Welcome to the Mood Disorders Forum. Questions in this forum are being answered by Peter Forster, MD and topics covered are anxiety, bipolar, depression, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and stress.
This is not at all where I pictured my life to be at the age of 26, yet somehow it ended up this way. I thought I would have a college degree, career, husband, and kids - or some combination of those 4. Instead I have none of those and they seem impossible. Things seem to come easily for other people, not me.
Maybe it’s not even really what I want after all. Even though I’m totally unhappy with the way things are currently at least I don’t have to put myself out there and risk embarrassment, failure, and rejection. I'm scared of everything.
Even if I had the courage to move away from home and live on my own (still living with my Dad), I can’t even afford it. I can’t support myself on the salary that I make at my current job.
Staying in my “comfort zone”, while not exactly comfortable, is something I’ve spent so many years doing that I don’t know if I even have the ability or energy to change things. Maybe it’s just laziness, I don’t know.
I don’t have fun doing much of anything anymore. I went on vacation to the beach back in the first part of June. I had an okay time but I honestly would’ve been just as content had I been home alone. Nothing seems as important or means as much to be as it once did. I question every thought and emotion to the point that I’m not even sure what I think or feel anymore.
Sometimes I just feel so trapped and feel as though I’m destined to live a lonely miserable life. With the grouchiness and irritability I’ve been experiencing I’m afraid that I will push away everyone in my life that claims to care about me.
Why does everything have to be so difficult for me? How can I ever expect anyone to want to be with me when I don't even like myself? I've never been in a relationship – in fact, I’ve never even been on a single date. Tasks that are routine or simple to other people (making phone calls, going to stores, driving) are often hard for me to do.
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This is an elegant discussion on a very important topic: the effects of shame - anxiety - and avoidance. In our clinic this is often, but not always, found in folks who have had either traumatic events in childhood, or had completely inadequate parenting. Medications, particularly serotonin medications like escitalopram (Lexapro) or sertraline (Zoloft) can certainly plan a part but treatment usually also involves finding a therapist or coach who can help you move gently out into the world. Effective treatment works a bit like yoga - stretching into new activities that are a bit uncomfortable, but not overwhelming, and as you gradually stretch yourself you get better and better at handling new challenges.
I've been battling issues with depression and anxiety for about 10 years now. I feel like I've wasted so much of my life and when I start thinking about things it makes me sad and frustrated.
In December, I had surgery (gallbladder removal) for the first time ever. Prior to that I'd never really had any health issues. Made it 25 years and had never even had blood drawn. Going to doctors has always given me a great deal of anxiety so having to deal with that really started my downward spiral.
After the surgery I became convinced that something was seriously wrong with me and that it wasn't really my gallbladder all along. I know it was but then the issues I was having afterwards were apparently caused by acid reflux. Still having a lot of anxiety over my health.
Never before have I had that type of physical symptoms which I guess may have been caused by anxiety. I thought I was dying and sometimes still do.
I finally talked to my doctor about the anxiety I've been experiencing and he wrote a prescription for Zoloft, 25 mg once a day, which I've been taking for over 5 weeks. I told him I needed to speak with someone and he referred me to a licensed professional counselor. I've had 3 sessions with her in the past few weeks and she is referring me to a psychiatrist for medication purposes.
Also, my primary care doctor ended up prescribing Clonazepam .25mg twice a day as needed. Well, trying to decided if/when to take that gave me anxiety, seriously. I couldn't decided if I really needed it or not. Needless to say, I have only taken it a few times becasue of that and also being afraid I'll get addicted to it or something.
Now, I've been totally freaking out about going to the psychiatrist! What if the thinks I'm crazy? What will the initial appointment be like? How long will it last? It's going to be hard to open up to a stranger about all my issues! I'm afraid I'll either over exaggerate the symptoms/problems I'm experiencing or not even be able to communicate what I'm going through at all.
Honestly I don't know why I'm putting myself through all this stress because I really don't think anyone is going to be able to help me. It's taken me years to get like this and I don't think it's reversible. Maybe I just need to accept that I'm destined to live and lonely miserable life. Right now I don't even have anyone to talk to who will try to understand what I'm going through.
