That was the opening line on an article I read recently that perfectly described me. Because I too, have been anxious since I was a child and until a few years ago, I did not know I had G.A.D. (Generalized Anxiety Disorder).
It’s the most exhausting thing to live with because I really struggle to control it or rather, not have it overwhelm and control me.
As a young child, I struggled with a spastic colon, I only realized much later on, this was probably as a result of the extreme anxiety I felt almost all the time. We still laugh today, about the silly things I did as a child, it’s just only now that I understand that my idiosyncrasies were because of my anxiety.
Anyone who suffers with G.A.D. will tell you, it’s like having OCD of your thoughts. So if thought pops into my head, I can obsess over it and stress about it until I’ve managed to 100% convince myself that whatever the thought is, is in fact a far bigger deal that what it is in reality.
So as a child, for example, when I started school, I used to freak out when my mother dropped me off, I would scream and cry and be overcome with fear. Then I got this idea in my head that if the teacher left us alone in the classroom, the door would somehow lock and we’d be trapped inside there. As a result, I used to have a meltdown when the teacher left the classroom, eventually, my Sub A (Grade R) teacher found it just easier to take me with her.
It was only when I started getting older that I learned to have some measure of control over these thoughts that would send my anxiety spiralling out of control.
I think some of my previous fears and phobia’s are also related to my anxiety, yes, some of them I have managed to overcome but that was purely by white knuckling my way through and repeating the action enough times to convince my mind that it’s obsessive thought process about a particular thing was unfounded, for example, my fear of flying.
But I literally one thought away from an anxiety related meltdown on an almost daily basis. My depression makes it worse, so it’s easier to cope with when my depression is under control.
But here are a few things I’d like you to know about what it’s like to be me:
My mind is an extremely busy place
I tend to retreat into my head, a lot. It’s busy in there, there is a lot of filing, wrestling and sorting I need to go through on a daily basis. I am constantly working at controlling my thought processes and trying not to allow seemingly insignificant thoughts get me in a knot.
I don’t sleep well – almost ever
Ironically, I do sleep better since becoming a mother, but I think this has more to do with exhaustion. But if I get into bed, and I don’t follow a strict sleep time routine and I allow ONE thought to pop into my head, that’s it, my mind will start to race and I can forget about sleeping. Sunday nights are especially bad for me because this is when I will start thinking about the work week ahead and then my mind races off.
Upsetting imagery or stories stay with me a very long time.
This story for example, still haunts me. It’s been more than a year, but I still find my mind going back there. I still obsess over this, my stomach twists in knots and I feel sick. I’m sure “normal “people have moved on, but I am profoundly affected by disturbing stories and they haunt me for a lot longer than what they do healthy people.
I hate being in large crowds or confined spaces
This is when my anxiety as at an all-time high, I feel not just anxious but like I’m fighting hysteria the entire time. I hate going to concerts or live sports events because being with all those people in a trapped environment pushes my anxiety to the limit.
Routine is EVERYTHING
And any slight change in my daily routine has me all flustered and in a panic. This week I’m on a business trip for a few days, away from my family and my routine which provides me an immense level of comfort. I started struggling with insomnia already on Tuesday and my stomach feels like it’s twisting inside out. Even just getting home from work a little later than normal is enough to make me feel pressurized and panicked.
My anxiety makes me physically ill
Anything from trembling hands to chattering teeth, depending on the level of my anxiety at that particular point. But most common for me is stomach ache and a feeling of adrenalin rush ALL the time. I feel like I’m almost constantly in a state of fight or flight. The worst part is, in the fleeting moments or days when I don’t have that feeling, where I’m not constantly waging a war against my anxiety, I start to get anxious about the fact that I’m not feeling anxious (ja, remember those OCD style thoughts) and then the cycle starts all over again.
Now I know most people would say that everyone feels like this. And sure yes, everyone gets anxious from time to time, but when you have GAD, it’s on a far deeper level, it can prevent normal function. Telling me to calm down doesn’t help either, nor does telling me I’m being ridiculous, because I know I am, but I am fighting with everything in me to control it already.
Yes, I take meds for it, I take a combination drug for depression and anxiety, it helps, a lot. Without it I become frozen, unable to operate in my life, but it doesn’t take away the anxiety completely.
The long and the short of it is, that while all people feel anxious and stressed from time to time, I feel like this almost ALL of the time.
Do you struggle with GAD? I’d love to hear from you.