I'm Still Anxious

Thursday, 22 June 2017

My life is currently the best it's ever been. I haven't felt this stable, free, happy and structured for as long as I can remember. However, that doesn't mean I don't still suffer with anxiety. Let me tell you what I know about my disorder.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) definition:
"GAD is much more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It is chronic and sufferers experience severe worry and tension, often without provocation. This disorder involves anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, just the thought of getting through the day brings on anxiety. (x)"

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) physical & mental symptoms:
  • Change in behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness, more tired than usual
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or feeling unmotivated
  • Feeling constantly "on edge"
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea 
  • Overbearing sense of dread
  • Needing more reassurance than others 
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Lacking social contact and self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling like a burden and/or unwanted
  • Panic attacks

A common misconception about an anxiety disorder is that "everyone feels that way at some point in their life". Which, sure, is not wrong. However the difference between worrying about starting a new job on Monday to having a diagnosed disorder, is the occurrence, the intensity, and the handling of the situation.

When I was first diagnosed with GAD I didn't understand it. My knowledge of mental health in general was very slim, and I sure as hell had absolutely no idea how to deal with it! It gave me a lot of answers to how I felt 90% of the time, but it didn't give me any solution. 

When you speak to a doctor about mental health, they ask you a lot of questions. Usually questions you feel uncomfortable with answering, and even questions you don't know the answer to. They'll offer you things you mighty have never even thought about, like medication, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), youth groups; and it's all really scary. I opted for medication because it was the option that didn't involve anyone else but myself. My anxiety lies hugely within what others think of me; meeting new people, doing new things, being in unfamiliar places, being in huge crowds - all these things involve other people.

I am so happy and proud of myself for my progression with my own mental health. Battling depression is something I didn't think i'd have to experience, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but just because i'm happier now doesn't mean my GAD doesn't exist. From time to time, I still have to meet new people, I still have to do new things, I still have to be in unfamiliar places, and I still have to be in huge crowds.

Take last weekend, for example. Myself, my girlfriend, and a handful of my friends went to Dublin to see The 1975 at Malahide Castle. We'd been planning this trip for months. It was amazing; the sun was shining, the set-list was great, I was with incredible people, and I was happy. However, fast forward to 10.30pm and 20,000 people are trying to leave a field via one exit. No crowd control, no real security, no true sense of direction. Fans are drunk, they're screaming, they're pushing, they're repeatedly singing DJ Otzi's 'Hey Baby' at the highest decibel. 20,000 people are colliding down narrow paths, all trying to make the last train.

Then there's me. I'm anxious. I've never been to Ireland, I don't know the area. The last train leaves in 10 minutes, the bus doesn't go to our Air B'n'B, no Uber's are available, I don't even have the money for an Uber, i'm cold, it's crowded, i'm tired, it's loud, i've lost half of my group of friends. I'm scared, terrified even. My breathing starts increasing and my legs feel like jelly. I have to continue walking and keeping up with this crowd, but my body feels like it physically can't. My chest is tight, and it feels like all the people around me are getting closer an closer until I physically can't breathe. I start to cry, then I start to sob. I need to sit down, I need to get out of the crowds of people, but I can't. I physically can't.

After what feels like the longest 30 minutes of suffering and very nearly passing out, I finally find a quiet(ish) corner where I can catch my breath. My girlfriend (yet again) does an incredible job of just not letting go of my hand. Making sure I feel as secure as I possibly can in a situation that feels so exposed.

Having a panic attack is a vicious circle. You can't control your emotions or your physical reactions of the emotions, yet when these things happen you're conscious of others seeing you that way. This then heightens your anxiety and it goes around again. 'What if' plays on repeat in your head, and you can't help but beat yourself up over getting yourself into this situation.

After a panic attack, you quite honestly just feel worthless. You're embarrassed, you're exhausted, and there is no lonelier time. Mental health is more than just 'in your head' - it becomes physical. It really can take over your life. It really did take over my life.

...But it doesn't anymore. That's the only difference between now and then. Just because it doesn't take over my life currently, doesn't mean it doesn't exist anymore. I am so happy at the moment, and I was in my happy place in Dublin, but GAD still bared it's ugly face. It was still present. It still is present.

My post(s) about how rosy my life now is isn't meant to undermine anyone's mental health struggles, yours or my own. I'm still anxious. I'm just learning. I'm learning how to control it, how to move past it, and maybe one day, how to prevent it.

Whould you like to comment?

  1. I am so glad you're feeling happier, but I know GAD is still a bitch!


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