Bless your heart. You sound exactly like me when I was your age. You're doing everything exactly right, and I congratulate you for that. Keep that psychiatrist appointment. As your counselor said, the psychiatrist is there for prescribing appropriate medication rather than than the talk therapy you're already doing with your counselor. You'll only have to hit the highlights of what's happening for him to figure out an appropriate medication.
I hate the way the system is set up these days, but that's typical now. One doc for talk; another for meds. No more convenient one-stop therapy. A psychiatrist is far better able to determine what meds will help you rather than your primary care doc. Please try not to be frightened about the appointment. You are NOT crazy! :-)
I spent far too many years of my life alone and depressed - even after I married. In my case, much of the problem was hormonal but depression seems to run in the family (never spoken of openly of course). The depression and anxiety kicked in at puberty. My family was typical of most back then I think: you didn't see a therapist unless you really were "crazy". To even make an appointment was an admission of weakness or a character flaw. It's so sad that the same attitude persists today.
Anyway, what finally drove me to my doctor was the death of my dog. We were never able to have children so my dogs and other critters filled that void. When I couldn't stop sobbing after two weeks, even at work, I knew there was more going on than grief. Long story short, lexapro saved my life. I was lucky. It started working with the very first dose and I never looked back. If I have to stay on it the rest of my life, so be it, because I refuse to go back to being what I was pre-lexapro. I did try a couple of breaks from it and regretted it. Right back to my old depressed self complete with the old unreasonable angry outbursts from anxiety.
Around the time I started the lexapro, my physical health turn a major turn for the worse and I'm now in chronic pain and disabled. That mess actually turned into another miracle. My pain doc suggested I try seeing a pain psychologist. It wasn't a mandatory condition of her treating my pain, but more of a "can't hurt, might help" situation. I wasn't exactly wild about going, but sucked it up and went. Between the meds and the psychotherapy, my life and marriage are better than I ever would have imagined - pain and illness notwithstanding. I'm still no social butterfly like my husband, but at least I don't actively avoid socializing anymore. I used to have panic attacks at the thought of going to a party and having to meet new people. EEK! And picking up the telephone?! NO way!
Life really is what you make of it yourself, but sometimes we need some help to clear the cobwebs away to really see what we truly want to do with it. You're young. You are not a failure or in anyway "crazy". Certainly it's normal at your age to experience a certain amount of confusion in life. We all have goals, but it's rare that anyone actually achieves them. You aren't alone in that. I guarantee you that most of the people you know in your age group aren't where they imagined they would be at this time in their lives either.
Keep doing what you're doing. You're on the right track, and getting started is the hardest part. :-)
Dr. Forster, thank you for taking time to respond. My thinking right now is that I'm never going to be able to lead a "normal." life. Maybe it's best if I just accept the fact that I'm broken and there is nothing I can do to fix things. If I just totally give up on the hopes and dreams I have maybe my day to day life won't be as difficult as it is now. Not that I will ever be happy...but is anyone really happy anyway? Actually I would settle for less than happy but I wish things could be better for me than they are now. It's so frustrating!
Counseling will involve me doing things and facing situations that I ususally avoid if at all possible. Not sure that my counselor and I have the time and energy to address all my issues. I just have the feeling that the more she gets to understand to multitude and degree of the issues I have she'll say that she is not going to be able to help me...that I'm beyond help. My psychiatrist did start me on a 10mg dosage of Lexapro which I've only been taking for the past 4 days.
I lived a fairly sheltered childhood. For the most part I had loving and supportive parents until I turned 15. My parents starting having problems with their marriage then. They ended up splitting up when I was 16. Not to be feeling sorry for myself but I went through about 6 years there where no one even knew I existed. That's unless I was being involved in their marital troubles. I had to taken on quite a bit of responsibility for helping take care of my sister who is 5 years younger than me. I know things about why my parents split-up that still to this day my mom doesn't know I know. I gave up everything in my life that was important to me. I quit hanging out with friends, stopped playing sports, and gained a bunch of weight. Neither parent bothered to look at my high school report cards. My hair was falling out and no one noticed, seriously. I was depressed and felt so alone. Even when I was going to community college not one time for an entire semester did either my dad, mom, or step-father ask me how my classes were going. I remember this quite well because I had actually dropped out of college and swore that if just one of them asked me about my classes I would let them know the truth. Like I said from the time I was 15-16 until the time I was 21-22 no one really seemed to care about me at all. I never really went without and I know a lot of people have been through much rougher situations than mine but I think it really did shape the person I am today and certainly not for the better.
