i want to thank the academy and the mental health semi-professionals who made this possible. . .

on january 24, the academy of motion picture arts and science president will announce the nominations for an oscar.  i won’t be getting one.  but i sure felt like a star last night when the black lincoln town car pulled into the driveway.  michael, the driver, opened the passenger door for me and off we went.  president obama was in town but i didn’t have to worry about traffic.  i had to worry about dr. drew.

dr. drew pinsky is an internist, addiction specialist and a radio/television personality. he wanted to talk about my facebook project for his show on hln network.


i had run six miles earlier in the evening to calm my nerves.  i texted friends in the back seat as if the digits on my driver’s license were reversed and i was fifteen not fifty one.  i hardly noticed the beautiful lights on michigan avenue.  michael dropped me off at the building where cnn has its bureau.  the bureau is eight desks in one room and a small studio.  a cheerful makeup artist made me look so great i felt awful i was being wasted on a wednesday night.  and the producer took me into the studio.  it was nine thirty and i really wanted to be home in my pajamas.

i sat in front of a screen that was a video feed of the view from the window.  i had a microphone up under my sweater.  i had an earpiece in my right ear and could occasionally hear parts of dr. drew’s interview with billy ray cyrus.  a camera was directly in front of me and the producer told me to look just towards the top of the lens.  then it would appear as if i were looking at dr. drew.  it’s kind of like skype, but i would have to use my imagination.

for some reason i kept thinking of heidi fleiss and parrots. she was on two shows--celebrity rehab with dr. drew and sober house with dr. drew. instead of picturing dr. drew, i kept thinking about the fact that heidi the former hollywood madam owns over two dozen parrots.


i heard but could not see a clip of the time my facebook friend gretchen miller taught me how to open a champagne bottle with a saber sword.  it was a wonderful memory.  then an expert psychologist was introduced.  she was quite alarmed–because she said that panic attacks are made WORSE by someone going out into the world without proper medical supervision and care.  further, she said that panic attacks were among the easiest ailments for a professional to treat.

i have to stop right here and tell you what i HAVEN’T been doing for the past week.  i haven’t been seeing facebook friends.  i haven’t been traveling.  i haven’t been lolling by the pool at some wonderful resort.  i have been reading messages, texts, and emails from people who are just like me.  it has been overwhelming because almost all of them have been from people who suffer from panic attacks and agoraphobia.  all of them feeling trapped.  all of them doing their best.  some of them unable to afford treatment but most having made some effort. i have tried to respond to every email and i’ve made arrangements to visit at least one new friend because they believe i can help them walk out the door of their house.  hell, it can’t make things any worse, right?  and at least they’ll get a hostess gift out of the deal.

in the studio i did the worst thing:  i forgot my manners and my microphone.  i felt like i was being told that everything i had done over the past year was not only wrong, but medically ill-advised.

“maybe i should have brought a psychologist with me,”  i said about my past year of travel.

i instantly regretted the words.  and i settled into a familiar feeling of self-loathing.  my foot and my mouth are a perfect fit, yes?

the interview ended, dr. drew couldn’t have been more polite and sweet.  the producer and the makeup artist were very kind.  i went down to the curb and watched the president’s helicopter fly overhead.  michael told me the traffic would be light on the way home.  i felt guilty taking dr. drew’s car.

sometimes when i really feel down, i drink white wine and a lot of it. but after the dr. drew episode, i had an amstel light and read OK! magazine.


this morning, i was still feeling like i owed somebody–most particularly the expert psychologist–an apology.  and i had to question whether it’s okay for me to just haul off and write back to the facebook friends who contact me about their anxiety attacks.  i’m not an expert.  and i didn’t have experts with me when i went off to see my facebook friends around the world last year.  i didn’t even ask any experts what to do or how to do it.

silly rabbit, you had a LOT of help from mental health semi-professionals. they're called family and friends!


so i don’t have any opportunity or need to make up a thank you for oscar night, but i have a thank you for this morning.  thank you to my friends and family, on facebook and those who aren’t on facebook, because you made it happen.  and if i could roll out the red carpet for you on oscar night, i would!

7 responses to “i want to thank the academy and the mental health semi-professionals who made this possible. . .

  • Kar

    You have nothing for which to apologize. You are brave and ingenious to devise a way to push yourself further out of the prison your mind and body had created for you. You aren’t bottling the cure and selling it for profit. I don’t think you are discouraging others or yourself from seeking professional help which might make the resolution of problems quicker and more lasting. You have taken a step which confirms that ultimately the cure for what ails you is within yourself. I think you enormously brave and I’m glad that you had fun visiting your facebook friends and enjoying life. I’m happy you took your son along to share your joy and for your own safety net, especially because your journey was so successful, although I hope in the future you can free him from being or feeling in any way responsible for your safety or health.

    Part of the glory of your progress, and maybe a good part of its success is that you devised and did it yourself with the help and encouragement of others. You showed yourself that you were a very competent and able person. Please allow the people who ask for your help to help themselves as you did rather than forcing what was good for you on them. Give them the same sort of support that your family and friends gave you and don’t presume that because something worked for you that it will work for them (I’m not at all saying that you do this). Don’t discourage them from seeking more formal help even by implying that what you did for yourself might work for them in lieu of professional help. Your mind was already in a place that allowed you to devise your own method for opening your world. Their minds may be in very different places. They might not be ready for the steps you took.

    Now that you’ve proven to yourself and many other people that you are not a victim of yourself, you might consider getting some psych counseling to further your progress. Seek out some trained allies. You’ve demonstrated a capacity to have a joyous life. If counseling will help you enjoy that life more and with fewer attacks, it seems foolish to forgo the help.

    • arlynnpresser

      you have made an incredibly helpful point and you articulate it very very well. i am not opposed to professional help and i would never in a million years say that how i ran my life last year is the best way for people to run theirs. and maybe you’re making the very point that the psychologist was trying to make but doing so in a way that doesn’t draw up my defenses. i am so grateful to you. and yeah, i’m totally thinking about the possibilities of counseling, of different drug treatments, of anything. i am a work in progress and i suspect a lot of my friends are too. thank you so much!

  • Fizzy

    Wow, I never think you should apologise, you have achieved something completely amazing, and us fellow sufferers like to read about triumphs to keep us motivated ! You have told how you really did this, and thats what this is all about. I know personally, I dont gain any real progress from my Psychologist, but with my small group of supportive friends i have made through blogging, it is them that get me out each time i walk out of the front door, it is them that support me when i have a bad patch and cant get out for months at a time, so different things work for different people, i just find it easier to relate to someone who is going through/or has gone through the same thing.
    Plus, you dont need to be an expert to give friendly advice and support, i think most of us have done all the research we can and had treatment,but advice and support from those who understand is just irreplaceable! xx

  • Marty

    Very good progress I would say – standing up for yourself is very freeing- liberating.. folks with DR degrees are sometimes in need a bit of push back..nice work. Show the Dr Drew on TV today not so impressed with him but your work is A for the day!

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