Taken from the Huffington Post which is found HERE.
A Missouri mom has seen immense support online after she opened up about her battle with anxiety and depression and how it’s affected her as a mother.
Cierra Fortner, a mom of two, wrote on Facebook on Jan. 20 that a cashier at Walmart recognized her as a regular customer and said she seemed to “have it all together” with her kids. In her post, Fortner wrote that she thanked the cashier, but had some details she wanted to clear up.
“I want her to know I battle a personality disorder every day with anxiety and depression mixed and I’m a two times [sic] suicide survivor,” she wrote.
Fortner told The Huffington Post her battle with anxiety and depression began after her mom passed away from melanoma in September 2010. After she started seeing a counselor and taking medication, she became pregnant with her first son in 2011 and experienced postpartum depression after he was born.
“After having him, I had my first suicide attempt as … postpartum depression was added in and I had an extremely rough time with it,” she told HuffPost. “I wasn’t diagnosed with the personality disorder until my second suicide attempt in April of 2014.”
The Missouri mom, who welcomed another son in April 2015, said her husband has been a “great help” through both her good and bad days. In her post, she wrote that she wanted the Walmart cashier she mentioned earlier and readers online to know how her battle with anxiety and depression affects her daily life.
“I want her to know that my son is late for school 3 out of 4 days because I regularly forget what day and time it is, despite the toddler size calendar in my kitchen,” she wrote. “I want her to know I have those ‘I’m losing my shit’ moments when I have to lock myself in the bathroom and cry.”
When asked why she decided to open up about her struggles on such a public platform, Fortner said she once felt like “the worst mom on the planet” and alone in her battle. Thanks to her support system, she soon discovered she wasn’t and wanted other parents to know there are people out there experiencing what they’re going through.
Fortner’s Facebook post has been shared more than 92,000 times as of Monday. She told HuffPost she’s heard from people from various cultures and countries, who appreciated her honesty and her way of taking down mental health stigma. With all of this attention, Fortner hopes parents reading her post know that it’s OK to ask for help. But most importantly, she hopes they take care of themselves.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff because in 10 years your kids won’t look back and remember that you let laundry go for a few days or that they had frozen pizza for a full week straight, but they will remember the amount of love that you had for them and how hard you tried.”
In dealing with the topic of mental illness quite often we learn of the importance of medication that allows people to live healthy and vibrant lives. This article points out the reality of drug overdoses due to anxiety medication. Allan
More Americans than ever are overdosing on anxiety drugs, researchers reported Thursday — and it’s not clear why.
The new study finds not only that more Americans are taking the drugs, which include brand names such as Valium and Xanax, but that they’re taking more of them.
But while the quantity of prescriptions filled tripled between 1996 and 2013, the number of overdoses quadrupled during the same period, the team reported in the American Journal of Public Health.
“We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos,’ has increased more than four-fold since 1996 — a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” said Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who helped lead the study.
“Overdoses from benzodiazepines have increased at a much faster rate than prescriptions for the drugs, indicating that people have been taking them in a riskier way over time.”
Benzodiazepines are extremely popular drugs in the U.S.
More than 5 percent of U.S. adults fill a benzodiazepine prescription every year, for conditions such as anxiety, mood disorders and insomnia.
They’re known to be highly addictive and, in 2013, nearly a third of the 23,000 people who died from prescription drug overdoses were taking them.
Bachhuber’s team looked at large health surveys to find trends in their use and abuse.
“The rate of overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased more than four-fold from 0.58 per 100,000 adults to 3.07 per 100 000 adults,” they wrote. “However, this rate appeared to plateau after 2010.”
“Between 1996 and 2013, the number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased 67 percent, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million,” they added.
They found a similarly large increase in the number of pills each adult was prescribed.
It’s not clear why overdoses went up so much. It could be people are taking the drugs for longer times, raising the odds that they’ll eventually overdose. Or it could be the pills are getting to people who don’t have prescriptions, the researchers wrote.
