Today is a Mental Health Day and I decided to share with you a story about my mental illness.
What is generalized anxiety disorder
I have been suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for more than 10 years. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about number of different things. It is diagnosed when a person finds it hard to control worry on more days than not for at least 6 months and has three or more symptoms.
There’s a list of symptoms on ADAA’s website. My symptoms are mostly feeling nervous, feeling weak and tired, difficulty concentrating, having trouble sleeping and experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems.
I’ll talk more about each one of my symptoms in my next posts, but here I’d like to emphasize that if you suffer from any mental illness, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It might not be something you’d proudly share at work or wherever you spend your time at, but one thing you should do for sure: accept the fact that you struggle and might need help. There’s nothing wrong with that.
How does anxiety feel
I was growing up as a shy and self-conscious kid. There were times I had trouble sleeping, because I was nervous about how the next day would go. I never felt loved and was constantly looking for approval. I talk a little bit about my social anxiety here.
I was lacking that sense of confidence that many people have and I constantly worried, worried about everything. I never really had a control of that fear or worry that I was feeling, I just kind of had to accept it. I experienced burning feeling inside my chest before important events, and it kept me awake at night.
Oftentimes I would have found myself being by myself, thinking I was the only one on the planet, and that feeling of loneliness was growing more and more fear in me: what if I will be alone forever, what if no one will ever love me, what if I am never going to be able to fall asleep...
I experienced my first panic attack in my early 20’s, when I found myself so anxious that my heart started to beat very fast, hands and feet got cold, and a throbbing sensation in my head scared the hell out of me. The thought that I was having a heart attack crossed my mind – something I am quite embarrassed to talk about with anyone. Later my doctor told me that those were the symptoms of a panic attack, and that my heart was completely fine. Ever since I realized how interconnected mental and physical states are, I never experienced a panic attack like that again. But my anxiety journey didn’t stop then…
My mental illness has been "transforming" through years. It constantly "changes faces" and feels either like burning sensation in my chest, or a headache, or a stomach pain. I never know what it will become next time.
It still can become almost impossible for me to fall asleep as at times anxiety is just too overwhelming. It makes my whole body shake, and I feel like that weak little child again.
I do have to remind myself, that the child is safe and now I am taking care of her. It has been a journey to learn to live with anxiety, to seek help (therapy) when needed, to love myself, get rid of fear of abandonment and shame.
Can anxiety disorder be completely cured?
I think it depends on everyone's unique case: what caused anxiety disorder, how long someone has been dealing with it, resilience, etc.
Through all these years I made mistakes and I corrected them as well, meaning I did things, that worsened my anxiety and things, that made me feel better. Finding a way to live our lives without medication and need for therapy is and should be our goal, but it’s important not to forget that when we feel like we can’t fight it on our own, there are options.
Right now I feel much better. I learnt to understand myself better and listen to my needs. I learnt to hear my inner voice, and I don’t hate it anymore. I still struggle at times, but now I have direction, I know how to overcome those moments.
I always find it fascinating to be able to experience life. It’s like a big puzzle I am constantly working on. Some spots are more difficult than others, but when it gets easier, I remember why I enjoy it so much.
This blog is my way of raising more awareness to metal illness and open up about my struggles.