Recently my relationship with my mom has been really weird. She is totally opposed to me taking medication for some reason and doesn't like me talking to a counselor either. Personally I think she feels like a failure as a parent because I'm not happy. I've come to the realization, with the help of my counselor, that it is best for me to not really talk about the issues that I'm going through with my mom. She only makes me feel worse about things since she has made it clear that she isn't going to support me in this. Not only is she not supportive but she flat out lets me how she thinks it is, doesn't let me talk, and says that I'm doing everything wrong. The last thing I need is her second-guessing me right now when she is not even involved enough in my life to know what's going on or how I've been feeling. Oh well, sorry for the novel. I was just really needing to vent.
Hi there! I just sent you a PM, but I also want to respond here. It hurts me to see you still begging for attention and approval from your parents, and particularly your mom. They gave you life and that's about all they gave you. For whatever reason, they have been and continue to be emotionally absent. My guess is that your mom knows she failed you, and that's why your therapy scares the crap out of her.
I can't imagine the pressure you were under being a parent to your sibling at age 16 on top of getting dragged into your parents marital problems. It sounds like you were the only adult in the family. At a time when other teens were out making stupid mistakes and trying on adult life for size, you were already effectively an adult. You missed out on the fun side of those teen years. There's no reason you have to be stuck where you are. You will not forever have to be emotionally stuck at age 16.
Be proud of the fact that you started therapy! I know what a big deal it is to make that first phone call and even scarier, to show up for the appointment. Therapy doesn't mean you'll be forced into uncomfortable situations. Hopefully your couselor will help you learn to cope with those situations without developing a full-fledged panic attack. Hang in there - you're moving in the right direction! :-)
Don't give up on your dreams...Sometimes things happen just like that..out of the blue...
When I was about your age I had similar thoughts. I never believed that anybody would ever want me and that I would have a family.. Had anxiety problems at the time, too.
Depressed, resigned, overdosing the prescribed meds (with the hope of never waking up) I met my husband (also depressed ;)) We've been together for over 4 years. We have a two-year old daughter and a fairly 'normal' life.
Things like this happen so hold on to your hopes and dreams...don't give up. I needed to make some decisions and changes in my life (at 27 was still living with my mum and hated it...) Was lucky to meet some people who offered support (couldn't count on my mum either) and persuaded me that I had to move on.
I know it's really hard but try to open up to people a bit. Maybe a good therapist could help here. The same goes for the CHANGES...
As for the visit to the psychiatrist I recall having similar thoughts as you :) Don't be afraid. They are trained and should know how to make you talk.
And one more thing - I don't like myself either...well I hate myself on daily basis ...but hey my husband likes me anyway ;)
Aside from anxiety, I guess the two aren't related, I have major issues with self-esteem. While I do think counseling and medication are starting to help, I don't think I'm ever going to get to the point where I can be comfortable in my own skin. I'm so paranoid about people judging me and maybe not liking me - especially because I don't even like myself. No medication is going to give me self-confidence. What am I going to do? Everyone - from my counselor to friends and family - tell me to live in the present moment, not to obsess over the future. Well, with each passing day, it's a reminder how stuck I am and how I can't seem to change things...it's frustrating! Why is everything so difficult for me?
I am glad to hear that you feel that things may be a little better. That is important. Like the first snowdrop blooming in the spring, while there are still patches of brown snow on the ground, it is a sign of what is coming.
This is a difficult time. You have begun to really work on things, but despite the effort that you are putting in, not much has changed.
The work that you are putting in will yield results, though.
Try, when you can, to do good things for yourself. I found an interesting webpage that you might want to look at.
Since your parents seem to be unable to support you, you will have to learn how to support yourself, and how to reach out to others for support, as you are doing here.
In other words - you are doing well, you can feel proud of yourself!
