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'A very designed life'

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Gail Andrews sees the enemy: a scowling version of herself critiquing every word from her mouth ...Read the full article

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  1. Michael Sharp from Victoria, Canada writes:

    Panic attacks are hideous.

    It's treatable.
  2. Larry Smith from Canada writes: I suffer from a sort of low-to medium level constant anxiety; one that exhausts me and leaves butterflies in my gut constantly. I take a nifty little medication to sleep, but the effects of a non-natural sleep over extremely long periods of time is killing me. Unlike the people profiled in this article, I am certain I do not suffer from this form of anxiety. I feel completely at ease meeting and speaking with people and can get up in front of large crowds with relative ease. So the reason I am typing this is- because I cannot trace the root of the problem. Why can't I relax? Sure, a few glasses of wine brings the anxiety level down a few notches, but I can't do that on a Tuesday at 10 am (not that I haven't tried...). I am seeking help and feel that this condition is morphing into depression, so I hope to nip it before it is uncontrollable but even with a private plan the wait is brutal. I have often thought that my life will end by my own hand, and that sickens me. I am by no means perfect, but like Gail in this article, I 'present well'. I live in a great home with a loving beautiful (and supporting) wife, great kids, I am very fit, and told I am handsome (which I don't quite get, but I hear it often enough). My point telling this is that people would look at me and say 'no way', and so I have suffered in silence and so if someone else reads this and thinks, "I can completely relate to this", then that's a good thing. I hope to get better. Each day is an exhausting battle to carry on. Finally, this series of articles is one of the finest pieces of journalism The Globe has ever presented. From a clinical perspective there may be errors, but like my comments, if one or more people see they are not alone and speak up and get treated, that is a better use of print than all of the political and economical stories the paper carries combined.
  3. Mike Quinlan from Gatineau QC, Canada writes: Larry go get the book by Edward Burns-- Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy. You dont have to wait six months. I would also suggest a book I have just finished reading which is getting a lot of attention, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. You arent alone. Truth is, none of us are, but we have to find out for ourselves.
  4. Harold A. Maio from Ft Myers FL, United States Outlying writes: WOW!, impressive writing,Carolyn Abraham, thank you. Responses to the following: “They've all suffered (at being trained to) the 'stigma,' thinking their disorder won't be taken seriously,” Dr. Rector "says." He may "say" it, I do not validate his "lesson." Women in Canada were once trained to the "stigma" of rape by similar "authority," now that public training has ended. Journalism does (publicly) not any more offer the lesson, universities do not (publicly.) Why then this one? Why choose the above sentence to include in the training your article offers? “cognitive distortions” – the falsehoods you tell yourself, includes the above sentence. It is one I do not tell myself. ( Depression distorts much of my thinking, I am amazed at what it does not distort.) "the negative editorializing” includes the above sentence, though here the metaphor is no longer metaphor, it is reality, the Globe and Mail is editorializing a "cognitive distortion," a "stigma." It is a curious quest. What do you suppose lies behind it? I thank you for the above two metaphors, "cognitive distortions," and "negative editorializing." I will employ both in my quest to end them in print. Like the anonymous woman in your article, I am also trying to do so in my mind. Harold A. Maio Advisory Board American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Board Member Partners in Crisis Former Consulting Editor Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal Boston University Language Consultant UPENN Collaborative on Community Integration of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities Home: 8955 Forest St Ft Myers FL 33907 239-275-5798
  5. K P from Canada writes: My god, I thought I was alone in this!
    I had panic attacks, aversion to going to stores, even fear of haircuts and showers! Yet through it all I was a succesful businessman.
    I constantly had the "editor' with me but with work I flicked an invisible switch and became outward assertive, speaking to large groups. On the way home I would criticise myself, I avoided social interaction, still do. I have alienated many over the years.
    After a bad Panic attck in which I contemplated suicide I was put on Paxil which I have taken for 12 years. I am a much nicer person to my family. I retired but I am just so bloody bland and just put up with situations that would have aroused me years ago.
    I have printed out this article to read a few times.
    Very few people know about my taking of Paxil and less about the frustration I feel about being disinterested in most activities. I really have no one who will listen without mirroring the criticism I heap on myself
  6. Katie Hetherman from Mississauga, Canada writes: As a patient of Individualized CBT, I can fully empathize with Gail. I have Dysthymia, a mix of social anxiety and depression (what a combo!) with a tendancy towards self mutilation. When I saw the front page of the Globe this morning, a lump rose into my throat immediately. I cooked and cleaned all day, rather than going out to run the errands I needed to run. The idea that my story is being read by the public sends so many nerves through me, it's chilling. We shouldn't be in such tightly enclosed spaces, hostage to the mental illnesses and diagnoses that are assigned to us, yet we are. It bothers me profusely that people are able to be on television, newspapers, magazine etc and tell my story, but I cannot even talk to my best friends.

