General Anxiety Disorder: A Confession

This is gonna be personal…

So, I have this thing called General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) that I’ve lived with for a very long time though it wasn’t until last year that I received a diagnosis.

I’m lucky in that my GAD doesn’t manifest as panic attacks or some of the other physiological symptoms that other GAD patients struggle with. How it has manifested historically for me though is in near constant fear & doubt – about family, friends, job security, health-you name it. If it can have a worry, I’ll find it, tease it out and worry about it.

My GAD has taken the form of not really trusting that my friends love or care for me. (I’m sorry guys) I’ve worried that they might even hate me at times. (And I should say that they’ve absolutely never ever given me any reason to fear that.) It has taken the form of incessant worries about loved ones and their own personal struggles, or their health. There was even a period of time when my anxiety was hyperfocused on…”supernatural” matters. ๐Ÿ‘ฝ๐Ÿ‘ฝ

I would invent scenarios over which to worry and imagine all the infinite and varied ways that a particular scenario might play out….almost as if out of boredom.

If you’re not careful, GAD can cause you to start believing unreal things because as you imagine, you simultaneously justify. This truly does damage all the real things in your life.

Side bar: I’m what you might call a “believer” in Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics which postulates that anything that can happen, does happen in subsequent, causally related universes…I.E. Parallel Dimensions or Alternate Realities. Because of this, I understand that my worries are, in fact, actually being experienced by “me” in other dimensions….God, I could make a mint in screenwriting.

You might think that because I believe this I would also be firm in the understanding that if my worries are happening “there” they can’t be happening “here.

…Yeah, you’d think that.

GAD can and will absolutely cripple self-confidence because it prevents you from wholly believing in yourself and in any “truth.” GAD patients surf or stumble from perceived half truth to half truth: Honest complements become empty platitudes. Earnest help becomes pity.

It can make dating difficult because people with GAD have a tendency to overthink every word that is spoken to them – squeezing the nuance out of each phrase turning even the most innocent sentence into either a marriage proposal or a wholesale rejection. LoL More likely though is that you miss any signals of interest because you’re too caught up in your own head to catch any of those signals. So, while they’re waiting on you to make the move you’re second guessing if they’re actually interested.

GAD can make it impossible to relax in any meaningful sense of the word and even if you’re able to get a moment of relaxation along comes another worry to worry over. Many turn to alcohol or drug abuse to escape their anxiety only for it to turn back on them with their anxieties multiplied plus a brand new set of issues to deal with.

Uncertainty is not optional. Any level of uncertainty can cause panic. People with GAD come to a complete stop in life. The lucky ones may stay in one job, or with one partner, in one place -regardless of whether or not those situations are good. Those that aren’t so lucky will isolate themselves, crippled by their anxiety, thus loosing their jobs and their friends which has a nasty habit of making all those fears become all too real.

That which is known is reliable, such as it is, and it is the bedrock on which they build a life. They aren’t prone to taking trips or meeting new people. They won’t take risks because they’ve already played out all the ways that any risk could go wrong…it’s simply too risky.

Security is first and foremost.

They say that GAD may be genetic. My family certainly has its share of worriers. But genetics does not equal destiny. Anxiety is as much a learned behavior as it is inherited. When we see our parents worrying over an issue, the natural inclination of a child is to want to help. And so, that child begins to worry in an effort to ease the burden of their parent. Of course, this doesn’t help anything. As in Mathematics, a negative plus a negative is always a negative.

Worry, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps us plan a course of action should the need arise. However, where other people are able to put those plans aside and stop their worry, those with GAD just keeps the worry train moving and all the sudden one tiny little nothing of an interaction because a personal indictment or worse, a world ending event.

It’s irrational fear built upon irrational fear. Before long, you’re living in a mansion built of fears.

Our bodies become addicted to the chemicals (read: emotions) these fears create and as it becomes adjusted, more fear is required. At that point, the body is in control, making emotional demands on an already exhausted mind. These neurochemical demands often lead to severe depression and can ultimately result in suicide.

“Right minded” people have a tendency of judging those who’ve committed suicide as being selfish. That’s understandable from a survivors point of view but imagine what it might be like to live out your worst nightmares…now, imagine living your worst nightmares over and over and over and over. That’s what it’s like for people with severe anxiety. Is it any wonder then that they make the choice they make?

I’m not arguing that it’s the right choice. Help is always available if only they can see it.

I’ve been in that dark place before and I was lucky.

When I was diagnosed I was adamant that I would not treat it with pills. That is not to say that medication doesn’t help. I’m sure it does and for people with more severe anxiety disorders, I’m certain that it’s necessary. For me, it just wasn’t an option I was willing to explore. I needed behavioral modification techniques that I could learn quickly and mindfulness leapt out as a promising aide in the fight.

I’ve written about meditation and mindfulness here before and you can read them here, and here.

Anxiety is largely caused by a habitual practice of living in and making judgements about the past or the future. Mindfulness is the practice of living non-judgmentally in the HERE & NOW and more often than not, our HERE & NOW is ok. And even though mindfulness won’t heal or cure chronic anxiety, it can help create some space between the sufferer and the condition.

Our friends at mindful.org have written this to introduce people to the practice of mindfulness and how can be of benefit to people who suffer from chronic anxiety.

Something that’s also extremely helpful: exercise! That’s a blog topic for another day.

If you also suffer from an anxiety disorder I want you to know that I understand and insofar as I’m able, I’m willing to listen. I will say that since I’ve begun practicing mindfulness, the quality of my life has dramatically improved and that’s because the quality of my mind has improved. That’s not to say that my anxiety doesn’t get triggered. It does; however, because I’m more mindful now, I’m able to catch those fears when they arise and deal with them in more holistic ways rather than chasing after them. And so can you.

#nomorefear

Om, Baby! Om,

Joshua T.

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