...And to a Lesser Degree...


...And to a Lesser Degree...

I'm here too because I am a bit of a caregiver to my oldest daughter, Heather. She suffers from Panic/Anxiety Disorder.

My husband also suffers from this (although after his bypass surgeries--because of greater blood-flow--he was actually pretty good, for awhile). In all truthfulness, all our children have at one time or another had an episode or two with panic/anxiety. Except for the oldest daughter, all have been able to overcome it without professional assistance or medications.

This sometimes makes it harder for them to deal with their sister. They feel if they could master it, then why can't she? She must "want" to be "sick".

So this started for Heather back in middle school, around puberty, which by research I've done is pretty common. She never really said much but there were days she would seem "jittery" and when I'd take her to school she would feign illness or something.

By her junior year in high school--shortly before the incident at Columbine High School--she asked that we homeschool her. Her reasons? She said she felt uncomfortable in school and a "target" for others (which she had been several times).

After much discussion, we filed the paperwork and brought her home to do her schooling. Thankfully, New Jersey has some pretty laid-back regulations regarding homeschooling. About a week later, Columbine happened and she said, "This is why I want to be  home. I was so afraid something like this would happen here."

She did pretty well after that. She finished up her requirements for a high school diploma and went on to a technical school to receive a certificate in graphic design/photography. She worked for a time in several photography studios, worked some retail and then for a web design company.

She got medical treatment for the anxiety disorder as well. That did not always go as well. While some of the medications worked, they only worked for a short time. Many of them had the side effect of weight gain. At one point, she was probably well over 250 pounds on a 5'6" frame that at one time was slim, trim and athletic.

So she did well for quite a few years. Then about early 2011, she started showing signs again--nervous about going to work and things like that. She used the "excuse" that the boss was treating her more like a secretary than a graphic artist and she wasn't happy. Then she started talking about leaving the job. I encouraged her to make sure she had another job before she left but she didn't.

Once home, she claimed she was job-hunting but nothing ever materialized. She helped out at the church often, went out with her sisters, things like that so I never thought it was the anxiety/panic that were the issues again. Slowly, ever so slowly, things changed.

A year ago this past fall, she was able to get to the local clinic and got into a program for mental health and saw practitioners who prescribed new medications yet again. Of the two new ones, neither worked to her liking and she weaned off them. The problem though was that now these meds messed with her mentally and old techniques that had worked in the past for the panic attacks no longer worked.

She started suffering some really major panic attacks, even when trying to go to places that were comfortable and familiar to her. She also started to think about food differently and started changing her eating habits. For example, she'd eat something, feel ill and decide to cut out that food.

By July 2014, she was starting to really be fearful about how she felt about her health and more. It was frustrating for both of us as she sought help. Most of the mental health places she called could only answer that if she wasn't suicidal then they couldn't/wouldn't help. It seemed even in a community such like that, there is ignorance and prejudice or bias. After many, many phone calls, she finally got in touch with a mental health program that would help and the counselor could come to our home.

The counselor she got spent lots of time with her, prescribed a new medication, which she refused to take for months. Late in July, her panic got so bad that she couldn't be left alone at home. She would just freak out.

My husband, who suffers from the same malady although currently not as severe, had no patience for this, believe it or not. Some of the siblings also had no patience. The only ones willing to work with her and calm her down were the youngest sibling and me.

By October, her weight loss was beyond significant and she was fearful she couldn't control much of any feelings--drastic "things" might happen, etc. So after speaking with her counselor, she decided to willingly admit herself to an inpatient treatment facility. We were all happy she was finally taking charge.

Halloween day came. I left work early because I would be the one driving her to the facility. Her counselor came over to prepare everything. Once everything was set, we loaded the car, she said her good-byes and she and I left.

We got about three blocks from home when she freaked out and insisted I drive back home. I made her call her counselor.

The long and short of it: She never made it to inpatient.

We got back home. She was on and off the phone with her counselor for hours. Finally, she had a thought, discussed it with her counselor and we discussed it. We would treat her like she was at the inpatient facility here at home. She would be on a strict schedule, she would start her meds and she would start to retrain herself in eating.

The next morning--November 1--was the start of a new phase in her life.

Today, I can report she has been on these new meds daily for over two months. She is eating three small meals a day and on some days even a snack or two. She has stopped losing weight and even gained a pound or two. In early December,  she went with me to the church bazaar and stayed several hours helping out! She returned to the church two weeks later to help a little with a baked goods sale. She has been to the local grocery store as well as convenience store. She has been out walking.

She still has a way to go but I feel she will make it now. I was not too sure about that a few months ago.

She does not really need me as a caregiver that much right now. My role with her is more of a support person. I keep her on track, give her tasks/chores to do throughout the day. She keeps watch on her dad for me when I am at work and keeps him from doing things he shouldn't do. We talk and she keeps me in the know when she's feeling funky.

I hope and pray this time around she makes that recovery point and can start to function "normally". She would love nothing better than to have a job, meet a young man, marry and have children. I hope those dreams come true for her.

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Your daughter is beautiful! I'm sorry for how much she's suffered and I hope that she does find a way to cope with her mental illness long term. It must have been so incredibly frustrating when you couldn't take her to the inpatient program that day. But I'm glad the \"inpatient at home\" program is working. And that she is also able to help you with your husband.


Hi,\r\n\r\nThanks so much for introducing us to Heather. She's beautiful.\r\n\r\nI'm amazed at your ability to navigate through so many delicate situations--helping Heather, trying to get the other children to understand what Heather needs, and helping yourself stay calm and collected. You must have been so afraid this past fall. I know we're supposed to focus on the moment but you must have had moments when you truly feared for Heather's future, short term and long term.\r\n\r\nI'm so glad she's getting better and stronger. Your loving care has been instrumental in making that happen.