Personal Stories

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“"I know from personal experience...getting anxious kids help early can be crucial in heading off more serious problems later in life."”

A Childhood Darkened by Severe Anxiety Becomes Brighter

Childhood anxiety, even severe and chronic, doesn’t necessarily stand in the way of success and achievement. But caring parents will do anything to help relieve their children of misery. Scott Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic magazine, tells his story of struggling, coping, and living a very productive life.

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“I’m trying to get off medication so I can have a baby. It's been tough and I've experienced many setbacks, but I haven't given up.”

Childhood Panic—and Hope

It started at the onset of puberty, when I was 11 years old. I was at school, watching my older sister load the school bus to be taken away to 6th-grade camp. Suddenly a wave of panic overcame me. I don't recall my physical symptoms other than a racing heart and nausea.

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“Shortly after beginning CBT, I was able to discontinue medication and stop seeing a therapist.”

Ending the Nightmare

An excellent student, a talented singer and musician, a competitive athlete. That’s how I appeared on the outside as a young child, but I felt as though I were trapped in a nightmare that would never end. Years later, and after a lot of hard work, my bad dream is finally over.

Michael Timmermann, personal storyFear of Being Alone

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“Sometimes I felt as if all my thoughts were leaves in a pile on a lawn, and a huge gust of wind would blow them all around.”

Fighting the Monster of OCD

As a child, I was gregarious, outgoing, and happy-go-lucky. Then something went horribly askew at about age 12. I did not know why I was unable to focus when I had been the best reader in school. I had been talkative, but I kept to myself, remained silent, and let bullies pick on me. I hadn't the slightest idea what was going on with my body and mind. Eighth-grade was probably my worst year because I was taunted, harassed, and bullied.

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“I'm Jack. I have social anxiety disorder. But I also have hope.”

Much More Than Shy

“Hi! I'm Jack. And I have an anxiety disorder.”

Merely talking to other people makes me anxious. I often experience "phone fear." I avoid social gatherings (particularly parties), which I find excruciating. Crowded settings, especially without a perceptible escape route, cause me uneasiness, sometimes panic.

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“I was afraid that if someone became sick, I would have another bad anxiety attack. ”

My Journey to Peace

I had all the typical life stressors of a married working mom. One spring I had a birth control device implanted that apparently threw my hormones and mental well-being out of whack. I switched to part-time work that summer because it allowed for a bit more rest and less stress. But when I returned to work full-time in the fall, I began having odd flashes of fear. And when people around me felt sick, I did, too.

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“Social situations, including school, were torture. I bulldozed my way through life, including dabbling in alcohol and substance abuse for relief of my anxiety and depression. ”

Not Really a Rebel

I have suffered from social anxiety disorder since I was about 10 years old, or about 34 years. I was a very intelligent child, but when teachers noticed a difference in me, I started trying to be invisible. Social situations, including school, were torture. I bulldozed my way through life, including dabbling in alcohol and substance abuse for relief of my anxiety and depression. I find it very interesting that the disorder is marked by a morbid fear of authority figures. And here I thought I was just being a rebel!

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“I'd like to say I no longer suffer from flashbacks, but even at the time of this writing, I am in the middle of recovering another memory from my childhood.”

Honoring the Person I Am

I am a middle-aged woman, married with two children. I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at age 25. I am grateful to say that I have had tremendous support, terrific professional help, a strong will to recover, and a resolve to do whatever work necessary to overcome all of my trauma. Other miraculous help has been my spiritual beliefs and practices.

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“My introduction to college was defined by a series of irrational questions.”

My Success Over OCD

Two years ago I wondered if the horrible feeling, the gnawing in my stomach would ever leave. Inside my freshman dorm room, I lived in my own mind, fixated on my thoughts and tormented by irrational messages and faulty fears.

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“Most shocking to me was that my anxiety would never fully go away, although I could recover and learn to live with it.”

Achieving Happiness

I went through some pretty tough times when I had my first full-blown panic attack.

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“Some days are better than others, but that’s OK.”

Beyond the Blues: Dealing With Recurrent Depression

Jan Silver MaguireI experienced my first bout of what I now know was depression when I was 11—uncontrollable crying, not wanting to get out of bed and go to school, and feelings of worthlessness. I was more sensitive than ever about being “left out” and the mercurial slights that characterize preteen girlhood. Nevertheless, I remained the consummate perfectionist. For instance, anything less than an “A” in school would validate my sense of inadequacy.

