General Anxiety Disorder
General, adjective: not specific or definite.
Anxiety, noun: a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.
Disorder, noun: a disturbance in physical or mental health or functions; malady or dysfunction.
That’s it. Summarised neatly in the definitions of three words.
Anyone could have found those definitions, though. Displaying them on a page for viewers to read doesn’t prove anything – and what is there to prove? That I have a disturbance of the mind that causes non specific tension..?
General anxiety disorder – something almost taboo to speak of when relating to oneself personally. Because it is a disorder that is shamed? No. Because it being so widespread and voiced online, particulary through bloggers and YouTubers, makes it a dysfunction that seems almost… petty. Fake.
“I suffer from anxiety disorder.” – a statement that causes an instant reaction in the mind of anyone listening… “Jesus Christ… the billionth so called victim of this apparently debilitating disease…”.
It isn’t that anyone disbelieves that GAD is a true illness. They just don’t believe that everyone who claims to have it sincerely suffers to a debilitating extent. Even I sometimes doubt it – it seems so widespread but surely if all those people were to have it, they’d not be able to function at work, at Uni – they’d not be able to be the social butterflies that they are.
No one needs to prove or justify that they have a mental disorder. If they think that they have one, then that should be that. How would everyone know the extent of how much the disorder affects that individuals personal life and besides that, why does it even matter? What does it matter the extent that someone’s disorder hinders them from living a normal life?
I am still hindered by this… “mental disorder”…. I don’t even know that it is a disorder, really. Perhaps some individuals just respond differently at different times in their life. Perhaps some people are more susceptible to fear. Perhaps it is more a personality trait – one that surely is difficult to cope with, but does that make it a disease of the mind? How does one even define a mental disorder? The mind working different from “normal”. No one is normal, everyone is normal. I don’t know.
I don’t remember a time that I didn’t feel this fear. It dies down and it grows, like a flame does. Right now, I have it alright. Sure – I still find it difficult to cope with being in the flat alone… It just feels like… everyone is trying to get in? Does that even make sense? It’s the most uncomfortable feeling. You feel like your “safe place” is under attack by invaders, yet at the same time, know that you are being irrational. You know the chances of anyone even knocking on your door is slim and even if they were to – that it would almost certainly just be to discuss something simple or to pass on some mail or something.
Knowing that doesn’t help in the slightest.
Afraid to hide in the comfort of your headphones in case someone does knock on your door about something crucial. Afraid to not hide away in case someone does knock or call and intrude on your safety.
What are you even afraid of?
Do you hear that?
The sound of voices talking outside your door.
What do they want? Please don’t knock on my door to speak to me… please don’t… please… go away…
I’m not safe until they leave. When will they leave…
Do you feel that?
I feel a presence.
I can FEEL that I am being watched…
Do you see that…?
Nothing. You are ALONE and nobody is watching you. The feeling doesn’t subside.
… My anxiety right now feels like I am constantly being attacked, from all angles, by intruders. It is only a feeling I have when at home or when I’ve just finished a long day at college now. But there is always an underlying feeling of tension. You know when someone makes you jump? Your whole body tenses up, you are in a hyper-alert mode. Every soft sound that occurs sounds more like a crashing disturbance in the harmony of silence that you welcome. GAD is like that. To a much lesser extent for the majority of the time, but still, it is like that. I can feel that my shoulders are tensed and raised and rigid and burning with a continuous ache far more than they should be. But no matter what I do, I can’t make them relax. It’s just how they are. It’s just how I am, how I’ve always been.
It’s far better than it has been in the past. I feel much safer now that I am living with my partner. I failed the first year of my course at University due to it.
My anxiety that year was the year that it has caused me far more troubles than ever before. It started growing slowly. At first it was just a feeling of… loneliness… isolation. The feelings everyone has during their first few days of moving into dorms. As I started to meet new people, my anxiety only grew. These people aren’t like me… I don’t find them that interesting… they can tell I am different… I felt out of place. Again – a feeling that a lot of students feel during their first year of Uni.
This grew quickly and within one week I was at the point where I was too afraid to even cook in the shared kitchen. Whether I KNEW there were people in there or not, I didn’t want to find out.
I’ve never really been afraid of people on a whole. I used to be very shy when I was younger, but now and even during Uni, I would comfortably speak to people when I felt ready to crawl out of my den. Sure, they probably found my responses to their questions to be a little unusual, but I’d speak slowly and with confidence. It was just… a fear of… being seen? A fear of having my privacy attacked? A fear of being different… I don’t know.
I didn’t make any close friends during my first year at Uni. I guess I’m not very good at the whole friends thing. I joined one society – Star Trek Society. That was alright for a bit. I didn’t attend my lectures. I hardly left my room.