    Good for you Gail for stepping out of your box.
  7. Elaine In BC from rural Vancouver Island, Canada writes: Katie - Dysthymia! How did you come to know about this? What is it, and where can I get more information? I can trace my clinical depression, which is fairly well-controlled by meds, back to my early twenties, but I have come to realize that I have suffered from social anxiety since the age of four. Do you have any links or advice for me? I live in a small backwoods commmunity where the medical establishment is as ignorant as the general populace.
  8. S G from Toronto, Canada writes: This is a great article with really useful detail about the process. I applaud Gail for having the courage to come forward. I'm thinking about undergoing this process myself and am glad to be reminded that there are many others with similar issues - I find anxiety really isolates me.

    I'm a little disappointed, however, that a senior executive in a big company couldn't afford to spend a few thousand dollars on treatment and leave the free spots to people who need them more. I'm looking at paying a psychologist $175/hour... If it works its well worth the money I'm sure - but its a lot. It would be great if care were more accessible in terms of availability and cost.
  9. Katie Hetherman from Mississauga, Canada writes: Elaine,

    I was diagnosed by my psychiatrist on my initial visit. From the research I've tried to do on it, I've come to the conclusion that it's not a very well known condition, but seems to wrap up a lot of what people like me feel and deal with every day. Check out Wikipedia?

    Good luck to you,

  10. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: Generalized anxiety disorder, depression and dysthymia are favourite terms of psychiatry which currently misses the 1% of women who actually have ADHD. Most psychiatrists never stu7died ADHD although all psychologists do. Few in out-of-date Canadian psychiatry realize that ADHD is an equal opportunity disorder that equally affects males and females. Smarter women compensate so well and are rarely disruptive such that few ever consider that they might have ADHD. When their estrogen tanks at menopause, symptoms and executive functions can take a serious hit. Of course, most of our GPs are also behind the times and do not realize that very low-dose estrogen can be safely prescribed to women in their 40s and 50s as this age group does not have an increased risk of heart disease from low-dose estrogen. The vitamin regimes, which have significantly helped many US children, are also very helpful. Again, one wonders if basic and effective complementary or alternative treatments for children or adults are even permitted in the limited psychiatric culture here. With effective treatment and strategies ADHD can often be turned from a disorder that harm's one's life into a mere character trait. ADHD people are often big-idea creative types with high intelligence. Society needs some people with those traits.
  11. Shawn W from Toronto, Canada writes: S G from Toronto - I was recently diagnosed with social anxiety disorder by a psychiatrist recommended by my family doctor. Don't spend big money on a psychologist unless you really want to - OHIP will cover your visits to a psychiatrist if you are in need. My experience with my psychiatrist was very positive. I'm taking medication for my symptoms and am waiting to get into a CBT group. Bottom line, ask your family doctor about the various options.
  12. S G from Toronto, Canada writes: Shawn W - thanks for the comment. Actually the psychologist was recommended by the doctor. I didn't ask about other options. How long is the waiting list you are on... is it for CAMH?
  13. don gaudry from vancouver, Canada writes: I agree with the situations these people are having as anxiety is a silent disease that no one likes to talk about . The good part is getting help and it should be treated as a part of the complete heath of everyone. The stigma needs to stop!! Thanks to The GlobeandMail for bringing this to the forefront and hopefully waking up the masses .
  14. R F from Toronto, Canada writes: Shawn W is fortunate first of all because he has a family doctor, and secondly, because he has a family doctor who referred him to a psychiatrist. Many Canadians can't even get their foot in the door to see a family physician. I work as a social worker in an inner city primary care setting and we are constantly struggling to get our patients in to be seen by a psychiatrist for assessment alone. Getting a psychiatrist who does ongoing psychotherapy is even more of a challenge. Those with severe mental illness are often the hardest and when they are seen, they are usually treated with medications only. There are not enough trained professionals including psychiatrists who do psychotherapy. I was recently speaking to a psychiatric resident in the US who said that many psychiatrists are not trained in psychotherapy and the reason for this is because they get reimbursed much more for medical management of their patients' mental illness. I would like to learn more about the model that is being used in Britain where they have hired 4000 CBT therapists and use therapy before medications. Is there any way to get a reference to the work that is being done over there? I would appreciate it.
  15. Shawn W from Toronto, Canada writes: S G from Toronto - I am on a waiting list with a local Toronto hospital which conducts the therapy. Psychologists are great, but not covered by OHIP. If I were you, I would, as I say, ask for a referral to a psychiatrist.

