Our daughter's anxiety disorder went undiagnosed for years. Here's what I wish we'd known.

We knew something wasn't right with our daughter. We just didn't know what was wrong.

As a parent, it can be hard to determine when a child's behaviors fall into "weird but normal" and when something is truly "off." Kids go through phases. They struggle as they figure out their changing minds and emotions. They get nervous or needy for a spell, and then they're okay.

But sometimes they're not okay. Sometimes a phase lasts too long to be a phase, and you have to dig to discover what's really going on.


Our oldest daughter had always had some intermittent nervousness, but nothing extraordinary. As she entered the teen years, she seemed to be more anxious more often, but we figured it was a teen thing. It wasn't until she started withdrawing more and more and avoiding everyday things that we recognized something truly was off.

Long story short, our daughter was suffering from an anxiety disorder called emetophobia—a clinical fear of vomiting. It had evolved to the point where she avoided anything that might possibly make her nauseous, including food and people. We watched our vibrant, fun-loving daughter become a hermit, but since she couldn't verbalize anything having to do with throwing up, it took a long time to figure out what was wrong.

Thankfully, we were able to get her the help she needed once we knew what we were dealing with. But it was a long, hard road and there are many things I wish we had known far earlier in our journey.

Anxiety isn't just one thing, and specific anxiety disorders need to be treated in specific ways.

We had some inkling that our daughter was struggling with anxiety, and we had taken her to a couple of therapists to get help. But they treated her for generalized anxiety, when what she really needed was help with a specific phobia that we didn't know she had.

I wish I had known that anxiety is a category, not a specific disorder. Saying someone has an anxiety disorder is like saying someone has cancer. It tells you what kind of illness they have, but the reality differs greatly depending on what specific manifestation you have. A blood cancer is different from a tumor, which is different from a sarcoma. They're all cancer, but treatments are specific for each kind.

Similarly, there are multiple anxiety disorders from phobias to OCD to panic disorder to PTSD, and symptoms can overlap. It's not always easy to pinpoint the nature of a person's anxiety, but it helps immensely to get the appropriate therapy.

Finding the right therapist and the right therapy is key, and it may take shopping around.

We took our daughter to several therapists with limited success, largely because we didn't understand the exact nature of her anxiety. We had to dig and research a lot ourselves, and it took many discussions with our daughter about what she was experiencing before we discovered that the fear of vomiting was her main issue. When we asked her therapist at the time if he had experience treating emetophobia, she said he had never even heard of it.

I had to call about a dozen different therapists before I found one who said she could help our daughter, but it was totally worth it. Within a few months of therapy, we watched our daughter emerge from her hermit hole and become a happy, functioning human again. It felt like a miracle, but it was really just a matter of figuring out what we were dealing with and finding someone who knew how to help.

I wish we had started earlier. I wish we had known that it might take time to find the right therapist, and to not waste time and money with a therapist who isn't really helping.

Anxiety doesn't get fixed or cured; it gets managed.

Despite feeling like a miracle "cure" in some ways, our daughter's therapy is really just a system of management. Anxiety is a product of an overfunctioning amygdala—the fight or flight center of the brain. Why some people are prone to anxiety is a mystery, but it's not something that gets cured forever.

Most of our daughter's therapy was learning how to manage her thoughts and her brain's responses to certain stimuli. She does that through various thinking exercises and behavioral changes, and since her anxiety disorder is a phobia, through controlled exposure to what scares her as well.

Some anxiety disorders lend themselves well to medication; our daughter's did not. But medication is also a management tool, not a cure. Anxiety takes a combination of approaches to manage, and it's helpful to know from the get go that consistent, ongoing maintenance is required.

Some elements of therapy are totally counterintuitive and force you to go against your parenting instincts.

Some of the things we did in response to our daughter's anxiety—thinking that we were helping her—were actually making things worse.

When I feel nervous about something myself, my first response is to use logic and reason to calm myself down. That works for me because I don't have an anxiety disorder. But an overactive amygdala doesn't respond to logic. Telling my daughter that the statistic probability of a stale chip making her puke was tiny didn't help her anxiety. It didn't even make a dent.

Part of our daughter's cognitive behavioral therapy was her telling her amygdala, which constantly says, "This might make you throw up!" that it might actually be right. The amygdala wants to be heard, or it keeps raising a fuss. She had to learn to say, "Maybe I will get sick, maybe I won't—let's just wait and see what happens." It seemed completely counterintuitive, but it worked wonders.

I wish we had known that too much reassurance on our part was reinforcing her anxiety. We had to refuse to respond when she'd ask us if we thought she was going to vomit. We had to help her stop avoiding the people, places, and things that made her anxious.

We had to let her feel terrified, which was rough.

As a parent, it's your job to keep your child safe and secure. Anxiety tells them that they're not safe even when there's no real danger, and indulging that voice only makes anxiety stronger. So you have to go against your protective instincts. You have to walk your child toward the mirage of fire in their head, even when they're screaming that they're going to get burned. It's brutal, but they have to see that it's just a mirage.

I wish we had known how hard it was going to be, but also what a relief we would feel when therapy started working.

Parenting a child through a mental health crisis is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. So many parents are walking similar paths, feeling helpless and frustrated and unsure of what to do, and not sure who to talk to.

My daughter invited me to share her story in the hopes that others can benefit from our experiences. The more we talk openly about mental health struggles, the more we can help one another through it.

I wish we had known that sooner, too.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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