Tag Archives: panic attacks

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.

airplanes don’t make nobody happy

i’m grateful for planes.  don’t get me wrong.  i started off this morning in chicago, darted over to detroit and picked up a flight to los angeles so i can visit with facebook friends.

i thought my flight was at two o’clock. so i had a leisurely morning of working out and scoping out tmz.com then i looked at the ticket and figured out that the first flight of the day would arrive in detroit at two o’clock. i needed to be at o’hare at NOON. what a delightful sprint to the airport. followed by a sprint from one terminal to another in detroit’s airport! i think i left the coffee maker on in my ex-husband’s apartment!  he’s in montana, i’m in los angeles and the coffeemaker is in chicago.  i have a feeling i might not be invited to use the apartment again!

my panic attack started as i boarded the flight from detroit to los angeles.  the plane was cramped that a flight attendant started using my head as a elbow rest as he stowed luggage.  the lady in the seat next to me fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.  the flight attendant stepped on my foot three times.  the guy in the seat behind me was quite pretezel-like and managed some stretching exercises that involved him raising his hands in the air and then back so far that if i had given him a tube of mascara he could have done my makeup!

i started shaking.  crying.  thinking about that coffeemaker and the entire building burning down.  all the apology notes i’d have to write.  i took two ativan and tried to concentrate on an episode of “how i met your mother” on the overhead screen.

and then something curious happened.  the flight attendant, for whom i had no good feelings, had relocated a passenger in the row across from me to the back of the plane.  and the attendant sat down next to the remaining seated passenger.  it took a moment to realize what i was looking at–a flight attendant trying to calm someone in the midst of a panic attack.  i wasn’t the only one having trouble.

the flight is over, i’m on the ground in los angeles.  if you’re in chicago, you might notice a curious burnt coffee smell wafting out of the streeterville neighborhood.  i get ready to meet a facebook friend tomorrow.  and i have decided it’s okay to have panic attacks on planes.  because that’s what airplanes do!

the best prayer of all

when i started my facebook friendship journey, it was january 2011 and i had 325 friends.  i figured it was a long distance run with a timer set at exactly one year.  i didn’t meet every single friend, but i got the asian f.

on the third episode of season three of the hit series glee, mike chang’s father demands mike be drug tested and drop out of the glee club because he has received an a minus on a test. mike and the other kids referred to the ninety percent grade as an “asian f”. one could say i got the asian f, because ten percent of my facebook friends didn’t get a visit from me. i was surprised to find out i was friends with spambots, dead people, prison inmates, and some friends who maybe just didn’t like me enough to make a facebook friendship a face to face friendship!




this past weekend, reveling in my newly minted homelessness, i visited rock island, illinois to see my facebook friends #27 eric fields and #9 heather tyler.  i don’t really think of my friends as being numbers but i found it was easier for me to keep track of what i was doing by giving a friend a number based on when i saw them.  my first facebook friend was my son eastman.  heather was the ninth person i visited last year.  eric was the twenty seventh.

sometimes when you have a goal that is really important to you and really big, it helps to divide it into smaller chunks and keep track of the small successes as they pile up.  many times i would look at the “number” of the friend i had just visited and look at the day of the year and i would think “i’m doing okay” which is a pretty good feeling to have!

eric and heather are married and live with eric’s family in rock island. recently, they have experienced an economic reversal: they need a place to live and some work. if you live in or around rock island, illinois, do you have any ideas for them?


after visiting with eric and heather, i went east to see my facebook friend #322 charles henry.  charles became my friend after january 1, 2011.  i got a lot of new facebook friends but i stayed focused during the year on the “original” 325 friends.

you might ask yourself why i would think it was so important to meet my facebook friends.  well, sure, there’s the inte-ma-lectual inquiry into the nature of social media and networking systems in the early twenty first century. . . but there’s also this:  i was a fifty year old empty nester with no reason to open the front door except to welcome the pizza delivery guy.  i was scared to leave the house and i consoled myself with the delusion that i engaged in the world and had an active social life because, hell, i had 325 friends on facebook.  and when i left the house i got crushing panic attacks.  absolutely convinced i’m having a heart attack.  terrified of the world.  ready to cry and scream.  i still do that all the time, but i am learning to just keep driving.

