The Truth About Anxiety
Learning the truth about Anxiety Disorder can help you and your loved ones. Understanding how they feel is so important when helping your loved one get through it. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel extremely worried or feel nervous about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.– National Institute of Mental Health
Each of us worries. Being late, public speaking, break ups, relationship – you know, life stuff. Most people get through it, and your nerves settle as you breathe that sigh of relief. You can feel your anxiety leaving your body, and putting the event behind you. That sign of relief. I crave it so much. Because the truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is that when you’re living with the mental illness, that sigh of relief you feel? Well, it never comes for us.
What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
GAD is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.– Mental Health America Association
What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?
GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:
- Worry excessively about everyday things
- Have trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
- Know that they worry much more than they should
- Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
- Have a hard time concentrating
- Be easily startled
- Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Feel easily tired or tired all the time
- Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
- Have a hard time swallowing
- Tremble or twitch
- Be irritable or feel “on edge”
- Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
- Have to go to the bathroom a lot
Children and teens with GAD often worry excessively about:
- Their performance, such as in school or in sports
- Catastrophes, such as earthquakes or war
Adults with GAD are highly nervous about everyday circumstances
- Job security or performance
- The health and well-being of their children
- Being late
- Completing household chores and other responsibilities
Children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.
The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.
My story of what an anxiety attack feels like.
It’s been a long hard journey, and it’s only just begun.
My illnesses are chronic, which means they will be with me my entire life.
Incurable diseases, of my brain.
The same brain that controls our movement. The organ which processes all of our thoughts and sensory information like sound, touch, sight, feels, and smells coming in. NCBI states that the conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are also produced here. Our brains are responsible for keeping our bodies alive and functioning in the world. Speech, listening/hearing, our intelligence and memory all rely on how our brains function. Do you see how having a brain disease might impair one’s abilities?
It’s called an invisible illness for a reason. No one can see it, except me.
Content in this article contains first hand experience of generalized anxiety disorder, mental illness, and suicidal idealization which some readers may find triggering or upsetting. If you need support at anytime, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOM
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The Truth About What Anxiety Feels Like
My Story; From inside my head
I can feel it. My anxiety. All. The. Time. Day or night. Awake or asleep. It’s always there. My anxiety. The comorbid disease that frequently comes hand in hand with other mental illnesses which exasperates them further. Physically, I can feel pounding in my forehead, pressure building behind my eyes. Rolling waves of nausea in my stomach. Tension in my shoulders/neck. I’m home on my couch, safe, warm, fed, grateful for the comforts I have, that so many around the world don’t. I’m in a quiet office space surrounded by friendly faces. A family gathering. Traveling on a silent flight. Anxiety is right there with me.
My mind is rapidly filling up with fear as I learn the truth of what is happening. Like spiders crawling on my skin, as if they are trying to get inside my gut. Alarms are going off in my head as heat is signaling my body to make adrenaline . More. More. Make more! Nobody sees me. For those on the outside looking in, they see a pretty girl with a small smile looking back at them with no indication of the pain she is in. It’s growing. The fear. It’s growing and I’m not sure why or what is causing it which brings on more fear.
Now I’m panicking. How can someone stop something if they don’t know what it is. Or what’s causing it? Its growing stronger, the fear. Sounds like a buzzing inside my brain. Getting louder, and louder. It’s so noisy, I can’t hear anything else over it. It’s like someone stuck bee’s inside my ears! Do you hear it too?! No, of course you don’t. It’s just me, I’m here alone in this hell where no one can save me.
What Anxiety Attacks Feel Like
Then it hits me. It’s HIM – my Anxiety. I can feel the panic creeping through my veins and my vision getting blurry, so I close my eyes. My conscience has caught up with what my body has been saying. I’m under attack. Again. Fuck. Can I protect myself from him hurting me again? Pretending he’s not there doesn’t work; it just makes him angry. The punishment- unbearable pain delivered at his next intrusion. There is always a next time. He’s always there just waiting for the opportunity to take over.
So, I decide to confront him this time. I stop trying to function in reality, no longer comprehending what is happening around me or where I am in the real world. I’ve checked out, I’m no longer there. I’ve disappeared inside myself so I can listen to what my body is trying to tell me.
PROTECT YOURSELF. YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK.
Learn the truth. Don’t fall for his tricks.
Anxiety greets me, welcoming me with a fiery hot embrace I did not consent to. He loves it when I visit, because he knows he can manipulate me, that I fear him and what he is capable of.
