Wednesday, 25 May 2011


It is no secret that I am big fat ol’ bag of anxiety. I’ve had more therapists than you’ve had hot meals and could do endorsements for SSRI’s  and be completely and totally sincere. 
In 1984 I had just turned 18, graduated from high school and had my whole life ahead of me. I was a total mess.
My poor parents didn’t know what to do with me. I had been chosen to go as a Rotary club exchange student to The Phillipines for a year but had to bail at the last minute because I was having more and more trouble just leaving the house, let alone going to live in a Southeast Asian island village where, as I heard later, they ate a lot of their food on sticks. 

What was at first thought of as the simple nervousness associated with drama club membership was soon upgraded to potential nutbar status when I had a major panic attack and melt down in the parking garage near the Metropolitan movie theatre in Winnipeg. I won’t bore you with the details, but it involved me leaving the movie theatre (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and my friends (Melinda and her sister Margot) to go and collect myself by sitting in the car and waiting for them. I ended up freaking out and calling an adult to drive me home to Selkirk (30 miles). I was hysterical. He thought I was having a nervous breakdown.

No one really knew what was going on. One doctor said I was just “abnormally sensitive to my biological functions” by which he meant I panicked if I had to poop. This was not the case at all. We all know that there’s nothing better than a good poop and I celebrate this essential part of my day (or week, if I’m on the road). 

See? Not a problem for me.

It got to the point where I could barely get to the grocery store without starting to panic. I lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. Even I knew that wasn’t proper. My family doctor was put on the case and he was able to figure out that this business was best nipped in the bud. I got a referral to a psychiatrist. Imagine.

I was starting at University that fall, and my appointment with The Shrink was on the 3rd day of classes. For the first three days of university, when most young people are celebrating their debut into the somewhat adult world of academia, I was being accompanied to my classes by my mother. It was totally and completely humiliating, but it was the only way I was going to get there and I was determined not to miss out on getting a degree.

Finally saw the shrink. I was formally diagnosed as having agoraphobia with panic disorder.  Shrink Doctor put me on a program of pills and talk therapy and within 6 months I was a high functioning, happy, 18 year old. Over the years I’d have the occasional rough patch where my anxiety problems would rear their oddly shaped heads, but for the most part, with the help of pharmaceuticals and soft speaking therapists, I’ve managed pretty well.

Don’t bother writing in the comment section on how people shouldn’t have to use drugs to be happy. It pisses me off so much when characters on TV say “No, no drugs, doctor. I’ve got to beat this on my own”. Whatever. Good for you, Pollyanna. I wear makeup to look pretty, I use Spanx to suck my gut in, I use Celexa to keep me from becoming a total cellar dweller. Some things you just can’t do without a little help. If it makes you feel better, let’s just say I have psychological diabetes.

I’m not ashamed of being a nervous, panic prone, twitchy girl. But I’m not what I would say proud of it, either. Which is why it strikes me as somewhat odd that agoraphobia seems to have become the “it” brand of crazy lately. Agoraphobia is the go-to diagnosis for a lot of popular culture creations today, from Adrian Monk’s reclusive brother in the show Monk, to the Marvel comic character The Sentry,  Joan Cusack’s character on the show “Shameless”, and more recently, the lead in the TV show “End Game”, chess genius and mystery sleuth, Arkady Balagan. Agoraphobia is crazy enough to be interesting, but not so out-there that you can’t feel sympathy for the character. Few agoraphobics are serial killers. 

I promise not to write very often about this. I understand that this kind of personal disclosure can make people feel uncomfortable. I come across blogs such as “My Journey to Wellness” or “My Life with Aggressive, Inoperable Cancer”, or “My Life Without Arms, Legs or a Fully Functioning Bowel”.  Heartwrenching, honest and, not in the least bit funny. However, this bit about me is essential to understanding the other, more fabulous and sparkly things about me. To me, my issues with anxiety are more embarrassing than, say, my chin hair and less embarrassing than a superfluous nipple. I do not have a superfluous nipple.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming on Poopies, Vector cereal and Things I am Outraged By.


  1. I too have the crazy! It's not panic disorder, it's clinical depression, but now I know why I spent so much time not sleeping, hiding in the basement as a teen. I need meds, I've tried going without them and ended up in the loony bin for a weekend. I fully accept I need them to live, and I too get PO'd at the slagging of necessary medications. I was so glad when Viagra came along, so the stand-ups stopped slagging on the Prozac.

  2. I must say, your post has got me thinking. I have had a couple of quackers who have tried to get me on the SSRI train and my response has generally thanks doc...I'll get my own prescription at the depanneur/liquor store/weed dealer etc...when that didn't work out so well I decided, hey maybe this paxil substitute they call heroin will help...and indeed it did for a while, although the side effects are quite pronounced...although they occur mostly when you run out...and there's a whole 'nuther poopin' story there we just won't get into now...I'm posting this anonymously in case the Americans are reading this post...jeez I wonder if paranoia is an issue as well

  3. drugs saved my life dudes. such as it is.

  4. Elizabeth Bricknell25 May 2011 at 20:33

    Thank you for posting this intimate and honest "trip down crazy lane" which so many of us have done. It goes to show you can't peg those who take meds or those who have therapy and therefore helps to de-stigmatize mental illness - something I feel very passionately about. Unfortunately the TRULY crazy don't see themselves that way.

  5. It's funny how, when you venture out of the loopy closet, you find that a lot of your friends have been in ones of their own. I've been on Prozac since they invented it. Wouldn't be alive without it. It's those friggin' sane people you have to watch out for.
    Joni (no relation)

  6. We're all nuts, in one way or another. And some of the sanest people are carriers. The key, in my opinion, is to be nuts and funny. Thank you, Ellen!! PS, however you do it, drugs or jugs or doobies, your anxiety is not a noisy passenger, and your mother is stellar.