A Drug To Cure Fear?

Taken from the New York Times  which is found   HERE.

A Personal Update

I have been a bit lax on posting new articles lately. I’m hoping to correct that soon while keeping in mind the world will continue if I don’t! 🙂

A number of years ago I left a church under negative circumstances. Since that time I’ve had some rough times with anxiety and depression.

Being that I can’t travel far to go to church the choices we have had have been limited. Sadly the churches we did attend were not a fit for us and I was losing hope a church wasn’t in our future.

A month ago we decided to try two churches that were nearby. When we attended one of those for the first time the main issue for us was the church was so small. My wife and I are shy by nature.

After attending for a few more weeks we were feeling maybe this is a place we can land and call home. I set an appointment with the senior pastor and we met for 90 minutes.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with how he answered my questions and concerns. I was forgetting genuine pastors still existed who I felt comfortable enough to attend their fellowships without worrying about any of the stuff I’ve experienced in the past.

We had attended another church for a time until things became very unacceptable and we had no choice but to leave.

I know a lot of believers who live with mental illness have left church because of pain that was inflicted upon them for one reason or another. I can fully relate to that.

Maybe you are one of those people???  The idea of being hurt again is something you can’t begin to imagine. The stigma is too much. It’s not worth the risk.

I don’t know how this chapter of my life will unfold but I confess I am excited for the future. I still have issues I’m wrestling with but that’s okay. We all have issues. It’s when we think we don’t is when real damage can be done.

I’m trying to look ahead and not beat myself up over past mistakes as the enemy would have me do. Most importantly I want to be able to trust God with my life and that will be a challenge. But there’s a flicker of hope. That’s all I desire for now. I desire it for you as well.  Allan

My Story From The Beginning: Reason Isn’t Always A Good Thing, Part 2

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:7a Be not wise in thine own eyes:  

Part 1 can be found   HERE.

For a few years in the early 90’s I began to experience things I never had before. What was I supposed to say? “I’m having trouble breathing at an Angel’s game or at a men’s conference?

I recall at the men’s conference I was crawling out of my skin. I’m sitting there thinking “I’m the only person among the thousands here who can’t breathe properly!”  I went down to where tables were set up and asked for prayer but when I described what was happening it was clear they didn’t know what to say. They prayed for me though and I survived the day.

A lot of other things were happening that I won’t describe. But things were building inside of me. Finally in November in maybe 2004 I took a Saturday business appointment and brought our daughter and her best friend along. I thought a drive to Palm Springs would be nice for them.

Along the way my body and mind began acting up. Before I knew it I was in the midst of a full blown panic attack although I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I might be dying or losing my mind.

Somehow I made it through my appointment and managed to get home. I noticed the closer I got to home my symptoms subsided. Home would become my safe place.

The first thing I thought of was I need prayer and counsel and went to our church the next day and explained what happened. Along the way someone brought up agoraphobia to me so I mentioned that to the man at church and he rebuked it having no idea what it was.

I was set to drive into downtown Los Angeles the next day and I was scared. He advised me to listen to praise music and pray on my and things would be okay.

So when things were even worse the next day I was a total mess. Something was happening to me that other believers weren’t experiencing. And the idea of going through what I had experienced on those two drives I never wanted to experience again.

Eventually I saw a doctor who explained things to me and he gave me medication and suggested seeing a counselor. Since that time I have been taking medication for my anxiety.

Other believers asked me where my faith was. A few stated they had been anxious but got through without meds. One person tried to cast demons out of me. It was clear that in my life the people I knew had no idea what I was dealing with.

All I knew is that I wanted to be free of my anxiety. In fact in my mind I thought God had given me a raw deal and owed me a healing.

I was a man with good intentions trying to live the Christian life so something had gone wrong.

That was the beginning of me trying to be God in order to insure my sanity and survival. I’d figure out what to do. I needed to protect my self as it seemed God was asleep at the wheel. mexico

ABOVE: Digging outside restrooms in Mexico around 1990.

