While I’m an open person (and very much pride myself on that), my General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is something I typically keep to myself. If you’re in my life, you probably know how much it is a part of me and the ways in which it impacts my life. Sometimes I have a handle on it and other times, like the past few weeks, it completely and utterly debilitates both me and my everyday activities.
Nonetheless, this is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now, even if it makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never felt hopeless, depressed, and alone due to my anxiety and I don’t want to put up a facade that it doesn’t affect me. I want to get honest and share my experience. Many of you have even reached out to me to request I finally write about it so whether you suffer from anxiety or another mental health issue or nothing at all, I hope this can help you.
First off, let’s define anxiety. We all know what it feels like, but as a reminder, anxiety is known as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” Truly, everyone experiences it at some point in their life but an anxiety disorder is much different. It’s when this sense of worry, nervousness, and unease literally characterizes you and is taken to excess. It takes over almost every thought you have. You’re more often anxious than you are in a normal state of being. Many people with anxiety disorders choose to take medicine to manage it, and that’s sort of where my journey starts.
Developing Anxiety – Early 2013
I never really experienced or developed my GAD until about 6 months before high school graduation. I started what’s known as checking behavior or compulsive checking. This habit included compulsively checking items like locks, switches, and appliances. The purpose? To reduce my distress associated with uncertainty and doubt over feared consequences. A.K.A. I would check several times to make sure the door was locked or that I unplugged my straightener. I saw with my own two eyes that I did, but it wasn’t enough. I’d walk away and come back and have to check again, again, again, again. All rational thinking went out the window. I remember several mornings being more than halfway to my high school and still turning around to go check something at home, even when it meant being severely late to class. I had to try to ease my mind.
Managing Anxiety with Medicine – April/May 2013
Unfortunately, this didn’t stop. I never felt better no matter how many times I checked. My anxiety started to overcome my every thought and I knew something had to change. So, I went to my physician to talk about how I was feeling and she diagnosed me with my anxiety disorder. On top of the checking behavior, I had also developed classic symptoms like persistent worrying, overthinking, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, and much more. Together, we came to the decision that I’d take 10mg of Lexapro a day.
She said it would take a few weeks before I would start to feel a difference, but I remember feeling better almost immediately. The best way I can put it is that I finally felt at ease. I felt like I could relax and some of those symptoms I just mentioned lessened. Thankfully, it seemed to be the right medicine for me and I never really experienced negative side effects outside of being very talkative for the first few weeks. I didn’t gain or lose weight, have trouble sleeping, or anything else. For the next three years, I went on taking my dosage each day and felt pretty good as I went through the first three years of college.
Managing Anxiety Naturally – May 2016
Eventually, towards the end of my junior year of college, I decided my anti-anxiety medicines were doing me more harm than they were good. I felt numb and didn’t experience anything, neither happiness nor sadness. I was a shell of a human being and felt as if I was just existing. If you read about Lexapro, you’ll see many people complain that it gives a small emotional range. Like I mentioned, you may not be very happy, but you can’t get very sad either. Due to this, at some point during the three years I was on it, my doctor suggested pairing it with Wellbutrin. I found it a bit better, but still not enough that I wanted to stay on either. I didn’t want to be emotionally disconnected from the people around me any longer.
So, I decided to go off both. Of course, I carefully weaned myself off with my doctor’s discretion. Going cold turkey off any anti-anxiety medicine or anti-depressant is a huge no-no. At this point, I also felt like I was mentally stronger than three years prior and had developed better natural coping mechanisms for my anxiety like working out, eating healthier, and taking better care of myself overall.
Please note whether you take medicine for a mental health issue or not, one is not better than the other. I simply did what was best for me at the time.
Reoccuring Anxiety – January 2018
For the past year and a half, I was doing pretty well managing my anxiety naturally. Of course, it was still a bit present, but it never felt debilitating or life-controlling like it had in the past. However, that’s exactly how I feel right now. Sadly, even writing about this makes me want to cry because I’m at a very low point with it yet again. That’s the thing about anxiety is that it can come and go, or at least there are highs and lows.
As of late, I have had a lot of emotional, mental, and physical symptoms that have terrified me. To be completely honest, I’m at a point where I feel like going back on my medicine again. I actually have an appointment with my physician this Wednesday to discuss just that. I’ve had trouble controlling my excessive worrying, incredibly painful tension headaches, difficulty concentrating or being creative, nauseousness, a lack of appetite, and even chest pain. I’ve also lost joy in doing many of the things I love, like blogging. Everyday activities like writing emails become difficult (cue the overthinking and checking behavior).
To be honest, I just feel worried, anxious, and a bit hopeless most of the time. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m strong. That I’ve gotten a handle on it before and I’m able to do it again. While anxiety may take over my thoughts now and again, I don’t want it to define me. It’s a part of me, but I won’t let it define me.
If you took the time to read all of this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s important to note I don’t write any of this expecting pity or anything else at all. I simply want to share my story. Part of why I started my blog is because I’ve always loved writing and in a way, it’s been therapeutic for me. So, while it terrifies me to hit publish on this post, I know it’s something I need to do for myself. It’s the first step in tackling round two of my anxiety disorder.