charles shares some of my problems:  he has panic attacks when he leaves his “safe” area which is a radius of about two miles outside of his home.  he has panic attacks when he has to wait out a red light.  he went through a period of being housebound when he was younger and then, after many years of feeling great, he again struggles.  he has been unemployed and he is working through a divorce.  one would think meeting him would be a downer.  one would be wrong.

facebook friend #315 tony tyner, #71 bonnie bradlee, me and #322 charles henry met at charles’ home. we had a lot of fun and next month, charles will pick out a restaurant outside of his safe area and we’re going to do this again! oddly, on august ninth i’ll be having lunch in a manhattan restaurant with a facebook friend who is housebound in staten island. she has been opening up her boundaries a lot in preparation!


one of the many things we talked about was faith and our respective relationships with God.  although we four have differences, we agreed that the best prayer begins with “thank you for. . . ”

what’s your prayer for today?

batter up! aubrey huff has his days too!

this post, i thought i’d share someone else’s experience:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Aubrey Huff opens up about his anxiety attacks

Description: http://imgs.sfgate.com/c/pictures/2012/05/04/sp-huff05_PH1_SFC0110613903_part6.jpgDescription: http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/article/articlebox_img_bg.gif

Stephen Lam / Special to The Chronicle

Aubrey Huff says his first panic attack lasted for eight hours.


Aubrey Huff was standing in his New York hotel room at 5 o’clock in the morning in the early stages of what would be an eight-hour panic attack. The Giants were to play a doubleheader against the Mets that afternoon and evening. Baseball was the last thing on Huff’s mind.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Huff recalled. “I felt I was taking short breaths. Right then and there I thought I was having a heart attack. I told myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to be sitting in this hotel room and die of a heart attack. I’ve got to get out of here.’ ”

And so he did, starting the odyssey of a ballplayer who left the Giants two weeks ago to go home to Florida, where he had a second panic attack one day later and, finally, after insisting to the team that he had a “family emergency,” phoned trainers and described what really happened.

Huff told his story for the first time Friday in a 20-minute conversation with The Chronicle at AT&T Park. He returned to San Francisco a week ago to work out with teammates and, for the first time in his life, see a mental health professional. He expects to resume playing in Los Angeles on Monday night, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

“Obviously I’ve been seeing somebody here in town to kind of work out some of these issues,” Huff said. “It took everything I could to get up here from Tampa after I freaked out, if you will. But since I got here I’ve been fine.”

Tough years

Huff, a 35-year-old who has played in the majors for 13 seasons, has had a difficult life. His father was murdered in Texas when he was 6. He acknowledged Friday that he has had marital problems that he caused and other issues in the past 2 1/2 years. His poor play in 2011 has weighed on him, too.

But Huff does not have the answer that he, his loved ones and many fans are seeking: Why a player known for his joie de vivre and goofy demeanor was so panic-stricken on the morning of April 23 that he left his team and flew home without permission. That’s not done, and it was a decision that he said would seem “dumb” to a right-thinking person but logical to him at the time.

“Where this panic attack came from, I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is it was there. I can’t explain it. I almost wish I had broken my leg than had that. I can control that. I know what’s happening. This, I didn’t know what was happening. You can’t control it. It’s scary.”

Moved to second

Two days before, the Giants had lost to the Mets at Citi Field after manager Bruce Bochy asked Huff to play second base, for the first time in his career, in the ninth inning. He made a mistake that contributed to the 5-4 defeat.

The next day’s game was rained out, with a doubleheader scheduled for Monday before the team flew to Cincinnati.

That morning, Huff recalled, he woke at 3 o’clock to go to the bathroom, and that’s when it began.

He tossed and turned, unable to sleep, his mind racing with thoughts of struggles on and off the field. At 5 a.m. he decided to get up.

“I open the window and see the New York skyline,” he said. “The sun is starting to come up. I see all the huge buildings. I just freaked out. I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t figure out what it was. The room felt like it was getting smaller, a claustrophobic feeling. I couldn’t control one thought in my head. There were so many thoughts going through.”

Got to get home

His overriding thought, “If I’m going to die of a heart attack, I’m going to at least try to get home.”

Huff packed, put on a suit and took a cab to the airport, where he bought a ticket for Tampa and lay along a wall at the gate, crouched on his bag, comforted by having other people around who could help him if he lost consciousness.

“I was shaking, sweating,” he said. “I was telling myself, ‘Just get on the plane. Just get on the plane.’

