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.