So I went about trying to fix myself. The main way I tried to do this was by buying any Christian self help book I could get my hands on. I thought by doing so these books would lay out the steps for my healing. I’d read these steps and follow them and all would be well. But nothing changed.

I then became pretty much superstitious. Each year on my birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas I waited for God to give me the gift of a supernatural healing.

As the years went by and things stayed the same I came to a few conclusions. God wasn’t going to gift me because I deserved healing. I didn’t.   erinnnnn

ABOVE- My wife, myself and our daughter at her high school graduation in 2000.

What happened through the years is in the deepest part of my being I bought into the lie I was a failure. I concluded God’s promises were not for me. So I settled in to a life of ups and downs. I’d have good streaks when I functioned well and other times when I could barely function at all.

Amazingly through the 90’s my work didn’t suffer. In fact I excelled and at the close of the 90’s I was voted the national sales person of the decade!

After the year 2000 things began to fall apart big time. All of my efforts to get better were futile. I was a mess and in the next few years my life was to change in a big way.

My Story From The Beginning: Part 1

Joel 2:25  And I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the locust larvae, and the stripping locust, and the cutting locust, My great army which I sent among you

I grew up scared. Fear was my constant companion. At times my fear amped up to terror. Typically this took place with nobody knowing and me learning to adapt by self preservation. I guess it was very early avoidance behavior.

In my teens I was a very good athlete. I excelled in most everything. I loved when my excellence was noticed.

But ask me to defend myself against anyone and I could not bring myself to do it. My will had been broken along the way.

meeeeeee

I made it through high school and ended up working in a factory doing machine work. I spent thirteen years at a job I really didn’t care for. It paid the bills so I stayed with it.

The truth was I didn’t believe I could do anything that required skill. My self confidence had been broken along the way.

It was during those thirteen years I married and came to faith. I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of both of those events in 2016.

I served God with passion in those early years. All I wanted to do was share my faith with others. All of my fears faded into the background for a time. Then life happened. As the late John Lennon sang “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Things began happening with me in about 1974 and it all culminated in about 1995 when I had my first full blown panic attack.

Through the years leading up to this I experienced different things I kept to myself. I found myself having trouble eating meat. I had trouble swallowing it and I feared choking so I gave up steak and other meat.

meee____

 

I also found myself pacing my apartment at night with my finger on my neck. My pulse would be racing and I thought I was on the verge of a heart attack. I went to see a doctor and he pretty much patted me on the head and sent me on my way.

 

I would not go to the dentist. The first time I went was when I was 16 and it was a bad experience. I avoided doctors like the plague. I was scared if I went they would find something terminal or require me to do something that terrified me.

These were things that took place before I came to faith. All of these mixed feelings were beginning to build up within me. This set the stage for my life up to this point. Next time I’ll describe how I tried to COPE.  Allan

 

 

 

 

Myths About Agoraphobia

Taken from Fear Of  which is found  HERE.

Agoraphobia is the irrational fear of having a panic (or anxiety) attack in a place that may be difficult to escape from.

Before we learn about the causes, symptoms and treatment of this phobia, let us first see a few myths associated with it and the actual facts.

Myths about Agoraphobia

  • People with the fear of open spaces always remain housebound– Many sufferers of Agoraphobia actually prefer crowded spaces than being left alone at home. Majority
    • of these patients may have milder symptoms of Agoraphobia. If one is housebound for months or years, then his/her Agoraphobia can be classified as being extreme.
    • Agoraphobia is only the fear of crowded spaces– As mentioned above; some individuals are known to fear crowds while others to prefer them.
    • Fear of enclosed spaces in not Agoraphobia, only claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces)– Many individuals with Agoraphobia are also known to fear enclosed spaces but they might have other fear symptoms as well.
    • Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces and public places– More than the fear of being in an open space; the phobic tends to fear a “symptom-attack”- a rush of symptoms and sensations that s/he is unable to deal with.
    • Agoraphobia is always a fear of panic attack– In Agoraphobia, it is not just ‘panic’ that one fears but several other symptoms. For example, a person might feel nauseated in a crowded space and fear not being able to reach the bathroom on time to throw up. Thus, the sufferer might “learn to feel or expect to feel something disturbing” in a particular situation and hence try to avoid the situations as much as possible.
    • Causes of Agoraphobia or the fear of open/crowded spaces

      There is no single cause for the fear of open or crowded spaces. Researchers believe that a number of physical and psychological factors may be responsible for this phobia.

