Attacking Anxiety and Depression
online conference transcript
Carolyn Dickman, Education Director of the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety.
David: HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. I hope everyone's day has gone well. Our conference tonight is on "Attacking Anxiety and Depression". Our guest was going to be Lucinda Bassett. However, Lucinda contacted me and said she had a personal emergency, and we are lucky because Carolyn Dickman, who works with Lucinda, and actually went through her Attacking Anxiety program, is with us tonight. Her story is very interesting and what she was able to accomplish in treating her severe panic attacks and anxiety (Panic Disorder) will hopefully inspire many of you tonight.
As a youngster, our guest, Carolyn Dickman, was an anxious child. By 13 years of age, she graduated to panic attacks. At the time, no one spoke of panic and anxiety (back in the 1950's). She didn't discover what she suffered with until she was 40. That was 27 long years of not knowing what was wrong.
Intermittently, throughout those years, Carolyn was house bound, travel and vehicle avoidant, prone to bouts of anger and severe depression. She hid it all, even self-medicating with alcohol. It was a secret that "I was dying-or so I thought." It took a long time, but finally Carolyn found some tools that worked for her and she'll be sharing those with us later this evening.
Good Evening, Carolyn and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being here tonight. Even today, there are many people who haven't identified their symptoms as Panic Disorder and who are scared out of their wits by what is happening to them. What was it like for you growing up?
Carolyn: I thought I was the only person on earth with the horrible scary thoughts and feelings of dying every day. The body symptoms lead me to doctors. No one could give me a name for whatever "it" was. I always felt out of touch with family and classmates, feeling something was "wrong" with me.
David: How did you discover that "something," was Panic Disorder?
Carolyn: I had a TV in the kitchen and I was watching it, and I saw Lucinda Bassett talking about body symptoms. I thought, oh dear, she has been sitting on my left shoulder for the past 30 years.
David: Before we get too far into that part of it, I'm wondering what it was like for you, personally and socially, dealing with panic and anxiety, during those early years, teens-20's?
Carolyn: As a teen, I was a great date because I couldn't eat, so I was very inexpensive. I couldn't stay away from home too long, so my parents loved that. I did most things teens and college students do, but with great fear. Fear defined my life and my decisions. I was never at peace, I always questioned my decisions. I was a perfectionist and analytic. People with anxiety disorders, panic disorders, are very clever at designing a life around their disabilities.
David: So, during that time, how did you deal with various situations?
Carolyn: Frankly, I gutted my way through some. I lied my way out of the things I couldn't do, like, go on vacation. "No, too busy." I cried a lot! Prayed a lot! Now, my goal is to help others, so they don't have to go through the pain I did because of ignorance. I have used what happened to motivate me, and hopefully, I can inspire others. If I can overcome this living hell, so can you.
David: We'll be talking more about Carolyn's road to recovery from panic and anxiety disorders. But first, some audience questions:
blusky: Do you believe that anxiety attacks, and the fears that come with it, are a learned behavior?
Carolyn: Yes. I believe it is reasonable to think that some of us were born with a goosey limbic system. However, from my experience we learn our fears and our responses to life. I have a dear friend who was once afraid of elevators. She survived encephalitis, but it wiped out her memory banks and she now loves elevators. I am not suggesting we go in for a sweep, but I truly believe we can replace our mis-beliefs. I have "learned" to fly, travel, do public speaking, the list goes on.
karen5: How long did it take you to control your panic episodes.
Carolyn: As you know, I went through Lucinda Bassett's Attacking Anxiety Program. There are 15 lessons, one per week. The second lesson is on controlling and stopping panic. There must be some justice in the world, because after that lesson, I've never had another panic attack. Now, not all of our participants can say that, some take a bit longer. The key is attaining basic beginning physical comfort, determining no physical illness, and most vital, learning why there is nothing to fear and then losing the fear. Recovery is like an onion with many layers.
irish_iz: Do you know what, if anything, started your panic attacks when you were a teenager. For instance, abuse, dysfunction, etc.
Carolyn: Short answer of what I went through: dry alcoholic, perfectionist, painfully poor, authoritarian, verbal abuse. My sensitivity was high; when the nuns talked about Jesus on the cross, I felt the nails :) There were also many many stressors like moving, illness, etc. It was a rain barrel effect: it doesn't matter if the rain comes from a storm or a shower, if we don't manage the level to evaporate some, one drop will send it overflowing. At 13, I had come to the brim and over, and from then on, it rained :).
David: Here are a few audience comments on what Carolyn's been saying - then more questions:
SuzieQ: So very true. We all seem to be subject to the hypersensitive, "feeling other's pain"! She is telling our life stories as well : ).
