Conquer Your Anxiety

Anxiety is a powerful feeling. It can bring us to our knees at times or trap us in our house.

What, Exactly, is Anxiety?

According to Mayo Clinic, anxiety is “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” The cause of anxiety isn’t fully understood. Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits could also be a factor. Anxiety can also be caused by a medical problem such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorder, drug misuse or withdrawal, withdrawal from alcohol, chronic pain or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If you have anxiety, you know the feeling of dread all too well and that it can strike at the most inconvenient times. This post is designed to help you deal with pop-up anxiety and get your errands taken care of.

Some common symptoms of anxiety include: feeling nervous, restless or tense, have a sense of impending danger, increased heart rate, hyperventilating, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal problems,difficulty controlling worry and urge to avoid triggers.

Time to Fight Anxiety

Usually the first thing you have to overcome when fighting anxiety is agoraphobia or fear of leaving your house. This is a tough one and you may end up spending a day just getting over your agoraphobia. To beat agoraphobia:

*open your front door and make a visual inspection. Notice the cars, trees, weather…any way you can connect with the outdoors.

*step out onto your front porch and feel the sunshine

*remember that any fear you feel is being manufactured by your brain—it isn’t real. There is no danger.

*go back inside, grab your keys and belongings before you change your mind and head straight for the car. Focus on the moment and accept that you still feel a bit anxious.

*take frequent breaks to do things you enjoy. If you’re out running errands, stop and get a coffee or tea and sit in the parking lot for few minutes to gather your thoughts and center yourself.

*listen to your self-talk. Often, when we are anxious, our self-talk is filled with negative chatter about how we can’t accomplish what we want. Are you telling yourself you can’t do this? Change that statement to, “I CAN do this. I am strong and brave.”. Anytime you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop and change them to positive thoughts.


*carry around a list of positive affirmations that you can reference when your self talk turns negative. Following are just a few examples of positive affirmations:

*I love myself just the way I am.

*I experience love wherever I go.

*Loving people fill my life and I find myself easily expressing love to others.

*Abundance flows freely through me.

*Every person, place and thing on the planet is interconnected with love.

*I am at home in the Universe.

*I am worth loving. There is love all around me.

*I forgive myself and set myself free.

Refer to your affirmations when doubt and worry start to fill your mind. Find a great printable of affirmations at


Most of us have a very busy brain with lots of self talk going on. Take a moment to dial in to your self talk and see exactly what you’re telling yourself. I’m going to guess there’s more than a couple of negative thoughts pinging around your brain. A method you can use to combat negative self-talk is called the Three For One rule( It works like this:

You listen to what you’re telling yourself, for example, you catch, “I’m stupid”, bouncing around your head. Now you need to come up with three phrases that negate that thought: “I’m smart”, “I’m creative”, “I can think on my feet”.

This goes for other negative self-talk too. Keep reminding yourself of the truth: that you are amazing and you can do anything you set your mind to.

The Words You Live By

Now is the time to decide on a mantra that you can say to yourself when you’re feeling anxious. I find that simple is best. “I can do this.” “I am strong and can handle this.” “I am brave and can face my fears.” “I will not be defined by my fears.”“There is nothing to fear.” “Everything is OK.”

Just Breathe

No list of coping with anxiety would be complete without taking deep breaths. Breathe in the positive, exhale the negative. You can almost always find a semi-quiet space to breathe for a few minutes. Think about the parts of your day that you have enjoyed or people that you especially liked talking with.

Break It Down and Reward Yourself

 you’re going to the grocery store. Break that down into tasks: drive to the grocery store, get a cart, get groceries, pay, load into the car, unload at home and put groceries away. Each of these is a doable task. You can even reward yourself for accomplishing part or all of the steps. (The reward you choose can be anything from spending five minutes on Facebook (TM) to going to the Museum after your grocery chore is completed.)

Time to Roll

You’ve tackled your agoraphobia or, at least, have it in a headlock. You’ve said your positive affirmations, you have a mantra and your deep breathing skills. You’ve broken down the task and come up with a reward for completion. And you’ve addressed your negative self-talk.

