Posts Tagged anxiety

book review: I Really Didn’t Think This Through


I Really Didn’t Think This Through by Beth Evans. William Morrow| May 2018| 172 pages | $14.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-279606-6

RATING: ****/5*

Like many others, I discovered Beth Evans on Instagram. The millennial has a quarter of a million followers and posts cartoons about mental health and navigating adulthood. In this book, Evans writes about her struggles with depression, anxiety and OCD and intersperses comics throughout. It’s amusing and touching and honest. She delves into her experiences with bullying, self-harm, dating and how she manages her anxiety while maintaining a bit of a social life. She shares what happened when she first realized she might have depression. She reminds readers to practice self-love and self-care and to ask for help if you need help. With stigmas surrounding mental illness, it’s crucial that people keep sharing their experiences. In her comics and through her words, people will realize that they’re not alone and perhaps find some solace in similar experiences. People may also realize that it’s okay to struggle with mental illness and it’s okay to not have it all figured out. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this is a perfect reminder to take care of yourself.

On anxiety:

“For those unfamiliar with anxiety attacks, it’s kind of like being shoved off a ledge without being able to scream. It’s a silent takeover during which your body decides what’s going to happen, and all logic is tossed aside. What makes it even more challenging is that it sometimes happens in public. Then, not only do you have to figure out how to take care of yourself, but you have to try not to alarm those around you.”

“Anxiety is a powerful thing, and when it decides to strike, it can take many different, often demoralizing forms. Suddenly the only thing you can focus on is the absolute, fundamental sense of dread and upset storming inside you. When I’m anxious, I become obsessed with keeping everyone around me calm. It’s almost like the minute I start to feel bad, I need to focus on someone else instead of on what’s happening to me.”

Taking it one day at a time:

“And sometimes that’s all we can really hope for—the feeling of staying afloat. When things really suck, staying afloat seems pretty good. Sometimes it’s okay to celebrate just being here, because that in itself is an accomplishment. Some days I’m just going about my business, like walking around Target, and I’ll think, How on earth did I pick up all these broken shards and function like a normal person today?”

Self care:

“Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that self-love has to be thinking we’re great 100 percent of the time. Often it’s something much less exciting, like treating ourselves with respect or holding our brains back a bit when we want to attack ourselves. In a world where we’re taught to be one kind of perfect or another, something seeing beauty in the imperfection is the best thing we can do.”

Recognizing that perfection is impossible:

“I think one of the hardest sentiment to wrap by head around is that I’m an all right human being. So often my brain screams that I’m the worst of the worst, and I constantly judge myself for past interactions and failures. I also need constant reassurances form those around me that I’m not a horrible person, which, honestly, is grating for everyone around involved.”


–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.

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book review: A Mind of Your Own

mind of your own

A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan, MD. Harper Wave| March 2016| 352 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 9780062405579

RATING: ****/5*

“We are engaged in lifestyles that are not compatible with what our genome has evolved over millions of years to expect. We eat a poor diet, harbor too much stress, lack sufficient physical movement, deprive ourselves of natural sunlight, expose ourselves to environmental toxicants, and take too many pharmaceuticals.”

My psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital recommended this book. A colleague recommended it to her. At my last visit she still hadn’t read it so we couldn’t discuss it. However we have discussed the mind-body connection; that I do not want to be dependent on Klonipin or my current SSRI [I am tapering off Lexapro]; that I believe in homeopathic treatments and see an acupuncturist; that I do yoga and I am a vegan. Going into this book I felt I was doing lots of things right but I still am miserable and low functioning. I don’t take a lot of medications outside my daily psychiatric meds, vitamins and supplements. I listen to my body. I feel fairly connected. My psychiatrist said that there’s a disconnect between my level of education and my level of function. That’s not easy to hear. But I know that it’s likely the truth as I cannot find work and struggle to get paid for anything at which I feel I excel. Writing reviews for example.

This book isn’t without controversy. For one thing Kelly Brogan, MD is an anti-vaxxer. I’ve worked as a healthcare professional and get my flu shot every year and have done so for the past decade or longer. Dr. Brogan believes that mental illness is not a chemical imbalance but a symptom of imbalance in our body. It is NOT a disease. I only recently started thinking that mental illness was a disease and a disability because I attended DBSA  Boston meetings and that’s what the majority of people at DBSA and NAMI believe. Many receive SSDI.

