Hello Again Friends,
Before you read further, please take a look at the content warning. This blog post discusses potentially triggering issues.
This month I have been primarily focusing on blog entries regarding Mental Health, specifically my own. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and today I want to talk to you about the last of my major mental health diagnoses. I’ve spoken about PTSD twice, and about depression. Today I bring you – ANXIETY DISORDER.
I have what’s typically referred to as generalized anxiety disorder. The standard definition of an anxiety disorder is “A mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.” Examples of anxiety disorders are general anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, hypochondria, social anxiety and more.
General anxiety disorder is just what it sounds like. Anxiety in many different areas. A person who is diagnosed with something like “social anxiety” is a person who deals with anxiety only surrounding socialization (assuming that is their only diagnosis.) Generalized anxiety disorder has a wide range of effects on people. It can be mild, moderate, severe, chronic, etc. Generalized anxiety disorder is different than anxiety caused by a trauma, or PTSD. In most cases, there is no known cause for generalized anxiety disorder, whereas with trauma related or PTSD anxiety is specific to an event or events.
I have had anxiety as long as I can remember. I’ve struggled with excessive worrying since I was a child. I have my first panic attack that I remember in the second grade. I didn’t have any idea what it was at that time, but looking back I can easily see that it was a panic attack. I began getting physically sick with headaches or stomach aches. I began avoiding school, getting the nurse to send me home, etc.
In middle school I was diagnosed with tension headaches and most things were blamed on being a “child of an alcoholic.” I was told I had migraines, allergies, sinus issues, and more. High school only made it worse. I skipped school relentlessly. I was defiant – “oppositional” in today’s language. Sometime in high school I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and panic attacks increased. I began therapy somewhere during that time. I remember worrying about a lot of things. My parents. My grandparents. My grandfather was ill. And school. Everything about school was stressful and anxiety inducing. I began learning coping skills – some good and some not – mostly around avoiding things and people that gave me anxiety. In high school I began smoking weed, which has always helped the anxiety. But I struggled with the anxiety my whole life.
Types of things I have anxiety about change. Sometimes. There are some things that I have anxiety about that I have had anxiety about as long as I can remember. There are others that I’ve gotten through a bit with therapy. There are new ones that pop up all that time. I have anxiety about driving places, going places that I am not familiar with, money, health, socializing, people, death, being laughed at and so much more. Some of this sounds “normal” – but the difference between normal anxiety that people get and an anxiety disorder is the added piece that the anxiety interferes with ones daily activities.
My anxiety disorder definitely interferes with my daily activities. As does my depression. It affects my ability to work, it affects my relationships, it affects my daily living skills, and more. My brain is busy – pretty much all the time. Panic attacks can immobilize me for long periods of time. What events I can attend, where I can go, how much I can get done on any given day – all things impacted by my anxiety disorder on a regular, every day basis.
That, my friends, is generalized anxiety disorder. For me anyway. As with my other mental health things – it is pretty exhausting. I go to therapy and anxiety is always something I work with. I’ve done exposure therapy for some things. Other things I may never be able to do. I still have panic attacks. I do have some coping mechanisms that help. Usually. I practice mindfulness exercises. I listen to music. I talk to my partners. I breathe. Sometimes that’s all I manage to do is breathe. But that’s a win.
That’s me and my anxiety disorder journey thus far. Next week, for the last Monday in Mental Health Awareness Month – I’ll talk about how all these things combined effect me. And I’ll also talk about some mental health resources. Hope to see you then!
Be kind, my friends.
CONTENT WARNING – this blog post discusses issues related to trauma, anxiety, PTSD, depression, suicidal ideation, etc.