A Pedacito Of Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Updated: Jun 19

At the age of around 7 or 8, I could only fall asleep at night to the sound of white noise. At 13, I would panic when I had to talk in front of a crowd or present a project in school. By 18, I was feeling full-blown symptoms of anxiety almost every day.


While I was away at college, I was stressed all the time. I was wired on coffee, overloaded with assignments, and had a hard time adjusting to campus life. These were just some of the symptoms that lead me to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder a few years ago.

My first symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder began at the age of 7
My first symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder began at the age of 7

I recognized I had anxiety at a young age, so I started going to therapy at 13. It was mainly prompted by my need to drop a class in middle school because we had so many in-class presentations. I simply couldn’t handle talking in front of my peers. I would get sweaty and feel light-headed instantly.


I learned that my sleepless nights in elementary school, my excessive worry about trivial things, and nervous habits like biting my lip or cracking my knuckles - were all signs of early anxiety. My therapist helped me get through so many rough patches that I had in my adolescent years.


She taught me how to cope with my anxiety and live a “normal” life that wasn’t interrupted by intrusive thoughts. I figured that when I went away to college, my anxiety would get better. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong.

My therapist gave great advice for dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
My therapist gave great advice for dealing with GeneralizedAnxiety Disorder

At 18, I was an anxious wreck. The earlier half of my 18th year was great. I graduated high school and had an amazing summer with my hometown friends before we all went our separate ways. I was excited to live in a dorm at Montclair State University - where I had total freedom.


I always thought that college was going to be the part of my life that I thrived in the most, and while I think part of that is true, my first semester of college was arguably the hardest time of my life. I felt great for the first two months, but I started to feel the worries of anxiety creep back in once things got a little too mundane.

Once I was settled at college, the effects of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder started up again
Once I was settled at college, the effects of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder started up again

With every new experience, it seems exciting and you’re a bit jaded about the situation because you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out or affect you. My first two months were exciting because distractions were all around me.


I didn’t grow up in North Jersey, so I had plenty of places to explore off-campus, and I was a short bus ride to New York City. But as soon as the weather got a bit chilly and midterms were in full swing, a lot of the social activities died down and I was stuck with just me, myself, and I.

I knew that my self-isolating due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder needed to stop
I knew that my self-isolating due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder needed to stop

For a self-proclaimed introverted extrovert, I never had an issue with my own company. Sometimes I preferred just hanging out with myself. But in college, when it seems like everyone is making new friends and is out-and-about, it can feel pretty isolating. I knew that once this semester was over, I was going to have to make a change.


I started to fall into an almost depressive pattern while I was at Montclair State, and it was deteriorating my mental health. I would go to class all day, take a nap, get dinner, do homework, and then just relax for most of the night - for 5 days out of the week.

My Generalized Anxiety Disorder was killing my social life
My Generalized Anxiety Disorder was killing my social life

After the semester ended, I chose to take my second semester of freshman year online, so I could get the help that I needed. I went back to therapy every week, started looking into options for medicines to take, and focused on eating right/exercising multiple times a week.


I had to unlearn all of the bad habits that I took on in college to tame my anxiety. At this point, I knew that my anxiety was bigger than just situational - it was something that I lived with every day. That’s when I was formally diagnosed with GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Things started to get better with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder once I knew what I was dealing with
Things started to get better with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder once I knew what I was dealing with

Since being diagnosed with GAD about 4 years ago, I can’t say that my anxiety has gone away, and it probably never will. But I can say that things get better. I was in such a rough spot with my mental health four years ago, it’s crazy to think about how far I’ve come. At one point, I couldn’t live my life to the fullest because everything scared me.


I would panic after every inconvenience, big or small. And I knew this wasn’t my fault - anxiety has run in my family for generations. Chemical imbalances are just a symptom of life, nothing could have prevented this.


That said, it didn’t make dealing with my thoughts any easier. But looking at the situation from the other side, finally out of this constant state of worry, I can be kind to myself about the place that I was in, and also thank God that I am no longer in that situation.

Anxiety

I still face my anxiety frequently, sometimes for a few minutes, hours, or days. But I haven’t experienced a few month-long or even semester-long panic attack in four years. I have taken up healthier habits to help combat my anxiety on the regular. I love to meditate, journal, and still use CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a coping method.

I just have to remind myself that Generalized Anxiety Disorder doesn't control my thoughts
I just have to remind myself that Generalized Anxiety Disorder doesn't control my thoughts

Some days are harder than others, it can feel like I’m in a rat race with my own mind - constantly harping on scenarios that haven’t even happened yet. Still, I am patient with myself and understand that life is a beautiful thing. Not everything lasts forever, so I’ve been learning to not take any day for granted.


No matter if the day is good or bad, I have the power to control my thoughts and turn my situation around. GAD is by no means easy to live with, but it can become better when you surround yourself with supportive people and hobbies that give you purpose.

 

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