The People →
Pennsylvania, USA → Writer, Gamer & Activist → Anxiety → Therapy, Self-Help.
1. Introducing Josh Huber
R: Tell us a little bit about yourself… Who are you? Where do you live? What do you do?
J: I’m married, 29 years old, and I’m a gamer (FIFA consumes me). My wife and I have two dogs. Together, they weigh a combined 17 pounds. I like little dogs. They’re funny and they don’t eat tons of food, so I save money. I live in the frigid north of Pennsylvania. I do live near Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake, so that is a slight claim to fame in a place where there aren’t many bragging points. I read and write about mental health with a strong focus on anxiety disorders. I just released an eBook, and I’m currently working on a feature-length novel.
2. Living with Anxiety
R: You stated your anxiety began at 23, has it got worse over time? or better?
J: My anxiety has gotten better in the past couple of years. When this all started, I had more things I was afraid of then not. I didn’t go outside unless absolutely necessary. I refused to eat meat unless I cooked it myself because I was convinced that other people would not kill all of the bacteria. I was afraid to go to sleep because I thought I would die, and I hated waking up because I knew I’d have to live with anxiety once again. I had scary thoughts constantly. I couldn’t hold a knife without thinking about hurting myself or someone else. I’m a harmless person, so whenever these thoughts would pop into my mind it made me think that maybe I wasn’t as innocent as I thought.
“I look at my past as a learning opportunity. A guide for how not to do things.”
My anxiety made me question everything. I had no normal. A shower wasn’t just a shower anymore. I looked at it as a place that I could possibly slip, fall, and crack my head open. I couldn’t babysit my nephew because I thought he would somehow die in my care. Every smell that I could not immediately identify must have been a poisonous gas leak. I had no safe place to turn to because I turned everything and every thought into a threat to my wellbeing.
R: Were you an anxious child?
J: I never thought about if I was an anxious child until I started to come down from my anxiety. I realised that yes, I was an anxious child. I didn’t go outdoors because I was afraid of the sun. I hid in my bedroom during a thunderstorm. I also used to get “homesick” frequently. I always thought I was just more comfortable at home, but homesickness is a type of anxiety. I typically don’t delve into my past too often because there is nothing I can do about it. I look at my past as a learning opportunity. A guide for how not to do things.
3. Anxiety & It’s Impact On Everyday Life
R: People with anxiety often experience restless sleep, muscle tension and poor concentration. Do these ring a bell with you?
J: Muscle tension was one of my most powerful physical sensations. I was constantly rubbing Icy Hot on my shoulders and legs because they “felt” so tight and sore. I would take a bath every day in the hopes that it would help to loosen my muscles. Sleep was difficult because everything slows down at night. Things become boring, and there is nothing worse for someone with anxiety than boredom. My mind would race due to the fact that I was able to more intently focus on my body. I’d pay close attention to my heart rate. I’d check my pulse over and over again. I would do progressive muscle relaxation because I feared that laying down too long would cause blood clots.
R: How does Anxiety affect your normal day?
J: Anxiety, for the past couple of years, rarely interrupts my day. The only time I even notice it is late at night. If I have a little bit too much coffee, or I’ve exercised too hard, it will appear. It takes me about a half an hour to fully calm down, but then it is gone. I no longer worry about the next panic attack. Having no fear of the next panic attack is a big step for anyone with anxiety.
Sure, I wasted many years and lost many opportunities because I was afraid of everything, but I’ll happily trade in those few years of misery for the great years I have ahead.
R: Have you found any positive aspects of Anxiety? And, If you had the option to lose your anxiety, would you?
J: I’ve experienced too many positives to list here. My fear of having anxiety made me change everything for the better. I exercise more, I eat better, and I rarely allow myself to obsess over anything. I look at my anxiety as a life coach that used fear to make me a better person. He (yes, my anxiety is male) pushed me for years until I became a better person. I’m thankful every day for my anxiety. I cringe when I think about the person I would be today if anxiety wasn’t a part of my life. Sure, I wasted many years and lost many opportunities because I was afraid of everything, but I’ll happily trade in those few years of misery for the great years I have ahead.
R: Do friends or colleagues notice you’re anxious? Does it affect your relationship with them?
J: I wore my anxiety on my sleeve, so my friends, co-workers, and family members were very aware of my condition. I would get invited to do things, but I always made up an excuse to get out of it. That definitely put a strain on my relationships. It also highlighted who my real friends were because they never gave up on me. I give them credit for sticking it out with me because I wasn’t the most pleasant person to talk to.
