Apr 29, 2008

Preparing for therapy

So you found out that you have social anxiety. And you read that the best treatment is a combination of drugs and therapy, probably CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy. I'm pretty sure you heard that you probably have a bio-chemical imbalance... oh, that sounds so good: it's not in your head, it's a disease!

Here's my take: forget about drugs... ignore drug advertisements, ignore doctors that insist that you can't do it otherwise, ignore articles. Forget about them. Be strong and work through it for an year. Then you can decide that what you're doing is not enough.

Drug companies and medical insurance companies are not on your side. They are in for making profit, not for keeping/making you healthy. There's a lot of money involved and they are all thrown to convince you that you need expensive drugs. Lots of doctors are biased by the same advertisements. Forget the free samples. They will not last forever and then you'll end up with an expensive drug that you'll probably have a hard time weaning from.

A word on Complementary and alternative medicine: I think it's mostly placebo. I also think placebo is a wonderful thing that you should fully benefit from. But don't spend a fortune on it. Keep an eye on the wallet. Hey, that $2 bottle of homeopathic medicine that makes you feel so good: go ahead and use it! Omega 3s are making you more calm: go for it! But hundreds of $ a month for this stuff, forget about it!

This leaves you with one task: finding a good therapist - the right therapist. Psychologists are OK, but don't necessarily insist on a doctor. My therapist is a psychiatric nurse and she's excellent. Ask around: ask doctors, friends, family. If you can afford it, a therapist that does not accept any insurance is a good sign: probably successful enough to not need it, and less hassled by insurance companies (and more willing to give that time and attention to you, not your co-payment). Insurance companies are not your friends. Forget their referrals, they will send you to the cheapest guy in town.

Two books you need to read before starting therapy:

The first is a very down-to earth book about mental health care and will give you some food for thought. The second one is more practical, and will clarify some of the things that will happen in therapy - patterns of interaction that we all go through.

I love Yalom. His books followed me on each therapy session and I always ended up admitting that he was right about this too.

It's not easy to go through therapy. There will be rough spots. There will be challenges. You need to find someone that will be there for you all the way. And you need to have the strength to go back again and again. Each step up will be preceded by a very difficult breakthrough. Don't give up because it's hard. Always know that this will be over and it will be better soon.

I imagined that in therapy you talk and talk and then you discover one thing that caused it all and then you talk about it and you cry and that's it... it never happened to me. I had a few moments of "this is it", here's the problem, but a week after that the problem was still there. So there are no rules.

And last advice: if a therapist does not work, just move on without judgment. It just isn't the right person at the right time: it's not you, nor the therapist, just grist for the mill. Forget about it and find someone else. The CBT therapist that I kept bitching about in my blog ended up being really helpful more recently. I just wasn't ready when I saw him. But somehow what he said in those first 5 weeks of therapy stuck with me and I'm remembering and appreciating it now. I guess I am now ready for cognitive-behavior therapy. Only I don't need someone to help.

More to come... I'm enjoying writing this.

New Blog

Check this new very interesting blog about social anxiety: - Overcoming Social Anxiety. Mat Ambrose is a freelance writer. The first articles are very well written... duh!

I'm very honored to be in his blogroll.

Apr 28, 2008

Starting therapy - my story

In 2004 I was not sleeping well and not feeling well. I visited my doctor and she diagnosed anxiety, prescribed Clonazepam and suggested that I start seeing a therapist.

I felt great on Clonazepam, but I hated that i needed more and more to sleep better. I took it for 3-4 months while I was under a lot of stress at work and then got off of it. The weaning was scary. My anxiety shot up very bad. I didn't sleep for a night or two. I resisted starting it over and after a week I was fine but I started being scared of medication.

I looked for a therapist and it looks like there's one at every street corner. I had the sense that I shouldn't just pick one, but I had no clue how to find the right one. At that time I had no idea that social anxiety was even defined. I had no idea what was wrong with me in the first place. I called a couple of therapists and found out they are really busy. I finally found one near my house that reluctantly found a time for me. I went there for 4 weeks and left disgusted. The therapist seemed to be more interested in my $10 copayment than my well-being. It did not go well.

I had the idea to search the web for extremely shy or something along these lines. I found books and I found that a disorder exists and it has a name. I ordered the books and started reading. I was not alone anymore... there were people that knew what I felt.

I got pregnant and momentarily dropped the idea of "fixing" the social anxiety. In April 2006, I decided it's time to attack it and get it over with. It took me two years. I am not over with it, I just accept myself and my social anxiety as part of myself. It's there, but it doesn't stop me from important things in my life.

I first went to a CBT (cognitive-behavior therapy) specialist. He was teaching at a big New York university, so I figured he must be good. I went there for 5 weeks. I didn't feel we were doing enough, and he felt he can't help me. He suggested that I see someone else, but did not offer any help with a name or anything. I failed again.

A month or two later I called a number that my new doctor gave me. It was supposed to be my last effort with therapy before giving up and asking for medication to help me cope. I was not optimistic. On the phone, this new therapist mentioned all the reasons why I shouldn't see her: too far away, no time, etc. but I said I don't know what else to do and that I need to talk to someone.

I went in once and was hooked. She had a few soundbites that I loved, among others "oh, men, my dear...". But the most important one was: "Ileana, no matter what will happen, I will be here for you." And she was there for me, even if it was difficult at time for me and her.

Next post will be about what I'd suggest that someone does before starting therapy... we all live to give advice, don't we?

Apr 26, 2008

What's up?

I had an offer to write an anxiety blog for a health web site. I just turned it down. I will continue to be my own boss.

But it made me think some and I had a few ideas for blog posts that I would like to write. Two years ago in April I seriously decided to attack my anxiety. Now, two years later, I just finished a long round of therapy and I think I won, at least for the time being. Two or three weeks went by and I didn't need to run back to my therapist for help. I can deal with life on my own! Woohoo!

So my posts will concentrate on what helped me in therapy. I'm pretty sure this might help someone.

As I mentioned before, I started a yoga teacher's training. I love it and it helps me immensely. My articles might sound esoteric and funny in respect to this, but you'll have to live with me.

It's good to be back to my own forgotten blog.

Apr 12, 2008

Call for research

I was asked to participate in a research about mental health and blogging habits. Sounds interesting. If you want to join the details are below.

I will get back soon with more posts!

I am part of a research group from The College of New Jersey interested in gaining information on the views of authors of mental health blogs. This study is part of a research project of Dr. Yifeng Hu, a professor in the Communication Studies department at TCNJ. You have been contacted because you are the author of such a blog. Participation will involve responding to surveys about your mental health and blogging habits. The results are completely confidential. No respondent's personal identity will be requested or associated with any set of answers. We appreciate your time and help with our study and as a thank you for participating you will receive a $5 gift card (or you can choose to donate your amount to Mental Health America). If you are interested, please send an email to mhblog@tcnj.edu and be sure to include a link to the home page of your blog as well as your preferred contact email address. The survey will be sent to you via email within the next few weeks. Thank you in advance for your participation!
Mental Health Blog Research Group
The College of New Jersey