For this new year I want to help myself and others have a better understanding of a common mental struggle: anxiety disorder. As many of you know, I have struggled with anxiety most of my life. Recently, I was officially diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Life is ten times more difficult with GAD because it affects every area of your life. For part one in this series I am going over how GAD can affect the body physically and socially.
One of the misconceptions about GAD is that it only affects the mind, when, in fact, affects the body physically. For years, I have had multiple stomach ulcers due to stress and the amount of medication I take. They cause a great burning pain like when one pours lemon juice over a cut.
I also have migraines which can cause vasovagal seizures. A vasovagal seizure is not an actual seizure that affects the brain and nerves, but has the same reaction. It’s also common for people with GAD to be tired during the day and restless at night. I do not have insomnia, thankfully, but I still have trouble sleeping at night. I also have anxiety and panic attacks when, depending on the intensity, I get short of breath, shake, and my eyes start to water all involuntarily.
There are days when I need and absolutely love to be around people. For example, I hang out with my friends all the time and even go to parties. But there are also days where it’s difficult to talk to anyone. Despite popular opinion, this is not part of having a bipolar disorder. Someone who is bipolar are very extreme, often refuse to take medication, and cannot live life without special help.
I love my family and friends, but when I feel overwhelmed, which can happen out of nowhere for no reason, I need to be alone to rest and put in my headphones. For the majority of time, there isn’t anyone who has done anything to make me feel the way I feel in those moments. The best way I can explain it is that there’s a button in my brain labeled “too much” and I subconsciously push it when I take a step out of my comfort zone.
For example, when people ask me to have sleepovers, either at their house or mine, I automatically freeze up because I know I would have to pause my nightly routine and sleep somewhere else besides my own bed. My bed is my happy place. When I’m sleeping or laying in bed doing my own thing no one can bother me; it’s just my thoughts and I and I feel safe. At sleepovers, I give up my bed to sleep in the same room as my friend(s) and trade in my quiet time for girl talk or watching a movie.
To someone who doesn’t struggle with any of these physical or social situations, a person with GAD can be labeled as stupid, foolish, or just a way to get attention. I do admit, that not everyone is truthful and use their “disorder” to get attention, you can tell the difference. Having a real mental disorder is a challenge. GAD is a battle fought on a daily basis that not everyone can see or understand.
I hope and pray that through these next few posts about GAD not only bring awareness of the disorder, but will help people know and understand what it’s like to have GAD in order for them to help support and love those around them with GAD. At the end of this series, I’ll talk about what God and the Bible say about anxiety, so stay tuned.
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