Aboard the regional jet, Huff turned the air vent on full blast and spent the entire flight, still panicked, with his suit coat over his head, wondering if he should write a note to his family in case he died on the plane.
Somehow, the pilot’s voice announcing the landing at Tampa finally calmed him, eight hours after the episode had begun. He went home and surprised his wife, Barbara, who thought Huff was joking when he texted he was coming home.

Huff even thought to himself, “What the heck am I doing in Tampa?”

He slept “like a rock” that day, figured it was a one-time episode and booked a flight to Cincinnati the next day to rejoin the team. He planned to stick with the “family emergency” line and hope nobody would be the wiser.

It happens again

However, when the Town Car driver rang his doorbell the next morning, Huff had another panic attack and stayed home. After lying in bed a short while he felt better and thought to himself, “This is ridiculous. I’ve got to call the trainers back.”

Huff finally told the team what happened and was referred to a doctor in Florida who prescribed medication that he continues to take. In San Francisco, he has seen a therapist twice, 90 minutes each time, and has his phone number in case of an emergency.

He has not had to use it.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve had good days and bad days,” he said. “Today’s a great day. Yesterday was a good day. The day before was crappy. I didn’t panic, but I felt a little overwhelmed, a little not normal. All in all, seeing this guy I’m seeing has really helped me.”

Family support

Huff’s wife and children remain his support network and are in San Francisco. Although she filed for divorce in January, he said the proceedings have been “pushed back” and they plan to stay together.

“Having gone through this is weird, because everything in my personal life has gotten better in the last four or five months,” he said. “I did get served, but the last three or four months my family life has been better.

“She’s been there for me since Day One. I’ve put her through so much crap. She’s an amazing woman, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make her happy.

“For me, the last three years, especially during the World Series, I’ve given my heart and soul to baseball. It seems like sometimes my personal life with my family, I haven’t given as much to them as I have to baseball.”

Huff hopes the help he has gotten and the stress he has released will help him relax more on the field and play better. He also acknowledged a newfound appreciation for people with mental illness.

“To be honest with you, I was always taught that people who had anxiety issues were just weak-minded people,” he said. “Now that it’s happened to me, you see you can’t control it. To people this has happened to, there’s nothing you can say or do on the outside to make somebody feel better because they haven’t experienced it.”

Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

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.

the unbearable is borne with such grace

i wandered lost in detroit circling 11 mile road before pulling up to the home of f2fb friend #301 brenda jeffries.  i was late, my gps has something wrong with it.  as i pulled the mini up to the curb, i noticed movement behind the front door.  but i was distracted by the lot across the street.

“that’s my daughter,”  a voice said from behind me.


we hugged.  and then she repeated that across the street was her daughter.

at first i thought she meant that her daughter lived in the quirky little camper surrounded by tiny stone angels and plastic flowers brightening the gray city snow.  then i noticed the weathered posterboard of a young girl.

“that’s where the car was parked,”  brenda said, shrugging her head towards a clump of bushes.  “when raven was taken.”

six year old raven was playing on august 4, 2008 in the lot while the car idled.  brenda could check in every once in a while by looking out her window.  the other kids went home safely.  raven disappeared.  three days later, her charred body was found.  the police wouldn’t let brenda see her baby girl and it was left to her eldest son to text her pictures from the morgue.  the crime remains unsolved although brenda has a pretty good idea (and so do the police) as to who did it.  the camper is where people have sometimes gathered for vigils in raven’s honor.  the lot is owned by the city, as are many pieces of property in the neighborhood although brenda is as tied to the lot as any generation of farmers to their fields.  i put one of the stuffed animals that eastman has given me next to an angel.

brenda didn’t get out of the house much before–and going to the funeral was the hardest experience of her life on so many levels–but after her daughter’s murder, she found it unbearable to work at the store two blocks away where raven often hung out after school while brenda worked.

brenda finds it difficult to be in the house by herself and her three remaining children coordinate their schedules so that they can be with her as much as possible.  when i was there, her eldest son had moved in with her–his bedroom is at one end of the hall and brenda’s room (which she shares with all of raven’s possessions) is at the other end of the hall.

i went to use the bathroom and i couldn’t get the light to work.  then it dawned on me that the electricity had been turned off.  which may have explained the necessity for turning on the burners on the kitchen stove.   i met her adult children and her baby granddaughter — who is so adorable i nearly made the oft repeated compliment of “i just want to take this one home with me!”  for once, my mouth wasn’t as fast as my cautious brain.

