When Nothing Seems to Help Your Anxiety

I sat in a chair across from my psychiatrist, desperate for answers. I needed guidance. I needed someone to tell me what to do next.

The panic has gotten worse. It’s every day now, sometimes multiple times a day. I wake up anxious and I got to bed anxious. I feel like I am always on the verge of a panic attack — waiting to get caught in the fight-flight-freeze cycle. My chest is always tight. I feel like I haven’t taken a deep breath in weeks.

I’m doing all the right things. I’m going to therapy. I’m using my coping skills. I’m exercising. I’m meditating. I’m taking supplements. Why am I still like this? Why is nothing working? I feel like I’m barely surviving.

I turn toward my psychiatrist, and I share all of this with her. I don’t know if I realized until I started talking that I feel like this is still all my fault. I’ve tried medicine after medicine after medicine. My current psychiatrist is amazing and supportive, but that does not take away from the collective shame from years of doctors not taking my pain seriously.

After I finished sharing my chaos with her, she looked at me and said, “It’s not your fault these medications aren’t working. Every [physical human] body is different. You have a chronic physical illness that makes you extra sensitive to medications. We also have to take into account your complex trauma. Let’s see what we can try next to get the panic switch to turn off. How do you feel about that?”

I think I sat there in shock. I cannot count the amount of times I have felt or said aloud, “I’m doing all the things. Why is this still happening?” I have been trying to treat and heal my anxiety for about four years. I know there are others whose journeys are longer.

We have enough stigma, doctors and people who just do not get it — placing shame on those struggling by implying they aren’t trying hard enough. We do not need this from ourselves.

It was really powerful to hear someone say that my panic is not my fault. The problem has nothing to do with me not trying hard enough. Bodies, brains, stories, medicine and trauma are just complex. Please hear me say to anyone still trying to find the right medication, dealing with weird side effects or who given up on medicine entirely: It’s not your fault it is not working. Your panic and anxiety are not your fault either.

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