Taken from the Huffington Post which is found HERE.
I am 26 years old, and I currently live at home. I flunked out of university my freshman year as a basketball player on a partial scholarship, and I was in and out of community college for several years until I could gain some focus. I guess you can say it’s taken me some time to find direction in my life. I’m someone with mental illness, and mental illness has a way of consuming a person. I’ve got depression and anxiety, which is just a concoction of f*ckery, and the effects can feel agonizing. Anxiety and depression can be very crippling. Getting through each day can feel like a chore, waking up each morning can feel like a curse, and overall it’s just miserable. Throughout the years I’ve had a handful of different therapists. I have been fortunate to find a psychotherapist that is affordable and sincere, and I have been consistently seeing her for a few years now.
I have made a lot of progress since working with my therapist, and this past year I made it through something I never thought I would be willing to share. Last year I had some of the most trying months of my life. I felt like a zombie. I was going through the motions of my everyday life. I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t feel like myself. I would fake many of my emotions and tell loved ones I was “fine” and that I was just going through a “rough period.” This was not a rough period. Being disappointed at the fact that I would wake each morning was not fine. Hating my existence was not fine. Wanting to end my life was not fine. If I wasn’t locked in my room then I was either at work or at a therapy session. Having to hear your therapist ask in almost every session, “Do you have a plan?” This is not a sign of being fine or just having a rough period. I was dishonest with many people: my friends, my family, and even my therapist. I had plans to end my life; however, I was not convinced any of them were foolproof.
I was more concerned with burdening loved ones than wanting to live. How do you explain to someone that you’re having difficulty coping with life? How do you begin to tell someone that you no longer wish to be alive? Almost every day I found myself reading through Reddit’s thread: [Serious] Parent’s of children who have committed suicide, could you explain the experience? I don’t think deep down I wanted to end my life. I did want to end my suffering. I was convinced that my life did not matter, that all I did was take up space, and that no one understood what I was feeling.
These are all things I once felt ashamed to admit. The shame I associated with needing professional help, the shame I’ve associated with my journey in life taking a bit longer than others, the embarrassment I’ve felt for my parents and myself because I could never seem to get things right — these are burdens I no longer wish to carry.
The truth is, I have no reason to be ashamed. This is not something a person can just snap out of. There is no quick fix. There is no waking up each day and telling myself to be happy. There is no off switch for depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, thinking positive is not something that can defeat mental illness, and I can’t pray mental illness away. What I can do is acknowledge the feelings and thoughts that arise each day. I can remind myself that I am not alone, and I can be patient with myself and just continue to take things one day at a time. This is what mental illness looks like.
Taken from the New York Times which is found HERE.
Sitting at the heart of much anxiety and fear is emotional memory — all the associations that you have between various stimuli and experiences and your emotional response to them. Whether it’s the fear of being embarrassed while talking to strangers (typical of social phobia) or the dread of being attacked while walking down a dark street after you’ve been assaulted (a symptom of PTSD), you have learned that a previously harmless situation predicts something dangerous.
It has been an article of faith in neuroscience and psychiatry that, once formed, emotional memories are permanent. Afraid of heights or spiders? The best we could do was to get you to tolerate them, but we could never really rid you of your initial fear. Or so the thinking has gone.
The current standard of treatment for such phobias revolves around exposure therapy. This involves repeatedly presenting the feared object or frightening memory in a safe setting, so that the patient acquires a new safe memory that resides in his brain alongside the bad memory. As long as the new memory has the upper hand, his fear is suppressed. But if he is re-traumatized or re-exposed with sufficient intensity to the original experience, his old fear will awaken with a vengeance.
This is one of the limitations of exposure therapy, along with the fact that it generally works in only about half of the PTSD patients who try it. Many also find it upsetting or intolerable to relive memories of assaults and other traumatizing experiences.
