An Afternoon on Klonopin

I decided to go for a walk today at 2:30, but I had nagging anxiety that, no matter how hard I tried to meditate it away, wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I took some Klonopin that my doctor prescribed me to take as needed. My dose is 0.5mg, and I take two a day if I need to. Well, I took one-and-half because two makes me super loopy. Minutes later, I feel the weight of the sedative on my limbs, giving me a heavy sensation. It’s a fun feeling, and it gets better.

I walked to Malcolm X Park, sat on a bench and watched people. But what I experienced wasn’t exactly what happened. All I can say is that seeing students running around in the park after school was actually fun for once.

While the medication was at its peak, my senses became more sensitive to the smell in the air, the aroma of the trees and takeout food places in the neighborhood. That combined with the Autumn breeze and vision of the of the elementary and middle school aged kids running around or conspiring at picnic  tables brought me back in time. It was like I was experiencing life for the first time. I want to feel that way all the time.

The pizzeria aroma reminded me of Brooklyn and being in middle school again. I remembered being with my friend after school in somewhat seedy neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and it was a time of innocence. It was a time I remember dearly because I used those moments to escape for as long as possible from my weird life at home.  In short, I felt a sense of normalcy which is extremely important to me.





Mental health workshop in West Philadelphia

Community organizer Leon Robinson Jr. is concerned about the stigma attached to mental illness. So, he organized a mental health awareness workshop at the Community College West Regional on Wednesday, Oct 29 at 6:30 p.m.

“I felt there was a need for folks to start addressing mental health,” Robinson said. “Mental health is a difficult thing to talk about.”

The idea came to Robinson when a woman approached him when she was at a loss for what to do about her four-year-old daughter’s behavior. As a result, Robinson decided that information on mental and behavioral issues should be more accessible to residents.

“I have to find more ways to get this information out there,” Robinson said. “How can we get this out there today?”

Members from The Consortium discussed where neighbors can turn to in times of mental health crisis.

For those not familiar with The Consortium, it is a nonprofit Community Mental Health Center founded in 1967 with a focus directed towards delivering services to neighbors in West and Southwest Philadelphia, and also throughout the city. Regardless of income, behavioral healthcare needs are addressed. Adults, children and senior citizens can access its behavioral health care programs and services.

Members from The Consortium spoke at the mental health awareness workshop.

Members from The Consortium spoke at the mental health awareness workshop.

Raymond Harrod, director of the Psychosocial Program, works with with the Community Integrated Recovery Center (CIRC). His job is to accept individuals who have had mental illness for a period of time. The program focuses on teaching patients to heal through a program of their choosing.

Members of the program choose their own goals, Harrod said. For example, one patient’s goal may be to “get the voices to stop” or to earn a BA degree.

At that point in the workshop, Harrod organized a small role play with two participants from the audience. Two volunteers played the parts of a patient with schizophrenia and the voices plaguing said patient.

One volunteer played the schizophrenic patient, while the second volunteer and Harrod played two different voices whispering in the patient’s ears simultaneously. The goal of the role play was to simulate what schizophrenic patients experience regularly.

Supported Employment Coordinator Doug Tillman is in charge of a department at The Consortium that helps mental health patients find employment.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have schizophrenia or mild depression,” Tillman said.

He explains that many people go through a period in which they are unemployed and feel like they cannot provide for their families.

“People who have anxiety and depression are more confounded by the feelings that come with not being able to work.” he said.

At Tillman’s program, there are always staff members willing and available to help people to use the computers and to find work. In fact, a lot of people on staff have experience with mental health issues, either personally diagnosed or as caretakers.

Consortium psychologist Dr. Carter explained that 26 percent of the United States population has mental illness. The problem is that there is a stigma attached to it, so people are afraid to get the help they need.

For psychiatric emergencies, The Consortium also offers a Mobile Crisis Unit for individuals 18 and older and for businesses located in the West Philadelphia area. A person who is in a severe mental health crisis such as suicide may be persuaded to get more intensive treatment at a hospital.

Some of its services include on-site evaluations, arranging voluntary and involuntary hospitalization, and crisis intervention. People can get referrals from Mercy Crisis Response Center, and through Philadelphia Behavioral Health System.

Michelle Tatom with the Functional Family Therapy said the Mobile Crisis Unit will go anywhere it is called to, including but not limited to shelters, homes, churches and schools.

Mental health issues are not the only problems that are difficult to talk about, as Gwendolyn White, director of Medication Assisted Treatment Program, pointed out. The Consortium also helps people with addiction..

White works in the methadone rehab at 451 University Ave. She said uses only methadone, and patients must be 18 years or older with a history of opiate use in order to be considered for the program. Also, people must have tried other treatment options prior to methadone before being considered for treatment.

To find out about more of The Consortium’s services, check out their website at To contact the Mobile Crisis Unit, email

Famous People That Suffer From Social Anxiety

Anxiety does not discriminate, whether you’re famous or not.

