Tag Archives: anxiety

a sword pulled like excalibur from my chest by my enemy ativan

discharged from roosevelt hospital. e.k.g., enzymes, blood sugar, platelets, liver function, pancreas, kidneys are all normal. it’s not a stroke, it’s not a heart attack, it’s not a collapsed lung, a wayward pancreas, a liver in revolt. why i should be in agony for thirty six hours, feeling like a sword has been plunged into my chest is a mystery medical science is not yet able to solve. but the solution? intravenous ativan and as it entered my veins i thought “noooo!” because i have worked so hard to be free of this drug and then “please, yes” as the sword–like excalibur by arthur–was pulled from my chest. . . i am without pain, sleepy, and just want to find my way home.

i woke up two days ago and couldn't shake this feeling that i had been the one to plunge the sword into my own heart..

i woke up two days ago and couldn’t shake this feeling that i had been the one to plunge this sword into my own heart.


i have worked very hard to defeat ativan and now i am told it is my master.  for a few days, a few months, the rest of my life, i don’t know.

i was first prescribed ativan six years ago while going through a painful separation from my then husband (who is now my ex-husband and one of my closest friends).

i was first prescribed ativan six years ago while going through a painful separation from my then husband (who is now my ex-husband and one of my closest friends).


a few months ago, i made a commitment to break up with ativan.  i saw him a little less, refused his blandishments, told him i didn’t want to go out anymore.  i thought he understood.  but he’s a seductive pill.  sweet talking, seemingly harmless, whispering sweet somethings in my ear.  and when he was combined with mr. pinot grigio, i was as pliable as the butter i forgot to put back in the refrigerator after i made the breakfast toast.

what next?  i don’t know.  i have to go down on my own to the airport, and find my way home.  and maybe there, i can shut the door and make the world and its swords and slings and arrows go away.

A is for ativan, W is for withdrawal

A is for ativan.

B is for benzodiazepam, its drug classification.

C is for calming when taken.

D is for damned, which is what i have felt like for the last three weeks.

i could go on like this for another 22 letters but except for the W i think i will stop. i have been experiencing ativan withdrawal and it’s like having all the anxiety attacks i have avoided or weaseled out of with ativan have been waiting to be unleashed when i say enough.


ativan is a drug used to control anxiety and panic disorder.  i have been taking ativan for nearly seven years.  every time i get an uptick in my anxiety level, my doctor puts me on a higher dosage.  three weeks ago, i was taking three milligrams a day and it wasn’t making me feel particularly calm.  but if i didn’t take it, lordy, was i a wreck.

in 2011 i had a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends wherever on the planet they might be.  i stopped being afraid of things because i was forced to do things i was afraid of every day of the year--fear of flying, of meeting new people, of leaving my own house.

in 2011 i had a new years resolution to meet all 325 of my facebook friends wherever on the planet they might be. i stopped being afraid of things because i was forced to do things i was afraid of every day of the year–fear of flying, of meeting new people, of leaving my own house.

three weeks ago i made a commitment to quit, which started as a drop down to one milligram and then two weeks ago became a dive off the cliff.  every phobia i have possessed has returned.  every inclination to not leave the house.  and sleep?  fuggedaboutit!  i even felt a fear of posting a blog.  just because i stopped doing it everyday.  i have the shakes.  i have had hideous asthma attacks.  all side effects of withdrawal.  i have given my ativan to a friend who is both close enough that i can get to the ativan in the case of a real emergency and someone i trust to not take all of them.

i can’t wait to tell my doctor that i don’t need a refill, thank you very much.

even without the red shoes, there’s nothing like it!

i made a new years resolution for 2011 to meet in person all 325 of my facebook friends.  325 friends, 365 days, 13 countries, close to 60,000 miles on planes, trains and automobiles.

i had 325 friends–from college, from around town, from playing online scrabble, people who like my grandfather’s science fiction writing, parents of my kids’ friends, and some people i just had no idea why. i wanted to meet them all and figure out if we were “just” facebook friends or something else.


at the end of the year, my house sold.  my sons live in new york and ohio and neither of them really wanted me to move in with them.  i had no place i had to be and i had spent a year being everywhere so i could choose.

this past month, i took an apartment.

for most of my adventures, i carried with me a plush doll of the nineteenth century adventurer and explorer william clark. he has his own facebook page and we are facebook friends. now he resides in the bat girl cave which is very close to where i used to live.

i could have gotten one of those prefab homes in nome that i saw, or moved into the mumbai holiday inn which is the swankest place i stayed.  i could have opened a fruit stall in mexico city in the neighborhood i visited or i could rent one of those sweet apartments i saw in dortmund, germany.  but no, i ended up back in winnetka and i didn’t have to click my heels three times to know there’s no place like it.

but of course i have facebook friends to see in other parts of the world.  new friends on facebook.  i just got back from kentucky and i think the next trip is ontario and from there new york.

thursday night i went to a party in winnetka. everybody said “welcome back!” and i think they meant it. i was not actually wearing these shoes, but i felt like i was!