Here’s the hard part: grab your keys, wallet/purse and phone and head out the door. Just keep walking to the car. Get in. Raise the garage door if you need to and back out into a fantastic world.

If you hear yourself saying, “I can’t do this.” Say right back,“Yes, I can. I am powerful.” Bring your positive affirmations with you so you can refer to them when you’re fighting negativity.

Task Completed

You did it! Big time props to you. Now reward yourself with a yummy treat, or take time to read a book or something else you enjoy. Write down how you feel after completing your task so that next time you have to do something you don’t want to do, you can read how good you felt when you completed a task.

Next Time

The next time you have to complete a task that you don’t feel up to doing, use affirmations, listen to your self-talk, have a mantra,take deep breaths, break the task down into steps and reward yourself.

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Needed: New Psychiatrist

At some point, you will need to find a new psychiatrist.

Your doctor may be retiring, moving or leaving your insurance network.

So how do you go about finding a new doctor who meets your needs?

First, ask your current doctor if they have any recommendations. If they don’t, its time to Google your way to a new doctor. Simply enter the search terms “psychiatrist (your city, state)”. Many of the doctors that come up will have bios including where they trained and what illnesses they focus on. Find 3-4 doctors that look like they would be a good match.

Second, call the doctors’ offices that you’ve chosen and make appointments. You will probably need a referral from your current doctor.

Third, use Google Maps (TM) to locate each doctor’s office and how to get there from your home. Note the time it takes to reach the office and leave yourself plenty of time to find the building and then to find the doctor’s office.

Fourth, write a summary of your mental health starting with when you first experienced symptoms until now. Ask your current doctor if you can see your treatment notes to help you recall your history. Note any hospitalizations, medications and dosages used, other forms of treatment you’ve tried, your diagnoses and the behavioral methods you use to cope. Give this to your potential new doctor at the beginning of the appointment.

It’s normal to feel anxious when meeting a potential new doctor. After all, you have worked hard to get to where you are and you want a doctor that understands that and will help you cope even better. While you’re sitting in the waiting room, take deep breaths and keep yourself grounded. It often makes me feel better to play on my phone.

She asked me about my doses of medication, including when I had started each one, what other medications I had taken in the past and why I had changed them. I felt stupid because I couldn’t remember. After all, back when I was going through the dark times, I didn’t care what was happening to me or when things changed.”

Fifth, be sure to take a notebook and pen to write notes in. Use this notebook to write down any questions you have for the doctor. Also write down any medication changes, things your doctor wants you to work on and/or other suggestions/instructions. Write down any medication refills you need.

Sixth, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing paranoia or delusions. They can help with those symptoms and there’s nothing to be embarrassed or scared about. And be sure to tell your doctor if you’re having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harming.

Seventh, after your appointment, write down your impressions of the doctor. Write down what you liked and what you didn’t. It may just happen that the first doctor you see will be the one you choose to switch to. If not, repeat this procedure with the others doctors from your Google search.

I recently had to change doctors. My psychiatrist had to close her practice after I’d been seeing her for 11 years. My first emotion was panic and that lasted a couple of days. I pushed myself hard to call doctor’s offices and make appointments and get my one page mental health summary done. Within a week, I had two appointments, wrote my summary and had gotten referrals from my doctor for the potential doctors I was going to see. Within two weeks, I was seeing the first doctor on my list. He turned out to be very satisfactory and I’m sticking with him.

So don’t panic if you need to find a new doctor.  Follow the steps above to a doctor you can work with.


Have you switched psychiatrists?  What was it like for you?  Please let me know in the comments below.

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Ready, Set…Holiday Time

The Holidays bring warm feelings tinged with a touch of dread. Dread because it’s that time of year again…family time.

For many people, seeing family triggers feelings that do not jive with the holiday spirit. Even angry feelings. Even feelings of (*gasp*) dislike. If this sounds familiar, keep reading and I’ll help you enjoy the holidays.

For an unfortunate few, their family is truly toxic and just being around them is a mental strain. Keep it short and have an exit strategy.