      • In majority of the cases, an underlying ‘panic disorder’ may be responsible for Agoraphobia. A panic disorder is characterized by an intense and irrational fear that can cause the sufferer to lose control, cry, shake and have thoughts about dying. In his/her mind, the sufferer then links the attack to situations and then tries to avoid those situations completely.
      • A research is also suggesting a possible link between long term tranquilizer or sleeping pill usage with Agoraphobia.
      • Individuals with difficulty of spatial orientation and balance (or those with weaker vestibular functions) are also known to experience the extreme fear of crowded or open spaces.
      • A history of alcohol or drug abuse, traumatic childhood experiences, recent life changes such as death, divorce, relationship difficulties, war, explosion, earthquakes etc can bring on the fear of open or crowded spaces.
      • Symptoms of Agoraphobia

        The symptoms of this phobia can be classified into physical and psychological symptoms.

        Physical symptoms:

        • Hyperventilating or rapid/shallow breathing
        • Feeling of choking or difficulty swallowing
        • Sweating
        • Shaking and trembling
        • Nausea and other gastrointestinal distress
        • Dizziness or lightheadedness
        • Ringing or buzzing in the ears

        Psychological symptoms

        • Fear of losing control or going crazy
        • Fear of dying
        • Feeling ‘unreal’ or detached from oneself
        • Feelings of depression, dread or anxiety
        • Having low self esteem or low confidence
        • Treatment for Agoraphobia

          It is essential to treat Agoraphobia early on, since, left untreated, it may take a more serious form and even make the sufferer depressed or suicidal.

          There are several treatment options for dealing with the fear of open or crowded spaces. Of these, it is best to rely on the self help techniques rather than taking medications as the latter can have withdrawal symptoms and other side effects.

          Self help techniques for dealing with panic symptoms

          • Breathing slowly and counting to ten while repeating the word ‘relax’ in calm and soothing manner. This is one of the expert recommended self help techniques that have been proven highly effective in managing panic symptoms.
          • Slowly exposing oneself to one’s fears and also writing down things that make one feels fearful. This might turn out to be difficult in the beginning but gradually one can overcome the fear of crowded or open spaces.
          • Educating self – There are many books and case studies available online and offline that can inspire one to fight their Agoraphobia.
          • Other than these self help methods, one can also opt for CBT/cognitive behavior or behavior therapy, guided imagery, counseling, talk therapy and group therapy. Taking baby steps is the key to overcoming Agoraphobia.

12 Things To Know When Someone You Love Has Anxiety

Taken from The Mighty  which is found   HERE.

Anxiety is unpredictable, confusing and intrusive. It’s tough. Not just for the people who have it but also for the people who love them. If you are one of those people, you would know too well that the second hand experience of anxiety feels bad enough – you’d do anything to make it better for the one going through it.

Whether we struggle with anxiety, confidence, body image – whatever – there are things we all need to make the world a little bit safer, a little bit more predictable, a little less scary. We all have our list. If you love someone with anxiety, their list is likely to look a little like this:

1. They’ll talk about their anxiety when they feel ready.

In the thick of an anxiety attack, nothing will make sense, so it’s best not to ask what’s going on or if they’re OK. No, they don’t feel OK. And yes, it feels like the world is falling apart at the seams.