Anxiety Attacks America!

i just got this from my friend jack and he’s agreed that it’s okay for me to share!


By Jack Spatafora, today at 9:46 am

So what’s all this about the National Institute of Health reporting, “More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year, many in the form of anxiety attacks.” What’s with this label ‘attack?’ I can understand a shark attack, a heart attack, an attack of indigestion, but how does anxiety attack…?

If you can’t answer that, be glad. You don’t want to know! It’s defined as a sudden onslaught of symptoms that can unexpectedly paralyze you with an inexplicable mix of fearfulness, self consciousness, depersonalization, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and a cold crawling panic about your immediate surroundings.

Case in point this last summer. A well-known Broadway actor suffering from chronic anxiety attacks was rushed from backstage to an ER with these symptoms. The staff told him it was a mild heart attack. He remembers sitting up and telling them, “Thank god, I thought it was going to be an anxiety attack!”

Two schools of thought about psychiatric illnesses. One is the traditional, up-by-your-own-bootstraps bravado which dismisses these as “it’s all in your mind.” Ironically, that’s the point! The mind still remains largely a mystery to us, and so too its many diseases and cures. You can keep a smile-on-your-face and whistle-a-happy-tune from here to forever, but that won’t change either here or forever. Panic attacks have been plaguing the human species since the beginning but cavalierly dismissed as: weakness, foolishness, or the work of the devil.

Modern societies have learned otherwise; however, this learning has not always seeped down to where the boys belly up to the bar and the ladies who lunch scoff at their suffering peers. There are many plagues across the land. The terrible ones you can see like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Then the even more terrible ones you can’t see.

It took a war to finally recognize post-traumatic-disorder. Now what’s it going to take…?



leann rimes, twitter addiction, and my facebook friend marty gerendasy

i’m totally in depression and denial!  leann rimes–the country singer, actress and homewrecker–is in rehab.  quel horreur!  quel surprise!

leann and husband eddie cibrian in happier times. both left their spouses for each other. leann tweets pictures of her bikini clad self, tweets about eddie, tweets more pictures of her bikini clad self, tweets about eddie’s children from his marriage to brandi granville, tweets more of those pictures, and gets into tweet fights with individuals in her fan club. two of those tweet fights were with supporters of eddie’s first wife and they were recorded without leann’s knowledge.  argh, what a mess.  if you tweet a lot does that make you a twit?


the reason for her rehab stint?  the publicist’s word is “exhaustion, anxiety and stress” which is, well, what do you think it stands for?

husband eddie has been begging leann to give up twitter.  he is particularly appalled that she allows her twitter life to intersect with her real one–meeting people who follow her on twitter.  she is addicted.  i’m not sure if i am quite so addicted but i do understand and sympathize with her.

still, facebook friend #328 (the 328th facebook friend i’ve met since making my new year’s resolution in january 2011) marty gerendasy makes a habit of seeking out people he wants to meet.  whether through facebook, the newspaper, the internet–he looks for what is interesting.  and i hadn’t realized how long we had been friends.

i wish leann all health and a supportive marriage, friendship and a great career.  and maybe it’s time to put aside the twittering.  but i hope leann doesn’t lose the curiosity about the world and her ability to interact with it.  as for losing her husband. . .

eddie was in the blink and you’ve missed it series “the playboy club” — since i’m not going to post pictures of leann in a bikini, you’ll just have to be titillated by this picture of eddie and his costar laura benanti.

facemash becomes facebook becomes friendship matchmaking

facebook was originally a term given to the student directories that certain schools gave out to make remembering the name of the cute dude in calculus easier.  harvard, where mark zuckerberg attended, didn’t have a facebook but several of the fraternities and sororities had their own individual facebooks.

mark had a little fun by hacking into the databases for these facebooks and creating “facemash” — an online game of “hot or not” in which players rated side by side pictures of their classmates. the game attracted 450 players and 22,000 views in the first four hours. mark got into some trouble and was nearly expelled but then he decided that “facemash” had tapped into some primal needs for connection and for looking at cute potentials. facemash didn’t ask players to rate pictures of adorable kittens, inspirational thoughts, or team logos–all of which have been or are presently used by some of my facebook friends!