Before You Go to Dinner

Take advantage of the quiet time at your own home to take a few minutes to center yourself, take some deep breaths and smile. Yes, smile. It will make you feel better.

Think of some conversation topics you can use when talking with your family members.

Practice exit-strategies for when you get stuck with an annoying family member (see below).

Keep your sense of humor at the ready. It helps if you can see things through a comedic lens.

Come up with a reward for yourself that you can have when you get home like chill-out time playing a video game, couch potato time in front of the tv or a little shopping trip.

Day of the Living Annoying

Many family members fall into this category, from the too talkative to the incredibly nosy. You can’t change these people. You can only feign interest in what they are talking about and plan to put your exit strategy into play.

Sanity Savers

* Help in the kitchen. It keeps you busy and away from the crowd.

* Spend time with the kids. They are always good for lightening up your mood.

* Just get it over with. Go talk to the person who makes your holidays unhappy. After five minutes you can say, “Uh oh…I think I’m needed in the kitchen.”

* Talk to family members that you don’t get a chance to see very often.

* Choose your seat at the table wisely. Let’s face it; there are certain family members that everyone avoids. Don’t get caught sitting next to them.

* If its Christmas and you’re like my family, you open gifts after the meal has been served and cleaned up. Be prepared: the kids will be worked up into a pre-gift frenzy. There will be lots of running around and yelling for no apparent reason.

* Figure out what you like best about the holidays and emphasize those things. Love Christmas music? There’s loads to go around. Do you like decorating the tree? Make an event out of it. Love the lights? Take some light-seeing trips.

Time to say “Goodbye”.

If things get unbearable, excuse yourself and leave. Say goodbye to the host/hostess and get thee out of dodge. I can last about 2-3 hours at these events and then I must bolt.

Give yourself credit for making it through these times. The Holidays can be some of the hardest periods we go through because expectations are so high and family is so close.

Its also difficult because we feel the shadow of those that have passed and we miss them. Sometimes there is a huge hole in our family that was occupied by a loved one. Honor your loved one with a simple gesture such as a candle, or put their picture out where everyone can see it. Celebrate your loved one in a way that makes you feel good.

So try to see the magic in the Holidays and ignore the stuff you don’t like. I hope you make it through with your jingle intact.

Tell me about your holidays.  Are they relaxing and fun, scary and long, or somewhere in between?

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

That time of year is here again; time for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to kick in. SAD is linked to the decrease in light associated with the changing of the seasons and how these light changes affect our bodies. SAD symptoms include:

*Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

The treatments for SAD include medication, a light box, exercise, good sleep hygiene, spending time with others and therapy. Your psychiatrist and you can decide on the best course of action.

Researchers think that people with SAD may have trouble regulating one of the key neurotransmitters involved in mood; serotonin.  People with SAD produce more serotonin which leaves less serotonin at the synapse where it is needed. SAD also runs in familes.

Another piece of the puzzle is that people with SAD may overproduce the hormone melatonin. Melatonin, which regulates sleep, increases during winter because the shorter days tell our bodies to produce more which leaves people feeling sleepy and lethargic.

I typically wage on all-out war on SAD. (Ok, technically it is seasonal changes related to my Bipolar Disorder, but the aim is the same). Over the years I have gotten more and more into the holiday season. You know HallowThanksChristmas? I decorate and make crafts related to the season(s). I go to light displays. One of my favorite things to do is wrap Christmas presents with Christmas music on in the background.

So there are several treatments for SAD. Using more than one at a time helps.

The most important thing is take good care of yourself.

Do you experience SAD?  What symptoms do you have and what do you do to get past them?

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/, “Understanding Seasonal Depression”.

Stinkin’ Thinkin’


I think a character on SNL coined the term “Stinkin’ Thinkin” and I took it up as a motto of the negative chatter that liked to buzz inside my head.  Its the kind of thinking that is circular.  I also call it ruminating.  An idea (a lot of times incorrect) will get stuck in my head.  Learning to turn ignore that Stinkin’ Thinkin’ and replace it with positive thoughts has made a world of difference in how I view myself and others.