Sometimes it feels like I take 1 step forward and then immediately 2 steps back. I have so much doubt as to if this is all worth it or not, counseling and medication. One minute I can tell myself things are going to be okay - the next I'm like what the heck am I doing? Knowing what I want out of life, which I'm still unsure, and being able to go for it or knowing how to get there seem impossible. It makes me so jealous to see people out and about, seemingly carefree, all the while I worry about everything. I can't stop wondering what people think about me and I never feel good enough. No one is every going to want to be with me. How pathetic is it that I'm 26 and have never been on a date? - I've been asked, I just won't go, it would be way too stressful! Seriously, how did things end up like this? I never thought I would be working at the same lousy job since I was 18. If this was a test of just straight book smarts I'd be somewhat okay, but as for being able to function in the "real world" I really don't feel as though I know how to. Going out in public, say to the grocery store, has gotten to the point that I have to just focus on what I need to get and get out of there. I can't look at anyone or I start feeling paranoid. This is so stupid, but say I wanted to get a different kind of cereal than what I typically get, I feel anxiety looking at all the different choices and trying to choose one. What is wrong with me? It's so ridiculous!
I totally understand your feelings. I was very shy as a child and anxious as a teen. I don't date either because I figure I don't do anything fun so I wouldn't have anything to talk about.
I had my first Clinical major depression when I was about 20. I couldn't function at all. Couldn't talk to people, eat, or even leave my room. Just laid in bed basically for weeks at time. I was too anxious to leave my apartment and didn't have the motivation to shower, eat, brush my teeth or even turn on the TV.
I have had low self-esteem issues for most of my life and a lot of up and downs in my moods, but the medications I am on now have eased the depression and (mostly) eliminated the anxiety. I still have some self-esteem issues that I am working on with a counselor, but when I was in my 20s I too felt very worthless and wondered why I bothered existing.
Don't give up on the therapy and medications. Most therapists have worked with many people who have the symptoms as we have, but if you find that your are not able to talk to or feel comfortable with your therapist, ask for a referral to someone else. I tried about 3 therapists before I found one I was comfortable around and eventually able to trust. I try to think of my depressions, anxiety, and self-esteem issues as symptoms of my disorder. They do not define who I am as a person or my worth as a person.
As for the meds, they are very fickle. Every medication and/or combination of meds work differently (and have TOTALLY different side effects) for different people. I tried many different meds and combinations of meds over the past 14 years. Some worked (but had side effects I wouldn't tolerate) and many didn't. I have again found something that is working for me (and without any side effects that I have noticed yet). Don't give up if one or more doesn't work for you. I understand how impossible it seems for anything to ever get better, but hang in there.
Also, if you psychiatrist hasn't informed you, it can take 4-6 for an antidepressant to show signs of improvement in your moods and feelings. It is a long process, but worth it in the end. If things get to where you are thinking about death or hurting yourself even more, there are suicide hot-lines out there. Ask your doc or therapist or find one on the internet. In the US, try 1-800-SUICIDE.
Don't let your mom or other people in your life prevent you from continuing with your treatment. People who have not had depression or anxiety don't understand what it feels like for us, so sometimes you just have to let go of those that make you feel worse for a time. At least until you are feeling more stable and in control of your symptoms.
I hope this post hasn't completely overwhelmed you, but I just want you to understand that all of us in the Mood Disorders Forum have felt the way you feel. And that doesn't make any of us less worthwhile than any "normal" person. We all understand and want to help, so keep coming back here when you need to.
Thank you for taking time to respond. It does help knowing that people have gone through something similar to what I'm dealing with. That doesn't mean that I still don't feel like the most screwed up person there is. I often times feel like there is something wrong with me mentally and emotionally that seperates me from other people, and that nothing is going to help me. Sure talking to the counselor makes me feel better, though very temporary I should add, but how is just talking going to fix anything? I have a feeling medication is never going to get me to the point where I feel confident in myself and my decisions. Yeah, I'm very pessimistic.
It's just that people keep telling me to live in the present moment - but what if where you are now seems so wrong and is not where you want to be? I'm either depressed and having regrets over my past choices and mistakes or worrying about my future. The here and now isn't too pleasant as I keep wondering where the time went and how I let things get to this point Even though I'm aware that worrying about it isn't going to make things different, I still feel like I need to do so. If I don't keep thinking about it I'm just going to stay stuck in the same trap I've been in for 10 years now. Wasting each day, no forward progress, and not getting any closer to the things I want out of life. I don't want that to ever feel comfortable! It's frustrating to not be working toward any goals and to not have any plans at all. I really have nothing to get excited about in my life.