His interrogation starts and I try not to let him win as my mind races with his questions of what if’s. Too often he answers for me, not giving me the opportunity to consider the probes or determine their validity.
The Anxiety Interrogation
What if you didn’t take that promotion?
You would never have failed. You lost everything! Your healthcare, a salary, and your safety net of security, no? You really *ucked that one up didn’t you.
Tell the truth, what if you had started treatment sooner?
You wouldn’t be jobless and pathetic.
What if you called your mom, and gave her the forgiveness she hasn’t asked for?
She would laugh in your face and say you’re overreacting, AGAIN. It’s not going to fix anything so why bother even trying.
What if you swallowed the whole bottle of pills instead of just your daily amount?
You could be rid of me forever. You’d like that wouldn’t you?
What if you just stopped taking your medicine all together?
What’s the worst that can happen? Do you WANT to take medication your whole life? I know you hate it. Just stop taking it!
I know what comes next. He always saves them for last, because he knows they are the questions that destroy me. He WANTS to break me, to see me struggle while trying to hide him from the world. He smiles wickedly as he asks, and I go ice cold as the goosebumps spread across my body. No. Stop.
Do you know what you will do if Logan dies and never came home?
You might as well just submit to us, and kill yourself at that point, you’ll never survive once depression and bipolar get here and you know it. So just kill yourself. It will take away the pain.
Have you thought about what will happen when Chala dies than leaves you forever?
Chala is getting old. It could happen any day now, and you’ll be alone all day. Left with just me and my friends.
The straw that broke the camel’s back. My anxiety won this time and now, it’s time to run. Run. FASTER or he’ll catch you! You’re not strong enough to fight him off today! I can feel the ice cold shot of adrenaline as it shoots through me.
Fight or Flight
As I run to escape, my heart starts beating. Faster and faster, as if I’m running a marathon. Now I’m sweating as my skin warms from the heat that is burning me from the inside. out . The last two questions always bring me to tears. For as long as I can remember, he has been there. Just waiting for the right time to make an appearance. He knows how much water the seeds he planted need to grow. Oh, will they grow. Like vines twisting themselves around my brain and suffocating me. I’m drowning as fear once again breaks me.
I run back to reality to remind myself that it was literally “all inside my head”. Big hot rolling tears of despair and terror wet my face as my nose starts running and my eyes turn red. But anxiety is strong, and he will follow me into reality.
What will I do? How will I survive? Do I even want to survive? The crying turns to sobbing. My head hurts more.
**3 minutes later***
As I try to stealthily wipe away the tears and quickly blow my nose, I feel sick. Just STOP IT! I yell at myself. People are going to notice! STOP CRYING! I take a few deep breaths. Turning my camera phone on I check the mirror. Yep, hair still looks good, eyes a little puffy but that’s ok, just put your head down and pretend like you’re sleeping. No one will know. As I pull my head up, I plaster a smile on my face and push everything down. The anxiety, my fear, that feeling of dread, the tightness in my chest, my mind screaming at me. Just keep pushing. My body feels heavy as I push the last of the weight off my shoulders and deep deep down into the depths. After the war I had just fought (and lost) the feeling of exhaustion hits me in every inch of my being.
“Why are you so tired?” people ask.
“All you do is sleep!” people say.
“You’re ALWAYS sick.” someone once said.
. . . .
That’s all I can muster as the last of my energy is drained and I fight off the exhaustion.
Helping Your Loved Ones
To understand how your loved ones with generalized anxiety disorder are feeling you need to learn the truth about the illness and what you can do to help them make it through is so important. When I write about my experiences with mental illness, I try to put my feelings and thoughts into a way that is easier for healthy readers to understand.
How do you describe an illness when the pain is caused from your own brain’s thought patterns and feelings? After telling my stories or how I’m feeling figuratively, it seems to resonate with others more. It helps me as well. Putting feelings into words can be difficult, but it’s also healing. You have to put yourself in a very vulnerable place to share these experiences with your readers. Writing down my stories is one of the ways I heal myself, and trust me- there are some stories I wouldn’t dare share with you. My depression and bipolar 2 disorders amplify my anxiety, and very frequently work together to make me as miserable as they possibly can. Good thing I have a good sense of humor 😉
If you, or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, please talk with somebody. Help is available. For U.S. residents speak with someone today by available 24 hours a day..
Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline