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Hello everyone! I used to post here regularly in the past for a different condition, and I found that people on Healthboards were very helpful, understanding and encouraging, so I hope that by joining this community and posting here I can find some guidance, and perhaps offer perspectives of my own to others. Although a bit long for a first post, I have had a very difficult journey with anxiety, especially over the last few years, and anyone who can read my story and struggles, and who can offer any ideas or support, this would be much appreciated! A brief introduction to myself: I am a guy in his late 30s, working on a Phd. I have achieved much during the course of the program, and have especially had the great opportunities to have help teach courses, and to have extensively travelled abroad for research. On the surface, things seem great - but matters are much more complex. I have always been a shy and more indrawn person, and have suffered episodes of serious depression and isolated panic attacks in the past - but since at least 5-6 years, I have dealt with a serious set of anxiety disorders, which were only properly diagnosed one year ago, and which have been so severe, that they have really disrupted my life.

There were many causes for it. Firstly, I was in a long-term relationship for almost four years, which was a very passionate, yet also a very dramatic and tension-ridden one. This stemmed mainly from long-distance, which was the case for most of the time. My anxiety was out of control during the relationship, and in part helped to deal damage to it, and it was only later that I learned of the true cause. To make a long story short, the ending was very messy, chaotic, trust-damaging, and emotionally destructive to us both, but to me in particular, as I continue to reflect on this. She has moved on well and is very happy and settled - I am the opposite.

When we had our first meeting post-breakup, I began to have serious anxiety attacks - one began when we met for a post-breakup coffee, where my arm began to tremble out of control from the stress. In the following weeks, these attacks became a regular thing, once I had a panic attack while also dealing with the flu. Since that time, many things have gone wrong. Only weeks later, and in a bad emotional state, I did damage to a professional relationship, one which can no longer be fixed. For this I also carry heavy regret and guilt. In spring '17, I went through two or three very painful months of severe anxiety, mixed with the darkest depression I have ever known. At that time I began to experience vivid and traumatic flashbacks to the relationship; I would cry randomly and sometimes uncontrollably, requiring Ativan like a life saver - and I began to develop a severe and intense phobia of death (more on that in a bit). More difficulties followed since then. I lost many, many productive days and nights worrying, ruminating, and feeling severely anxious, as well as the feeling of being unable to forgive either her or me, while continually worrying about if I will die young, if everyone I know is OK, and how terrible death must feel like ... it got very bad.

This was followed up by the unfortunate and tragic passing of two of my cousins, both younger than me, and one who was very much beloved to me and my parents ... it was a shock to process that, to say the least, and I struggle with it still. At another time, a close friend confided that I am the most anxious person he has ever met, physically and in terms of social interactions. I suffered through some very dark days until Fall 2018, when I began regular treatment with a psychologist and psychiatrist.

Throughout my academic career I have struggled working with undergrad students, and on my own work. But this last year it rocketed off the charts. I had severe and uncontrollable anxiety for days before our class, during it, and oftentimes afterwards. I often took 'anxiety naps', where I would wake in a sweat, groggy and disoriented, and in fear - then to realize everything was OK. There were times when I visited my therapist, where I was almost in tears due to anxiety issues! She helped me learn many things about myself, that I never had realized before. I did not realize how intrusive and debilitating anxiety can be, and that I really did suffer from a mental health disorder, which I also had trouble really accepting ... it got so bad and I was struggling to cope so much, that I sometimes wouldn't leave my apartment the entire weekend. I ended up going on a medical leave from work. Something drastic I have never done before.

My symptoms have varied over this period. My depression is no longer so severe, but the anxiety is, although not every day. I take 120 mg of generic Cymbalta daily, and Ativan when needed. I also self-medicate when I feel really overwhelmed. Anxiety attacks are the absolute worst, but they are not as common these days, and I can recognize them for what they are. Sometimes I have tingling feelings in the limbs, other days irritability, and on others, severe exhaustion. Almost every day I have obsessive and intrusive thoughts about past mistakes. I feel like I have somehow, lost my passion and zest for life. I continue my work, but it is slow somedays, and I find it hard to focus properly - before it was of little effort.

I have really socially isolated myself, and only really see or speak to a handful of close friends and family. I should note that I divide my time between different cities. The one where I study I have very few friends and a hostile environment, therefore I spend most of my time alone there. I traveled this summer, and again felt excessive anxiety regularly. I rarely go out anymore, even though I know it would be good, stay in bed much longer (just feel comfortable and safe), and also use this excuse to avoid the gym - even though I should not. I have not been on a date for more than three years. Although corresponding online with one lady, she lives in a different country from me and prospects look remote. This was amplified with the emotional distress of a couple of years back, where I was almost being caught and fooled by a fake Russian bride (online dating disaster). More recently, I have found my voice is much more shaky and quiet than before, I get sometimes trembling hands, as well as shortness of breath. I could write more, but I know this is already very long for a first post.

I do not know what my exact questions are for today, but I hope that anyone who reads this with a similar history or experiences, can perhaps offer some advice or hints? I find some days I really struggle with this anxiety, as well as with my current and past situation, fears of the future, etc. I have a very sickening type of fear of death - both of myself, as well as of my family and others close to me. I live in constant fear of it; on the worst days, I actually felt like I was going to die, right then and there. Is there any way I can fight this? Despite months of treatment, I could not get past it. Thank you very much, to anyone who would listen, and I look forward to being a part of this forum :)





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