I find that so many of the people I meet with have the same feeling that they have to worry about problems, and, often, that they have to criticize themselves for their failures, in order to move forward. But having tried that as a motivational strategy for years, many of them find that it works better for them to devote more energy and effort to acceptance and that that can unleash some energy for change.
Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming a Person, wrote -
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change."
I know, it seems strange but it might be worth considering.
Today has been a really rough day. There is so much stuff going on in my life that I'm really letting get to me right now. Thursday I had a meeting at the local community college to go over my options. I've discussed my anxiety issues with them as taking public speaking is going to be impossible for me. They seemed willing to work with me and I'm supposed to get my psychiatrist to write a letter to them. Never can I feel good about anything. While I do want to go back to college, and know that it is really necessary if I ever want to be able to live out on my own, I'm so afraid. We talked about me possibly just taking one class this semester but I don't know if I can handle it or not. I'm scared I won't be able to then I will feel like even more of a failure than I do now. Writing papers totally stresses me out as I feel like everything I say sounds completely stupid. I feel like the work I do is never good enough and that stresses me out.
My assignment for this week, from my counselor, was to write down 10 things I like about myself. That has proven to be an extremely difficult task for me. So far, I've only managed to write down one but had to tack something negative to it. I really don't like myself. Nothing is fun for me anymore. I worry about how will I ever support myself on the income I make currently. I live with my Dad and he doesn't seem to have a problem with it at all but is it fair to him to have a 26 year old still living at home? For the last couple weeks I'm having some difficulty sleeping. Last night, I dreamed that my Dad died and woke myself up crying and I was sitting up in my bed, it was weird. I just wish that there was an easy way or clear-cut answers on how to deal with my problems. Like do x,y, and z and you will be okay. It doesn't seem to work that way.
One thing you could consider putting on that list is that you are a very good communicator. I can tell by your posts you have above average writing skills.
It is so important to reach out. It means being vulnerable. Pouring your heart out to some stranger is a bit of an odd experience but worth it.
I am bipolar type 2 so I have a lot of mood swings. More into depression than to hypomania (inappropriately energized). I went through a very severe episode that was hypomania and depression combined. My moods would change daily. That sapped all my self esteem and I began to hate myself for who I'd became (I already had poor self esteem). The cycling stopped but the self esteem issues remained. I became so frightened to live I holed myself up. I wouldn't go outside for days except to let the dog out, I wouldn't bathe, I wasn't working, I had become a gross disgusting hermit. It was only by going through a four week outpatient hospital program that I was able to start the journey towards sanity. And let me tell you - I was not happy to be going to the 'mental hospital' but I saw it as my last hope and in many ways it was.
I've decided that I don't want to live hating myself. I am sick and tired of hating myself but I don't know how to stop it on my own. I just started seeing a psychiatrist. She seems nice and I am hopeful. I am also trying to put in place what I learned at Day Hospital. It was pretty intensive and I was so sick that I missed a lot. But they gave out many handouts so I can go back over it.
I am 36 years old and I have lost almost everything. I had had a career at a prestigious hospital and made good money. When I was ill we had to cash in pension money so we could eat. We have no savings and very little pension and maxed out credit cards. Now I am working part time at minimum wage and I barely make enough to pay for groceries. I am not certain I will ever be able to work full time again. Things really suck but I am hopeful they will get better. It will be a lot of small steps though. Lots of small steps. It is overwhelming but I will get there - I hope.
As for love - don't count it out. Once you start to heal - and you will start to heal because you want to heal, you'll feel more like putting yourself out there. The internet is a really good way to get to know someone. Just like the bar there are a lot of trolls, but there are a few princes. I met my husband that way - and I was the only girlfriend he had ever had (he was in his 30's). Myself I married the first guy that asked and ended up in an abusive marriage - there are worse things than being single. Just like feeling better about yourself dating takes practise. It is not too late.
