Anxiety

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was first diagnosed when I was 18, but I’ve experienced the symptoms since I was a child. The main symptom of GAD is “the almost constant presence of worry of tension, even when there is little or no cause.” (Learn more here.)

I’m never not worried. When one problem has been resolved, another thought springs to mind. Paid all the bills this month? You’ll have to pay them next month. Figured out the playlist for this week’s show? I don’t know what to make for dinner. Found a cute skirt at the thrift store to match that tank top you like? Something, somewhere is not right. It doesn’t really even matter what I’m worrying about, because I worry about EVERYTHING. It is the most obnoxious thing in the world, and it’s my entire life. For the past year, it’s been getting worse, since my incredibly limited income is not stable. I feel slightly useless for being unemployed, and slightly cheated by my master’s program. I have a lot of things that could be worried over.

I don’t have insurance, so I’ve been off medication for a few years now. I was doing alright without meds for a while, and now I think they could be beneficial again. Worry sneaks up on you. Since it’s such a part of my mindset, I don’t even notice when I’m doing it. Lately, I feel like I do nothing but worry.

If you tell me not to worry… that’s the last thing I want to hear. Oh, okay. Just stop. Just like that. Done! I’m fixed. Sorry, everyone. That’s not how it works: Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a chemical imbalance in my brain that does not allow me to relax ever, and it makes functioning like a normal human being really hard sometimes.

There is a huge stigma about mental illness in this country, and I’m (of course) worried about backlash from this. People who know me well know that I have anxiety problems, so that’s not news to you. But to everyone else: this is real. It’s not something I’m making up. I try to relax. I take bubble baths. I read books. I eat chocolate and drink wine. Always, always, always there is a nagging feeling and tension in my whole body, which makes my other medical problem, scoliosis, even worse.

My anxiety is exacerbated by confusion and lack of information. I get pretty paranoid pretty quickly. If I get an email that says, “I need to talk to you ,” I will assume the sender hates me and wants to talk to me so they can tell me how much I suck at life. I will continue panicking until I actually find out what the topic of discussion is going to be. For my sake, and the sake of everyone with GAD, please stop being cryptic in emails, world. It is the absolute worst.

Something that makes my anxiety better is knowledge. Let’s use an example. When I was in 4th grade, I became incredibly worried about shark attacks, for reasons unknown. I went to the library and started doing research on sharks, shark attacks, and how one can avoid shark encounters. I became an expert. I read all about Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Lady,” an ichthyologist who was a pioneer for women in science. My anxieties and fears turned themselves into interesting things to research. I’m still terrified of sharks, but I know when not to go into the water, and I know the signs of sharks in the area. If you know enough about something, you have the information you need to combat it. That’s why I still do my own weird research on various diseases, wild animal attacks, plane crashes, serial killers, and executions in the United States. Yes, I am strange. Yes, doing research gives me a calm that nothing else can.

So here’s what you can do for me, friends. Give me a topic to research. It will entertain me, distract me, and calm my worried brain. Learning new things is my therapy.

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5 comments

  1. I find the American space program in the 50’s 60’s pretty intriguing.

    The people, the competition and the innovation of it. I find it amazing that people landed on the moon with a machine with the computing power of a freaking calculator.

    Kind of bends your mind a little. It makes me think anything is possible.

  2. People are sometimes the same about depression: “Just be happy” or “You have nothing to be depressed about” were some of the comments I’ve gotten to deal with over the years, so I can empathize with how it feels to not be understood.

    I’m horrible at topic ideas, but I’ve always been curious about morbid things and morbid people. It’s cliche, but I have this surface fascination with Charles Manson. I want to understand how someone can take people and situations and make them do things they might not normally do.

  3. Right there with you on feeling cheated by the master’s. And on the not being understood thing, too. I understand that people mean well when they give advice that you know absolutely won’t help, and I understand your frustration with it.

    Jim Jones and the People’s Temple is endlessly fascinating to me. And the African wild dog. And Frank Lloyd Wright. Go forth and research. Hope it helps, and good luck.

  4. I was recently diagnosed with situational depression (luckily mostly cleared up after lots of therapy) and an anxiety disorder; I totally hear you on the stigma of mental illness. I also find learning about things that I’m scared of to be helpful, but taking that first step actually makes me even more nervous at times. So, what I’ve started doing is just researching things I’ve recently read a novel about; it takes that “first step” out because I already accidentally took it by reading a novel (which also calms and centers me and has been a coping mechanism in my situation.) Things I’ve gotten into recently:
    –Romanovs and the fall of Imperial Russia
    –keeping backyard chickens
    –becoming an expat/expat life in Europe

    Good luck! You’re not alone in this struggle and we’re all rooting for you. :)

  5. I was recently diagnosed with situational depression (luckily mostly cleared up after lots of therapy) and an anxiety disorder; I totally hear you on the stigma of mental illness. I also find learning about things that I’m scared of to be helpful, but taking that first step actually makes me even more nervous at times. So, what I’ve started doing is just researching things I’ve recently read a novel about; it takes that ”first step” out because I already accidentally took it by reading a novel (which also calms and centers me and has been a coping mechanism in my situation.) Things I’ve gotten into recently:
    –Romanovs and the fall of Imperial Russia
    –keeping backyard chickens
    –becoming an expat/expat life in Europe

    Good luck! You’re not alone in this struggle and we’re all rooting for you. :)

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