and a half years ago, a friend challenged me with the question: "What are your passions? Do you have still have any anymore? What is it you really want to do with your life?"

My most fulfilling and rewarding job, of all that I have had over the past 17 years, has been writing. I loved being a newspaper editor, reporter and columnist. It was a small town paper, published three days a week, but I loved almost all of it. I got burned out because I was manic and didn't know it (pre-diagnosis), was having severe marital and family problems, and quit to do something I thought would make more money but couldn't do well as it turned out. I've always been a writer of some kind, though. I loved English and essays and research papers in school. I loved some of the freelance articles I did on the side at the paper. I am prolific in emails, online support boards, in blogs, and in Facebook. I spend so much of my time communicating with others via the written word.

To be questioned about my passion reminded me of all of that. Writing is my passion. It is the thing I find most challenging, most interesting, most rewarding even now.

So three years ago, I went back to school. I enrolled in the online program at Southern New Hampshire University. I started out as an English Language and Literature major, then switched to a Creative Writing with a Non-Fiction Specialty major. I have enough hours that I will have my minor still in English.

What will I do with a degree? I will write. I will write for myself. I will write to be published. I will continue with what I've been doing on the side. I may go back to working for a newspaper. Some say that newspapers are dying, which is true. But news is not. And someone has to write what you read about online or hear about on television. Maybe I will write for a magazine. Those are as much online as in print now, too, but people are still reading them. And I will write to continue to educate people about bipolar and other mental health issues.

Seven years ago, I thought I was worthless and beyond redemption as far as any meaningful contribution to society was concerned. Six yeas ago, I was in a safe place and working on recovering from all that my mind and emotions had put me through in the ten years previous. Five years ago, I was finally able to re-enter the workforce and start contributing to my family. Three years ago, I started planning a future.

Now, with only four and a half classes left to take for my Bachelor's, I'm setting my sights on a Master's degree...also in Creative Writing. Never before have I even considered such a thing and now it sounds not only possible, but plausible. I have talked with my advisor, met the new Master's advisor via phone, and have all the information I need to start planning for 2014 and beyond.

Will I get a job at a paper? Will I work for one of my favorite magazines? Will I be a freelancer and get my work published all over the place in different venues? Will I end up teaching other writers as they start their own education and careers?

That part remains to be seen. But I'm pretty much determined that I will be off disability, out of Cracker Barrel (though it has been very good to me and for me), and working in my degree field before 2016.

* Nelson Mandela

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Life is a train of moods..." *

I only remember that he said he had a diagnosis finally. This was odd because I thought we knew the diagnosis. After all, this was my fourth time in the hospital in about one year’s time – always with severe depression that didn’t seem to respond to treatment, always with violent images in my head of hurting myself, always with freakish visions of devilish faces leering at me.

Everything that I’d read about bipolar disorder indicated to me that mania was a huge part of the illness, and that people with mania were out having a hell of a lot more fun than I ever did. They blew scads of money, made crazy decisions, did outrageous things. Sure, I’d given a thousand dollars to a man I’d met once so he could move to Indiana to marry me. Sure, he was an ex-con with some serious issues. (I was convinced he had or would overcome them.) Sure, I had weeks where I averaged only 3-4 hours of sleep a day. Sure I left a good career and went in to a completely foreign job for no good reason. But I wasn’t promiscuous, doing drugs, drinking, or anything glamorous. Where did the shrink get the idea I was bipolar?

When Dr. Ishak told me the diagnosis, I went cold. Angry cold. Terrified cold. I shut down. I asked to be excused. I went to my hospital room sobbing. I wanted to scream. I was angry but didn’t know who with. I asked the nurses for a Sharpie. Surprisingly, they gave me one. Maybe they figured the damage I could do with a Sharpie would be minimal.

