Upon graduating from college, I moved back in with my parents. It was a tough transition because I went from having the freedom to do what I want, go where I wanted and not be accountable to anyone to telling my parents what I was going, where I was going and what time I was going to be home. Needless to say, I wanted to find a job as soon as possible to I could find my own place to live. I graduated in April 2001 so the job market was still very good. I only went on two job interviews and secured a job by that August. The job offer was exciting. I was moving on to the next chapter in my life. As soon as the realization set in:
I turned from an independent confident woman to a prisoner of my anxiety disorder, again.
The thought of going to an office every day for eight hours paralyzed me with fear. What if I had a panic attack? What if I got sick and everyone saw me? What if I was scheduled to go to a work event and God forbid had to carpool with someone? All of my control would be lost and that’s when I lost it.
One morning about a month before I was start my new job, my mom found me in my room, crying hysterically. I could barely talk. My mom began to cry because she had never seen me that hysterical. Stuttering out words in between my tears, I managed to tell my mom that I couldn’t start work. In fact, I couldn’t work at all. My life was going to be pointless. I would never work nor be a productive part of society. My college degree would be wasted. That’s when my mom took over. She told me I needed to find a new therapist. My mom drove me to my first appointment the following week. While she waited in the lobby, the therapist led me to his office.
He asked for a brief family history and then proceeded to blame my mom for everything bad that had ever happened in my life.
I was shocked. All children have issues with their parents at some point in their lives, but as for my mom causing my anxiety disorder? That was ridiculous. It was a wasted hour because I refused to see him again.
At this point in time, my new job was looming. I only had a couple of weeks left until my start date. I decided my best option was to see my family physician. I thought that maybe it was time to try anti-anxiety medications. My doctor agreed. She started me on a low dose of Zoloft. She also prescribed Xanax to carry with me in case I had a panic attack. She did warn me that Xanax was addicting so I had to be careful.
It took about a week before the Zoloft kicked in, but when it did I felt the effects immediately. Every day I woke up with a newly found sense of energy and freedom. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. I was ready to embark on my new career. My start date was September 11, 2001.
As I was on my way out the door my first morning, I received a phone call from my boss. I wasn’t to go to work that day. She didn’t have time to explain. All she said was to turn on the TV. My mom and I turned it on and watched the first World Trade Center tower crash to the ground. In a matter of minutes, the second tower followed with a plume of smoke and debris – a horrifying moment in American history.
I had to wait until the following week to start my job. Ironically, my first job was with United Way Community Services in Detroit. We were in the middle of our campaign season. All of my energy was focused onto raising funds to help those in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania where the last hijacked plan was diverted by try heroes.
I hate to turn such an enormous tragedy into my personal win against my anxiety disorder, but that’s exactly what happened.
If I got sick at work, at least I was still alive. If I had a panic attack, at least I was still alive. Did that mean that my anxiety disorder completely disappeared? No because it never will go away. But when I am focused on something else, anything else, my disorder is in the very back of my mind.