So, part of what I use on Stinkin’ Thinkin’ is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  I’ve learned how to spot when my thoughts are distorted…presenting a picture that isn’t all together accurate. 

There are a variety of common thought distortions.  Let’s take a run down of the top fifteen.

  1. over-generalizing; the tendency to view situations as all or nothing. “Since my hair looks like crap, my whole day will be bad.”
  2. mind-reading; we get the strange idea that we know what other people are thinking. “Teri is wearing purple…she must be mad at me.”
  3. catastrophizing; thinking of the worse possible outcome. “If I don’t wear the right outfit, my boss will think I’m incompetent and fire me.”
  4. fortune-telling; we are sure we know what’s going to happen. “If Craig doesn’t talk to to me today, that means he doesn’t like me anymore.”
  5. filtering; magnifying negative details while filtering out positive details. “Yeah, I closed three accounts, but not all four.”
  6. Black and white thinking; either/or thinking with no shades of gray. “I’ll either love or hate going to this party.”
  7. overgeneralization; conclude something based on a single event or single piece of evidence. “She had straight hair.  She must be rich.”
  8. jumping to conclusions; not relying on facts, but making decisions based on bad information. “Lisa didn’t say ‘Hi’ to me this morning. She doesn’t like me anymore.”
  9. Personalization; when a person believes that everything is about them. “Sarah looked sad. It must be because I didn’t call her.
  10. control fallacies; seeing yourself as a victim of fate. “There’s nothing I can do about feeling anxious. That’s just the way I am.”
  11. fallacy of fairness; the belief that everything should be fair. “I worked hard. I should get some extra time off.”
  12. shoulds; we tend to have a list of rules about how others and we should behave. “I should listen to my sister’s unpleasantness.  She has a hard life.”
  13. emotional reasoning; we believe that what we feel must be true. “I’m thinking it, so it must be right.”
  14. fallacy of change; we need to be able to change people because our happiness depends on them. “I need Nancy to go on the trip with us or I won’t be happy.
  15. global labeling; generalizing one or two qualities into a negative global judgement. “Sometimes I’m late, so I’m unreliable.”

Recognizing these thought distortions in your own thinking can help you develop a more positive mindset.

And a positive mindset leads to healthier thinking overall. Try to look for these characteristics and correct your own thinking.

What cognitive distortions trip you up? Tell me about it in the Comment section.

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SOURCE:  “15 Common Cognitive Distortions”.

Enter the Nut Hut: Hospitalization Part II

Each morning, my clinical team visited me. The team was made up of the psychiatrist assigned to me, a nurse, my social worker and various other staff. I would sit on my bed while they stood and asked me questions. How was I feeling compared to when I came in? Was I having any side effects from my medications? Did I still feel like hurting myself?

I had told the nurses that my tongue was moving of its own accord, seriously hoping this was a med side effect and not psychosis.  It turned out that my blood work showed a toxic level of Lithium, one of the pillar meds for Bipolar Disorder treatment.  So, over the next few days my Lithium dose was lowered and the weird tongue aerobics went away.

After my visit with the doctor and his/her team in the morning I would call Jesse and let him know what they said.  We would talk about his upcoming day and my plans for the day.  (Mayo provided six cordless phones to the patients to make phone calls because they understand how vital it is that you stay connected to your support system.)  I usually called Jesse 2-3 times per day.  He could hear the confidence building in my voice every day.

While the doctor’s made rounds, we had an opportunity to study/read before our classes started for the day.  The nurses and social workers taught the classes on everything from self-esteem to resilience.  We were usually given a bit of homework to complete for discussion at the next class. We were also to put to use the techniques we were learning for stress management and cognitive restructuring. Classes lasted all day.


We also got to take part in occupational and art therapy. Occupational therapy involved making a schedule for myself each day to keep me busy.  I loved art therapy and visiting the art room where there were endless tubes of paint, brushes and other art supplies.  The occupational therapist played the radio during our time and I loved listening to music and painting away. I found this so helpful that I practice my own form of art therapy at home. I always have markers/colored pencils around to serve as a distraction when needed.