we looked at pictures of raven and some dolls that brenda has for her.  we both share the catholic faith and there is a beautiful rosary dangling over a portrait of raven in the living room.  i noticed the prayer card from her funeral and then another card–one of raven’s best friends was killed in a car accident two years to the exact day after raven.

brenda is part of a number of agoraphobia support groups on facebook.  i never knew they existed until this year and they are generally closed and invitation only.  it’s one way in which facebook protects privacy.  a lot of brenda’s friends are from england.  her  adult children are her “safe” people–but she trusted me enough to take a walk with me.

we stopped in front of the store where she had worked.  where raven had played.  where she told me about her attitude about the amber alert.  oddly, while i was filming her, a dark nondescript car (hell, i can’t tell the difference between any brands) parked behind me.  the car and its driver stayed put, just watching–i felt kind of spooked.  in fact, i sort of felt like if i had brenda’s life i wouldn’t leave the house much either.

i drove away wishing i had a magic wand.  that i could make brenda’s life better.  that i could make raven come back.  i drove back through the snowstorm to chicago thinking that all the petty stupid things i get mad at my sons for–not calling enough, not cleaning their rooms, forgetting valentine’s day (!)–i needed to back up and count my blessings.  i made a promise to brenda’s eldest son that i would return and i will.

brenda, who bears the unbearable with such grace, has often sent me messages of encouragement or of support and i wonder where she has the energy and the stamina to care so much for others!

oh, and the car that pulled up behind me while i was filming brenda?  it followed me out onto lonyo avenue and up michigan until i veered off onto the 94 ramp . . . .

am i a lying, manipulative bitch?

only in the nicest sense of the word, i hope.  and only with my favorite facebook friends.

i drove far south, over the course of two days, to meet f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs.  colleen suggested that we go to the best cafe in town.

bill's toasty shop has a facebook profile under the name "bill's toasties". . . . the menu features fried cheese, fried pickles, fried broccoli and cheese, fried . . . oh, you get the idea! in any event, it is quite famous throughout the state and beyond. and bill's toasties has 5,253 "likes" on facebook. can't beat that!


taylorville is the county seat of christian county and it was originally a mining town.  at its heart is the courthouse square and four one way streets force a driver to glide past dress shops, beauty parlors, diners, a laundromat, a bookshop, and a convenience store.  walk one block away from this center square and there’s really not a whole lot more.  but friendly people–i asked a passing stranger where a cash station was and he walked me all the way to the bank!

f2fb friend #298 colleen kennedy jacobs showed up with her “safe” person–her mom–and it was as if we were old friends who had simply missed each other too much!  we talked about golf–colleen’s mother won the taylorville women’s tournament four times and her sister has won it an astonishing ten times.  if it hadn’t been freezing outside, i would have demanded golf lessons from this 93 year old who still carries her own clubs.

colleen overcame many things she’s afraid of in order to come to bill’s.  first, she ordinarily doesn’t leave the house.  at all.  only when she’s with her mother, her boyfriend, or another safe person.  a safe person is very important to someone with agoraphobia–i think i used my sons as “safe” people which probably isn’t healthy parenting.

second, she was meeting a new person.  that makes two of us–meeting a new person is always scary.  facebook can make us believe we know another person, that we’re friends, that we’re simpatico, but really, it’s the face to face interaction that is most important to friendship.

colleen uses a picture of the singer lionel richie as her profile picture. it's a family joke about one christmas when mom put up pictures of all the relatives and added "uncle richie' a favorite singer to the collection. i would not have been completely surprised had a tall black man in pastel attire had showed up at bill's and serenaded me "all night long". . .

third, colleen doesn’t like to eat in public–her mouth gets dry and she gets nervous about swallowing.

i can totally relate to being nervous about eating in public. but i plowed through a "regular" sized burger, some fried cheese balls and onion rings. oh, and a medium diet pepsi. jeez, they sell a "large" triple burger that is three pounds of meat. for under six dollars.

colleen had her first anxiety attack when she was in junior high school and she freaked out so much that she ran away from school to her grandmother’s farm.  her grandmother was a devout baptist totally opposed to drinkin’, dancin’, and whatnot but totally addicted to a medicinal home remedy that contained 11% alcohol.  she gave colleen a healthy dose of the stuff and sent her home with a bottle.

