Life Free of Anxiety

No, You're NOT Going Crazy and Here's Why! (Erica's Anxiety Journey)

August 04, 2023 Erica & Dr. Charles Barr Season 1 Episode 3
Life Free of Anxiety
No, You're NOT Going Crazy and Here's Why! (Erica's Anxiety Journey)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of The Life Free of Anxiety Podcast, Erica, a former patient and now a successful overcomer of anxiety, alongside Dr. Charles Barr, delve into their personal experiences with anxiety and how they managed to regain control over their lives.

  1. Panic and Anxiety History: Erica and Dr. Barr discuss how some people can pinpoint their first panic attack while others have dealt with anxiety all their lives. They dissect how creative minds may have a heightened imagination that might enhance fears and anxieties.
  2. The Impact of Substance Use: Erica candidly shares her experience with marijuana use and how it led to heightened anxiety and the fear of permanency in that state.
  3. Depersonalization and Anxiety: They explore the concept of depersonalization, a sensation that can make individuals feel like they're losing their mind. Erica recounts her battles with this sensation, particularly during stressful situations, and how she successfully overcame it.
  4. The Path to Recovery: Erica and Dr. Barr highlight the importance of practicing therapy for anxiety disorders, emphasizing that improvement is impossible without consistent practice. They discuss exposure therapy and the initial fear and skepticism that comes with confronting anxiety-inducing situations.
  5. The Role of Medication: The duo addresses the controversial role of medication in treating anxiety, acknowledging the variability in individual responses. Erica shares her personal journey, from her struggles with medication to eventually overcoming her fears and phobias without it.
  6. Hope and Recovery: Lastly, the podcast promotes a message of hope. Contrary to common misconceptions, Erica and Dr. Barr stress that it is possible to completely overcome anxiety disorders and live a fulfilli

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EPISODE: No, You're NOT Going Crazy and Here's Why! (Erica's Anxiety Journey)

[00:00:00] Erica: Well, hi to everybody listening. I'm Erica with Dr. Barr. I interviewed him first and then we had me talk about my journey with anxiety. I think I say on this episode, I don't love sharing my story. I love other people's stories though. I listened to Jessica Simpson's audiobook last year, and it was so good. Especially the parts where she talks about when she was humiliated. Those were like my favorite parts things that really humiliated her and then I was thinking about how relatable I found it. So you'll get to hear my story and I hope you enjoy it.

You might find it relatable. If you have anxiety, chances are you will. And if you didn't listen last week, we've got Dr. Barr's journey with anxiety. Which is in my opinion, more interesting because he was a licensed, licensed clinical therapist at the time when he had an incident with a earthquake that threw him for a loop and threw him through anxiety for quite some time, until he was able to find the same cure as me.

So listen to this episode and listen to the last, if you want the secret that we both used.

[00:01:07] INTRO MUSIC

[00:01:07] Erica: Welcome to the Life Free of Anxiety Podcast, where each week we'll bring you another discussion to help you on your way to overcoming your fears. I'm Erica and together with Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in anxiety, we'll be your guides on this journey. Because you are not broken, you are not alone.

And you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety.

[00:01:41] Early Indications of Anxiety in Childhood

[00:01:41] Dr. Charles Barr: For some people they have a specific time and date and they can tell you almost like my earthquake. They can tell you. When their very first panic attack was.

[00:01:51] Erica: And that's common? 

[00:01:53] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes, that's very common. And other people, they've kind of just always been anxious their whole life and didn't even have a word for it. 

[00:02:03] Erica: For me, I'd say it was probably a little bit of both. I have always had a very overactive imagination. I tend to be more on the creative side. So with creativity, I think comes a lot of unpleasant things sometimes too, with where our minds go. I recall as a child wanting to stand on the same side of the room when my mom would make dinner, just in case the earth split in half.

But you know, I was probably four or five years old at this time. I don't even think I had experienced an earthquake at this point. I think I'd probably saw something on TV. I remember kind of developing a fear of choking at a younger age. I probably, again, probably saw something on TV and was able to imagine myself in that situation.

And so there were times where I remember just kind of obsessing about things, but I would say for the most part, my personality was described as laid back. Growing up, I was more of a quiet person. I don't think I was the most outgoing person in the room ever. 

[00:03:02] Anxiety Triggered by Marijuana Usage

[00:03:02] Erica: But when I was a teenager, late teens, I decided to smoke marijuana, which was the worst decision I have ever made in my life to this day.

I had smoked before. And I remember being so embarrassed to tell you the story, by the way, because pot was not legal at the time and it was like, "I swear, I didn't do anything bad." But sometimes marijuana can have that negative connotation. I had experimented with marijuana in the past and it had always made me very anxious. So what was I doing with marijuana? I don't know, but I was young and I smoked and I got incredibly high. 