Ask if they want to go somewhere else – maybe somewhere quieter or more private. Don’t panic or do anything that might give them the idea that they need looking after. Go for a walk with them, or just be there. Soon it will pass and when it does, they’ll be able to talk to you about what has happened, but wait for that. Then just listen and be there.

2. They’re pretty great to have around. You’ll want them as part of your tribe.

Because of their need to stay safe and to prepare against the next time anxiety rears its head, people who struggle with anxiety will generally have a plan – and they will have worked hard to make sure it works for everyone involved, not just for themselves. They’ll make sure everything has been organized to keep everyone safe, happy, on time and out of trouble. Notice the good things they do – there are plenty. Let them know you love them because of who they are, including who they are with anxiety, not despite it.

3. Remember: anxiety is a normal physical response to a brain being a little overprotective.

There’s a primitive part of all of our brains that’s geared to sense threat. For some people, it fires up a lot sooner and with a lot less reason than it does in others. When it does, it surges the body with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline to get the body ready to run for its life or fight for it. This is the fight or flight response and it’s in everyone. The “go” button is a bit more sensitive for people with anxiety.

4. There’s a lot to know, so if you try to understand everything you can … well, that makes you kind of awesome.

It makes a difference to be able to talk about anxiety without having to explain it. On the days they don’t feel like they have it in them to talk about it, it means a lot that you just “get it.” If you’ve tried to understand everything you can about what it means to have anxiety, then that’s enough. Anxiety is hard to make sense of – people with anxiety will be the first to tell you that – but it will mean everything that you’ve tried.

5. Make sure there’s room to say “no.” And don’t take it personally.

People with anxiety are super aware of everything going on – smells, sounds, people, possibilities. It’s exhausting when your attention is drawn to so many things. Don’t take “no” personally. Just because they might not want to be doing what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be with you. Keep offering – don’t assume everything you offer will be met with “no” – but be understanding and “no big deal” if you aren’t taken up on your offer. They are saying no to a potential anxiety attack. Not to you.

6. Loads of lovin’ never hurt anyone, so be compassionate and there for them.

Talk up the things you love about them. There will be times that people with anxiety will feel like they are their anxiety and that they are a source of difficulty. (Who hasn’t felt like they’re making things harder than they need to be?) Specifically, I’m talking about when plans have to be changed, when you need to book a few rows back from the front row, turn the radio down, take the long way. If this is the worst you have to deal with in a friend, sign me up.

7. Anxiety has nothing to do with courage or character. Nothing at all.

Courage is feeling the edge of yourself and moving beyond it. We all have our limits, but people with anxiety are just more aware of theirs. Despite this, they are constantly facing up to the things that push against their edges. That’s courage, and people with anxiety have it in truckloads. They’re strong, intelligent and sensitive – they’ll be as sensitive to you and what you need as they are to their environment. That makes them pretty awesome to be with. They can be funny, kind, brave and spirited. Really, they’re no different than anyone else. As with everyone, the thing that trips them up sometimes (their anxiety) is also the thing that lifts them above the crowd.

8. Anxiety can change shape. It doesn’t always look the same way.

Anxiety can be slippery. Sometimes it looks the way you’d expect anxiety to look. Other times it looks cranky, depressed or frustrated. Remember this and don’t take it personally.

9. People with anxiety know their anxiety doesn’t always make sense. That’s what makes it so difficult.

Explaining there’s nothing to worry about or they should “get over it” won’t mean anything – it just won’t – because they already know this. Be understanding, calm and relaxed and above all else, just be there. Anxiety feels flighty and there’s often nothing that feels better than having someone beside you who’s grounded, available and OK to go through this with you without trying to change you.

10. Don’t try to change them.

You’ll want to give advice. But don’t. Let them know that to you, they’re absolutely fine the way they are and that you don’t need to change them or fix them. If they ask for your advice then of course, go for it. Otherwise, let them know they are enough. More than enough, actually. Just the way they are.

11. Don’t confuse their need to control their environment with their need to control you. Sometimes they look the same. They’re not.