Meg1: Carolyn, you are an inspiration. I identify with your story. Well told.
imahoot: Has anxiety or fear ever kept you bedridden for weeks on end?
Carolyn: For those interested, I write and edit a newsletter, call for a free copy 1-800-944-9428.
To imahoot, yes my children would come home from school and ask why my eyes were red. I often said I had a cold. I wondered how my history affected them, and at one time in the recent past I apologized for all the missed athletic events, plays etc. My oldest (30+) said, "But Mom, you forget, we got to see you get better." Maybe I didn't do such a bad job to have such a sweet child.
David: What about the depression that couples the panic and anxiety? Were you affected by that?
Carolyn: Yes, as time went by, I became increasingly depressed. I didn't want to live anymore by the time I was 40. I regularly asked God to take me, but He knew better. Depression naturally comes to people who constantly stress out because we deplete seretonin. Then add the horrible inner self talk "I'm no good. I can't do anything right." No wonder we become depressed! Every thought brings with it it's own biology/chemistry.
Here is a great true story: my daughter took her dog to the car wash this winter. Everytime the arm of the washer hit the dog's side of the car, the dog stood up and shook itself off! The dog was wet in her mind! We do that too. Now, if we can make ourselves miserable, I believe with the right skills we can also help ourselves to happiness!
David: I think you have an interesting story and many people here tonight can identify with what you are saying. There are many people here tonight who feel exactly like you did. How did you cope with the depression?
irish_iz: Carolyn, wonderful analogy about the dog at car wash.
Carolyn: I didn't! I didn't really have any skills because I didn't catch any growing up. I thought I was a realist but now I know I was a fatalist! I would stop eating, stay awake most of the night, cry all the time, hide it with drinks - which wasn't terribly bright, as we know alcohol is a depressant! But I had a rationale for that too. I figured if we give hyper children a stimulant to settle them down, perhaps a depressant would pick me up. Oh brother! I don't think there is any thing worse than depression.
David: For people in the audience tonight, I'd like to know what the hardest part of living with panic, anxiety is like. I'll post the responses as we go along.
I want to get to a few more audience questions, then we'll talk about what you had to do to control the severe panic and anxiety that took over your life.
lizann: Carolyn, I find that I am always analyzing what other people must be thinking about me and I think that creates a great deal of anxiety. Do you experience that, and if so, have you found any particular techniques that are effective in combating it?
Carolyn: I am proud of the work I have been able to do in the workbook and on the tapes. Because of my experience with depression, we update the Attacking Anxiety program every 6-18 months. We stay up-to-date.
lizann: I find this to be evident in most sufferers, we are so into control, and at the same time feel so out of control inside, that we try to control the universe. We wish to appear in perfect order at all times, and we scan for this constantly.
Yes, I have experienced the same and it creates lot's of anxiety. I don't do this as much anymore. I know I am a good and worthy person. I know that what others think of me is NONE of my Business :) We can learn how to think differently, and I am so glad I learned how to understand. Now, I had to have someone teach me because I didn't know how.
David: Here are some of the audience responses to "what is the worst part of living with panic/anxiety?":
luvwinky: The hardest part is - relationships.
wallie2: Staying alone, for me. I have lots of trouble staying in my apartment. I am always staying at relatives.
sparrow1: The hardest part of living with panic is not being understood by my family and friends. They say things like "just get over it."
Roach: The hardest thing about anxiety was the agoraphobia and staying alone. Any ideas?
Sissy: For me, the constant bewilderment and fear of what will happen next?
imahoot: The excruciating fear that lingers within your system, and not being able to function outside home!
Chatyg47: I clean constantly, day and night. My house has to be perfect because I care too much about what others think of me. I have to use medication. I haven't slept without medication in 15 years.
Carolyn: We are searchers. Do you know what searchers do? They find! You are all going to find your answers alone, but first we must have comfort tools breathing techniques, thinking skills, distracting skills.
sweet1: My friends and family think I'm like this just because I need attention.
Carolyn: Attention...isn't that a hoot? The last thing we want is attention for this. We want attention for our skills and accomplishments.
David: For those who have asked, here is the link to The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety.
Carolyn, I want to get into the treatment aspect of your panic and anxiety. Can you go into that for us? What did you do, specifically, to deal with your panic?
Carolyn: What would you like to do if this condition were not holding you back? Focus on a plan. Deal with the panic following my advices given in the previous comments, and adding the following: see your doctor. If your haven't already done so, test for diabetes, thyroid etc. Learn all you can about the "flight or fright syndrome". The worse thing that can happen from a panic attack is depression.
Here are some first quick fix steps:
First: Look at the sensations! Don't run! Face your sensations and say: "I know what you are, I am in charge".
Second: Allow them to be there. Don't run!