mark played around with other similar applications, eventually hitting on what we now use as facebook.  facebook sometimes makes us believe we have a rich and varied social life when we really haven’t even gotten out of bed all day.  and facebook sometimes brings people together who wouldn’t normally interact.  one of the surprises of my new years resolution to meet my facebook friends was discovering how different and yet how similar i am to my friends.

this past week i went to los angeles with two chaperones reggie gholston and vincent peters.  i sometimes take chaperones because it’s a good safety measure.

i also took these chaperones because reggie (on the left) is being deployed to afghanistan in a few weeks. he will be gone for a year and my “care” packages will include smokes, toilet paper, and food. both vince and reggie are my facebook friends, but they are more than that. they are my buddies.

one of the facebook friends i wanted to meet was #324 brandon day.  he is a twentysomething genius who ran into a bit of trouble a few years ago when he experienced full on agoraphobia.  it was difficult for him to explain to his family and friends what he was going through–panic attacks that made it impossible for him to get beyond the front door.  i think with facebook people can connect and relate their common experiences and they don’t feel so alone or so weird.

and that’s an even more important application of mark zuckerberg’s genius than offering the world the opportunity to rate their fellow humans hot or not.

brandon’s genius is in the creation of phone apps, video games and whatnot.  through the magic of facebook i am friends with sarah, whom i visited in detroit.  she is agoraphobic.  and she wants very much to create video games, which she oughta be real good at because video games is how she gets through her day.  i introduced the two of them via facebook and when i met brandon we had a message for her.

brandon is working on a phone application and website to help agoraphobics like sarah and our fondest wish is that the three of us will be together for lunch in los angeles, detroit, chicago, london, paris, rome?

meanwhile, on the other coast, last night i received a message from facebook friend michele piersiak.  she lives in staten island and has had trouble leaving the house for a year.  i visited her and she felt i was “safe” to walk around the neighborhood with.  we talked about major goals–hers is to become a psychologist who helps people with social anxieties.  and then we talked about minor goals.  i think of minor goals as the things that may sound silly to other people but they are building blocks for your major goal.  michele’s is to have dinner at laconde verde, a restaurant in manhattan owned by robert deniro.  there are reservations under my name for august ninth!  in order to do that, she has had to make mini-goals of walking around her neighborhood on her own, going to shops and stores, using public transportation.  just yesterday, she readied herself for the laconde verde lunch by going to lunch with facebook pal carolyn quinn.  facebook matchmaking.

you can play hot or not on facebook, but i think facebook and other social networking sites have a lot more to offer. or maybe i am just worried i’d get a “not”!

after saying goodbye to brandon, the chaperones and i headed for las vegas where we would ultimately end up with friendship tragedy.  still, if our adventure could be a moviemash it would be “driving miss daisie” and “the hangover”. . .

not completely abnormal and the thirteenth tooth.

i was supposed to see two facebook friends today but my teeth got in the way.  specifically the thirteenth tooth.  it cracked open in the middle of the night and, eight advil later, i was sitting on the sidewalk outside my dentist’s office waiting for somebody, anybody to show up for work.

some reflexologists and traditional medicine professionals believe that the large intestines and the lung meridians of the body affect teeth 4, 5, 12 and 13 of the upper jaw. so a disturbance in the thirteenth tooth could be a warning of lung, intestinal, pituitary, and thymus gland problems! i just thought the side of my face was exploding with pain!


my dentist said “aren’t you glad this didn’t happen when you were out meeting facebook friends in another country?”  and i think i agree although one thing i found through this journey of meeting all my facebook friends is they have been nearly uniform in their hospitality.  i’m sure if i had been in taiwan, facebook friend warner sills would have found me an endodontist.  that’s a fancy pants name for “person who can get rid of that pain that starts in one tooth and makes you want to rip the side of your face off and wear a mask like that dude in phantom of the opera”.

my dentist sent me posthaste to dr. trina, endodontrial genius and then he called their office to make sure i showed up.  he’s not dumb, my dentist.

a root canal is no fun, particularly when the only drugs you’re getting make you feel as if your face has just ballooned out to the size of a small townhouse.  in the course of the surgery, dr. trina discovered that i have not one but two roots in my thirteenth tooth.  this, she declared, was “not completely abnormal.”