I took the Sharpie back to my room and did two things. I made a sign that said, “No Visitors. No phone calls. NOBODY.” I taped it to my door and shut it firmly. I didn’t want anyone in my circle of family and friends to learn the horrible truth. I needed time to process alone. Then I drew a railroad track on my depression-grey men’s t-shirt I’d brought to sleep in. I drew a giant train barreling down the track – straight out of my chest and going away from myself. I wrote “Bipolar Express” on it. If I could have drawn a reasonable Tom Hanks conductor, I would have.

I put the shirt on, then sat down to cry – uninterrupted except for one tech checking on me occasionally. I cried as if my life were ending. Because it was. What if being bipolar meant that I was crazy? What about all the hilarious times I had when I was with my friends? What if all those creative stories and poems and columns I’d written when I couldn’t sleep were just some manic mumblings and weren’t all that great anyway? What if we treated the bipolar and I couldn’t write anymore? Couldn’t have fun anymore? What if no one liked the sane me that I would likely be medicated in to?

Killing the depression was one thing. I longed for that. But bipolar meant that something else was wrong…that even the good times might just be chemicals misfiring and get medicated away.

Truth be told, that happened.

I’ve been on medication that took away all my motivation. Left me lifeless and emotionless. Zapped my creativity. Not depressed, but not happy, either. I have been written up at work because “you don’t seem to care about anything.” I had to request a med change then because it was true. I didn't laugh as much. It was years before I could write again.

It took patience and support from my family, multiple discussions with a long line of psychiatrists and counselors, and lots of study and research on my part about the disorder to get where I am today. I left the ex-con. I moved home. Mostly stable now, I am in school and employed part-time. I’m not bringing home the big bucks and not able to risk my stability with the kind of high pressure jobs I had in the past; but I laugh, I have friends, and I have the kind of fun sane people have.
I’m writing again, too.

It’s good having the Bipolar Express on the right track.

* Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, September 10, 2012

"A Heartbeat is a Lovebeat..." *

There is in her mind a safe and quiet spot, though she doesn't always remember where she put it. When she is in need of a place where she can hide...where she can bury her face in something warm and soft and hear again the steady rhythm of life beating in a heart not her own, she remembers that safe and quiet spot...and she goes there.

She is two. Or she is four or five or six. She can't be more than nine because nine is when her grandmother developed leukemia and nine is when her grandmother died.

However old she is...she is still small enough to be picked up. Or to be invited up. And held in the ample lap and bosom of her father's mother. The grandmother that is old and wrinkly and smells of soft powder.

The other grandmother, younger, holds her, too. But in a smaller lap. The other grandmother is the grandmother that she does things with -- the library and walks and cooking and laughing and discussing things that small minds concoct.

But this is the farm grandmother. The Grandma and not the Nana. It is the Grandma holding her that she remembers most.

So, she is young and small. And she is held.

Grandma picks her up. This year. And this year. And the next year.

This next year, Grandma says, as she always does, "You have grown!"

And this is the year that Grandma doesn't scoop her up and whisk her away to a rocker, though her little brothers are still scoopable and whiskable and rockable.

She worries, seeing her baby brother in her grandmother's arms, that she has been somewhat replaced. But she says nothing. Just sits in the big farm kitchen watching Grandma rock baby Jay.

She loves Jay. And is proud of him. And glad for him that Grandma is rocking him.

She isn't jealous...and doesn't wish him away. But she worries that her own lap time is over for good and she is afraid.

If a little girl gets too big to be held and rocked...what then does she do?

When will she breathe deeply and smell the scent of soft, aged skin and a woman's favorite powder? When will she know again the feel of an apron against her cheek that carries with it the aroma of this morning's bacon frying and tonight's cinnamony apple pie?

When will she snuggle up against a woman softer than a pillow and stronger than iron? When will she hear the voice of a woman deep in the heart?

"Kim" -- her name -- she hears often. But in the timbre in her Grandma's chest, "Kim" sounds magical...and deep...and mystical...and safe...and...enduring.