The week was over and, again, I didn’t feel like I had gotten on top of my problems.  But I did feel better so it was time to go home.  Jesse made the frosty trip to Minnesota to pick me up.  We both felt hopeful, but I knew that my problems still weren’t solved.

Read the next installment of Staying at the Nut Hut at

Have you spent time in mental health facility?  I want to hear about it! Please tell me about your experience in the comments below:

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I Lost My Psychiatrist: How I Got Through It

My dear Father-in-Law had been in the hospital for complications related to his deteriorating heart condition and imminent kidney failure.  We were slowly losing him.

I was waiting with my Mother-in-Law for him to be released.

I checked my messages and saw one from a very good friend, something about Dr. J leaving. “What?! My psychiatrist?!” I texted my friend to see what was going on. She asked if I’d read my email.

I nervously poked at the buttons on my phone, trying to get to my mail. I heard my MIL and FIL talking in the back ground but all I could do was panic.

After fumbling with my phone, I got into my email and found the email from Dr. J. The email essentially said that my favorite doctor was closing her practice and she really didn’t have anyone specific to recommend. Adding that it would be a good idea to keep Kansas City and St. Louis in mind when looking for doctors.

Holy Shit! I couldn’t believe this was happening. “What are we going to do?” I texted my friend. For both of us Dr. J had been a long time doctor (10 plus years in each case).

She was instrumental in getting both of us disability. My lawyer flat-out said as much.

She had seen us both through multiple crises.

She is a kind, funny person.

And I’m losing her.

Her loss is hard enough to take but we are plunged into an environment that, unfortunately, has a very low number of good psychiatrists. And my medical situation is funky, complicated by diabetes and the fact that I have a complex mental history.

Did I mention I’ve been de-stabilizing for the last several months?

And my doctor, who my husband and I cried with, was leaving.

When I met with my doctor  after the email bomb, I cried. I was a little embarrassed, but it was just me going through what I was going through. My doctor said she would miss me too.

Then we got down to the business of preparing me to find a new doctor. At my psychiatrist’s request, I had written up a page about why I’m taking my current medication combination. We looked it over together and agreed that it would be a good source of information for my future doctor.

Here’s what you can do if you need a new psychiatrist:

1 Google psychiatrist “your city” and write down anyone that looks plausible.

    1. Try to narrow down the selections by googling each of their names to find more detailed information. Such as do they take your insurance. On well-maintained websites, there might be biographies of the doctor(s). Cross out the doctors that aren’t a good match. Be aware, it can take a few months to get into a good doctor. You’ll probably need a referral from your current psychiatrist.
    2. Write down a mental health history. What is your diagnose(s)? When were you diagnosed? How many hospitalizations have you had? Have you had ECT? What medications have you taken? Which ones worked and which did not? 
    3. Make appointments with the doctors that look like a good match.
    4. Go to your new doctor appointment(s) and, in addition to your mental health history, bring a list of your current medications and dosages.
    5. Be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork.
    6. Bring and take lots of notes while you are with the doctor.
    7. Rinse and repeat with a few other doctors before you make your final decision about who you would like to see. See https://www.mentallyinteresting/choosing-a-psychiatrist

It can be a mentally draining process so be sure to practice good self care. If you’re not sure what good self-care is, read

If you see a therapist, you might want to add an extra visit. They can give you tools to get you through this uncertain time.

This is a time to really pay attention to what you’re telling yourself. Combat negative self talk with positive affirmations and mantras. Remember to practice gratitude; write down at least 10 things you are grateful for every few days.

Reach out to your support system and be sure to get out of the house. Being outside has a way of lifting my spirits.  Its helpful to the people in your support system if you will tell them what the best thing for them to do or say when you are depressed, or angry, or manic.

