Ever since I can remember I´ve been worrying excessively about things that are unlikely to happen and about things that are likely to happen. It doesn´t matter if the fear or worry is realistic or unrealistic, I´ll worry excessively about it. Sometimes the worry is justified because the situation merits it, and any healthy person would worry excessively in certain scenarios. However, I´ll feel that worry or fear to an extent that it can be physically painful and emotionally piercing.
Textbooks and articles will tend to say that people with General Anxiety Disorder will generally worry about problems and issues that are very unlikely to happen, however, when someone who experiences GAD has faced some of their biggest fears, they come to realize that tragedy is a possibility. When faced with new and extremely difficult problems that would make even a healthy person worry, it turns a person with general anxiety into a whirlpool of agonizing pain and stress. Stress, fear, and worry take different levels. Just imagine that you´re a healthy person with a healthy mind, and you are faced with one of your biggest fears, now imagine that fear that you would fear and multiply it by 100. It sounds almost unbearable right? Well, that´s what someone with GAD feels.
What´s even worst is that whatever it is that I envision as the outcome of the worry is dark and negative, sometimes, when faced with certain issues it is impossible to see it under a clearer light. I don´t mean for it to be that way, it just seems that way. I can´t control my mind or my thoughts when I´m in anxiety mode or having a panic attack. That´s what an illness of the mind can do to you, you completely lose control over your thoughts and over your mind.
If the average person has a hard time controlling their mind, for a mentally ill person it becomes nearly impossible. Do you think that a person with schizophrenia can control what she/he sees? Or the voices that he/she hears in their head? Of course not. They are ill, they have an illness that prevents them from controlling certain aspects of their being. Do you think that a person with cancer can control the speed of which their cancerous cells multiply? No. Then why are people so hard on those with mental illness and expect them to be able to control their own minds when they have an illness of the mind?
Is it a frightening thought right? If you´ve never battled mental illness, it´s a frightening thought that you could lose control over the perception through which you see life. That you can lose control over the thoughts that come into your mind. Then imagine how a mentally ill person feels. And on top of that having to listen from people around them that it´s all in their head, that they can just “snap” out of it.
My parents first sought help for me when I was around 6 or 7 years old, they sent me to the school psychologist who only said that I was a nervous and apprehensive child. As the years went on my parents could tell that not everything was alright with me, I was sent to therapy at 12 when again the therapist failed to see that I had GAD (general anxiety disorder). It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that it was formally diagnosed and I could finally name my “craziness” something GENERAL ANXIETY DISORDER.
I had my first panic attack at 16 and was in constant worry nearly every day. Worry and fear became such a part of me that people would use them as adjectives to describe me. “She´s fearful” or “She´s just a worrier”. Yes! I was/am both, but not out of my own desire. I work on fighting it every day. I hate leaving my house and yet I do so to go to work, to socialize with friends or to go get ice-cream.
Sometimes there´s a reason for my worry, which will enhance the intensity with which I feel it. Sometimes I´ll worry about meaningless things like wondering if I locked the door after I left my house, did I turn off the stove, is the mole on my left arm cancerous or is my headache a deadly brain tumor.
You´re probably reading this and wondering, “well, just stop worrying!” Yes! For a healthy person it is as simple as that, for me, it´s not. For me is a mental and emotional struggle of having intrusive thoughts of worry that keep me from being able to relax. Thoughts that are not welcomed, but that overtake my willpower to fight them.
I have done changes in my lifestyle that have help a little bit like meditating, doing yoga, eating healthy and TRYING to minimize my worries. But it´s a constant struggle with my own self, not knowing if what I´m worried about is worthy of being worried about or if it´s not. My mind can’t discern what should be given attention and what shouldn’t. To me, nearly everything deserves to be worried for, and I can´t control it.
My body is constantly rushing with adrenaline caused by a worry that sometimes I´m not even mentally aware of. Sometimes I´ll be worrying about something, feel the emotion in my body but not know what it is that I´m worrying about. It is a nightmare!
It´s painful, it´s debilitating, it´s exhausting and It´s very misunderstood. Just this morning I had to explain to a friend that I couldn’t stop worrying because I have GAD (general anxiety disorder) she quickly discarded it and said that I was just too weak and that I put little effort to my well-being. She said that clearly everything that I was doing was not working.
I agree with her. I´m doing everything in my power to get a grip of this, going to therapy, taking my medication, meditating, doing yoga, eating extremely healthy and nothing seems to work. What am I to do? Kill myself? Of course not.
But it is infuriating for someone battling mental illness to be expected to simply “stop thinking about it”, “to look on the bright side” or “to just relax”.
I can´t relax because someone tells me to relax. It takes a whole deal of work and luck! For me to be able to relax. I live in constant emotional and psychological pain do to General Anxiety Disorder and sometimes depression. Mixed together they sometimes make a hell out of my existence.
What sometimes seems to be the hardest thing for people to understand about mental ilness is that it is not a choice. My friend thinks that I choose to feel this way and that I choose to think this way. There is nothing more that I would like than to simply relax, be happy and enjoy each day as if it were my last. Sometimes when I´m having a good day I can! I can relax, I can be happy and I can enjoy life. But sometimes something triggers my illness and it all goes down hill from there. Sometimes there is no trigger and I just awake to a different reality than the previous day.
I strongly believe that in order to control your life you need to be able to control your mind. But like I said before, if it´s hard for a healthy person to control their thoughts, it´s even harder for someone with mental illness. So please, stop judging.