    As one of the other posters pointed out, so many people don't have a family doctor and there are few psychiatrists who are willing to see you for, you know, months and years at a time. For me, I went to sessions for a few months and now am on medication and awaiting the CBT. I can honestly say that the medication I have been prescribed helps immensely in getting through the day. I believe, as a society we tend to over-medicate but when it can improve your quality of life, then so be it.
  16. Shawn W from Toronto, Canada writes: S G from Toronto - I forgot to add, I very much hope you can get the help you deserve and that with treatment (medication, therapy) you can start living a more satisfying life. We all deserve that.
  17. Cath AL from Toronto, Canada writes: This is essential reading for everyone. Thanks, G&M. A Life of Anxiety - I now know how to describe it, what those frightening but unaccountable feelings were, why I refuse social engagements or suffer, always always, afterwards, why I never married or become close to people, the incessant criticism of my every word, tone, look, action in every interaction with another person no matter whom, how nasty people can be.....It's truly a life of non-stop torture. Years of therapy have definitely helped but will never do away with it, or the damage it has done to my personality and my life. I look normal, healthy, friendly, successful....but with the social anxiety and the depression I've had for almost 50 years I've had to accept that I will never have the things that others take for granted - a spouse, children, and the ability just to be with people. I couldn't find a psychiatrist, but did eventually find a wonderful therapist whom I was able to pay. She was not knowledgeable about medication and when it's needed but my family doctor helped there. Also, finally finding out about other people I know who have these problems made a world of difference - to be able to talk to someone after so many decades of pain, and to share our experiences, is priceless. Admit your depression to people (with care) and you'll find it surprising how many others there are out there.
  18. John S from Toronto, Canada writes: This entire series from the GlobeandMail is funny.

    Read Claire Weekes, Austrailan MD, PhD.

    She developed Cognitive and Behavioural Techniques in the 60's.

    Now an entire cottage industry of psychologists, and psychatrists has sprung up over the last almost 50 years.

    Re-Search is really about stealing. Hence Re-Search, keep looking for things to steal !
  19. Karen Morris from Canada writes: I am a woman suffering from severe depression . My 20 year old son has a very rare debilitating disease. Every day since he was born he is in constant pain.He takes nor wants any painkillers.I suffer with the knowledge that I as his mother can't protect him from the pain and anguish he faces daily.He will die before he is thirty,no doubt. He has a skin disease and so far infection hasn't killed him so skin cancer will. It has every other person with this disease. So I feel like I carry the burden upon myself to find the doctors,and dentists and others that have the experience to care for my son.Let me tell you they are few and far between.Every day I watch my son try to eat or do anything that normal people do ,and not get hurt doing it.So I am depressed .I see that he has made it to twenty.He is getting sicker by the day.He hurts more each day and I can't save him. My soul is worn down from the fight to keep him alive and find the right Dr.s to help us. I constantly am thinking it would be better to go out before the real suffering starts. I really cant't imagine him being in more pain than he is right now .Not a day goes by that I dont think of ending it together with him ,If only to be in a better place and not to hurt any more. There must be others out there that feel the same.
  20. whatevah D from Canada writes: Karen Morris: Wow, I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. If it helps it sounds that your son is VERY lucky to have you as you seem to love him very much. I can't even begin to relate, but I know that feeling of wanting to make the pain go away when I was grieving.

    R F from Toronto, Canada writes: 'Getting a psychiatrist who does ongoing psychotherapy is even more of a challenge' This is what I find to be the main problem, personally. Psychology is so expensive, most people can't afford $150/$175 a week... and yet some psychiatrists don't offer much talk therapy. I'm so frustrated by this.