4. Josh’s Writing
R: You have released your first book – Help! I Have Anxiety: A GUIDE FOR UNDERSTANDING THE FEARS, SCARY THOUGHTS, AND PHYSICAL SENSATIONS THAT ARE CAUSED BY YOUR ANXIETY
J: Help! I Have Anxiety is a project I’ve been working on for a few months now. My dream is to craft a full-length novel, but I had information I wanted to release to the world now, so the eBook was a great way to do this. The book is a brief synopsis of my life with anxiety. I talk about my “qualifications”, what works and what doesn’t, and what to expect when you challenge your anxiety for the first time. I had very little guidance in the beginning of my life with anxiety, so this book is for those people who are either stuck or experiencing anxiety for the first time. I want to give people hope that their tomorrow can be better. Life is hard for everyone, but some hard work can lessen some of that stress.
“Making the lives of others easier is what makes me happy, so writing a book like this gives me the illusion that I’m making a difference”
R: What was your inspiration for writing it?
J: Making the lives of others easier is what makes me happy, so writing a book like this gives me the illusion that I’m making a difference. I have yet to receive feedback, but that’s fine. I know how tough it is to get motivated to read anything online. I personally have to make myself read if the content is over a page or two in length. When I was first anxious, I would read anything anxiety related because I longed for a cure. Maybe there are others out there who are looking for guidance, and perhaps my eBook will give them what they are looking for. In no way is my little book the anxiety bible, but I think there is much to be learned from someone else’s experience. It is hard to talk about pain, both mental and physical, unless you yourself have felt that pain. I have felt the sting of anxiety. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through. Yes, I’m better because of my anxiety, but if I knew a handful of cognitive skills in the beginning, I could have become a better person without having to lose 5 years of my youth to anxiety. Maybe what I say can give you more time to enjoy life without feeling your anxiety. If I could provide that kind of impact I’d be a very happy man.
5. Dealing With Anxiety
R: Have you been officially diagnosed by a health professional?
J: I was officially diagnosed with depression at the age of 16, but that hasn’t been an issue for many years. I was officially diagnosed by my psychiatrist with generalised anxiety disorder at the age of 24. I tried Panic Away, The Linden Method, Attacking Anxiety and Depression, and DARE. DARE and Panic Away were both created by the same author, so many of the themes from the first book carry over to DARE. Attacking Anxiety and Depression was the first program I attempted. I was going to a therapist while I was going through the AA&D program, so I was approaching my anxiety from two different directions. The therapist was digging into my past while the AA&D program was telling me that I was totally responsible for the way I was feeling. This was upsetting and eye-opening at the same time. I was upset because I could no longer blame others for my anxiety. It was eye-opening because that meant that I was in complete control over my destiny. The Attacking Anxiety & Depression series was not the ultimate answer for me, but it definitely helped to lessen some of my fears. I was able to leave my house because of the guidance of that program. I’d give it a 6/10.
R: Did any treatments work?
J: The Linden method was promising at first, but I did not like the program. There were too many rules to follow, and I did not have the patience to learn everything that was asked of me. The information was solid. There was more empathy in the Linden Method than the Attacking Anxiety and Depression series. I kind of liked that. I wish I had more to say about this, but I did not go through the program long enough to give it a fair review.
“Combining the skills from the Attacking Anxiety series and Panic Away helped me to almost fully climb out of the abyss of anxiety”
My favourite program was Panic Away, and now DARE, by Barry McDonagh. I’m not sure if it is his accent, but when he talks, I listen. I absorb the information from those programs like a sponge. Much like the Attacking Anxiety series, this program tells you that YOU are responsible for the way you are feeling. This point is very important for anyone suffering from anxiety. The moment you start taking responsibility for yourself, the quicker you will start to feel better. Blaming others, which is what I did for many years, only distracted me from the real issue. The real issue was the way I was thinking. Blaming others did not fix how I was thinking. Ok, I got off topic there. Anyway, the Panic Away series is damn near perfect for anyone looking for a simple, yet effective anxiety solution. 9/10 for sure.
R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?
J: Combining the skills from the Attacking Anxiety series and Panic Away helped me to almost fully climb out of the abyss of anxiety. It wasn’t until I started talking to an amazing therapist that I could honestly say I was panic free. No one is anxiety free, but thanks to the self-help programs and a good therapist, I can honestly say that I’m as close to anxiety free as one could possibly be. I now manage my anxiety by allowing it to happen, recognizing that it is there, and then diffusing the situation. I used to run away from my scary sensations and thoughts, but that never helped. My therapist and the Panic Away seriestold me to allow those feelings to happen. Like I say in the book, anxiety feeds off of your fear. If you take away the fear, you take away the anxiety. Facing anxiety head on is not easy at first. It goes against your natural inclination to protect yourself. The problem with protecting yourself during a panic attack is that you are being attacked by something that isn’t trying to harm you. You are fearing something that doesn’t deserve to be feared.
