I had to push quite hard to get help for Number 3 Son, who has been virtually housebound with anxiety-induced agoraphobia for years. Like him, I was very anxious as a teen (I got better after a short course (five days) of diazepam) but people who have never suffered from it cannot comprehend. Hubby had always been kind but impatient with him. He simply was incapable of understanding how anyone could be scared of going outside and/or meeting people. A few weeks ago, during a long drive alone with hubby, I was talking about flying, (we saw paragliders alongside the road and I mentioned how much I regret not having tried it before my health got too bad to try) and I mentioned how lucky hubby is not to have any phobias (he flew gliders when younger, and has always climbed mountains as a pastime). Hubby admitted that, actually, small
heights, such as ladders, terrify him - even when he knows, logically, that he is perfectly safe, he gets all the symptoms of anxiety anyway. At last, a point of empathy! I told him that Number 3 Son gets those exact symptoms every time he leaves his room; despite knowing
, intellectually, that there is nothing to fear, his primitive brain goes into panic anyway. Hubby finally inderstood.
I had persuaded the GP to organise a team from the mental health department, who actually visited son at home; they then booked him several urgent appointments with a psych doc within a week, all of which he failed to attend, so the psych doc came to the house (with a small entourage). After a visit that lasted over an hour (during which I occasionally heard laughter coming from the lounge, so he was a big success with my son), he overruled the GP's reluctance to prescribe meds, saying that it was obvious that son needed them. After just one month on meds, son is now taking bicycle rides with us and joining in social stuff - he actually ate outside with us and our friends at last week's barbecue, instead of grabbing some food and retreating to his room (at best) or asking his brother to fetch him something. To celebrate son's progress, hubby bought him a brand new bicycle. The barrier of misunderstanding between them has come down.
I feel for anxiety sufferers who have no-one in their family who can empathise. It makes a bad situation worse. Medication really does have an important part to play - cognitive behaviour therapy, which is what my GP wanted son to use, can only work when one knows what not
feeling anxious feels like, so one has something to aim for. If one has been anxious since birth, how on Earth, without medication to reset the brain, can one use CBT? I've used it since my teens, because I have bad side-effects to psych drugs; but without the drugs I had at nineteen I wouldn't have ever known that it is possible to feel differently about life. I woke up on the fifth morning actually feeling different
. For the first time in my life I wasn't in a state of anxiety; I finally knew what it felt like not to be permanently worried.
I am not surprised that people self-medicate with stuff like alcohol, tobacco and pot if their woes aren't taken seriously by their family and/or doctor; which is a shame, because modern medications are apparently far superior to what was available years ago. Self-medication probably did you more good than harm; son couldn't attend school regularly enough to get any kind of assessment.