While a teenager, I noticed something different about me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was, though. Eventually, trying to figure it out and keeping it to myself became debilitating. I found that I could never rest or relax and I lived with never ending fear, worry, and a tight chest (not the sexy kind). I had no control my thoughts. Uncontrollable thoughts sometimes lead to uncontrollable actions. It was odd. It was anxiety.
I was unintentionally making life hell for those close to me. Unwanted mood swings and depression were a common occurrence. I was destroying my relationship with friends, my girlfriend at the time, and family. Eventually, I found a crutch of over-the-line humor and superficial happiness. It helped though it never solved anything. As anyone in my position would do, I began to hit the internet seeing if anyone else dealt with this. It appeared that what I was going through was familiar, though not necessarily standard.
You see, I have a General Anxiety Disorder. In a broad sense, I worry about things that will, most likely, never happen. I am also Obsessive Compulsive. The things that worry me get placed on a “mental carousel” that never stops spinning. It turns the same thoughts ‘round and ‘round. I can’t just flip a switch to put it out; I wish I could. Here are some quick, petty examples of what an average day looks like:
- My brain can’t stop if I think I’ve left a door unlocked. My stomach will turn until I check it multiple times. Not typically out of concern for personal belongings, but other’s belongings.
- When driving and focusing on anything other than the road for even a second, brings a panic I’ve hit someone/something. I’ll trek back in a circle multiple times to make sure everything is okay.
- I’m always scared that I have a disease, or illness, even if said thing is impossible for me to get.
- I’m always scared that every single action in my life is offensive, or straining, to relationships I have with friends, family, and strangers.
- I fear emails because obviously, the only reason someone would email me is to tell me something awful has happened.
- Sometimes I’m anxious when I don’t even know why.
When this happens, it actually can become very debilitating. It becomes hard to communicate with people. I was, at times, hyper-ventilating. I lose the ability to focus. The worst part about all of it is the feeling of guilt I have for worrying about this stuff. I feel like I’m giving myself too much attention, and not those around me.
People have told me, many times; it’s because I’m not ‘trusting God’ with it enough. Meh- that comes across like an ordinary southern culture of “praying for you/pray about it” so the person doesn’t have to get involved with your problems. I tried praying for years for this to go away and it just doesn’t. As a Christian, I’m not downplaying God; I just believe that sometimes God wants me to take other action.
Medication, commonly recommended as the solution, I consider hit and miss advice for me. The first medicine I took made me infuriated, and I stopped taking it after a week. The second medication I took sent me to the hospital with priapism. The next medicine I tried caused my heart to do weird things. I stopped taking it too. Finally, I’ve started on a medication that helps me quite a bit. It, like any other drug, doesn’t fix it but it helps me control it.
The real help for me came when I also started to see an amazing counselor. He changed my life. I would say that was one of the most important parts of my journey with anxiety. I could tell him all the crazy things that go through my head, and leave his office feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. He has also taught me the power of breathing exercises. Anytime I start to go into a panic attack, I just lay back and breathe.
It’s 2015 (updated 2016), and I’ve come quite far. I’m learning to separate the anxiety from the average. The medicine helps with the smaller, day-to-day worries. Whenever things get bad, I know to see my counselor. When I sense anxiety or a panic attack coming on, I take the time to breathe and fight what’s happening.
I don’t think you every entirely defeat the condition; you just learn how to control it. If anything, remember It’s okay if you experience anxiety/mental illness. You’re not alone.