Oh, Anxiety. You Sneaky, Hard-to-Diagnose Thing.
One of the diagnoses I’ve always had trouble with is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) mainly because of two things. The first one is how tremendously underrated it is. People are constantly telling you, “Oh, it’s just anxiety. We all have anxiety.” Like it wasn’t a life-changing condition, or something people should find help for. The second one is how terribly it is for me to identify the signs and to accept the way I think isn’t “right,” that other peoples’ minds work in a different way.
I’m going to talk about this second aspect in more detail.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m 23, and during my 23 years of life, my mind has always worked in the same way. I’ve always had weird things that scare me. I’ve always have certain rituals. I’ve always been anxious. Just two days ago I was talking to my uncle on the night before my flight home and I was telling him how I felt I was going to die tragically on the plane. He asked me if I was an anxious flyer, to which I answered, “I have generalized anxiety disorder. I’m anxious from living. Existence makes me have panic attacks.”
So what do I mean by that?
When I was five, I remember I went to a psychiatrist because going to school made me wet my bed, cry a lot and have nightmares.
In my new school, I remembered that before recess, I used to get bad stomachaches because I believed no one would want to play with me. Even though I had friends — some of which are still my friends now.
I had this unexplainable habit of crying when I was learning the alphabet. I would start crying whenever a letter that reminded me of my parents or my brother would come up (like their initials for example).
My mom used to pick me up on Fridays. One day she was an hour and a half late because of a car crash on the way she took. I got a huge panic attack so I remember that when she arrived, I was in the school’s security guard office, having a meltdown while she patted my back.
Whenever my mom and dad went out to dinner, I wouldn’t sleep until they arrived home, because I always feared they would die tragically on their night out.
I only went to three school field trips because I had this theory that if I flew apart from my parents or my brother, I would die.
Whenever I get on a plane, I immediately panic the moments before because I still think I will die tragically on a crash or something like that. After 9/11, my fear of flying became unbearable.
Whenever I take a test, even if I’ve studied, even if I know I’m good at it, I always think I’ll fail because I’ve never thought of myself as a smart person. When I would get a test back, I would hyperventilate and sweat.
And of course, as the years went by, the anxiety evolved with the nature of my new adventures.
I never thought I would get a boyfriend. When I got my first one, I never thought it would last. It lasted for a year. After that, I had another one for almost four years. And I never understood why they found me attractive. I always feared they would fall in love with their friends or my friends — or basically any other lady that passed them by. Not because they weren’t faithful, (because they were) but because I had this hugely, well-elaborated story in my head that I would always end up with a broken heart.
After that, I always thought I would never end up getting into the university I wanted. I thought I would be cursing my luck for 5 years, then graduating. I’m about to do so, but if you ask me, I still believe something bad will happen and crash the graduating ceremony that is in a couple of months and I’ll never graduate.
Funny thing is, I never understood all of that wasn’t “wrong.” I never even thought about peoples’ minds working in a different way. I just didn’t get why people didn’t worry about all the possibilities I had already perfectly planned in my head. Even when I went to my psychiatrist and psychologist for major depressive disorder, I didn’t know I had an anxiety issue. All of these topic started to pop up “casually” in the conversation, and they made me see the pattern — the painful and cruel reality of me having an anxiety issue for as long as I could remember.
So, what I’m trying to say is, so often anxiety can mask as other things. It may make you feel like the most prepared human for all the possible catastrophes when really, it’s diminishing your life quality. But sadly, most of us aren’t capable of realizing what’s wrong. And even when we are aware of the way our minds work, sometimes we can only do that, because the truth is preventing it and erasing it is tremendously difficult. But with appropriate help, at least you’ll get a good laugh about how creative your mind can be, and will make the life of those who surround you a lot easier.
Unsplash photo via Alexander Mils