well into the twentieth century, over the counter medications often contained alcohol, cocaine, or opium and people trusted that whatever they were buying was "safe". colleen's grandmother probably had no idea what was in the medicine she gave her granddaughter.


colleen continued to have trouble with anxiety and transferred to a catholic school in town.  she married three times, each time to someone from taylorville.  she has two sons although one of them, sadly, passed on.  she has tried every medicine and every therapy she has had access to.  she is so brave and so beautiful and i asked her what she wanted to do most.  ambition is hard for someone like us.  but she allowed as how she wanted to drive somewhere by herself.

lunch was over.  her mother was getting a little antsy. i had to get on the road.  i was invited back to the house.  i asked colleen if she wanted to ride with me–i have a mini-coop and she was sort of excited by the prospect.  so we walked over to the town square parking place. . . and i threw her my keys.

“you drive,”  i said.

well, that wasn’t so scary because she does drive sometimes so long as her mom is in the car. and we talked about how her mom is increasingly showing signs of needing to rely on colleen.  colleen’s siblings have left taylorville and one day colleen will be the one who has to take charge . . . but then i did a lying, manipulative bitchy thing as we drove along the one way streets circling the courthouse.

“stop the car,”  i said.  “i just saw the greatest dress in that window.  i’ll get us a parking space.”

and i opened the door and got out.

now there’s not much you can do on a one way street except go forward.  and the only way to get back to where you are in taylorville is to circle around the courthouse.  one block south, one block east, one block north, one block west. . . to where i’m standing wondering “did i remember to pay the car insurance bill?”

but, you know, colleen did all right by herself!  and just before we walked into the little luxuries* shop. . .

it turns out the dress in the window was gorgeous but alas, not my size, but colleen found a white dress that is motivational.  she’s planning on driving by herself every day and putting aside a little money every time so that she can afford the dress.  as colleen put it “who doesn’t like to get a new dress?”

sure, there’s the dress, but i think her real motivation to grab hold of her life is the fact that her mother is now ninety three and colleen will become her mother’s caregiver at some point.  and also, colleen wants to be part of the bigger world, the one she reads about, the one she interacts with on facebook.

while we were at the little luxuries store, we met the owner colleen's friend laura long. it was a nice reunion!


i am very grateful to colleen for a wonderful wonderful day in taylorville!  and i can’t wait to be sitting in my study and hear a car pull into the driveway.  colleen kennedy jacobs gets out, wearing her new white dress, and yells “hey, let’s have some fun, girlfriend!”  she’ll keep the car running!

*little luxuries, at 15 s. washington street, taylorville, illinois is owned by laura long and her mother.



aim high — in this case 52 stories!

so i went to a yoga class at south boston yoga studio with my facebook friend mary mcmanus.  last year, she was friend number 168, meaning she was the one hundred and sixty eighth person i saw in 2011.  she took me on a tour of my older son joseph’s campus–in all four years he attended boston university, i had not once flown out to see him.  bad mother?  maybe.  but it was because i was afraid.   afraid of travel, afraid of flying, afraid of everything.  meeting all your facebook friends all over the world puts a dent in the fear of flying thing.

in any event, i told mary that my new year’s resolution for 2012 is to pay forward the encouragement, love and support shown to me by my facebook friends, mary most particularly.  she was my cheerleader.  she was always one for a good word of encouragement.  i wanted to give that to others and i told her i was coming into boston to meet two new facebook friends who have trouble with panic attacks and fear.  mary and her husband tom invited me to stay with them.  i went out for a three hour lunch with mary the moment i arrived.  i felt so loved and so happy.  we went to the yoga class in part because mary is devoted to yoga but also because i wanted to see for myself whether it had the anti-anxiety effects mary promised.

it sure did.  my acid reflux was gone.  for the first time in weeks, i didn’t have that horrible sword in chest feeling.  i’m not one for organized exercise classes, never gone in for chanting, but this was the goods!  then mary and i went to meet mary tabbi-fuller and her sister in law angela lopresti.  i was a little concerned about mary because she had spent the weekend in the hospital, suffering from an episode of low blood sugar.  i hoped it wasn’t brought on by anxiety.

the four of us ate lunch and mary had prepared a list of resources for angela and lisa to consider.  boston area doctors and therapists and, of course, the south boston yoga studio.   and then it was time to try. . .