We urgently need more effective treatments for anxiety disorders. What if we could do better than creating a new safe memory — and actually get rid of emotions attached to the old bad one?
New research suggests that it may be possible not just to change certain types of emotional memories, but even to erase them. We’ve learned that memories are uniquely vulnerable to alteration at two points: when we first lay them down, and later, when we retrieve them.
Merel Kindt, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues have seemingly erased the emotional fear response in healthy people with arachnophobia. For a study published last month in the journal Biological Psychiatry, she compared three groups made up of 45 subjects in total. One group was exposed to a tarantula in a glass jar for two minutes, and then given a beta-blocker called propranolol that is commonly prescribed to patients for performance anxiety; one was exposed to the tarantula and given a placebo; and one was just given propranolol without being shown the spider, to rule out the possibility that propranolol by itself could decrease spider fear.
Dr. Kindt assessed the subjects’ anxiety when they were shown the spider the first time, then again three months later, and finally after a year. What she found was remarkable. Those who got the propranolol alone and those who got the placebo had no improvement in their anxiety. But the arachnophobes who were exposed to the spider and given the drug were able to touch the tarantula within days and, by three months, many felt comfortable holding the spider with their bare hands. Their fear did not return even at the end of one year.
How does this work? Well, propranolol blocks the effects of norepinephrine in the brain. This chemical, which is similar to adrenaline, enhances learning, so blocking it disrupts the way a memory is put back in storage after it is retrieved — a process called reconsolidation.
Arachnophobes have an emotional memory that involves an association between spiders and a dreaded outcome, like a spider bite. This “fear memory” is the source of their phobia — even if (as is often the case) it never actually happened. The basic idea is that when Dr. Kindt briefly exposed the subjects to the spider, she reactivated their fear, which made the fear memory susceptible to the influence of propranolol.
Reconsolidation is a bit like pulling up a file on your computer, rewriting the same material in a bigger, bolder font and saving it again. Disrupting reconsolidation with propranolol or another drug is akin to retrieving this document, erasing some or all of the text and then writing something new in its place.
Dr. Kindt is not the first to demonstrate that disrupting reconsolidation can weaken or erase emotional memories. Several studies of rats done in 2000 showed that a drug called anisomycin, which blocks the synthesis of proteins in the brain, could reduce fear associations. In one, researchers taught rats to fear a sound by pairing it with a shock. After the animals were fear-conditioned, they were presented with the sound and then immediately given the drug. When the animals were exposed to the sound again, they no longer appeared afraid; they had forgotten their original fear.
Curiously, there is a very narrow time window after retrieving a fear memory when you can disrupt that memory — hours, in the animal studies — before it closes and the drug has no effect.
These studies suggest that someday, a single dose of a drug, combined with exposure to your fear at the right moment, could free you of that fear forever. But there’s a flip side to this story about how to undo emotional learning: how to strengthen it. We can do that with drugs as well, and may have been doing it for some time.
ANXIETY enhances emotional memory. We all know that — it’s why you can easily forget where you put your wallet, but will never forget being attacked. This is the case because anxiety leads to the release of norepinephrine in the brain, which, again, strengthens emotional learning. It is also why we should think twice about casually prescribing stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall for young people who really don’t need them. Stimulants also cause the release of norepinephrine and may enhance fear learning. So it is possible that taking stimulants could increase one’s risk of developing PTSD when exposed to trauma.
Indeed, a study that will be published next month found that the escalating use of stimulants by the military in active duty soldiers, including those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, was strongly correlated with an increase in the rates of PTSD, even when controlling for other factors, like the rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The study examined the use of prescription stimulants, like Ritalin and Adderall, and the rates of PTSD in nearly 26,000 military service members between 2001 and 2008, and found that the incidence of PTSD increased along with the prescriptions.
By blocking the effect of norepinephrine and disrupting memory reconsolidation, we could perhaps reverse this process. The clear implication of these studies is that emotional memory is not permanent after all.