Maybe you should try some spiritual guidance...just a thought please don't take it offensively...it worked for me when I was suicidal...Started going to a church...felt welcomed and accepted just as I was...which made a huge difference because if how lonely I felt...heard alot if inspiring messages of being loved and accepted...it changed my life...if you don't believe in the existance of God or anything than please trust that Im not trying to offend you...ok? Keep your head up girl...I'm 21 and felt the same way as you...even with the whole being stuck with one job...it's hard...I know...
I want to thank all of you for your inspiring contributions to this discussion.
There are many paths to recovery from depression. Sometimes it seems that there are so many choices that the question of what to do can feel overwhelming. But I do firmly believe, and it is also my experience, that if you decide that you are going to get there then you make it.
The people that I find have trouble reaching wellness are often those who so start with many conditions on how they want to get there. "I don't want to take medications" or, equally commonly in my practice, "psychotherapy just isn't for me." And it isn't that they are necessarily wrong, it is that the most important decision is deciding to do what it takes to get well.
So, I agree with lindahand that if you are committed to getting well you will get there.
By the way, have any of you had trouble posting new questions? A couple of folks I know tried to post a question without success and I wanted to pass on problems to our tech support folks.
Thanks to everyone for their advice and support. I think I am committed to making changes so hopefully this is all going to work out for me. After 10 years of doing nothing, wasting my life away, at least I'm trying something now. Yeah, I do question whether medication will help but I'm still taking it. As for psychotherapy, still going to it, I think it has helped some but talking about my issues and then doing something about them are entirely different.
Dr. Forster - No one can ask new questions because there isn't a button/link to post questions at the top of the page like there is in the other forums.
A bit of an update - I signed up for a business class at the local community college yesterday! Decided to ease back in and just take an online class in something I'm interested in. Hopefully they are going to help me with the public speaking class which is what I'm most fearful of.
Thank you! While I'm excited about it I, of course, am scared at the same time. Not only of not being able to handle it and failing, but also of things going well - then, where would I go from there? Instead of taking the classes I keep putting off - ones that would cause me the most anxiety - I decided to take something that I like. It's been 2-3 years since I last enrolled there but in all business related courses I've taken, I've made straight A's - so, hopefully I'll be able to do the same with this class. It frustrates me that I know I have the ability to do well but a couple classes continue to hold me back. I have paper writing anxiety and, also, extreme fear of public speaking.
Those two phobias are very common. In fact, I had the same fear of public speaking when I was in my early 30's but found myself in a job that required me to give lectures to large audiences and discovered that I had the ability to do so and, in fact, got pretty good at it.
Dr. Forster - Thank you for all the time you have taken to respond to my numerous posts. I really appreciate your support and advice. Your comments have been very helpful. You mentioned your fear of public speaking, did your getting comfortable with it come with just getting used to it through experience?
The last time I even attempted speaking in front of a class was 7 years ago now. I somehow made it through the first 2 speeches of the public speaking class I was taking at the time. The third speech was going to be a demostration speech. Well, we drew numbers to see who would go on what day. I prayed to please let me draw any day but day 1, that way I would be able to at least see how other people did with their speeches. Of course, out of 30 people, I ended up being the 2nd person on day 1. I never went back to that class again. Two weeks later, feeling frustrated and like I'd never be able to graduate anyway, I stopped going to all my other classes. At the time I was 19 years old.
After 4 years, I decided to go back. Took accounting classes, economics, business classes, and made straight a's. Once again it got to the point where I had to take public speaking. I put it off until the last semester. This time, all I did was read the course syllabus and then dropped the class.
Now, I'm 26 and considering college again. It scares me because is anything really different than it was the first 2 times? Yeah, I'm taking medication and going to counseling but my self-esteem is still extremely low. I've gotten a letter from my psychiatrist, for the college, stating that I have social anxiety disorder and may need accomodations with my classes. The people at the college say they are going to help me through the public speaking situation. That's not my only problem though, I have lots of anxiety writing papers. Nothing I write ever sounds good enough. I write part of a paper, get frustrated, rip it up, and start again - this lead to me not being able to finish writing the paper. I'm never happy with the work I do. Obviously, the people at the college are only going to be able to help me up to a certain point - they can't write the papers for me or just pass me through.
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