Dr. Brogan writes: “Depression is merely a symptom, a sign that something is off balance or ill in the body that needs to be remedied.” This is much more complicated to both comprehend and accept. For how many years have we been told that we have some sort of chemical imbalance in our brains and with the right medication we might be able to stabilize it? She adds: “[sic] there has never been a human study that successfully links low serotonin levels and depression. Imaging studies, blood and urine tests, post-mortem suicide assessments, and even animal research have never validated the link between neurotransmitter levels and depression. In other words, the serotonin theory of depression is a total myth that has been unjustly supported by the manipulation of data.”

She also states something that’s way easier to understand: “So many patients today who are being shepherded into the psychiatric medication mill are overdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or mistreated.” If you are like me, you’ve been to quite a few psychiatrists who churn out the prescriptions – one pill to wake you up, one pill to make you sleep, one to calm you down. And for some people they can handle side-effects such as weight gain and cognitive impairment. Some even seem resigned that they will always have that extra weight because they will always be on medication. Then there are the psychiatrists who speak to you for two minutes and give you an out-of-left-field diagnosis. That’s their interpretation of the symptoms with which you present combined with your lifestyle. You could likely get a different diagnosis depending where you go and who you see. I speak from experience. Brogan explains that over time antidepressants lose their efficacy and can result in chronic and treatment-resistant depression. Instead of helping us, medications make us feel worse. Of course Big Pharma controls the medical industry. It’s all well and good to want to be treated holistically but few insurances cover that. A script for another drug? Absolutely. Transmagnetic Stimulation [TMS], acupuncture, light therapy and cranial stimulation? Not so fast. What’s in it for Big Pharma? How can pharmaceutical companies make money? That’s the bottom line.

What can you do? Dr. Brogan focuses on diet, exercise, sleep, eliminating environmental toxins and meditation. If you’ve read Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, M.D. and/or Your Health Destiny by Eva Selhub, M.D. [which I HIGHLY recommend] this is somewhat familiar territory. Everybody knows that we feel better after a great workout, a good night’s sleep or a big salad. Dr. Brogan believes that inflammation causes depression symptoms and to get rid of inflammation you should eliminate gluten, dairy, GMOs, artificial sugars, NSAIDs and antibiotics. She’s also not a fan of birth control, statins, acid-reflux medications, fluoride and vaccines. Take what you choose from this book. There are definitely some thoughtful and useful tips and explanations. Embracing the mind-body connection remains the best treatment. Of course when you’re completely unmotivated, anxiety-ridden or too tired to move it’s tough to hit the gym and make yourself a healthy meal.

In one chapter, Dr. Brogan explains the importance of quality food to fuel the body. She suggests not eating processed food and to eat whole foods. So consuming products with fewer ingredients and eating more produce, legumes and grains will make you feel much better. In another chapter Dr. Brogan explains the importance of meditation, sleep and exercise. On lack of sleep, she writes: “Otherwise balanced, rational women are rendered near psychotic by the trauma of insomnia and disrupted sleep cycles. Their bodies and minds have “forgotten” how to do it. It turns out that one of the many poorly elucidated lasting effects of antidepressants is their interference with normal sleep patterns.” There’s an entire chapter focused on detoxifying our environment. She discussed everything from tap water to cell phones to cleaning products to dust. Admittedly some of what she claims to do seems unrealistic for many. Who is dusting every single day or using a body brush four times a day (to stimulate the lymphatic system)? In the chapter on tests and supplements, Dr. Brogan suggests certain tests such as thyroid functioning, MTHFR (methylation), and various vitamin levels. To my psychiatrist’s credit [I switched to MGH Psychiatry for a reason], the phlebotomist withdrew about eight vials of blood so I could be tested for a bevy of things including MTHFR. As for supplements, Brogan writes: “Magnesium, zinc, iodine, and selenium are essential to the body’s functionality.” You can read details about these supplements as well as many others. And yes, that can get expensive and insurance does not yet cover supplements. In summation, much of your mental and physical health remains in your control. You need to ask questions, conduct research and remain vigilant. Listen to your body.