she told me the surgery would take two hours.  she wasn’t inclined towards vicodin, codeine, laughing gas, or even a small martini.   she’s into natural childbirth, natural appendectomy, and natural root canal.  i was on my own.  well, not on my own:  trina had both hands and several surgical instruments in my mouth and an assistant kim who occasionally took a jab at me.  i worried that one or another swab, finger, needle, scapel or drillbit would go down my throat.

i have a number of facebook friends with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, agoraphobia, ms, fibromyalgia:  some of them have complained about the state of their own teeth.  after all, most dentists don’t do house calls.  and most of these friends are pretty terrified of dentists.

dwayne johnson, aka the rock, starred in the 2010 blockbuster “the tooth fairy” along with the dazzling cast including ashley judd, julie andrews, and stephen merchant. it was a poignant commentary on our belief that after the pain of teeth extraction we should get a reward. what i got was a bill for one thousand smackers and an ibuprofen because dr. trina said in a few hours i was definitely going to feel it.


i felt trapped in the chair, trapped by the topical anesthetic, trapped by the pain that the root canal was supposed to cure.  and two hours in a dental chair? trapped, trapped, trapped.

then i remembered the point of the williamsburg bridge experience in which i tried to get to facebook friend #317 michele piersiak who lives in staten island.  i was in brooklyn and mr. mapquest said “walk over that bridge.”  i hadn’t known i was scared of expansion bridges strung up over three lane highways and hundreds of feet above the water.  but once i was in, i had to figure out how to get myself across.  saying thank you helped.  i said thank you to just about everybody and everything on the williamsburg bridge.  i was a blubbering thank you, sobbing, red-faced thank you note.

and i did the same at dr. trina’s office.  i started thinking about how she had spent four years in college, three years at dental school, and another two years in specialized training for endodontics . . .  all so she could stick her hand and her drills into my teeth.  all so she could say that my double rooted tooth number thirteen was “not completely abnormal”. . . . obviously i couldn’t say “thank you thank you” out loud but suddenly, i really DID feel grateful for all that work she put in at school so that she could get rid of the pain.  of course, i’m writing this while my mouth is still just a little bit numb.  supposedly, in an hour or so i’m going to begin a long, dark night of the soul.

but i’ll take not completely abnormal.  not a bad title for the rest of me.

an anonymous agoraphobic and a question for YOU!

i have been on the road and this morning i am two hours away from f2fb friend #314 mr. anonymous.  well, i don’t actually know that he wants to be anonymous but we’ve been corresponding since the first of the year and everything he’s written suggests that he is worried about publicly confessing to having disabling panic attacks and agoraphobia.

i find this weird, maybe because the past year and a half i have been chronicling everything i have been doing — including those white wine “i feel rejected” benders, the fraught relations with my biological father, the crying jags, the strange and bewildering consequences of youthful tragedies.  but also, i find mr. anonymous f2fb friend #314’s concern about being “outed” as weird because i read tmz.com, radaronline.com, and pagesix.com online every morning.

and i am treated to celebrities confessing to spousal abuse, eating disorders, gambling problems, pill popping, alcoholism, infidelity, sex with minors, sex with family members, sex with . . . whoever happens to be around, being gay, being a man in a woman’s body, being a woman in a man’s body, having a penchant for hookers, dressing up in the wife’s clothes, shoplifting for the joy of it, anger management issues (also known as acting like a damn three year old), and the ever popular exhaustion and dehydration.

vanessa williams just released the book "you have no idea" and it reveals that she was molested as a ten year old by an eighteen year old woman, that she was "highly sexualized" as a teen, that she had an abortion when she was nineteen, and that she trusted a photographer who wanted to do some "art" shots of her. by her own description, she went from the cab to naked with a dog collar in less than an hour. those pictures were printed in penthouse and caused her resignation as 1983 miss america. she's bounced back. but there's a lot of 'fessing up she's doing with this book.


i have nothing against the self-disclosures.  i think it’s healthy.  but why can’t someone come right out and say “look, i’m an agoraphobic.”  mr. #314 can manage a few miles radius around his house on a somewhat erratic basis.   but by and large, he’s housebound.  and doctors have done a lot of damage with the usual run of sedatives, antidepressants, etc.  that only seem to make things worse.  and it is worse than it was when we first started corresponding.  his wife is throwing in the towel.  the support systems are crumbling.  several times over the past months, we’ve attempted to set up a time to see each other just so i can learn from him and maybe share my experiences with him.  yesterday, he emailed me to say “i can’t.  i’m too nervous about the prospect of meeting you”  i said please don’t cancel because i have a present for you.

and i do.  it’s not a toy, a piece from tiffany’s (i always like those!) or a starbuck’s gift card.  it’s a phone app.