If she is so big that Grandma cannot pick her up. If she is too big to be invited to climb into her Grandma's lap. What then?

She doesn't remember Jay falling asleep. Or that Jamie is outside with Grandpa and the piglets.

She knows that Mom is sitting at the table as Jay is rocked and they are talking -- Mom and Grandma. So she the heat of a summer kitchen with a breeze blowing through the open windows...listening to the talk and watching her brother snuggle in their Grandma's arms.

"I've grown," she thinks as the conversation and rhythm of the rocking chair drift around her and through her.

Her arms are longer. Her legs are longer. Her knees are knobby and her legs are white because it is early summer and her shorts are new. She is not so grown that her feet touch the floor when she sits in the big dining room chair, though. And she thinks about that as she sits sideways in the chair watching her grandmother and watching her mom.

She puts one arm around the back of the chair and one arm on the big dining table and scootches a little closer to the edge of the side of the seat...and her dangling bare feet touch the cool wooden floor. But only with the toes.

Since she has grown and now her feet touch the floor...she stays put a while. Listening. Watching. Feeling -- the breeze and the floor and the bit of sweat.

She doesn't notice when Jay falls asleep and Mom takes him upstairs to put him in the crib.

The crib is in "her" room. The room she stays in whenever they all visit Grandma and Grandpa. It was Daddy's crib. And everyone -- all the cousins -- even she -- has slept in it at one time or another. It is Jay's turn now.

The crib is by her bed and at night she listens as Jay sleeps his baby sleep beside her. It too is a safe and comforting thing...listening to baby sleep. But not the same as being held and rocked in Grandma's lap.

So Mom and Jay have gone upstairs.

It is just Grandma and herself in the big farm kitchen for now.

She looks at her Grandma and smiles a small smile.

Grandma smiles back.

"Grandma?" she says. "Can I ask you a question?"

"It's 'may I'," says Grandma who was a school teacher in old-timey days in a one-room schoolhouse. "And yes, you may."

"Am I too big?"

Grandma doesn't even have to ask "Too big for what?" -- she only holds out her arms and says, "Come here, child."

And she goes over to stand in front of her Grandma. Afraid that she will be told she is indeed "too big" -- and that powder and softness and the sound of her name in her Grandma's heart are a thing of the past.

"No," says Grandma. "I mean...come *here*, Kim."

And she pats her lap before spreading her arms wider. "My lap," Grandma says. "Come here and I will rock you."

Still worried that she is too big...she climbs cautiously into Grandma's lap.

Grandma touches her head and pulls it close to her shoulder, then rests for a moment with one arm encircling her back to front, and one hand brushing her still baby-fine hair.

"Kim," she whispers, "You'll never be too big to be held by Grandma Giger."

And they rock.


And she is content deep inside herself and it seems the two -- the Grandma and the Child -- become one for a while. They breathe in and they breathe out at the same time. She listens to her Grandmother's heart and realizes that her own is beating in rhythm with it.

When Mom comes downstairs, she smiles at her daughter -- her eldest -- wrapped up in the arms of her Grandmother's love. And she sits at the table. The two grown-ups begin talking again...of things that she knows little of...because for all her being so grown up now, she is still a little girl.

She stays silent. Listening. Watching. Feeling...the woman that is her grandmother, her father's mother, the beginning of the world for all she knows so far.

She doesn't move because it seems as if a magical wonderful spell of love has been woven...and it is soft and fine as a fairy spider web...and she doesn't want a sudden motion to break it away.

She is 20 now. Or 30 or 37 or 41. She can't be more than 41 because her birthday hasn't come yet this year.

She doesn't ever remember leaving her Grandma's lap that day...though she knows, of course, she did.

There was dinner that night.

There was a party for Grandma and Grandpa's 60th anniversary.

There was a funeral and tears.

No, she doesn't remember leaving Grandma's lap that day. Though she's walked many places since then and knows of course that she did.