Social Anxiety Isnt Forever

ANXIETY knows no color or race. It can affect anyone. It affects the poor and the wealthy, the young and the old, and more. It does not discriminate, and while some people may be more vulnerable to this malady than others, the truth is that anyone can be victimized by the disorder. Let’s take a quick look at some famous people that suffer from social anxiety disorder:

Barbra Streisand

Unknown to her millions of fans, Barbra Streisand is one of the most famous people with social anxiety disorder. Despite her talented voice and career brimming with unforgettable musical and acting milestones, she has long since struggled with social anxiety.
Born on April 24 1942, Streisand is regarded as one of the most successful performers in the entertainment industry, both critically and commercially. She has had close to 150 million albums sold all over the world. She is a proud winner…

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In My Opinion: Journalism departments don’t do enough to address shyness

Sweaty palms, racing heart, stammering, speechlessness, facial flushing, racing thoughts. Sound familiar? Does this happen when you try to speak with strangers? It always happened to me for years, and it’s a little monster called social anxiety.

Journalism is a rewarding career, especially when you can overcome social anxiety. My struggle  prevented me from doing all I wanted to do as a teenager. If calling takeout terrified me, how could I possibly hope to speak with strangers to write articles on deadline?

Fortunately, Poynter published a useful article about overcoming shyness. While shyness and social anxiety are not the same, I think they are  linked; shyness can develop into social anxiety if it’s not nipped in the bud early on.

Writer Beth Winegarner explains how painfully shy she was as a student, that she couldn’t even read out loud in class when the teacher called on her. Despite being on a higher reading level than her classmates, she would choke up when called on.

Sound familiar?  Like many journalists, she found a niche in her school newspaper but soon realized the catch was overcoming her anxiety.

This is her advice:

1. Use your job as an armor

2. Let your curiosity override your anxiety

3. Do prep work to give yourself confidence

4. Pick up the phone to psych yourself out (my biggest flaw)

5. Remember that reporters make people nervous. They’re more scare of us than we are of them!

6. Keep practicing and finding ways to grow.

That’s easier said than done. Here’s my question:  Why was this issue never directly addressed in any of my journalism classes? A lot of my classmates were shy or got the sweats at the thought of speaking to strangers. It’s not that the issue of shyness is never spoken of in journalism classes. The instructors speak about it in a way that stigmatizes it and makes shy students feel ashamed of voicing their concerns.

These factors effect a journalism student’s ability to reach out to sources, schedule interviews, approach strangers on the street and pick up the phone. How many times have I completely psyched myself out before calling a stranger?I worked through that on my own with years of practice. I pushed myself not only because journalism is my passion, but because  it shamed me to speak about it to my instructors and in front of fellow J-students.

“What would they think of me?” I asked my self. “They’ll tell me I shouldn’t be a reporter because I don’t have what it takes.”  As a result of this shame, I bottled up my concerns and plodded on. Thinking back to those days, I realize I could have done a better job reporting if not for my shyness.

A friend of mine dropped his journalism major because the social contact was too stressful. It makes me sad that so many students with journalistic potential quit because they need to communicate with humans on a regular basis.

This is my point: Shy and socially anxious journalism students need a friendly, non-judgmental space to discuss their fears.

What can journalism faculty do to create a space that makes anxious and shy students feel safe about discussing, facing and overcoming their fears?

I suggest they make classes specifically supporting students whose anxiety majorly affects their performance. These classes should take the form of support groups that also provide information for additional resources on campus.

The class should focus on these general points:

1. Identify the cause of anxiety. What makes the student so nervous?

2. How can student overcome shyness/anxiety to become a reporter?

3. Discuss Beth Winegarner’s tips for overcoming this anxiety. Take each step at a time or as many as each student is comfortable with.

I’m not a teacher, so don’t rely on me for a full-on lesson plan, but these are starting points I think instructors could build off of.

Think of it this way. Shy people tend to be quiet, but quiet people are more observant of their surroundings, their peers, human interactions and are often great listeners. Isn’t it important to listen well and observe much as a reporter?  So, let’s hone those skills and help bring fellow shy journalists out of their shells. The world will benefit in the long run.


What’s my damage?

MyDamageSo, here’s my damage. I’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety, panic disorder and depression.   Most days I am more anxious than depressed, but during my serious depressive episodes I hurt physically and emotionally.

I get asked by friends and coworkers, “Why are you depressed or anxious?” I explain that there is never one thing that causes it. The causes differ for everyone. For me, my depression and anxiety are caused by a number of things that happened in my past that my brain can’t get over. Even though my brain has gotten over some of those things. it is still wired to feel too much anxiety in situations that aren’t even that stressful.

My adolescent years were the most difficult. I was so shy, I developed social anxiety disorder. When called on in class without raising my hand, I would sweat, turn read and my heart would race. All I could focus on was my classmates looking at me, waiting for a response. My mind would go blank; I would stammer and murmur, “I don’t know” to the teacher’s disappointment. The constant fear of being judged by strangers followed me like a stalker you can’t get rid of.

