So often we look at someone else’s life with envy. On the outside, it seems like they have it all. Looks can be very deceiving! Author Allison Kugel is pulling back the curtain on a hidden misery that millions of folks are afraid to discuss—mental illness. Written with incredible honesty and bravery, her gut-wrenching story will resonate with so many who are suffering, in silence, and alone, feeling completely lost and nearly paralyzed.
Imagine maintaining a thriving career as a celebrity profiler, conducting in-depth interviews with hundreds of the world’s biggest newsmakers, while navigating an anxiety disorder so severe that you’ve grown accustomed to scheduling interviews in between ER visits and taking tranquilizers for a few momentary breathers.
Do I have your attention? Good, because I want to talk about a topic that is grossly misunderstood and not covered nearly enough in the media, one that affects 40 million Americans! I want to talk about mental illness.
I spent a decade as a successful syndicated entertainment, pop culture and political journalist who landed more than 200 in-depth celebrity interviews. But guess what else? I had also spent the better part of my life, on and off since the age of eight, battling with some pretty severe anxiety, panic and OCD.
In my book, Journaling Fame: A Memoir of a Life Unhinged and on the Record, I go into great detail about the embarrassment and isolation I experienced throughout much of my adolescence, young adulthood and even into my thirties. “No one can know I am having a panic attack,” I would think to myself. “How mortifying!” I would do my best to carry on in social situations while suffering greatly, pretending everything was fine.
By sharing my personal journey, I hope to de-mystify and de-stigmatize anxiety disorders, panic attacks, OCD and the fallout of depression that oftentimes wreaks havoc on the anxiety sufferer. Anxiety disorders, in my humble opinion, have become a major health crisis in the U.S. Don’t believe me? Read the statistics on how many Americans take benzodiazepines and SSRI drugs.
According to ScientificAmerican.com, “Adults in the U.S. consumed four times more antidepressants in the late 2000s than they did in the early 1990s. As the third most frequently taken medication in the U.S., researchers estimate that 8 to 10 percent of the population is taking an antidepressant.” A 2010 Forbes article states, “Doctors write nearly 50 million prescriptions for Xanax or alprazolam (the generic equivalent) every year – that’s more than one Xanax prescription every second.”
Although slightly more common in women, anyone can develop an anxiety disorder in adolescence, early adulthood, in mid-life, or even in the autumn of life. It doesn’t discriminate by age or by socio-economic status; in fact many famous people have made public admissions about their own struggle: Lena Dunham, Kendall Jenner, Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone, Chris Evans, John Mayer, Sarah Silverman, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Lawrence.
My book shares the extreme dichotomy that had been my life for so many years: insightful journalist by day, petrified anxiety sufferer by night. On the surface my career was exciting and glamorous: meetings with the Kardashians, 50 Cent, Dave Chappelle, Ron Paul, Mike Tyson, Michelle Rodriguez, Shaquille, O’Neal, Stan Lee, Elle Macpherson, Kristin Chenoweth… the list goes on. I had Oscar and Grammy winners, senators and congressmen calling me at home. (It was heady stuff for a middle class Jewish girl from Long Island!)
Everything seemed “perfect” but the truth couldn’t have been more different. I lived with this strange, scary and somewhat mysterious monkey on my back for as long as I can remember. It all came to a frightening head in 2012 when I was hospitalized multiple times for severe anxiety and panic attacks that rendered me non-functional.
Through trial and error with various medications, different methods of therapy and counseling (cognitive/behavioral, analytical, new age), self-help techniques and my own spiritual studies, I healed and set about writing my book to share my story with the world.
After years of embarrassment and shame, I have never held my head higher than I do these days. At the age of 42, and after asking for most of my life, “God, why me?” I will never ask that question again, because I now know the answer.
By using my life and my book as a platform, I have been doing press and speaking to people all over the world who are living with anxiety, agoraphobia, depression, OCD, and panic attacks.
I want my book to offer people the comfort, insight and education I’ve gained about this confusing topic. I want my message to turn on the lights and turn off the stigma. I want them to know there is hope, there is help, and most of all, they are not alone.