Anxiety: There’s no app for it


Next week is Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Let me tell you about mine.

About ten years ago, I developed general anxiety disorder, with a side dish of agoraphobia. My disorder manifested itself about the time I became a successful speaker writer. Being a speech writer, I didn’t have to go out and spent most of my time alone, working at home.

For months, I slaved over a hot computer without ever having to go out. I would just hop out of bed, make lunches for the kids and get to work. No muss no fuss.

After a while, it became hard to be around people. Then it became nearly impossible.

The worst situation for me was a hotel meeting room. Whenever I was invited to a lunch, dinner or meeting, I’d spend most of my time in the hotel bathroom hyperventilating. After a while, I just stopping going to things altogether.

When the speechwriting business dried up, I took a job as a magazine editor for a national association. The first day of my new job, I found myself sweating profusely, with my heart leaping out of my chest. I spent my lunch hour walking the streets, shaking, looking for an ambulance. I really thought I was going to die.

In spite of my illness, I managed to keep this job for two years but I battled and battled with myself every morning. Scott drove me to work and picked me up. I never left the office.

My illness became so bad that I had to quit this very wonderful job. I’ve been working from home ever since.

I went for therapy, toyed with medication and decided against it. No doctor could help me. They talked the talk, but I could see in their eyes that they thought I was crazy.

About a year ago, my disorder just went away. I could not believe it.

How did I just get better?

I have two theories.The easy one is that I’d finally gone through menopause and gotten my hormones under control.

But the other explanation is much more ominous.

Last fall, my family was forced to move, thanks to the toxic oil spill on Smyth Road. Before the move, my panic seemed to get worse and I actually had trouble seeing when walking down the street. Once we moved, my vision cleared up and the panic went away.

It made sense.

When I first moved into Smyth Road, I found mould in some parts of the house.  We also discovered that the ducts had never been blown.

That meant there were all kinds of toxins in the house.

Our new house is much better built and maintained, and I no longer have respiratory issues. My head is clear for the first time in a decade.

As Blue Rodeo might say, I am myself again.

Thank God.

Sometimes, the medical profession uses a one size fits all approach to treating some forms of mental illness. They treat the symptoms, not always the underlying causes.

They did squat for me.

Environmental illness is more pervasive than we sometimes think it is. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

Doctors should test for it and ask about it in their long form questionnaire.

There’s no app for mental illness.

Sometimes you just have to figure it out on your own.

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