At a recent new patient meeting with a psychiatrist he asked a lot of questions. He wanted to know (among other things):

  1. what my experience of depression was
  2. what medications had I tried and when I first started taking medication
  3. my mental health history (diagnoses, etc.) and describe how my diagnoses manifest themselves (ie: what symptoms have I had)
  4. how did I experience hypomania
  5. have you had suicidal thoughts and/or tried to commit suicide
  6.  had I been hospitalized and what was the outcome
  7. what kind of support system to you have

I know. Its a lot of shit to remember, write down and re-familiarize yourself with. But you can do it. I know its stressful and frustrating, but you will make it through.  Lots of deep breathing and take breaks.

To prepare the medications part of lists you should take to your first visit, ask your psychiatrist if you can either see your chart or if she has a list of the medications you’ve tried. You can also google “mood stabilizers” (or whatever class of medication you’re taking)to get a list that you can choose from. If you don’t know what your diagnoses are, ask your psychiatrist.

At a minimum, you should take the following information to a new doctor:

  1. list of current medications and dosages
  2. diagnoses given by other doctors
  3. an outline of your mental health history
  4. list of medications you have tried
  5. your previous doctor’s name and address so your new doctor can request your records
  6. if you track your moods, bring that with you as well

This experience has shown me how strong and resilient I am, but also how fragile I am. When I found out Dr. J. was leaving a felt like I had been shattered into a million pieces and that I would never be able to put myself back together. I still cry every day, but that’s ok.

So if you find yourself without a doctor, I got your back.

I went to a “new” psychiatrist this week and it was an oddly familiar experience. I’ve seen so many doctors over the years, it was hard to believe I was starting all over yet again. I had all the paperwork I listed above which made the appointment go smoothly. He was no Dr. J. Not even close. But he was listening and asking the right questions.

I am still going to see Dr. J. a couple more times before she leaves and the end of November and I see the new doctor again in a month.

Oh, one positive  is that I only had to pay $25 to see the new doctor compared to$250 to see Dr. J. (The new doctor is in my insurance network).

So, if you find yourself needing a doctor, try not to stress. Follow the steps above and, above all, take care of yourself.

Have you ever had to switch doctors? What was it like? Did you find a new doctor right away or did it take time?

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Medication Mix-ups

Medications.  If you have a mental illness, its very likely that you’ve taken a psychotropic medication or three or four (for example: an antidepressant).

I have taken meds for my mental illnesses for 27 years.  In that time I have had many ups and downs with my meds.

I have taken my night meds in the morning by mistake and then had to sleep all day.  I have forgotten to put a pill in my pillbox and gone without it for a week.

Before I realized that you couldn’t just stop taking a med, I went through withdrawal which feels like having the flu and a nervous breakdown.

Back in 2005, I tried a medication that did not agree with me at all.  I had double vision, couldn’t remember where I was and couldn’t get my thoughts straight and my mom had to come stay the day with me.

In 2013, I had to check into Mayo’s Mood Disorders Clinic in Minnesota.  My tongue kept moving of its own volition.  It felt like I had a hair in my mouth that I couldn’t get out.  Turns out, I was toxic (I had too much Lithium in my system).  The staff lowered the dose and my weird tongue aerobics went away.

On several occasions, I’ve gotten akathesia (uncontrollable movements) from a med.  It feels like something is crawling under your skin.  Thankfully, there is a med to stop akathesia.

I took a med that dried my mouth and throat out so much that I had to use Biotene (TM) for several months.  This side effect really sucked because it was difficult to talk with a dry mouth.  Sometimes all that would come out were clicks like the Aboriginals in Africa.  Not to mentioning that it was a little embarrassing to take my little Biotene spray bottle out of my purse and spray desperately trying to re-moisten my mouth.

It’s also difficult to remember to take pills at times other than morning or night.  I have had to set an alarm on my phone to remember to take my noon pills.  At noon, “Fireball” by Pitball announces that its time to take a Klonopin and a Vyvanse.

I’ve had Serotonin Syndrome because I had too much serotonin in my system.  This required coming off of some meds.

One side effect that almost everyone experiences is sleepiness.  Especially if you’re taking an atypical anti-psychotic or benzodiazepene.  However, you can try taking a stimulant (like Adderall or Vyvanse) to keep you chugging during the day.  Without a stimulant, I find that I have to take a nap every day which is really inconvenient.