I didn’t get much better until my junior year of college, a year after I started seeing a therapist on campus. Also, as a journalism student, I overcame most of my social anxiety through lots of practice speaking to strangers. Introducing yourself to people and asking them questions about things for a story going into print was pretty daunting to me. My passion for journalism conquered my fear of strangers. Yet, I still feel some anxiety when going to an interview or even calling takeout to place an order.

My depression was caused by a lot of psychological abuse as a child. I was  a tomboy in elementary school; defying the social norms of what it meant to be “feminine” made me the subject of bullying and criticism from students and faculty alike. I went so far as to dress like a boy, act like a stereotypical boy, cut my hair like a boy and even insist on being called “he” and referred to as “Mike.” This caused a lot of confusion among my peers, teachers and even family. My parents’ friends would think I was a son, much to my parent’s embarrassment. I lost a lot of friends and was bullied by a group of older boys in the neighborhood. While riding on their bikes, said group of boys threw pieces of chicken at me while throwing insults, as well.

When I went to the guidance counselor for help, I received none. He told me that it was my fault the students made fun of me, and if I wasn’t strong enough to handle it I should not dress and act so masculine. He went so far as to ask me how my mother dressed, as though that determines how I dress.

During one of our sessions, he asked me if I would think it’s weird if he wore dresses, grew his hair long and flipped it over his shoulder. I told him, “No. Why would I think that’s weird?” For a ten year old, I was pretty open minded about the gender spectrum. Why would I find it strange if a man acted like a woman when I acted like boy? Even that logic made no sense to my ten-year-old mind.

I stopped speaking with the guidance counselor after my angry mom and teacher came to back me up. They didn’t appreciate victim blaming either.

Abuse, whether it’s physical or not, can leave the victim feeling inadequate and guilty. Oftentimes, I apologized for the most insignificant things when I was younger. For instance, if I had to interrupt a family member or professor from their work, the first words to come from my mouth were, “I’m sorry for disturbing you.”   It’s only recently that I’ve been doing that less.

My former step dad, Alan, made me feel as though I had to apologize for everything. He spoke down to me, my mom and my brother. My mom also apologized a lot after she divorced him. Alan had psychological trauma of his own, and he passed it on to us. I lived with anger and anxiety for years after the way he treated us. He was so protective of his precious electronics that he would throw a tantrum at the very sight of me and my brother touching them.

By tantrums I mean screaming, jumping up and down and hitting us. The house was full of insanity as long as we lived with him. But the insanity got worse when we left. My brother and mother fought constantly when we moved out. It hurt me a lot to witness that. When my brother moved out to live with out grandparents, out mom decided not to let me follow. She thought it best to keep me separated from my other half. That was the most painful period of my life. Even while living with Alan, at least I still had my brother around. But without him, I didn’t feel whole. We were brought closer because of the trauma we experienced together.

I sunk deeper into  depression. I became angry and withdrawn. I felt trapped in a home with my mother and her new boyfriend.  Most of my memories of that time in my life look dark and lonely. I became a hermit of sorts, keeping to my bedroom  reading, studying, writing and playing video games when not in school. I became even more and more anxious around strangers, but I went to school and stuck to the small group of friends I did keep.

Once I started high school, we all split up and I felt alone again. A hatred and fear for everyone around me grew more and more. I developed intellectual arrogance as a means of protecting myself; I believed myself to be above my peers in my ivory tower constructed in my mind. I eventually made some friends and mellowed out a bit, but I still felt above most of my peers. There were times when I even believed myself to have higher intellectual powers than my own friends.

My sarcasm pushed people away; it was a barrier to protect myself from their judgmental thoughts and words. Looking back on this time of my life, I realize my fears were imagined. I isolated myself due to this anxiety. If someone had come to my help earlier, I would have learned sooner. My mom always commented on how I never get out of the house and that I was always sad. The way she said it to me was overly critical, and made me feel inadequate. She made me feel as though something was terribly wrong with me, so I feared being locked away in a madhouse if I confessed.

College became the time in my life that I realized that I could speak with a objective person without feeling judged. That’s what I needed and wanted all along. I saw a therapist for three years which helped tremendously. I also found empowerment through journalism and extracurricular clubs. I made friends at the student newspaper, the Secular Student Alliance and anime club.

My boyfriend has also been a huge support to me, and I don’t think I would have ever found the empowerment without most of our time spent together.

Oh, I forgot to mention the newest addition to our family: Squish! I love little animals, and they always make me feel better when I’m having a bad day. Cuddling with my kitten and watching puppy videos on the YouTube make me squeal so hard, I almost pass out. So, here’s a photo of my fur baby Squish sitting on a pillow.

photo (2)

It’s been a long road for me, and I am not completely cured yet. I hope to gain more control over my mind and end the panic attacks and depression forever through more therapy sessions.