And so I was to the point where I was just... I mean, I had been terrified when I had been high before, but I was at the point where I thought I was going to die. And I know it sounds like an exaggeration to those who actually get relaxed from marijuana and who might be listening. I am the opposite, so I found myself, for hours, unable to get out of feeling high and thinking I was going to die. I didn't know what to do. I ended up taking sleeping pills to fall asleep, your Tylenol PM type, just to get out of it.

And woke up... It was so interesting, we were talking about depersonalization earlier. I felt depersonalization, which felt like still being high. So that was an extremely scary combination for me because not only did I not know why I was feeling depersonalization, I thought, what if I'm high forever now? What if this is permanent?

What if I did something? Change my brain chemistry. I had no idea. 

[00:04:44] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right now. Did you hear all that whole series of what ifs that you did? Well, those are massively scary thoughts. "I'm going to be high forever." "This is a forever situation." "I'm never going to be okay again." Oh my goodness! 

[00:05:01] "Am I Going Crazy?" and Depersonalization

[00:05:01] Erica: Yes, I don't know if I thought I was going to be high fever, but I thought that I was going to feel something of that forever. I didn't know what happened. I hid it for so long, because I'll tell you, I did not think maybe I was so sane anymore. I did. I think that sounds maybe a little strange, but I think that's very typical of a person to become more and more fearful about their emotional wellbeing.

It wasn't until I finally heard somebody say, "if you were going crazy, you wouldn't know," that I was able to get some relief later in life. 

[00:05:34] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, that's right. So there's one of the differences between anxiety disorders and what we call crazy. And in my field, we would say, okay, but that would be more on the psychotic end, you know?

Quite frankly, that depersonalized feeling makes you feel like, "well, maybe I am psychotic. Maybe I'm going crazy. I'm losing my mind." And what a scary thought and feeling that is. And that's just a complete feeling. It's a complete sensation and it's convincing, from the inside out. It's convincing. From the outside in, you can look at it and kind of go, I don't know that shouldn't bother you too much, but from the inside out, it's a hundred percent in.

[00:06:17] Erica: Oh yeah. And it really built on itself. It became that when I had to do public speaking or needed to do certain things that made me nervous, I started to feel depersonalization. It was always my friend that was right there when I needed it the least. It was always there to welcome me when I felt the most fear and it just kept manifesting.

I took my first flight after that and it was terrifying all of a sudden! I didn't know if I was going to lose control and I had depersonalization and I just want to say now, I don't have depersonalization anymore at all. I don't have it at all. And when I talk about the stuff I've forgotten so much about it and I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, I don't ever experience that anymore."

Thank God. 

[00:07:02] Dr. Charles Barr: Isn't that lovely? 

[00:07:03] Erica: Yeah. 

[00:07:05] Dr. Charles Barr: And that's the hope that we want people to hear. There is healing. There is a way out of this disorder. You just don't have to live with it and suffer through it all the time. 

[00:07:17] Erica: Right. And I don't need to sit here and tell you how bad it was.

I could tell you countless stories about how many years I spent and how many embarrassing situations I ended up in, because I was either trying to hide that I was panicking or somebody found out I was panicking and didn't understand. It's really not important anymore because it's a thing of the past.

And that's exactly what we want anybody listening to be able to say. We don't want you to hang out with us forever. We want you to get through this. And that's the beauty of this is we believe that there's actually a process to do that. 

[00:07:53] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. We feel like there is a process and that if you're willing to practice it, it will work.

If you're not willing to practice it, it won't work. You can know the field better than I know the field, but if you won't practice the changes, it won't work because this is a practice kind of therapy that makes the difference for this disorder. And so you must practice and the better, the more you practice, the more often you practice, the faster the change happens for you.

[00:08:24] Erica: I failed this skepticism all over again, even though I know it's true. 

[00:08:29] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. But you see, I'm not interested in you experiencing the terror all over again. I'm interested in you learning a different way to go through that experience.

[00:08:39] Erica: I remember you telling me that. 

[00:08:42] Dr. Charles Barr: The terror is overwhelming. 

[00:08:44] Fear of Elevators

[00:08:44] Erica: Yes. I remember being so afraid that you were going to throw... I knew I was at the point where I needed some exposure. How was I ever going to ride an elevator? I remember you saying this. How do you ever ride an elevator if you never ride an elevator? Right? So how do you get yourself back in those situations if you feel like everything in you is going to burst? 

If you do it, if you're going to, you might die, right? That's how you feel! 

Your body doesn't know the difference. So that's what the whole problem is at this point, is I'm so stuck. And really, you're kind of happy being stuck in a weird way, because it's so scary to think about going near what you are fearing, that you have chosen to stay on the outside of the elevator and take the stairs or not take the flight. 

[00:09:32] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes. And it makes perfect sense because you've found a way to limit the fear. 

