When I tell people I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), they usually assume that I get stressed easily and I don’t know how to handle it.
Yes, I get stressed. I get stressed under any number of circumstances. Unfortunately, this extends to many aspects of my life. I have claustrophobia, social anxiety, trouble sleeping, extreme dizziness, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath on a daily basis. These symptoms are before and after a panic attack. During a panic attack, all these symptoms are elevated, with the addition of new ones. Now, if I could cure it, handle it, or help it in anyway, I definitely would. This is not something I wish to experience. I promise I do not do it for attention, nor do I use it as a way to cope. There is no way to “cure” or “prevent” anxiety or anxiety attacks, and don’t even try to argue with me on this one; controlling or lessening attacks is possible, but it’s not the same thing.
Fortunately, early on in life, I was very self-aware of my symptoms. I was the kid who would get $5.00 from the tooth fairy and go to the grocery store with my mom and freak out over what to spend my money on. I couldn’t decide if I wanted gum, which would last me a decent amount of time, a toy, which would last “forever,” or chips, super delicious but wouldn’t last long. When my parents would take me to get ice cream, I was always the last to order because I couldn’t decide. I would consider all my options with a ridiculous weight. What if I try a new flavor and think I like it, but it gets old quickly and I can’t finish it? What if I try my sister’s and realize I want hers instead? What if I stick with my regular mint chip and regret not trying something new? (This has by no means changed at all, but if pressured, I can easily make last minute decisions…. Don’t give me too much time to consider my options is my advice!) I learned how to stay strong and smile through the pain. I believe I can control my anxiety, and I have not given up hope that I truly will one day.
I remember when I was in third grade, I went to the nurse’s office with the worst headache my seven-year-old self had ever experienced. I was crying, holding my head, shaking, shivering, sweating. My mom picked me up and took me to the ER. I had just experienced my first panic attack. By that time, the doctor classified it as a migraine, which still was a lot for my little body (y’all, I was really tiny!), and from that point on, my doctor became my closest confidant, seeing me regularly to monitor my migraines and other symptoms.
I didn’t have another major panic attack until senior year of high school (My parents were great at helping me calm down when I started to get crazy). I was driving home, completely satisfied with my life, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I felt dizzy and couldn’t see straight. Luckily, I snapped out of it quickly, and I immediately made a doctor’s appointment. I had two more that week. My doctor realized I have GAD. He told me to limit the stress in my life and to stop spreading myself so thin. If you know me, you know that is impossible. I am a yes person through and through. If someone somewhere needs my help, I am there! I also have OCD, and these two things combined with my raging migraines make my life a bit of a challenge. I am on medication for it, and I am totally not ashamed.
A huge thing many people with anxiety deal with is shame, which I have none of. I don’t know how I got this way, but I am able to logically walk away from my panic attacks at times (see my blog about balancing logic and emotions). I definitely know that my parents helped me get to a place where I am healthy enough to handle myself, but there are times that I just can’t. I was just in New York, in the middle of Times Square, and I couldn’t control myself when a panic attack hit. I am definitely an extroverted introvert (I can totally talk to people and speak up for myself, but I gain energy from being alone), and I had not been alone for almost a week. I was in the throes of hundreds of tourist families and creepy Elmos. It all became too much; I had been too strong for too long, and I broke. It can happen anywhere, anytime! This makes my life one that is hard to share, and I am a lot of work.
I call this post “living” with anxiety, not “suffering” or “dealing with,” because suffering is not living and dealing with yourself is not necessarily a healthy way to go about living with your flaws or feeling good about yourself. I embrace my downfalls so that I can work with them and control them. Owning up to my flaws allows me to feel more self-confident when I am really down on myself. I have spent my whole life getting to this point. It is not impossible.
Whatever your downfall, your flaw, your negative aspects, I promise you there is a line of people waiting to help you! I have been blessed with so many people in my life who have not only helped me but inspired me and pushed me to better myself even more. The only people who have no hope are serial killers and pervs. Those are not downfalls to embrace. Please don’t. Otherwise, wear your heart on your sleeve and be honest with yourself and everyone in your life! It not only hurts you when you keep your flaws to yourself, but it hurts those around you. Believe in yourself and in your loved ones. If they don’t stick around to see you through your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best! (Someone else said that, but I can’t remember who, so don’t give me credit… I wish). If you say you can’t find anyone to accept you, you aren’t being honest enough.
Here are 6 articles that I have found to be helpful in many ways:
- 31 Secrets of People Who Live with Anxiety
- Anxiety– 11 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know
- 24 Things People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Want You to Know
- A Letter to Husbands: Three Ways to Help Your Wife with Anxiety
- Supporting a Loved One Through PTSD or Panic Attacks
- 20 Struggles You Go Through When You Date Someone with Anxiety