I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it's incredibly misunderstood. Psychology Today states that 6.8 million American adults have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and that it is much more than the "normal anxiety" people experience. It often comes on with no real rhyme or reason, and can be completely debilitating sometimes. Physical symptoms can occur such as trembling, headaches, irritability, hot flashes, lightheaded, and trouble sleeping. Personally, I was glad to have this diagnosis, because it finally gave me a name for what I was going through and reassured me it wasn't just me creating more problems for myself.
So many people experience day to day anxiety and the word anxiety is thrown around more often. Everyone is anxious over some things, that's normal. Big tests, first date nerves, bills, pressure to meet a job deadline…anxiety happens. My anxiety takes a nastier approach, though. I'll give you one example of a thought process that has happened before. I could be having a great day but then start feeling hungry and go to my kitchen to look for something to eat and remember I'll need to grocery shop soon, and then it starts to spiral for no reason. Ugh I have so many bills I hate spending money on groceries. Should I pick up overtime at work this month to make more money so I stop worrying? Should I get a second job? No that's silly my job pays my bills, I love my job, why overwork myself? I really work too hard. Why am I so stressed out all the time? Compared to other people I'm in a great place. But it's not about comparison its where I feel like I should be. And I'm not there yet. Why am I still not there yet? I wonder if my friends think less of me because I'm older than them and they are graduating and I still haven't? Should I go back to school? No, you have a great job and you know school isn't for you. It's just more stress. Maybe you should take a hot bath and light a candle and do a face mask? Self-care would help right now. Wow I have a migraine again. I wish people understood when I say migraine it's not just a headache like I feel this down my neck. I need to drink more water. My skin would clear up if I drink more water. God my skin is usually clear I hate getting anxious and having it pop out on my face. And if I drank more water maybe I'd feel healthier. Do people think it's pathetic that I still haven't lost the weight I want to? If I was skinnier I'd probably be less stressed. All of this from me feeling hungry and needing to make dinner. WHY!? Because generalized anxiety disorder doesn't make sense, so taking one thing and spiraling out of control happens a lot. I could be having a great day, nothing would be wrong, and suddenly I'd start thinking of why are things so good and what could go wrong? It's terrible.
Please never mistake my generalized anxiety disorder for "normal anxiety". Please never mistake it for insecurity. People will often times tell me to be more confident and trust in things, but it's not at all that I don't. I have to say that my confidence in myself has never been higher. I trust in the process of life and that things happen exactly when they're supposed to. My anxiety disorder apparently makes it appear otherwise though, so for that I'm sorry. I feel the need to apologize for people not understanding, which shouldn't have to be the case. I'm beyond grateful for people in my life who continuously love me and try to understand what it must be like for me.
Anxiety disorders are controlled by your brain, but they don't have to control your life. I have to actively work on it every day. While most times I don't know what triggers it, I learn how to recognize the signs of it starting to happen, and how to deescalate it. I don't fully understand my generalized anxiety disorder, so it's hard for me to ever expect someone else to. But all I can ask is those around me be aware and sometimes it's honestly the littlest things that can calm me down. Say "I'm here.", "I'm listening" , hug me and hold me for a minute before letting go. Everyone who lives with an anxiety disorder is affected in different ways. If you don't know what to say or how to help, ask them what they need.
There are plenty of medications out there for people living with anxiety disorders, and everyone is different in their approach to helping ease the pain of anxiety. I, personally, have tried medications but currently work on controlling it myself. I feel strong, empowered, and capable of taking it on without medication. Everyone is different. Just because I choose to not use medication, doesn't mean that doctors don't suggest it for me. Anxiety disorders are often times due to wiring in the brain. Medication can help reprogram that. I am a strong advocate for people who choose to take medication for their anxiety. It is a medical condition: if you are sick, you take medicine. It's nothing to stigmatize and shame people for.
I'm not asking anyone to understand what I go through, because it isn't always the same picture I painted today. I'm just trying to bring about awareness. Anxiety is a word commonly used, but anxiety disorders are rarely talked about. Awareness is the first step to healing. For anyone living with anxiety, and for anyone close to someone with anxiety.