“Treating anxiety with medicine is like treating a bullet wound with a band-aid. Sure, the bleeding stopped, but you still have a problem lying below that is going untreated.”
R: Anxiety & alcohol often go hand in hand, do you drink? And if so, in moderation? If not, how do you keep it under control?
J: I will have a few beers here and there, but I never drink to deal with a problem. I drank to handle problems when I was a teenager, and that never ended well. I learned my lesson. I can have a few beers, relax, and then go a few weeks without having another one. It’s important for me to have control over myself. I do not use medication. I have a chapter about medication for anxiety in my book. I don’t want to say I’m passionate about the use of medication for anxiety, but it is by far my most biased opinion in the book. I’ll spare you my medication rant. Ok, I’ll say one thing. Treating anxiety with medicine is like treating a bullet wound with a band-aid. Sure, the bleeding stopped, but you still have a problem lying below that is going untreated.
6. Origins Of Anxiety
R: Where does your Anxiety come from?
J: I have family members with anxiety, and I’m sure I learned a few not so good behaviors from them while growing up. A few therapist have tried to dig into my past to find the “source”. I don’t think it matters what the source is because it is my problem to deal with now. Let’s say it was my dad’s fault that I have anxiety. What can he do today to help me? My anxiety is my problem, and I worked hard to get my life back.
R: Anxiety can result from a difficult childhood. Did you experience trauma as a child?
J: My childhood was pretty good. I was never abused, I went to a good school, and I always had love and affection from my family. The source, as far as I’m concerned, is a mystery and will probably remain that way forever.
7. Being Proactive
R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues that you have anxiety?
J: I think I’m guilty of talking about anxiety too much. I talk to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers about anxiety. I can’t help it. I love hearing stories, both positive and negative, about how people react to their anxiety. Every person I talk to gives me something new to ponder, so I get to play anxiety detective every day.
R: How do you educate yourself on management and resources? Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles?
I follow a few blogs about anxiety. www.theworrygames.com
is at the top of my list right now. Second, but just as important to me, is www.discardedanxiety.com
. The Worry Games blog piques my interest because she looks at anxiety like I do, but she writes about so well that it makes me jealous. She is a constant inspiration to me.
Discarded Anxiety is another well-written. Aaron Kelley writes about things that never crossed my mind, but after reading, I cannot stop thinking about what he’s said. I’ll read and listen to anyone if what they say causes me to think.
I check out www.psychologytoday.com
from time to time to see what is happening on the medical side of anxiety. I’m interested in new developments, treatments, and discoveries for all types of mental health conditions, and this is the best place to find such information.
R: Have you read any great books about anxiety? Or seen any movies?
J: My favourite book about anxiety is DARE by Barry McDonagh. I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating because it is of such high quality. When you purchase the book you are granted access to the DARE community on Facebook, and it is packed full of positive people who are all going through anxiety. It is a great resource, and it has been a cool place to hear and tell stories.
8. Like-Minded Network
R: Can you recommend any of the professionals who have helped you? (therapists, doctors, specialists, coaches, mentors, clinics, foundations)
J: Larry S. Dickson was the most influential person during my recovery. He is the director of counseling at the Mind, Body, & Wellness center in Meadville, Pennsylvania. There were days that I was convinced that he was put on Earth just for me. I can’t thank him enough for everything he did. The strength and wellness I have today can almost be completely attributed to his efforts.
9. What’s Next?
R: What’s next for you, and what’s next for your anxiety?
J: That is a great question. Everything is next for me. The only real plans I have are to write a real book, pay off some bills, and find ways to make the lives of others better by any means necessary. I’ve been talking to other bloggers about making the topic of anxiety less informative and more entertaining. We can find anxiety resources everywhere, but very few are actually enjoyable to read. I’d like to make anxiety fun!
R: Any thing else you’d like to add?
J: I’ll add just one thing. Anxiety is not a death sentence. What you feel, think, and believe can all be a thing of the past if you work hard enough. There are no quick fixes for anxiety. Don’t fall for gimmicks because you’ll just be disappointed when you realised how much time, and possibly money, you’ve wasted. You are not alone, your strange thoughts are actually quite common, and don’t ever be ashamed to ask for help. Thanks for having me!
R: Thanks for being a part of Like-Minded Magazine Josh! I appreciate it.
Rodger Hoefel in conversation with Josh Huber
Photography supplied by Josh Huber