What It's Like Having An Anxiety Disorder
Health and Wellness

OK Fine, I'll Say It — I Have An Anxiety Disorder

It's not an uncommon thing, so why do I feel like I'm the only one?

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Lauren Gherna

For many years, I've done my best to hide this from most of the world. I don't know that it worked because I definitely let this get the best of me from time to time, but it was very important to me to keep this fact a secret. As a teenager especially, I felt that my peers would judge me and choose to see me as nothing more than this one part of me that I have very little control over. Now as a college student, I'm learning just how common this is and I'm sick of trying to hide — it's too much work that's not worth the effort.

So, here I go: I have generalized anxiety disorder with depression.

I can't believe I'm officially sharing this, but I think it's time. After all, 1 in 5 American adults yearly for a total of about 15 million Americans, men and women alike. It's scary to know there's something wrong with your mind that's making you sad and upset about almost everything in your life. My thoughts literally take things I notice and twist them into things they're not—like what is that?! I do myself dirty all the time, and I just can't stop.

My anxiety symptoms take a toll on a lot of my relationships. I get irritated with my family about the littlest things because my brain is telling me everyone around us is judging us. I cling onto friends so hard that they want nothing more than to be rid of me after a while. Luckily, I've been blessed with an understanding family and friends who accept me as I am, no matter what.

When I get depressed — this happens once every year or so — I lose months of my life at a time. It doesn't cripple me as bad as it does for many others, but all I can do is panic and convince myself I hate myself. It's a very difficult thing to deal with, especially because I know what I'm telling myself isn't true. My brain just doesn't like to believe what it knows is fact—it would rather just listen to the depression.

I've recently been able to accept that anxiety is an inevitable part of my life and have gotten used to talking about it. However, that doesn't change that I feel shame for being on anti-depressants and going to talk to a therapist. Society makes me feel like medicine + therapy = crazy, even though I know that's not the case. As silly as it is, I hide my face as I walk into therapy and try not to make a production out of taking my medicine in public. It's not fair that I feel this way—it's out of my control that my brain doesn't work the same way as everyone else's.

In my research, I came across a quote that really struck me. Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Pine once said, "Anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable mental health problems we see. Still, for reasons we don't fully understand, most people who have these problems don't get the treatments that could really help them."

Y'all, why are we suffering in silence?

Why are we passing so much judgment on 20 percent of our nation instead of encouraging everyone to get better? I hope that by sharing my story, someone somewhere recognizes that it's OK to get help. If my one drop in the bucket can change someone else's life, that'll be enough for me.

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