Sometimes, the most frustrating things about meds is trying to get refills on time.  I’ve experienced the hospital pharmacy being out of a med and it taking an extra day to fill it while they order it.  Since I take 12 medications, I am always out of at least one.  My husband works at the hospital and the pharmacy staff knows him quite well.

Another frustrating aspect of meds is trying to get Prior Authorization to get them filled.  Some meds are so expensive that your pharmacy has to get permission to fill them.

Its very important to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing side effects.

Unfortunately, side effects are part of life when you’re taking medications.  But there are things you can do to minimize the effects.  Talk with your doctor about ways to decrease medication side effects.

What medication mix-ups have you experienced?  How did you handle it?

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Disability Disco


I found myself out of work and also unable to work because of my bone-crushing depression…a rather vexing combination. My depression was behind the wheel during this time and getting out of bed was a chore.

My psychiatrist, who is by far the best doctor I’ve had, suggested that I apply for disability.  “You certainly qualify and you deserve it.”

I looked at her like she had suggested I sprout wings and fly out of the appointment. “Its been five years since I’ve worked. I’m sure I’ve long passed some deadline.” “You never know and it would help with the money problems.” That’s what convinced me. Because I felt like I was contributing nothing to our family (because depression makes you feel that way). And here was a potential way to bring something to the table.

Before I go any further, something that helps during the process is good record-keeping. Keep receipts from doctors. Keep track of medications you take and what changes you’ve made. Write down any surgeries, hospitalizations or other major medical procedures. So you can get started ASAP, the number for the Social Security Administration (SSA) (the people who give out disability funds) is 1-800-722-1213 and the website (you can apply online!!) is

I applied and my psychiatrist wrote some wonderful horrible things about me. I got denied the first time (as most people do. Its like a universal rule…thou shall not receive disability on the first pass.)

So I went to, what I affectionately call, a Lawyer In A Box who appealed for me. I’m speaking of those special law firms that shoot up on television warning you that your case warrants professional help. Typically, these law firms take 25% of your settlement (more on what a settlement is in a moment). This might seem like a high cost, but it is so worth it to have professionals in disability take care of your case because disability is a game of arcane rules that nobody but people who deal with it daily understand.

Most people are turned down the first time they request disability and it is almost always necessary to appeal. So don’t lose hope if your denied at your first request. The other important thing to know about disability is that there is a huge caseload backlog and it will probably take several months for your case to come up.

My attorney appealed for me and a video hearing was set up. Disability judges are in high demand and, most times, you won’t see one in person. My attorney got me ready for my video hearing by telling me what to expect.

I went before the video judge. He asked me less than 10 questions, none of them difficult. Then he asked my lawyer some questions. And in 15 minutes, I was done with my disability trial.

My lawyer said I did I good job. At that point, I didn’t care, I just wanted out of there and into the relative safety of my car. I sat in my car taking deep breaths. I had done it. I applied for disability and gone before a judge. Now it was time to wait.

In a few weeks, I got a letter from the Social Security Administration. I had won my case! I was to receive a settlement for the five years that I didn’t receive disability as well as a monthly amount.

Here’s a little sidenote. That settlement? It was taxable income. Do you think I remembered to tell the Internal Revenue Service about it? No, I did not. As silly as this sounds, I figured they were all in government and that the IRS would get word of my settlement via the Social Security Administration. Wrong. About two years later, I got socked with back taxes, interest and penalties.

Luckily, they didn’t take away my monthly stipend. Its not a lot, but it sure helps my self esteem.

Collecting disability leaves me feeling both proud that my disease has been recognized and embarrassed that I qualify for payments. It doesn’t help that everywhere I go, people are blasting those on government assistance. But, to that, I say that I have lost the ability to work and earned the right to collect disability.But I admit that I still do not tell very many people that I collect disability. Some of our friends don’t even know.

About every three years the SSA, reviews your case to determine if you still qualify for disability. I have had one review and it basically involved my doctor saying, “Yep, she’s still loony tunes.” and me filling out a one-page form.