[00:09:40] Erica: Right. 

[00:09:40] Dr. Charles Barr: You see, and you've found a way to stay safe. So that and it's fairly predictable.

So you know, all I have to do to stay safe is not taking an elevator. The problem is, then that grows, you know? So it, it doesn't stay in one place. It starts getting larger and larger. And then, it's "well, I can't go in that elevator, but I can go in that bigger elevator," but then the bigger elevator, it doesn't work either.

And then I can go one floor, but no... 

[00:10:10] Erica: I used to say, I could go up, but not down. And that was really a thing I said. 

[00:10:16] Dr. Charles Barr: Because of different sensations, because riding in an elevator gives you sensations and you're so sensitized to what your body is feeling at that point that it just takes off on you and that's where the anxiety has a life of its own.

And, oh, it's very convincing. It's very convincing. 

[00:10:36] Is Anxiety Curable?

[00:10:36] Erica: Now I want to ask you something. I googled agoraphobia today. It came up as a fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment. It's an anxiety disorder that often develops after one or more panics. Panic attacks. The treatment below, this is the first thing that comes up on google.com, treatment can help, but this condition can't be cured.

How devastating is that to google and find. Do you think it can't be cured? 

[00:11:07] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, I think that's very devastating to do that. And there is a lot of controversy in the field about that. From a psychiatric standpoint, it is considered a recurring disorder that it is something you're always going to live with and it could recur.

Now having gotten through it myself and having gotten so many other people through it on their journey, I feel like one of the exciting things that I can say is, you can completely overcome this disorder and get back into life without feeling these kinds of feelings and having this terrible suffering that goes on.

You don't have to live with it. You can live in a different way so that you don't have that to have to live with. 

[00:11:57] Erica: Right. 

[00:11:59] Dr. Charles Barr: Now everyone is different. Some people struggle and struggle. I've worked with folks who medication in order to feel better. I've worked with folks that had poor medication and want nothing to do with it.

[00:12:11] Is Medication Required?

[00:12:11] Dr. Charles Barr: So medication may or may not have a place in a person's treatment. And it can be very helpful for some people and not helpful for others. Every person is so different. It's just amazing. And that's also why my work is never boring. Everybody is different. Every situation is different. It's all very fascinating.

[00:12:33] Erica: I know I was able to get off medication during the time I saw you. That was something I was prescribed by my doctor after I had just gotten married and was waking up in the middle of the night, which I now understand as flight. I was waking up in the middle of the night with so much adrenaline, I felt like I needed to run.

And I was a newlywed at this time, in a new city a very busy city. But my husband who has like the calmest nervous system known to man is trying to figure out why I'm getting up at three o'clock and basically saying I can't breathe. I'm suffocating and I have to run.

So there was that going on? It was at that time that my doctor prescribed medication, it was a antidepressant type medication. I was able to get relief with sleep, but I was really never able to get over my phobias. And I have nothing against medication, I'm just talking about it from my perspective. That's all I can say.

I was not able to overcome phobias on medication, but I was able to start to mostly sleep through the night without too much panic. But it was through working with you that I got off medication and have not been on medication since then. 

[00:13:52] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes. Well, I think that kind of thing happens to many, many people.

Medication is given with good intent and sometimes with very, very good success. And, I have known people who have had one panic attack. They went to their doctor, the doctor gave him some medication and they've never had another panic attack. And it's kind of like, good for you! It didn't take hold. You passed right on through it and got back into life. 

But once the panic gets a hold of you, you have that second panic attack... and first of all, sometimes you don't know what it is. Lots of people have ended up in the emergency room, had multiple tests. Some people have spent thousands of dollars in the emergency room being tested because they know they have some dread disease that somebody has not found yet. And the doctor keeps saying, we don't find anything. 

[00:14:48] Erica: Right.

[00:14:49] Dr. Charles Barr: Have you considered that maybe you're having a panic attack? And it's so discrediting to have somebody tell you there's nothing wrong with you. And I'm here to say, there is something wrong. The thing that is wrong with you is you have panic disorder and it's very real. 

And we know what it is. It's not a physiological disorder that can be cured, physiologically, but there is something wrong. And it's very real and it's devastating 

[00:15:21] Erica: And it's a lot of learned bad habits. 

[00:15:24] Dr. Charles Barr: Yes. And it's based in learning. And we can learn a different way to be. I like to think of the the program that I use.

I like to think of it as giving people a toolkit. It's like, "okay, my job is to give you a toolkit and have you practice with these tools so that you can go out and live." 

[00:15:47] Erica: Well. We hope that we're able to shed some light on this topic. We know it's a little bit heavy to listen to, but hopefully we're providing more hope than anything that sounds scary or overwhelming. We're going to talk more about the process of getting better, what we feel we have to offer. And also hopefully answer some of your questions. 

[00:16:10] What About Bob?