Before she received her MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Kelly Brogan earned a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience at MIT. She’s board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and integrative holistic medicine. This book contains a plentitude of valuable information which may or may not be successful for you and your mental illness. I take zinc, magnesium and a multi-vitamin but may consider adding other supplements. I also want to try to go gluten-free although I adore toast! Mental health might be that element I can control in order to realize my goals.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

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A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives

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New Music: Dead Sara; Duelle; Nicola Elias

women in music. I love to support them. I love to listen to them. Nothing like women making music.

Dead Sara, “Something Good”

high-energy blended with a bit of Americana. Great driving song. Great get up and out song. Powerful. The band is fronted by singer Emily Armstrong and guitarist Siouxsie Medley. vocals strong and gritty like Melissa Etheridge. beautiful vintage-tinged video directed by actor/director Giovanni Ribisi. The video was shot in downtown Los Angeles, historic Union Station and Pasadena. Dead Sara‘s sophomore album Pleasure to Meet You is out now.

Duelle, “Ice”

what a cool song with mesmerizing vocals and infectious, mellow beats by Miami-based sister EDM duo Danielle and Gabrielle Verderese.

Nicola Elias, “Social Anxiety”

for Mental Health Awareness Month, someone shared this lovely, haunting song by British singer/songwriter Nicola Elias. Superb talent. Her voice reminds me a bit of Lily Allen. The song flows beautifully.



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book review: Rewire Your Anxious Brain


Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry by Catherine Pittman. Publisher: New Harbinger Publications [January 2, 2015]. Paperback. 232 pages.

“Anxiety is a human emotion, produced by the human brain, and emotions are caused by the brain’s reactions to situations, not the situations themselves.”

If you’ve been in treatment for anxiety, done CBT [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] or DBT [Dialectical Behavioral Therapy] this will mostly be review. It’s quite clinical in parts. Author Catherine Pittman describes two types of anxiety: amygdala-based and cortex-based. The amygdala is responsible for the flight or fight response. It attaches EMOTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE to situations or objects. The cortex pathway creates worries, obsessions and interpretations that create anxiety. If focusing on specific thoughts or images you have cortex-based anxiety. If you feel that a specific object, location or situation elicits an anxiety response you have amygdala-based anxiety. You can have one or the other or both anxiety types. There are details about some anatomy and brain function. The brain is neuropathic. It holds the capacity to change its structures and reorganize powers of reacting. Exercise and sleep reduces anxiety as we know. Also CBT, mindfulness and medication can help. “Exercise produces a protein that promotes the growth of neurons in the brain, particularly in cortex and hippocampus.”

RATING: ***/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

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October is National Depression Awareness Month

sometimes I’m like this:

2014-05-30 12.59.11

sometimes I’m like this:

2014-08-26 15.54.44

occasionally I’m like this:

in library

I have clinical depression, anxiety and an unspecified mood disorder. the stigma surrounding mental illness astounds me. I’ve never gone off my meds and have always been under the care of both a psychiatrist and a therapist since I was diagnosed at age 27. Currently I’m part of an extensive year-long mentalization program at McLean Hospital. It’s challenging to be mentalizing when I can’t afford anything, I have no career and therefore not engaging in interpersonal relationships as one would in her 40s. Also most of the time I feel McLean doesn’t fucking care about Amy Steele, her mental health and general well-being. I’m just a fucking number. I’m not a person with feelings and emotions and goals.

I’m really stuck. I’ve been looking for work for years. A friendship ended badly several years ago and I’ve been cyber-harassed for four years. I’m tired all the time yet I also have severe insomnia. I can have days (or nights) where I’m extremely sad or unmotivated. I’m insecure but I also think I’m rather cool. I think about killing myself often. I’m just not as professionally and personally successful and satisfied as I thought I would be by this time.

Every day I take several medications. I will always have to take those medications. In addition I exercise for my mind and body and I have cut way down on sugar intake. Two years ago I cut out diet soda and although I didn’t drink it in massive amounts I feel better.