But she still can hear the sound of her name...against the backdrop of her Grandmother's heartbeat...and it quiets her and stills ways she can't explain.

And she wonders now...that magic she felt? How much of it was childhood fantasy...and how much of it was God...knitting together two hearts forever...?

It was the last time that Grandma ever had the chance to hold her that way again.

And now, she thinks the magic was God.

* "Heartbeat , It's A Lovebeat" Lyrics by the DiFranco Family

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Now is the age of anxiety.” *

Three years before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was diagnosed with a panic and anxiety disorder. I was working at the newspaper in Berne, had started having these weird attacks where I would get super hot starting in my stomach, have an electric taste in my mouth, then get cold and shaky. My blood pressure would rocket up; I'd get very dizzy and disoriented; and I was convinced I was dying. I'd never felt anything like that before. It took several trips to the ER and a trip to the doctor mid-attack ("Come in when you have one of these so we can see what's going on") before I was finally diagnosed with the panic attacks. The anxiety disorder was diagnosed at the same time.

That I'd had an issue with anxiety should have been no surprise to me. I'd had horrible fears about people dying, getting sick, being hurt, disappearing, etc. since I was a very small child. All with no reason. A weird pain in my head would trigger a sense of impending doom and I'd think something was horribly wrong with me.

When I was 8-years-old, everyone was taking a nap one day while Dad was at work. I was supposed to be napping, too, but I couldn't sleep (not an unusual thing for me). Instead, I was in the living room watching "Island of the Blue Dolphins" on TV. When that was over, I was bored and trying to think of something to do. A few months before, I'd made a craft in Girl Scouts - a blue block with my picture on it, coated in varnish to seal it. It was a Mother's Day gift, I believe. I picked it up and kissed it for some reason, being only 8-years-old and somewhat goofy. And then I had what I think was my first panic attack.

When we'd made the picture blocks, the Girl Scout leader had told us, "Don't get any of this in your mouth, it's poisonous." I was very careful and of course, did not get any in my mouth. But she didn't tell us that it was going to be safe once it dried. And when I kissed myself in the picture, I freaked out because I knew I'd poisoned myself and I was going to die. I didn't know what to do, and I didn't know how long it would take, but I was under the impression that death was imminent.

Instead of waking up my mom and telling her what I'd done, I went to the room where she and my middle brother were napping. I quietly said goodbye to them and asked God to take care of them. Then I went to my infant brother's room, said goodbye to him, and prayed for him to grow up big and strong. Finally, I went into my bedroom, laid down on the bed, and waited to die.

I heard a voice that told me I wasn't going to die, that I was going to be okay, but I should take a nap. I did...and was more than surprised to wake up. I'm not sure when I told my mother about what happened, but it was years later.

During junior high and high school, I had severe issues with anxiety and depression (and the bipolar mania), but I didn't know things weren't "normal". It's just how it was. My paternal grandmother was a "worrier" and I supposed a lot of us were. (And a lot of us ARE...but not all of us get to a point where our mind goes to worst case scenario at the drop of a hat.) I can't tell you how many times I planned my parents' funerals in case they died suddenly, leaving us children as orphans. Or the times I tried to figure out how the three of us kids were going to go to school and grow up alone.

As an adult, I have called Emergency Rooms when people have been 30 minutes late home from work. I have called Sheriff's departments asking about accidents involving my loved ones' vehicles. Never has anyone I've been looking for been in the hospital or involved in a wreck. Probably 99% of the things I worried about and fretted over never happened. Which, oddly enough, was kind of a relief and at the same time, fuel for my anxiety-treadmill. I had it in my head that if I worried about it, it wouldn't happen. And yet, if I worried about it, it was also possible. Which made me worry more.