Third: breathe! in through the nose for 2 seconds, out through the mouth for 4 seconds (no holding breath). Simultaneously, count, mentally only "one - one thousand, two - one thousand, " as inhale as exhale" one-one thousand (through) four one -thousand". Do not count verbally, and make the count in a rhythm. Do this for 60 seconds. Watch your watch.
Fourth: Move into some comforting inner dialogue:
"There is no danger, there is no emergency. I am slowing my breathing, my thinking. I am here. I am a great problem solver. There is no danger, there is no emergency."
Fifth: Proceed into a bit of distraction, clean something, do yoga, crochet, rock dance, you get the idea.
Finally let a little time pass. Panic always goes away. Focus on real answers, lasting answers. You are all so very capable, I promise.
David: Just to recount here: the best ways to handle your panic are:
1) acknowledge it, don't run away from it;
2) remind yourself that you are in charge of your emotions and feelings;
3) breath in through your nose and out through your mouth in a rhythm. Then, finally remind yourself in a positive way that everything will be okay and that you are okay.
How difficult was it for you to master this and then, has it become a part of "who you are?"
Carolyn: People ask me if I still listen to tapes that come with the program and I tell them: "no, I am the program." I really live the things I was taught. They are a part of me but that can't happen without practice. I like to use the analogy of: if your doctor writes you a prescription for medications and you just read it, you don't get the benefit :).
I hope you will call our information number: 1-800-ANXIETY. We have a free brochure and cassette to send to anyone who asks. I believe in recovery for all. It is not difficult, it's much easier than the way I was trying to live!! It takes at least 2 weeks of practice to become fairly smooth, and of course, the more the better. I never think about my 2-4 breathing anymore, it is now a semi-automatic skill.
Here is a great resource for information: Lucinda's book From Panic To Power.
David: Here are some audience questions, Carolyn:
Violet 1: Hi Carolyn, it's so nice to meet you and hear your story. I have Lucinda's program and done it. My last fear I am trying to get through is being afraid of driving on highways. I am stuck with that, do you have any ideas or hints? I have her driving tape as well and am petrified to listen to it.
Carolyn: Violet1: I scripted and recorded the Driving with Comfort tape. Please! don't be afraid. I would never scare you! Promise me you will listen to just 5 minutes of it tomorrow and write to me and let me know what you think. Driving, like most of our fears, can be best addressed by breaking it into small pieces. Just sit in your car! Make friends with it, play the radio, clean it, polish it, drive it in and out of the garage. Who cares what the neighbors think!!! Good practice for those who care too much too :).
Gradual patient practice is the key with comforting inner dialogue. Play my tape in the car!
Amber13: Carolyn, I have been doing so well for a long time, but in the last few months or so, I have not been handling it too well. I know we get growth spurts, but I can't seem to be positive once again, and I did go through Lucinda's tapes, over-and-over.
Carolyn: There is always a reason for growth spurts. Try to to make a list of what has been of concern lately. If your spider plants are not having babies and that concerns you, put it on the list. Once all is in front of our faces, it is easier to be compassionate. Then, the healing must begin. I have a 21 day healing plan: write to me at P.O. Box 205, Oak Harbor, OH 43449. I will send it to anyone asking.
Your situation sounds like a rain barrel situation, and a gradual healing process must take place. You know the skills helped you before, please give yourself a break and do what works. Remember, if we always do what we've always done.....we always get what we always "got." Sorry English majors.
Warbucks Good evening. Are you familiar with depersonalization? And what are your thoughts on it?
Carolyn: I am familiar with the term and the diagnosis. Sometimes we allow words to scare us when there is no need. Anxiety sufferers are often on overload and "checking off line" for a time is actually self-protective and not a "diagnosis". If you have concerns regarding this as a "disorder," please check with your doctor.
hydrangea: Since recovery comes to those that use a combination of tools such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), anti-anxiety medications, support network, and faith, can you determine which was the most vital aid for you in your recovery?
Carolyn: Wow! Good question. I think learning how to comfort myself with positive, truthful inner dialogue was my most vital aid. Then learning the relaxation response was a close second. We can't do anything without the Lord. My favorite knock - knock joke is in the Bible paraphrased; Knock and the door shall be opened to you, ask and you shall receive. I see Jesus opening the door, smiling, gesturing for me to come in, and I stand there and keep knocking. We sometimes forget, we must step up and step in. We are the lock and we are the key. He gives us the grace. We must use it!
David: For those of you interested in Lucinda Bassett's program, here is the link to her site The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety and this is the toll free number 1-800 511-6896.
Lisa5: I thought that if I told anyone they would lock me up in jail. I had a scary thought of suffocating my son with a pillow, while he slept. I love my son and would never hurt him, that is why the thought scared me so much.