Depression means keeping a mood journal. It means being kind to yourself. It means lots of self-care and not having as many expectations for oneself as you may have had. It doesn’t mean I’m lying about in bed all day and night. I have goals and aspirations. I do a lot but some days I get extremely tired both physically and mentally. And that’s okay.

I’ve had a few hospitalizations– very brief stays– that didn’t lead to much change in my care. After one major breakdown four years ago I changed psychiatrists and meds, I took CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and completed a partial program. One year ago, at this time, I was in the hospital for a week where I was ignored, lost five pounds and then at my insistence got into a program at McLean Hospital (my psychiatrist had to call them but I had a psychiatrist who was a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital). After the partial at McLean in April, I was recommended for the Mentalization program and took a six-week introductory course. In August I started the year-long program which consists of weekly individual therapy and group therapy. Not sure what’s going on in the program and feel as much of a misfit and as judged as I do anywhere else.

Don’t call the police on someone who is depressed. The police are not trained to deal with the mentally ill. If someone says “hey I’m lying here with a bag over my head and I’m about to duct tape it” or “I just swallowed 200 pills” then yes, call 911. Otherwise, call that person directly and suggest a chat or meeting over tea. It’s much more useful and shows empathy.



–major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3

–affects 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

— the median age at onset is 32.5

–Women are 2 times as likely to suffer from depression than men.

–20 million people in the United States suffer from depression every year.

— Many creative individuals experienced depression, including Ludwig van Beethoven, John Lennon, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.

–Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America


Psych Central



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book review: Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom

Agorafabulous! , by Sara Benincasa. Publisher: William Morrow (February 14, 2012). Memoir.

Having suffered through agoraphobia and panic attacks since I was 16, this memoir definitely interested me. Particularly as I’m not that (intentionally) funny and I’ve started to write down my own rough and painful experiences. Agorafabulous! is an honest and heartfelt recollection of writer Sara Benincasa’s experiences with a debilitating illness. She writes of her horrendous rock bottom moment that traps her in a Boston bedroom while attending Emerson College. She also details another major panic attack while teaching in Texas. Despite her agoraphobia and anxiety, New Jersey-native Benincasa works on a farm in Pennsylvania, transfers to a college in North Carolina and then teaches for a year in Texas for AmeriCorps before moving to New York for graduate school.

Benincasa writes about her recovery and maintenance through meds, therapy, meditation and a support system of friends and family. It does seem Prozac became her cure-all. Perhaps I’m jealous that I’ve tried every SSRI and have been in therapy for twenty years and I’m still dealing with many of the same issues that I had when I was 19. She makes herself a mix-tape to take the train into Manhattan. She intersperses Liz Phair songs with encouraging messages such as: “This is fucking awesome! Look, you’re on the train! Look around. You’re safe. You took your medicine today.” Pretty rad idea. Sometimes that inner voice needs to be really hyped so as not to be ignored. Agorafabulous! provides more comical observations than mental illness moments. For the most part, Benincasa provides relatable circumstances while addressing serious mental health concerns with flair and compassion.

Some superb points:

I wondered how it had taken me so long to realize that I was broken beyond repair and that I didn’t belong on this planet with all of the real humans. I imagined my future as one of dependence, fear, and disability. I would always be a burden on the sander individuals charged with my care. I would always be different, in a bad way. I might kill myself, if only I could summon the courage to choose death.

There are a few items that should never be left near a person in a state of nervous breakdown, including but not limited to: knives, guns, drugs, babies, credit cards, and scissors.

I accidentally stumbled upon actually helpful information in the form of a book about Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD’s work at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I credit Full Catastrophe Living and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program with adding speed and sense to my recovery.

To my enormous surprise, I found the strange manic pace of life in New York oddly soothing. Perhaps my anxiety was not only crowded out by my daily obligations but by the wild quirks of my fellow New Yorkers.

What I do remember is sitting on the toilet and rifling furiously through my purse, looking for the bottle of Xanax. I always carried it with me, like a talisman. I used it so rarely that the bottle expired months before I emptied it, but I liked knowing it was always there.

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purchase at Amazon: Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom

Sara’s website

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