many people with anxiety and agoraphobia rely on facebook, email and cell phones to keep up with family and friends. one facebook friend who is housebound calls her mother at work. her mother leaves her cell phone on and lets her daughter "be" with her during her work day. my facebook friend calls it "having mom let me be in her pocket". . .


with a facebook friend from los angeles, i have been developing a phone app to help agoraphobics and those with social anxieties.  it’s not biofeedback.  it’s not guided meditation.  it’s not haranguing, although i do a great harangue.  just ask my sons.  instead, it’s a companion who will walk with you out the door, to the sidewalk and beyond.  and it’s based on my firm belief that therapy makes you dependent on therapy, drugs make you dependent on drugs.  YOU are the only one who is completely invested in getting yourself the terrific life you deserve.

the app is my present to mr. #314.

my question to you:  would you want that app?

and please, wish me luck.  i last wrote to him that i would be at his house.   i would knock on the door.  if he was too nervous to answer the door i’d wait for a while.  but at least i will try.

a puzzling end to a facebook friend’s visit and i revisit the lexapro issue

what a wonderful afternoon get together! thank you f2fb friend #307 tony adams with my father justin. tony is a wonderful friend and wanted us to try something special for lunch.

my father justin (f2fb friend #30) flew in from tallahassee this monday and planned to stay for a week and a day.  we had dinner with f2fb friend #306 oj dorson and justin made chicken l’orange in honor of the occasion.  the next day, we had lunch with f2fb friend #307 tony adams and then there was the fire. . . .

i went to sleep that night thinking that the visit with justin was going very well.  i had a brunch planned for sunday morning in his honor.  we were going to the movies to see the artist. then i woke at four o’clock in the morning with a migraine.

for those of you who don't know what a migraine feels like, imagine this cute blue dude having some fun with hammer, nails and your brain.

i didn’t come downstairs until seven where i found justin had already packed.  he said his wife barbara had a dinner that evening and wanted him to return home to join her.  he had already called the airlines and rebooked a flight for that afternoon to atlanta and then in the evening a flight from atlanta to tallahassee.  it seemed puzzling to me.  i felt uneasy.  i felt rejected.  i felt, and still feel, that i must have done something to offend either justin or his wife and it’s just a matter of me not knowing what it is.

feeling rejected is a good excuse for a pajama day. which includes pajamas, self-loathing, a paperback, television, domino's pizza and wine and going to bed at eight o'clock. this time i left out the pizza and wine.

i was proud that i didn’t call domino’s, prouder that i didn’t drink white wine.  i still have a migraine.  i still wasted time on hulu.com, went to bed at eight o’clock and never got out of my pajamas. . . but this morning, i’m back together except for the bedhead.  the temporary rules of my life are back in force:  work out every day, take a shower, no going to bed at eight o’clock.  otherwise. . . .

i have a prescription for lexapro which is sitting unopened on my kitchen counter. i really don't want to do this but some doctors believe anxiety disorder and agoraphobia are only controllable with antidepressants. including mine.



the star, the sun, the enquirer. . .

i admit to many addictions:  white wine, chocolate, fettucine alfredo, the office, 30 rock, vitamin water zero, angel perfume.  and my friday morning addiction:  the star, the sun, and the national enquirer.  the grand grocery store in winnetka even knows to set aside one each because i’ll be there by seven in the morning.  then i hustle over to the community house to while away an hour on the stairmill.

the national enquirer was founded in 1926 and has a circulation of approximately 650,000 readers. this is not this week's cover.

i got a double dose of pleasure on friday morning.  don gentile, a reporter based at the enquirer’s florida headquarters, has been following my facebook adventures and he put together a story about it.  when it came out this week i had twin feelings:  excitement and a great notion to hide.  so i did both.  stairmill first, then a pajama day.  sometimes the very thing you want is the very thing that is so scary.  sometimes i have to remember to keep the emotions of excitement and fear separated.  and i also have to remember that every day that i hide in the house makes it harder to leave the next day. . . .




don gentile writes human interest stories. he doesn't usually dig for dirt, which means he knows nothing about that sex tape with reg bush, the time i told kim her butt was too big or all that red bull i gave to demi. shhhh! this is just between you and me!


everything i have done in the past fifteen months has been possible because of my facebook friends.  every time a facebook friend posts encouragement on my wall, hits the like button or pokes me, i feel it.  and i have been so grateful to the facebook friends who have met with me, taught me things, showed me their spiritual side, talked to me about what really matters to them–i have been blessed.