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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Allison Kugel’s story: After the worst anxiety of my life

The turning point came after the worst anxiety of my life, oddly enough.  It’s hard to say what’s genetic and what's environmental, but I’m inclined to think it’s genetic, as my mother had agoraphobia, like me.  I lived with OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder] since age eight or nine, and there was always an incident here or there, like a panic attack with friends around, which was embarrassing.  I resigned myself to it.

In 2012 a lot things happened at once.  My job as a syndicated entertainment journalist was very important to me:  it was exciting, and a creative outlet.  But it came to an end, and I had to resign.  At the same time my marriage had fallen apart, and my father and grandmother had gotten ill.  It was a perfect storm!  My anxiety became the worst in my life; I couldn’t function.  I had five or six panic attacks a day, and wound up in the E.R. several times in a short period of time.

I was put on Klonopin to calm down my body and mind.  In that extreme couple of months, I’m not sure what happened inside of me to make it a turning point:  finding the right medication, going to a psychologist who specialized in panic attacks and phobias, reading a lot, delving into the research a lot.  I started spinning in the opposite direction.

Especially when I turned 40, I said, the first half of the ride is over; if you’re lucky, you get 80 good years.  I didn’t want the second half to be like this.   I got my medication re-adjusted, and got into meditation, prayer, spirituality….  And horseback riding--I wanted something symbolic of something I’d never done before.  In the past, I would’ve steered clear of that.

I decided to start taking some reasonable risks, getting more flavor out of life.  I learned to boogey board in the ocean with my son, and do some things against type, which were very freeing!  Writing this book helped me heal quite a bit.  I cherry-picked some stories to explain this journey, and weave in and out some of the fun celebrity stuff. 

When you write a book about your life, it’s like a 3-D hologram, watching a movie of my life.  It’s tricky:  I’m the observer!  It was extremely therapeutic—it enabled me to go back and revisit some moments of my life, which was very cathartic!  It enabled me to find a much deeper perspective, and gave me an answer to the age-old question when we feel we’ve been dealt a bad card:  Why me?!  This answered that question, which was huge, and very empowering!  

Allison’s advice:  If you’re going through hell, keep going!  You don’t get there by standing still.  You have to put one foot in front of the other, and seek help.  Ask for help and advice.  I put myself in the hands of professionals who were helping me.

Read a story of a hard-won recovery.  Thanks to Jaime Katz of Full Scale Media for arranging the interview with Allison.