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Beating Anxiety: The other event on the path to freedom

Help for Panic Disorder

“I mean, I’m sure there are still fingernail marks and shoe prints on the south wall, remnants of my climbing episode. And I, no doubt, would have gotten even crazier…”

Ah, but for fear of a straightjacket, several white-cloaked 300 pound thugs (or as they say on the south side of Chicago, “tugs”), and a syringe-full of “chill-juice.”

In yesterday’s intro to our three-part Beating Anxiety series, I chatted about the fateful mall excursion and phone call that turned my anxiety-ridden life around.

Today, I’m going to discuss the event that phone call led to – an anxiety assessment at the University of Chicago Hospitals’ Depression and Anxiety Clinic.

The Other Event on the Path to Freedom

So often it’s an event(s) that launches our mood and anxiety disorder experience. And most of us can readily recall it/them. Likewise, many of us can recall in great detail the event(s) that started us on our path to relief and freedom.

I sure can.

I showed up at the University of Chicago Hospitals’ Depression and Anxiety Clinic in July of 1989. Intimidation is the word that first comes to mind, but it really doesn’t do my feelings justice. The U of C Hospitals’ world-renowned facilities are beautiful physical specimens, but the Clinic didn’t quite meet that standard…

And though anxiety brought me there, it didn’t take long for depression to climb on board.

The Cuckoo’s Nest?

After signing in, I was relegated to a waiting area. The room was very old in appearance, the furnishings dated. And the poor air conditioning, coupled with a nasty-hot July day, made the atmosphere miserable – at best.

As I said at the beginning, I’m sure there are still fingernail marks and shoe prints on the south wall, remnants of my climbing episode. And I, no doubt, would have gotten even crazier, but for fear of a straightjacket, several white-cloaked 300 pound thugs (or as they say on the south side, “tugs”), and a syringe-full of “chill-juice.”

I was freaked.

I vividly remember looking out the windows at the rather depressing outdoor surroundings wondering what was going to happen to me. It was so terribly sad.

I thought, “Man, this must be what a psychiatric hospital feels like.” I mean, I felt like I was on the set of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and I was Randle Patrick McMurphy (played in the film by Jack Nicholson).

Well, the whole scene, coupled with the intensity of my disorder, just about caused me to blow right out of the joint. But I somehow mustered up the courage and good common sense to hang around, and I’m glad I did.

My Name Was Called

So, finally, my name was called and off I went to the great unknown. And I can still recall wondering if I’d ever come back – really. Well, the first order of business was dealing with possible medical rule-outs – thyroid dysfunction, mitral valve prolapse, neurological issues, etc.

A full medical history was taken, blood was drawn, and some cardiac testing conducted. Then the very highlight of the whole experience – an examination by a neurologist. By the way, tics have been a non-disruptive part of my life since age 17; however, no one would really ever notice them.

Now, catch this. While “Dr. Personality” was examining me, he inquired about said tics – and the trembling with which I was presenting. ‘Course, much of this was the direct result of my waiting room experience, my very advanced state of fear, the sub-zero temperatures in the examination room, and my bare fanny on his ice-cold stainless steel exam table.

As we talked a bit about the tics, the doc suggested I might be suffering from Tourette’s Disorder. I flipped upon hearing the supposition, operating under total ignorance with regard to just what Tourette’s really was. And my state of terror continued as he went on to say haloperidol (Haldol), a first-generation antipsychotic often used to calm highly agitated folks (the “chill-juice” mentioned above), might make me more comfortable. Yeah, okay.

Well, I was petrified; and left this magic moment worried as could be that his supposition was correct; and I’d be dealing with Tourette’s for the rest of my life.

“Now, You Can Go”

If you’re a Godfather fan, you may remember Virgil “The Turk” Solozzo’s line to Tom Hagen. Solozzo kidnapped Tom for a time in an effort to try to talk some sense into him. Tom, not being on the muscle end of the family business, was visibly frightened. When Solozzo finished his appeal he very calmly said to Tom, “Now, you can go.” And he did.

In effect, that’s what I got from the Clinic staff when the fun and games were over. And armed with an appointment for a summation with a psychiatrist, that’s exactly what I did. Gone!

Upset, but gone…

Let’s Close

Well, that’ll do it for the second in the series. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap things up with a blow-by-blow of that psychiatrist appointment – and my official diagnosis.

Dramatic stuff, to say the least. So don’t miss it!

For a peek at all of the chipur aticles on the psychology of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder click here. Interested in the biology of it all – right here. How ’bout meds and supplements? Click away.