It is no wonder, with the series of life changes I was going through (a divorce, raising a teenager alone, working at a high-stress job many hours a week, and being on a bipolar mania that I was unaware of) that I got to the point that I was having panic attacks several times a week, sometimes several times a day. Not all were bad enough to send me to the hospital, but some were. Blood pressure levels over 240/160 were not uncommon and I had a whole cadre of doctors trying to get that down and keep it down. Once I was diagnosed and started getting counseling and pharmaceutical treatment, things starting calming down for me.

In the 10 years since my diagnosis with the anxiety/panic disorder, I have learned a lot about it. I've learned how to recognize when it is ramping up, when to breathe deeply and center myself, when to take a pill to short-circuit a full blown attack (which isn't nearly as often as it used to be), and when (and how) to reach out to fellow sufferers on different support websites I've been a member of. I am by no means a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. I am, as some would say, a "mental health consumer" - meaning I participate actively in the mental health world as a patient and client. However, I have learned a few things over the past decade that might be beneficial to others. If the following is helpful to you, I am glad. But always, always, always check with your doctor before pursuing a course of treatment if you are having panic and anxiety attacks. Don't be afraid to get the help you need - often and early.

I think that if I had remained untreated, I would likely be a hermit now - afraid to go out and interact anymore. For a while, I didn't leave home unless I had to, wouldn't go anywhere without my safe person, etc. There is nothing wrong with that - a person does what they have to do to protect themselves. But when I got treatment and support, I was able to get out of that coccoon and learn to function in spite of my attacks or underlying anxiety issues. It is now to the point that sometimes, a panic attack will happen - for no reason - and no one around me will know it. Which is a vast improvement over my former freak outs.

Anyway, below, I've provided some of the information about medications that I've learned about in the past decade that help treat anxiety and panic disorders. I hope you will find it helpful.

For anxiety, doctors will sometimes prescribe an anti-depressant. I found this list that outlines which ones those would be and what they are prescribed for other than depression:

Citalopram (Celexa) –off label for panic disorder, social phobia and trichotillomania

Duloxetine (Cymbalta) – approved for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Escitalopram (Lexapro) – approved for GAD

Fluoxetine (Prozac) – approved for OCD and panic disorder

Fluvoxamine (Luvox) - approved for OCD in children (8-17 y) and adults

Paroxetine (Paxil) – approved for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, GAD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Sertraline (Zoloft) – approved for panic disorder, PTSD, social phobia and OCD

Trazodone (Desyrel) – off label for panic disorders

Venlafaxine (Effexor XR) - approved for GAD, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder in adults

There are also some hypertension medications that work against anxiety. If you have high blood pressure, you can talk to your doctor about which ones might be more helpful to you. This link has some information about those:

Finally, doctors can also prescribe anxiolytics (fancy word for “anxiety breaking”) like clonazepam (Klonopin) or alprazolam (Xanax). They can be very addictive, though, and they aren’t always a first line of defense for many doctors. It depends on your symptoms, how frequent and how intense your anxiety or panic attacks are, and how inclined your doctor may be to prescribe them overall. At one point, I was taking three Klonopin a day (every 8 hours), but that was before I was diagnosed with bipolar and got on meds more suited for a bipolar rather than just for someone with depression. (Antidepressants alone can trigger mania in bipolar.) Now, I’m on 0.5 mg, either half a tablet or a whole one, that I only take when I feel an anxiety/panic attack coming on.

For the underlying pervasive anxiety, I do have the hypertension med that works, the Klono back-up, and then the things I learned in the hospital and in therapy (as well as what I learned through an online support group called tAPir – The ANXIETY/PANIC Internet Resource; it’s at ). I have a book (I think it’s called Anxiety Disorder for Dummies) that was helpful, too. But there are also other print resources (online, at the bookstore, or at the library) that are available, as well.

There are many other resources available online, and very often, there are face-to-face support groups available through your local community health programs or churches. Take part in as many as you feel comfortable participating in, because I don't know that there is ever such a thing as too much support. If you don't know where to look, you can contact your doctor and ask him or her about resources in your area.

* W.H. Auden