Some people are denied and have their appeal struck down. SSA will typically tell those that are turned down why they were denied. If you are truly disabled, don’t give up.

Applying for disability requires a good doctor and a lot of patience on your part to fill out the paperwork. As I said before, I suggest hiring a Lawyer in the Box because the process is way too confusing to try to navigate on your own. And you’ll still have plenty to do because there are reams of paperwork to fill out.

Seriously, though, good luck and I hope that you receive the benefits that are rightfully yours.

What has your experience been with the SSA?  Are you on disability?

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Panic At The Grocery Store


My favorite place to have a panic attack is Wal-Mart (TM). I don’t know if its the large open space, the flourescent lighting or all the other shoppers that set me off, but something about Wal-Mart (TM) is panically delicious.

I can be walking down an aisle, carefully plucking things from the shelves when *bang*, panic attack. I start breathing like I’m giving birth to a llama and my eyes dart about wildly looking for a place to hide. The water aisle—perfect! I dodge into the water aisle and try to slow down my hammering heart. I remind myself that everything is ok. (Most of myself doesn’t believe this). I try grounding myself by noticing what I smell, see, taste, feel, and hear.  It ain’t working.

At this point, I’m trying to decide whether to abandon my cart and bolt the fuck out of here or stay and ride this mother out.

I choose ride it out and continue hiding in the water aisle to get myself together. I concentrate on one sound (the air handling machine) and block all others out. I look at my shopping list and assess how much further I have to go. This attack occurred smack dab in the middle of my shopping.  The thought of having to return to Wal-Mart (TM) the next day to finish the deed of shopping was enough to push me into action. I went rolling off down the water aisle toward the rest of the store.

Before leaving the safety of the water aisle, I dissociate a bit to make the noise, light and people more tolerable. Just a little break from reality.  Dissociation is on a spectrum from mild daydreaming to disorders.  Bascially, I space off in an attempt to give my brain some quiet time.  Almost 1/3 of people say they occasionally…”feel as thought they are watching themselves in a movie.”  4% of people say they feel that way 1/3 of the time.

So I’m not alone in my dissociated world.  A third of you are tripping on oxygen just like me.  Attempting to get it together by repeatedly saying, “Snap Out Of It!”  Eventually, things come back into focus and I’m, relatively speaking, all together again.

I have had panic attacks that required me to stop what I was doing, in most cases shopping, and leave my cart sitting like an orphaned child in Wal-Mart (TM). This sucks on a couple of levels. First, like I said earlier, I just have to go back and do my shopping all over again. Second, I’m upset that my illness reared its ginormous head and I had to leave the store. Third, I feel guilty that someone is going to have to restock all my crap.

But today, I’m feeling confident about my chances of beating this panic attack and finishing my shopping. I’m saying my affirmations.  I’m imagining the fun things I’ll do when I’m finished shopping.  I’m congratulating myself on being a badass and continuing to shop in the midst of panic. Then I misjudge a curve and jam the metal cart into my hip. “Dammit!” I hiss as a young mom and her sweet child eyed me suspiciously.  I lower my gaze and send out “I’m Sorry for Cursing” vibes to the mom.

I keep my head down to avoid any unnecessary contact with other people.  Its not them, its me.  I am just not that good at adulting.  I can put on a good show for a while, but then I get tired and need a nap. 

I put the dog food in the bottom of the cart…and I’m DONE!

Now I just have to put it all on the conveyor belt, pay for it, load it in the car, carry it in the house,  put it all away and make meals out of it.  I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to be a housewife.  Its actually a shit-ton of work and I don’t know how women work full time and get all their errands done.  Ultimate respect for that.  You all get the SuperPerson award.

So I’ve got no room to fuss about the little bullshit things in life that I have to do.  Its just that, sometimes, that fuss builds into a clusterfuck and I  find myself  hiding in the water aisle at Wal-Mart (TM).  

Where’s your favorite place to have a panic attack?  I would really like to hear about your experiences if you’re willing to share.  Sometimes sharing even makes the experience lose some power over you.  Its really cool when that happens.

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