Carolyn: Lisa5, I can't tell you how many times young moms have shared this same thought. You are not your thoughts! You are your actions! We tend to have scary thoughts about the things we love the most. Does that make sense?
David: Here are some responses from earlier this evening on " what is the more difficult thing when it comes to living with your panic and anxiety," then more questions.
tlugow: The most difficult thing? The embarrassment!!!
SuzieQ: Overcoming the negative habits of analytical thinking, worrying, the intensity, the perfectionism, and adopting a "so what" attitude were the most difficult traits of my panic disorder to overcome.
bladegirl: Not even being able to find doctors who can help you! That is hard. I am an agoraphobic, partially housebound for 2 years. Will recovery take longer because of this?
Carolyn: bladegirl, no! The right skills produce results! It didn't' take as long as I thought it would, nor was it as hard as I thought to change. It is not always easy, but lots easier than I anticipated.
7: Can I ask if we, as parents, know that we've got a overly sensitive child, what (if anything) can we do to possibly help them to avoid getting a panic disorder?
Carolyn: We have a Sensitive Child tape. I also recommend learning great coping skills that, as parents, we can teach modeling! Model what is helpful to the child, self-respect leads to self-esteem. Help them discover talents and nourish them.
David: Some more audience comments on "the toughest part of living with panic and anxiety":
lizann: I get so tired of the fear that comes up seemingly for no reason.
irish_iz: The hardest, if I had to pick one would be "the isolation"
hydrangea: Limitations, invisible boundaries, guilt, frustration.
deeger: The self-imposed imprisonment, the guilt over missing events, the lack of self-esteem and confidence.
Flicka: I want to know why certain fears just stay. Even after the program, I still hate elevators. Can you help?
Carolyn: Fear stays because we nurture it. Break your "practice" of elevators into very small sessions. Go with a friend, just touch the elevator door and breathe the 2-4 breathing, accompanying it with self-talk. Then step in and step out, compliment yourself and celebrate. One floor, two floors, give yourself a litany of positive comforting inner dialogue. Research elevator safety. Take small steps. This is very important, and so is consistent practice. Have a schedule on a calendar for practice sessions.
I feel limited here because of necessity of short answers, but I hope the tiny hints are a start.
Roach: How can we concentrate on breathing on one thing, when it causes some of us to have anxiety attacks.
Carolyn: Ah! I too, had breathing fears, but with consistent practice along with relaxation skills, this too, can became manageable, and actually more than just manageable. Positive dialogue makes a huge impact on this.
Tracy C: Does it take some people more than once to go through the Attacking Anxiety program, and why?
Carolyn: I went through the program 3! times not because I am deficient, but because I noticed that I felt better each time.
I think it takes a long time to change life-long habits! How many times did you practice riding your two-wheeler before you became proficient? The first time through is for education! The second time is for the heart. It makes sense that you want to live the skills. The third time is for the gut: now you are the program.
hydrangea: I just want to share that, after I finished the Attacking Anxiety program, I had some concerns and Carolyn, you wrote me back a letter that I will never forget. At the time, I was pretty much housebound, and you told me to take it one light pole at a time as you did. And today, by gosh I collect poles as I pass so many of them. THANK YOU!
Carolyn: Thank you to hydrangea.
Henney Penney: I have all the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder (insomnia, feeling wired, etc.) but I don't have any anxious thoughts or feelings that I am aware of. Have you heard of this version of Anxiety Disorder? And do you know how I can approach it?
Carolyn: I can't imagine! Unless your symptoms are from thyroid disease or some such. The science behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that there is always a thought that proceeds a feeling. Therefore, what we think determines things like the reaction of fear, anger, etc.
Las Lisa: I have horrid night terrors (nightmares). Recently, I have had panic attacks when I want to go to sleep and they have progressively gotten worse. I have tried to sleep in different rooms of the house but the panic attacks continue. I literally pass out from the panic. Is there anything I can do to help alleviate this?
Carolyn: I believe the first step is a visit to your doctor. If you over-breathe to the extent of passing out, using the 2-4 breathing technique will not allow that to happen. But please, rule out any other condition.
Why the fear of sleep? That is a question that I would explore. What started the fear? How can we set up a reality based on the change in this fearful thought process? I will send you some information on this if you write to me as I know our time is limited here.
David: It is getting late and I want to thank Carolyn for joining us tonight and sharing her story and answering everyone's questions. And thank you to everyone in the audience for participating tonight.
Once more, here's the link to the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety and this is the toll-free number: 1-800-511-6896. You can also visit our panic-anxiety community for more information on the subject.
Carolyn: Thank you, hope to hear that it was pain free to all.
Disclaimer:We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.
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Good night everyone.
Last Updated: 29 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD