STRUGGLING with DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, or BIPOLARITY? LEARNING can really HELP. Start with ARTICLES above or Topics below. Ty! Bill

Beating Anxiety: The event that turned my life around

Help for Panic Disorder

I was in the midst of a living hell. Sure, I knew what I was feeling – and had a smidge of insight into what was going on. But what to do about it was a major mystery.

It was 1989 and I was 34-years-old (okay, I’ll wait while you do the math). What I now know to be panic and generalized anxiety disorders, as well as an anxiety-associated depression, were beating me to a pulp.

I sure as heck didn’t have much left in the way of strength, inspiration, or motivation. But somehow I continued to look – and hope – for answers.

The Event That Turned My Life Around

My ex-wife and her sister wanted to hit the mall and asked if I’d like to come along. Now, if you’ve ever endured an anxiety disorder, you know such a trek isn’t on the top of your to-do list.

Well, I reluctantly agreed to go (as my heart rate and palpitations skyrocketed). And, man, am I glad I did. Here’s why…

The three of us were walking down the concourse, and my partners decided to hit a clothing store. I believe it was in jest, but they asked if I wanted to join them.

Well, no. I elected to stroll with an agreed upon meeting time.

I’ve always enjoyed bookstores. And after a bit of walking, one came into view so I headed-in. Even before I made it my life’s work, anything having to do with the mind automatically drew my attention (hmmm, having had my first panic attack at age nine, I wonder why?).

So you got it, I hit the psych section.

And the event that turned my life around occurred.

I saw a book entitled The Good News About Panic, Anxiety, and Phobias. It was written by Mark S. Gold, MD.

Think my curiosity was piqued? You’d better believe it was. So I grabbed a copy, paid for it, and feverishly began reading while I waited for my ex and sis-in-law.


What I was reading was revolutionary. No, it was more than that. It felt like the removal of a death sentence.

Not only was Dr. Gold describing and explaining exactly what I was enduring – he was telling me it wasn’t my fault. And he also told me there were medicines besides benzos (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin) that could help me feel better.

It was an electric moment. One I’ve obviously not forgotten.

The Phone Call

In the back of the book was a listing, by state, of psychiatrists who concurred with Dr. Gold’s perspective. I wanted relief badly, so you can be sure I found someone to call in the Chicago area.

It was Dr. Jan Fawcett, head of psychiatry at what’s now Rush University Medical Center.

What I didn’t realize was Dr. Fawcett was kind of a local celebrity. Whenever there was a news story involving psych, he’d be the one most often interviewed by the TV and radio stations.

  The very next day I found a private place at work to call Dr. Fawcett. And what do you know. He took my call.

I explained how I’d gotten his name and what was going on in my life. And with great compassion he spoke the words I’ve never forgotten…

“Bill, you don’t have to live like that anymore.”

Can I tell you something? My eyes are full of tears and there’s a lump in my throat even as I write about it.

The Referral

Dr. Fawcett and I chatted for quite some time, and the conversation ended with a referral to the Anxiety and Depression Clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

After a healthy cry (heck, I cry watching The Sound of Music), I called the clinic and scheduled my first appointment.

My life had taken a U-turn…

More on that tomorrow. Be sure to come back, okay?

To catch a listing of all the chipur articles on the psychology of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder – click here.

  • karen

    thanks for opening with like this.  Karen

    • You’re more than welcome. chipur readers – Karen is very special to me. My first chipur participant. Cool woman…

  • Hi Bill, thanks for taking the time to respond to my previous comment on catastrophizing.
    A term you mentioned here caught my attention “anxiety-associated depression” which I think is really different from depression associated anxiety, wouldn’t you agree? – but I rarely come across much information on the former, the information I find is usually anxiety stemming from depression.  And I understand many people suffer from anxiety but never descend into depression.  Which makes me wonder if “depression” borne from anxiety is really a “true depression” (whatever that is!) or something else entirely.  This was reinforced when I read your post about depression sub-types.  I kinda feel I have been guided,led or squished into a diagnosis of depression and I just can’t quite buy into it (that’s not without a lot of soul-searching and study).  I never understood how someone who loved life so much could want to be dead.
    Can suicidal thoughts stem from a adrenalized state rather than a depressed state?
    I suspect the answer lies somewhere in your post
    “HPA Axis and Panic/Anxiety” – there’s something speaking to me there about the secretion of cortisol in the presence of chronic stress (in my case – at 29 after 3 years of already living with the most horrendous case of Crohn’s disease  my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the brain, CNS and bones with a 5% chance of recovery BUT he’s still alive and kicking after 12 years!).
    But there is a lot to take in, in that post – I’ll have to read it a few times.
    I was wondering if you might have written anymore specifically about anxiety-associated depression – I would be interested to hear your take on it.

    • Well, actually I haven’t written much of anything regarding “anxiety-associated depression.” I don’t know that it’s officially recognized – or clinically “blessed.” Not that that would stop me from using the term. I started using it some time ago in an effort to best describe my mood ailment. I mean, it’s never been in the league of major depressive disorder – it’s more a “bummed-outness” sort of thing directly attributable to anxiety.

      Hmmm, can suicidal thoughts stem from an “adrenalized state?” Well, that kind of depends upon what that really is. I’ll say this though – if one has been pumping buckets of cortisol for a long period of time due to chronic stress, anything is possible. Comes off to me like manic behavior.

      How’s that?


  • Ooo – that’s not bad!
    I hadn’t thought of it that way.

  • Megan

    I’ve never seen “The Sound of Music”. When is the second installment of this going up? I don’t want to miss it. During this time were you also having depersonalization and derealization? Anyway, I am excited to read the second part. You therapists always keep me on a cliffhanger. :)

    • You bet I was experiencing depersonalization and derealization!