    What are people's takes on psychotherapy?
  21. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Karen, I have read your post at least 10 times and the only reason I've remained silent is because I just didn't know how to respond to the pain you expressed. Then I read Whatever D's comments and I realized, the important thing is that you know that some of us are thinking of you and feeling for you. Solutions, I have none. I don't even have any suggestions. The best I can do is share a bit about my experience with watching my mother die of Alzheimer's over more than a decade. There was a long period of time when she was aware of what was happening to her, and that was the worse --her awareness, and my increasing inability to do anything to relieve her pain. So I know what it's like to feel like your heart is breaking as you witness a loved one being tortured by some invisible force. Eventually, though, there did come a time when Mom became unaware -- or at least, it seemed that way. That made things much easier for me, and I was able to detach myself from her and from her suffering. Though I'm reluctant to compare your situation with mine, I would suggest that perhaps--a big perhaps: I'm not in your shoes--part of the solution for you would be to find a way to detach yourself from your son's suffering. Much easier said than done, I know; and it's possible I'm way off course in even suggesting this. I just remember how I felt when my GP told me, "you don't HAVE to watch your mother suffer." I was incensed at first -- what, abandon my mother? Not go visit her anymore? Eventually, I saw wisdom in those words -- but again, I was helped along in my decision by my mother's lack of awareness. All the best on your painful journey.
  22. Myalife With the General from Toronto, Canada writes: After reading the article about anxiety, I thought how lucky the people in the article are to be able to actually go to a support group and get CBT. I believe in it and practice it myself, but there are so many people out there who cant access it simply because they can't leave their homes. This is an area that really needs to be addressed. How do you reach those who are so agoraphobic that they are literally prisoners in their own homes? These people are definitely being short-changed by the system. There is no quality of life for them and no therapy that they can get because of their disorder unless they can get some help through on-line forums. Most of these forums have been started by people in the U.S. and there are very few quality forums specifically for Canadians. There are so many other issues connected with their agoraphobia...proper dental care, nutrition, exercise. I know of a woman who hasn't left her home in seven years. She relies on family members to buy groceries for her or she orders through a grocery service. She has had dental issues and will not go to the dentist to resolve it, so she lives with the pain. Every now and then, a family member will give her any left over antibiotic they have. This is not a way to live and she is not the only one out there living this way. What do we do about this kind of problem when a person refuses medical attention because they are afraid to leave their house?
  23. Emma Hawthorne from Canada writes: HI Karen Morris. You must get pain killers for your son and counselling for yourself. If your son is in pain that can be relieved by painkillers, he may not realize it, but he will want those pain killers. It is not rational to refuse them if they will help. I know nothing about painkillers, but have been told that Valium is so effective, people undergo minor surgery while awake. If it comes down to this, your son's doctor could prescribe valium or something like it. Rather than be paralyzed in an irrational situation, you can take steps here and even do some internet research. As for yourself, if anything, your son must want you to live your life, especially as he is so limited. You are a great and heroic person. Carve out some time and interests for yourself, and follow them. Demand respite care for your son, try to get the province to pay for your time (they will eventually have to pay relatives something), and gather whatever resources wherever you can for yourself. If you ask a hundred people and twenty help, you are way ahead. Go ahead and just ask for help. A holiday would do wonders, but even a regular coffee klatch, a night course and morning walks can make a great deal of difference. I hope you will deal with professionals who leave you feeling better after you have seen them and not those who make you feel helpless or worse. A helpful family doctor will have the kinds of suggestions you need to hear about lightening your burden, improving your son's pain and getting your own life back on track. Can you download this string of commentaries and fax or take them to your doctor? Do it now! Does he/she have email? You can save the string and email it as an attachment or send it to a friend with a printer and/or fax machine. You must take action now to help yourself and your son. I and all readers here know that you can do it. Best wishes for much better days ahead. You will get there.
  24. Miss Piggy from Canada writes: Emma, I've been thoroughly impressed by the knowledge and sound advice you've contributed to these posts. If ever there is a volunteer organization created to deal with mental issues, they will need people like you on their board. Karen, I can only agree with what Emma says. It's smart, it's compassionate, and very wise. Again, all the best.