Before you rush off into a panic about the dystopian possibility of mind control or memory deletion, it’s important to recognize that the procedure in Dr. Kindt’s study only weakened the subjects’ fear memory and avoidant behavior. Although the procedure is able to alter or perhaps delete the fear memory (something exposure therapy cannot do), it does nothing to the factual, or biographical, memory, which remains intact.
This is not “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the movie in which a dysfunctional couple decides to erase their memories of each other and start their lives all over again. To the contrary, you still remember your biography, but your fear would be stripped of its force. The subjects knew perfectly well after the study that they previously feared spiders and that they now — strangely — felt little to no anxiety around them.
If this new approach is effective in other anxiety disorders, like PTSD, you would expect someone who was assaulted in his home to remember the attack perfectly well, but no longer feel afraid of being at home. What’s so bad about that?
It would certainly be superior to exposure therapy, which is far from a permanent fix. Once, while on vacation in Costa Rica, I was standing next to a young man on a zip line platform in a rain forest when he began to hyperventilate. I learned that he had a fear of heights and had had exposure treatment a year before, which he felt had fixed the problem. But now, his old fear was triggered and he was having a full-blown panic attack. I suppose he was lucky to be stuck with a psychiatrist in the jungle; I talked him down the ladder to the ground.
How effective this new memory-disrupting approach will be in treating more serious anxiety disorders like PTSD or panic is unclear. A few preliminary studies using propranolol in PTSD showed mixed results. Some found no effect, but a 2015 review of PTSD treatment studies published in Biological Psychology found that propranolol administered with six brief trauma reactivation sessions significantly improved PTSD symptoms compared with a placebo.
Study results may well change with the development of better methods for administering propranolol or new drugs that are more effective in disrupting memory reconsolidation. Marieke S. Tollenaar, a psychologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who has studied the effects of propranolol on memory, told me that the “final test” would be to “examine in real life whether propranolol in addition to standard exposure treatment procedures would be beneficial. Little has been done there yet; most work is still done experimentally in the lab.”
Some may view any attempt to tamper with human memory as disturbing because it seems at odds with what we ought to do as a culture with the darker aspects of our history: Never alter the facts, even if we have divergent interpretations of them. And it is critical not to destroy places where crimes of humanity and collective trauma took place, like the concentration camps, so we never forget what we have done and remain capable of doing. Fair enough. But I see no reason not to help frightened individuals soften their painful emotional memories.
Some may also argue that it’s a mistake to tinker with our fear responses because they’re natural — they evolved this way for a reason. Like most other animals, we come hard-wired with a flight or fight response along with its associated anxiety and fear. Without this warning system to protect us from predators and other dangers, we’d have been dinner long ago on the savanna.
But what was once adaptive millions of years ago isn’t always so helpful today. People who suffer panic attacks hyperventilate and have an intense desire to flee in situations where there is rarely actual danger. It turns out that panic disorder is associated with an increased sensitivity to carbon dioxide in the brain. If you lived in a cave with a clan of hominid fire-dwellers, you’d have been one of the first to get out when the oxygen supply was dwindling.
Curiously, that might help explain why some people have panic attacks that wake them at night. These patients don’t panic during so-called REM sleep, when dreams occur, but during non-REM sleep, when they are deeply relaxed, when breathing slows, and the levels of carbon dioxide rise, generating a false suffocation alarm.
Evolutionary design has left us a few million years out of date; we are hard-wired for a Paleolithic world, but have to live in a modern one. The irrational fear of anxiety disorders was once probably useful and lifesaving. No longer.
But maybe that modern world can help. I see nothing wrong with doing all we can to rid ourselves of pathological anxiety, including using drugs to alter our painful emotional memories.
Correction: January 22, 2016
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described some of the details of a study. Arachnophobes who were given a drug and exposed to a tarantula were able to touch the spider four days later, not hold them in a jar on Day 1.
Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and a contributing opinion writer.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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