there are many ways to overcome generalized panic and anxiety — but one that i really appreciate is conquering one thing and then taking that “wow, i did it!” feeling and applying it to other situations.  lisa and angela both were afraid of elevators but most particularly of heights.  lisa,  a phlebotomist, felt that some of her anxiety had led her to calling in sick more than was acceptable and she needed to get a grip on her fear.  we chose the fifty second story of the prudential center. . .

i was so happy walking into the light with mary, lisa and angela!

angela, mary, me, and lisa at the top of the hub in boston! notice we're not scared to sit by the window, which isn't something i could have predicted!


today think of something you’re afraid of that you think most people are not.  i’m not talking about playing with an anaconda.  i am talking about having a conversation with the barista at your coffee joint, riding the Ferris wheel with your kids, speaking up for yourself at tomorrow’s sales meeting, forgiving a friend and letting them back into your life.


thomas hobbes or calvin and hobbes–i make it to boston for a surprise

so the boston trip to see a facebook friend looks pretty uncertain as i head for o’hare on sunday morning.

i sorted out with the t.s.a. that even if my ticket said ‘arlynnmissl”  that’s the same as “miss arlynn l” and then they STILL wanted to feel me up!  i got to ride first class for the first time because of my facebook friend tommy chang  who took my steerage ticket and upgraded me.  i felt like a princess when the flight attendant asked if he could hang up my coat.  but i was still uncertain as to what i would find in boston.  would i have to just hang around until my flight home?  would i visit lisa in the hospital?  would i find her at her home?  was i an intruder?

i get very bad anxiety attacks when i leave my home.  well, hell, sometimes i get them when i’m in my house too.  but i’m an avoider, an excuse maker, a “sorry i’m busy” person.  i want to be social, i want to see the world, i want to be out there, and yet what holds me back is the anxiety AND the certainty that i’ll have an anxiety attack and totally embarrass myself or lay myself open to the Hobbesian truth that nobody cares about anybody else.

thomas hobbes was a seventeenth century english philosopher who thought people had not one bit of love for one another. this is not a picture of thomas hobbes, but rather of the cartoon character from calvin and hobbes. if i have an anxiety attack in public, i assume that thomas hobbes will be proved right. the world would be a nicer place if the cat hobbes were correct.


i have tried drugs, therapy, more drugs, more therapy, drinking white wine, more drugs, more therapy.  a friend sent this article about lexapro which is a drug i have tried for anxiety attack.  most drugs, by the way, make me gain weight so i end up not taking them.  also, they’re not particularly effective.  so when i meet a facebook friend who is an adult with this condition suffering for a long time, i don’t judge.  i assume they’ve tried all the same things i’ve tried and found them just as ineffective. . . .  but this writer has a different story:



so now i am in boston, and just a few hours from meeting with my facebook friend lisa tabbi-fuller.  it was her birthday yesterday.  i hope today is the beginning of a really fabulous year!  and it’s going to start with us doing the thing that scares her the most. . .

sadly, pajama days must come to an end!

i have been surprised by how quickly i have rediscovered pajama days.  sitting in front of my computer, reading a novel, taking hot showers just because i can’t keep warm in this drafty old house.  it’s easy to have one pajama become two pajama days, particularly when there’s facebook.com and  a chicago snowstorm.

for my friends who say that they've never seen snow. it comes down hard and fast and then has to be shoved aside by trucks. when i took this picture the driver stopped and asked if i wanted his autograph. i should have taken it because the folks who plow the snow away really are heroes.


i have realized that for all of my travels last year–thirteen countries, 292 friends, and so much love and support–i know that it’s really easy for me to fall back into bad habits of staying home.  if i do it any longer, i will end up right back into the cycle of having panic attacks, being scared i’ll have a panic attack if i go out, and then not going out of my house because of that possibility of the panic attack.  so this morning, i started off with a two hour run in the forest. . .

along the forest path, i met a cross country skier named harry who took my picture--it's hard to see, but there were deer in back of me. i think humans look pretty ridiculous to deer. like, why do those animals run on two feet when they have four perfectly fine hooves?


on wednesday i leave for the first of my 2012 f2fb trips.  east, right into the path of more snow.  it’s going to be good to force myself out of the house.  although the pajamas feel so comfortable and the pillows so soft. . .