  25. scribbling mocker from the otherside, Canada writes: This article touches on but doesn't fully cover the obvious.Employers and workplaces often are the leading cause of mental illnesses. Often times workers are subjected to workplace bullying by peers and supervision .The supervisors are more often than not small minded and vindictive. This creates over time anxieties , stresses and eventually illneses-physical and mental. Employees are often given no real alternative but the door if they want to stay sane-however this leads to other stresses. In this country one can collect UI if they can prove they were unjustly forced from their job-however the review of a workers file can take a month ,a year -maybe more. Everone knows how HR can spin things.The individual might never collect their claim.One shouldn't wait untill they're at the end of their rope before leaving a job for this reason. So whats being done to curb workplace bullying?What are employers doing to stop small minded vindictive supervisors? Is this anther thing government will have to step in and enforce-really enforce and not with the smoke and mirrors that are in place now? What impact are these workplace issues having on society? What does this problem cost employers in dollar terms?Maybe if the share holders saw the problem in a figure they understood they'd act.
  26. michael wilson from Edmonton, Canada writes: My name is Michael, I am 34, and am self diagnosed with social anxiety and social phobia. I have the same basic fears as Gail does, so I can totally relate to this article. I have a hard time in social settings, meeting with family and friends, and in general try to avoid the public. I was on Paxil for 7 years, which was a suitable band-aid that temporarily fixed me. My councilor said that it would cure me after a year - obviously it did not. So once I realized that if after seven years it hasn't fixed me, it will not fix me at all. I got off Paxil last Christmas and am drug free now. I read lots to try and understand my situation and have gained a valuable insight into mental disorders over the past fifteen years of dealing with them. I am not "cured" yet, but I am getting better. In order to help me deal with my fears and phobias I have started a support group called "The Cuckoo's Nest" here in Edmonton (It hasn't taken away my sense of humour). So if anyone lives in Edmonton and would like to get some help, feel free to check out my group for the next meeting. You can find me on the website "" under "The Cuckoo's Nest" in Edmonton Meet Ups. I have no formal psychological training whatsoever and the meetings are free. I make no money doing this, I just want to help other people going through the same things as myself. We are here to support each other, educate each other and help improve our lives. Best wishes to everyone.
  27. Norm Albert from Canada writes: Great artical. A lady with no apparent outward sign of any Mental illness exposing the fact that it strkes at all social levels. Fortunately she has access to the resources to at least modify the effects, but as also explained these resources and access to them are in very limited supply. I was diagnosed about ten years ago after suffering a very traumatic life altering anxiety attack. Thanks to a great GP I began a treatment program that has kept me off a morticians slab. Unfortunately it did little to improve my quality of life over the long term. Pros; The programs offered ten years ago(while experimental) seemed to offer great hope in correcting cognitive distortions. A life saving device if ever I saw one. Con: access was limited and the duration inadequate. Drug and alcohol rehab is much more intensive. Con: My psychiatrists seem to be more concerned with administering drugs than talk theropy. The drugs had more of a masking effect than a long term benefit. Alot like painting over rust. As of Feb. I am drug free and more alive. If you are being medicated by your MP please continue. It was right for me, but I am not your doctor. What hurts the most? Well I have not been able to remain "gainfully" employed, gave up my home in a great neighborhood, my spouse of 23 yrs decided it was more than she signed up for along with most of our freinds. The part that hurts the most is no one knows why!! Stigma! I am now on CPP disability cloaked as respiratory desease. I think that coping skills should be taught in kindergarten to everyone. Be proactive not reactive. Learn those skill that will help you address those situations that shape our futures. Like dealing with Stress. One of the first things we tell our kids is "never talk to strangers". Thank you my Freinds!
  28. joe deci from Toronto, Canada writes: Great article - this information helps the average Canadian much more than the usual rubbage in the media ie. Britney Spears new summer outfit. Bravo!
  29. Tracy B. from Home, Canada writes: i dont know, im not mentally ill and every time a person stops talkig during a short conversation i have always wanted to stab them in the head so...i dont see anything wrong with feeling a little anxious unless there is no one else to catch you. the cure is finding the person responsible and eating them.
  30. KATE ROY from Winnipeg, Canada writes: My husband died of a heart attack on Monday, October 25, 1982. My daughter was born Monday, November 1, 1982. I have raised 3 children pretty much on my own, and when my youngest daughter turned 16, I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light turned out to be a train coming full force at my daughter in the form of depression and anxiety. At first I thought it was a something she would grow out of but she is now 26 years old and I feel that every day is getting worse for her. She had one physciatrist who plyed her with so many drugs, that on many occaisions she tried to kill herself. She now only sees her family doctor, and is trying anti-depressants. I have taken her to hospital when she is at her worst, but she has only been admitted twice and only because she was suicidal. Two times out of twenty. What a joke. I could go on and on, but I am so tired. Will someone please help my daughter?
    I don't know where to turn anymore.

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