The need to control everything that might go wrong is hard work for anxious people, and it also might make you feel controlled. See it for what it is: the need to feel safe and in control of the possibility of anxiety running the show – not the need to control you. You might get frustrated, and that’s OK; all relationships go through that. Having compassion doesn’t mean you have to go along with everything put in front of you, so talk things out gently (not critically) if you need to.

And finally …

12. Know how important you are to them. 

Anyone who sticks around through the hard stuff is a keeper. People with anxiety know this. Nothing sparks a connection more than really getting someone, being there and bringing the fun into the relationship. Be the one who refuses to let anxiety suck the life out of everything. And know you’re a keeper. Yep. You are. Know they’re grateful – so grateful – for everything you do. And they love you back.

 

7 Mental Illness Myths People Still Believe

Taken from the  Huffington Post  which is found   HERE.

Myth 1: It’s contagious.

To bust this myth, it’s important to understand the difference between feelings and mental health disorders. Mental illness sufferers experience a spectrum of emotions, but this is a byproduct of brain chemistry and other possible factors that led to a diagnosis.

Though studies suggest that emotions — particularly stressful ones — are contagious, mental illness is not. It does not operate the same as the cold or flu, circulating through a scientific process of spreading germs.

Despite this knowledge, many people still believe mental illness can be spread. A 2014 paper published in the journal Memory & Cognition found that people believe mental illness can be communicable from one person to another. This belief is unfounded and most certainly false, not to mention it could also lead to feelings of isolation for those who have mental illness.

Myth 2: Mental illness is an indication of violence.

Many people still blame mental illness for horrific tragedies like the recent shooting of two journalists in Virginia, perpetuating a stigma that’s not easy to shed. But here’s the reality: A mental health disorder does not mean that someone is going to commit a violent act. In fact, a 2014 study found that people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than the ones committing them.

Myth 3: It’s uncommon.

Wrong. Approximately one in four people worldwide will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. That makes it very likely that someone you know will suffer from a psychological disorder.

Myth 4: Mental illness is “all in your head.”

There’s still a common belief in society that someone with anxiety can “just calm down” or someone with depression can “snap out of it,” as if they can choose to have an episode come or go. That’s simply not true. There are very real physical symptoms. Someone who suffers from depression may see changes in appetite, headaches and indigestion and someone who experiences anxiety may endure cardiovascular problems, stomach issues and a weakened immune system.

Myth 5: You can’t recover from mental health issues.

Mental illness isn’t one-size-fits-all, which means treatment varies for everyone. Therapy, medications and outside support are all useful tools in managing a mental health disorder and helping an individual lead a healthy and productive life.

Depression is a treatable disorder,” HuffPost’s mental health editor Lloyd Sederer, the medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health, wrote in a blog last year. “Like any serious illness, it takes comprehensive, ongoing, scientifically based care, an effective working patient-clinician relationship, and the support and patience of loving others.”

Myth 6: Mental illness stems from a bad childhood.

Life circumstances certainly can play a role, but other factors also have an influence on mental health disorders. Take anxiety, for example: “It’s not that having a difficult childhood is completely unrelated, but having a difficult childhood can be related to all kinds of things, not just anxiety,” Joseph Bienvenu, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, previously told HuffPost. “Some people have great childhood and still have anxiety.”

Research suggests that some mental health disorders may be caused by chemical imbalances in the body. Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects nearly 10 million people at certain points of the year, fluctuates based on seasonal changes.

Myth 7: You can’t help someone suffering from a mental health disorder.

Loved ones are paramount in helping someone with a mental illness get treatment. According to a recent nationwide mental health analysis, social support plays a large role when it comes to intervening or preventing suicide.

It requires a little reflection and thought to be supportive,” Gregory Dalack, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, previously told HuffPost. “Family members, friends and significant others have an opportunity to help in a way that’s not judgmental — even if it’s just helping them get to appointments, take medications or stick to a daily routine.”