[00:16:10] Erica: But for closing, I thought since this is a topic that can kind of maybe feel like a little defeating or like it's beating you up a little, maybe that's something you're dealing with so much in your life, I thought, why don't we close with something a little bit lighter? 

And something that cracks me up is that I recently learned that Dr. BARR hates my favorite movie. Which is What About Bob? I saw it from a totally different perspective, which I always found Bob to be the lovable guy. I saw that movie when I was really young. And what's funny is when I started having my really bad anxiety, I just always thought it was so funny the way he verbalized things. Because it's not meant to be insensitive. It's just... it's funny. I mean, Bob is lovable and he's nervous and I could totally relate to that.

But Dr. BARR has a perspective, that's a little bit different than mine. 

[00:17:13] Dr. Charles Barr: Erica, that movie was my worst nightmare. 

[00:17:15] Erica: You imagine being followed to Lake a Winnipesaukee while on vacation with your family by a patient. 

[00:17:21] Dr. Charles Barr: Oh, that's right. It's like, "oh no, I'm being stopped. 

[00:17:26] Erica: But if it was Bob, it'd be kind of fun, right?

[00:17:29] Dr. Charles Barr: Oh, it's so funny too. One of my fishing buddies, it's his favorite movie also? 

[00:17:34] Erica: Is he a therapist? 

[00:17:37] Dr. Charles Barr: No, he's an accountant, but he's always is threatening me that he's going to. Going to put on. What About Bob? 

[00:17:47] Erica: My friend and I can... whenever we're gonna meet, we're like, "okay baby step to four o'clock." We use that movie in our lives in so many different ways.

I can quote the whole movie too. So I hope I'm not scaring you. Now I am one of your clients. I won't be showing up at your door though. Don't worry. I don't know though. If you had that great of a lake house, you might see me. You know, getting off the bus or... 

No, I'm just kidding. I really am scaring him now. But it's, it was fun. It cracked me up because I always thought Dr. Marvin was kind of mean. And now of course I get it. Obviously that is crazy what happens in the movie 

[00:18:27] Dr. Charles Barr: I am able to see it from the other perspective and see the humor of it. 

[00:18:32] Erica: You didn't laugh much in the theater, did you? 

[00:18:38] Dr. Charles Barr: Not at the time. I had to see it again before I could get the humor of it. Is like, "Oh my God, this is a nightmare."

[00:18:46] Erica: You're seeing like a slasher flick or something, and everyone else is cracking up. That's rough. Like my whole family quotes Bob. We're such Bob fans. So I love that it disturbs you so much. It just cracks me. 

[00:19:02] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. Oh, goodness. Life is good and life is short. And so we might as well have some fun while we go through it. We need to laugh where we can.

[00:19:12] Erica: Laughter is so important. 

[00:19:14] Dr. Charles Barr: So, even though this is a serious disorder and I take it seriously because I've been on the suffering end of that --there's nothing funny about suffering--at the same time, laughter is a very good medicine. And so if we can help people laugh a little bit, that's a good thing. And we may as well laugh our way through and lighten the whole situation now. 

[00:19:38] Erica: They might just need to put on What About Bob? too, especially if they haven't seen it yet. 

[00:19:43] Dr. Charles Barr: If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch. Definitely. 

[00:19:48] Erica: Thank you so much, Dr. Barr. We will both be back next week. So we wish you a lot of success this week.

[00:19:55] Dr. Charles Barr: Much success. Absolutely. 

[00:19:57] CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program

[00:19:57] Erica: Well, thanks for listening to that. Thanks for not judging me, or thanks for judging me if you did. That's okay. I'm sure you didn't. We have the CHAANGE Program available. We have people signing up every week. We have people writing to us all the time saying they are happier. Now they're doing different things like taking the elevator again.

 We're thrilled. So if you want to be a part of that, go to CHAANGE.Com. You can also pick up a book for free. You just have to pay the shipping. If you want to really know what the CHAANGE Program is about. We love that resource for you, sending you a book is one of our favorite things to do.

Setting you up for the CHAANGE Program is our top favorite thing to do, so CHAANGE.com with two A's and we will be back with you next week.

[00:20:42] OUTRO

[00:20:42] Erica: Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope that something in today's conversation provided you with a feeling of hope, determination, or purpose. I know what you're going through, and that's why I want to give you some of the tools that helped me in my anxiety journey. To get a free copy of Free From Fears head to freefromfearsbook.com to find out more about the CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program.

Find us at CHAANGE.com Thanks again for listening. 

And remember you are not broken. You are not alone. And you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety. See you next week.

Early Indications of Anxiety in Childhood
Anxiety Triggered by Marijuana Usage
"Am I Going Crazy?" and Depersonalization
Fear of Elevators
Is Anxiety Curable?
Is Medication Required?
What About Bob?
CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program