Anxiety ruined that year of my life. I did have some great experiences, like, on 3 days of the year, perhaps. Every other day was a blur of me being trapped in my room. I clearly remember waking up in the morning to my alarm, and… being paralyzed. I searched it up later – I think it was a mixture of analysis paralysis and panic attacks. Either way. I would just… be staring, straight up to my ceiling, still. I felt I was going insane. My mind would race. It’s like all of my thoughts were merged and executed at exactly the same moment. What should I do? Do I get up now? Do I get dressed? Do I get myself some food? How do I leave the room if someone else is awake? Do I need to make sure my skin doesn’t look too gross before I leave the room? I need to go to the bathroom… What should I do first? They are all important, I have to do them all and I only have a couple of minutes available to do them in. I had homework – did I do my homework? Is my mother okay? I should check on her. Do I have clean clothes to wear? Which lectures do I have today? Help. Help.
And then… Nothing. Staring up at the ceiling, my mind would just… pause. I’d be frozen. Still. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. Paralyzed by my own pathetic mind. It seems ridiculous, reading it back now. I couldn’t decide whether to pee or eat breakfast, so I froze up? I decided laying in bed would be best?
If you’ve never experienced it, it would be very, very difficult to understand. But that was my reality. My mind had physically disabled me many times – to the extent that I’d just lie awake, in the exact same position, by myself, needing to use the bathroom, thirsty, hungry, for hours and hours.
I had missed so many lectures and practicals, yet I was afraid to face studying at all. It terrified me. The fear that I wouldn’t understand any of the work at all, that I would be so many miles behind my classmates, that I’d realise that catching up would be literally impossible, that I’d realise how I had caused myself to fail that year of my degree.
I remember on one occasion I actually plucked up the courage to book myself a doctor’s appointment at the mental health clinic on campus. I remember trying to pinpoint what was actually wrong with me. At the time, it felt like I was struggling with just about everything. General anxiety, social anxiety, ADD, depression, panic disorder, PTSD, missing home, that my work was too difficult, money problems, worried about family members of mine who were struggling too… I almost walked up to the door of the clinic, when I saw a woman through the window. I panicked and made a U-turn, back to my room.
It damaged my relationship with my partner, too. I felt that I needed his company, always. When he wasn’t visiting, I felt that he simply hated me. That he didn’t care about how I was struggling. That he’d rather pretend I didn’t exist and just focus on progressing in the other areas of his life. Thoughts like that consumed me. He was the only person I could trust, so I’d obsessively wait at my laptop for him to come online, for hours. He was not at fault – mental illnesses warp the victim’s perspective. I didn’t see how he was doing everything he could do to help me.
This is just what General Anxiety Disorder looks like to me. It is different for everybody. It is a continuous up and down struggle in my life. The past year has been far better, one of my better years in terms of anxiety, and for that I am extremely grateful. For others, this will be one of their worst years in terms of anxiety.
I’m 23 and have still never had a conventional job – something that just feels more and more difficult the longer I leave it. I have spent the last 3 years studying 3 different level 3 courses for the same subject (haha…,) and this is my fourth year doing the same.
My anxiety now is mostly social anxiety and paranoia when in the home, that I get overwhelmed after being out of the house for a long time, an intense feeling of loneliness when I’m physically by myself, being constantly on edge and continuously worrying about the possibility of things in my life going wrong.
Checking my bag for my wallet, ID, train tickets, keys and phone 10 or more times in one outing. Fearing that something terrible has happened to my mother if she doesn’t respond to me on messenger within a day. Being afraid my partner will come home expressing that he doesn’t want to be with me anymore. Disallowing myself to have hobbies like reading or playing computer games out of fear that I’ll become too absorbed and end up forgetting to do something very important. Becoming on edge when I hear even the quietest sound, such as somebody tapping their fingers gently on a surface…
This is my normal. My life. My anxiety.
I’ve compared anxiety to depression in the past, having experienced both. Sometimes I feel anxiety is easier – at least I have the desire and passion to achieve things in my life. Sometimes I feel it is worse. That passion and desire is useless when I can’t actually utilize it – when I’m too anxious to take any action at all. Constantly feeling like a failure to achieving your own dreams is difficult.
If you are suffering from anxiety, then do what you need to do for yourself to heal. I had to leave Uni so that I could have a year out of conventional education to heal. The people that care about me thought I was crazy at first, and that was with them being aware of my mental health state. This made it a very difficult decision to make, but it was the best decision I could have made for myself at the time. Thanks to that decision I am doing much better now. If you are suffering from anxiety, be mindful of the people who care about you. It is easy to underestimate the difficulty experienced by the people caring for someone with a disability.
If you know someone with anxiety, be understanding. Listen to what they say, and I mean REALLY listen. If they are telling you they really cannot go into work today, do not tell them that they must. Help ease their anxiety about the fact. Contact their work on their behalf. Help make them feel that it is okay for them to take the time they need to heal. Never be disappointed by their failures – trust me. They’re already feeling those failures a hundred times to the extent that you do. Support them and take what they say seriously. It might require a lot of energy to take care of someone with a mental health issue, but the more energy you put into helping, the faster they will get better, and the sooner you both can live happier lives.