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“I never considered that an underlying condition was hampering my ability to handle the stress. I thought, this is just how life is. ”

Living at the Speed of Life

“I’m back!” That was the phrase I’d said to myself starting in middle school when my malaise lifted and a cycle of joy came around. I seemed to live in a world moving in slow motion. It was only when “I was back” that I returned to normal life speed. This slow-to-normal oscillation went on well into my thirties. But I had no idea I was depressed.

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“People need help. And asking for it isn’t a weakness. Admitting you need help and asking for it? That is acknowledging fear and gaining strength from it. ”

Running for Myself

A lot of things scare me. Right now, those things include my first 20-mile run of marathon training that I have this weekend and sharing this post. That’s the thing with fears, though. Embracing them usually makes you stronger.

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“Dude, what’s your problem?”

No Shame in Having Depression and Anxiety

I have learned that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, and there is no shame in having either — although it’s tough for many people to get their arms around that concept. When I struggled with both in my last couple years as the Texas Rangers’ baseball play-by-play announcer, the few people in whom I confided expressed genuine shock. “Depressed? About what? You’ve got a great job! Legions of adoring fans! A wonderful family! Dude, what’s your problem?”

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“The world was once my oyster; now, it was my prison.”

Perfectionism and Panic

Kara Baskin familyBack in 2006, I had it all: A loving fiancé, a coveted publishing job, a supportive network of friends and family. I was living in Washington, D.C., where I went out almost every night to press parties and trendy restaurants. In my spare time, I delivered meals on wheels and counseled Alzheimer’s patients at the local senior center. Perfectionistic and ever so vigilant, I could’ve won the Perfect Life Olympics.

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“It was a long process with many setbacks. But as I worked with a counselor and psychiatrist and slowly began to recoup my strength, I became very determined to get my life back.”

What Doesn't Kill Us: My Battle With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

L.A. Nicholson GAD Story of HopeMy descent into GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) began the morning I received the call bringing the news of my mother's accidental death. It was the same week that my husband was laid off. We had moved across the country for his new job, and eight months later he was laid off. After only two months out West, we moved back, and I had a nervous breakdown.

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“Eventually, I began a tailspin that I am convinced led directly to losing my job, further intensifying these unidentified, uncontrollable, and fearful feelings.”

Persistence Out of Anxiety and Depression

I had my first experience with severe long-term depression at age 23 when a series of events converged simultaneously. I couldn't sleep, and my lack of appetite had me losing such a significant amount of weight that I feared I would end up in the hospital. I forced myself to eat and eventually gained back the weight, and later an appetite. Being on my own at this age in the late 1980s with limited knowledge of depression, I wouldn't realize what was happening to me until years later.

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“ I was astounded to find no place with others who were going through the same thing, no tidbits on what I could do right now when I needed it most. That’s when I took out a notebook and decided it was time to create AnxietyInTeens.com. ”

Teens Outrunning Anxiety

Solome Tibebu, personal storyI’m 21 years old, and besides my busy schedule as a full-time student the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, keeping a regular running and yoga schedule, work, and trying to balance a social life, I am also the founder and Executive Director of Anxiety In Teens Non-Profit, LLC.

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“Feeling intense shame and a nagging fear that people would think my attacks were all in my head, I decided to hide my symptoms from even my closest friends and family. ”

Undiagnosed for Decades

Holly Youmans Kammier GAD Personal StoryI've suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, coupled with panic attacks for more than two decades.

My first major attack struck during a bathroom break in the 7th grade. As I fought waves of nausea and shaky confusion, I feared I was the same as my bipolar father.

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“The tyrant in your head will second-guess you no matter what you do. That voice of dread is terrified, terrifying, loud, and repetitively destructive. Demote it by making it your pesky backseat driver. You can steer without it.”

Working Toward Compassion and Moderation

Becky Wolsk Personal Story OCDEpisodic OCD burdened me for over a decade, from my college years until 2006. Self-punishment made matters worse, as it does for everyone. I compulsively checked the coffee maker to see if it was off, and overchecked my written work. I feared I had inadvertently written embarrassing or unkind Freudian slips.

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