This weeks guest post is from Ally Everyday. Ally is passionate about mental health and raising the stigma that is often associated with mental illness (my kinda gal), she writes about everything from makeup to DIY to mental health. She is sharing her story about what it is really like to live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Her story is honest, real and very brave. Go give her some love over at her blog or Instagram.
Thanks, Ally for having the strength to share your story.
How My Day Looks with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
My day starts with waking up, feeling tired, tensed and anxious, doubting I’ll be able to get through the day. Often I don’t find the strength to get up and just stay in bed going back to sleep again because it’s all just too much and I can’t deal with life and my anxiety. If I get up I can’t eat breakfast because I can’t eat when I’m anxious. That means sometimes I can’t eat all day when my anxiety is high – spoiler alert – not eating doesn’t help with anxiety.
I go to school, being on the edge of turning around and going home again every minute on my way to school. Sometimes I don’t succeed in fighting that urge and I really turn around and go home. Sometimes even 5 minutes before classes start. Because I feel like I just can’t do it. When I manage to go to classes though, I’m often not able to concentrate. All I can focus on is fighting my anxiety, trying to hold it back, on a manageable level, trying not to have an anxiety attack. I’m counting every minute until classes are over. Praying I’ll make it through. Sometimes I’m lucky and my anxiety goes away after an hour or something. Sometimes anxiety stays, what often leads to me leaving classes early.
The Master of Excuses and Distraction
I am the master of finding excuses to cancel appointments or leave early not only in school but for basically every occasion. When I am finally home I am exhausted from fighting battles in my head all day, I often feel guilty for skipping classes. I hate myself for not being able to control my anxiety and I bash myself over making such a drama and not being able to get my life together. I’ll end up in bed for the rest of the day, because I am tired and because my bed is my safe place.
At night I will probably distract myself until 3 am in the morning. Because first I am not able to fall asleep anyway, second because I don’t want to worry about going to sleep and pressure myself because I can’t and third because I know when I fall asleep the next thing I’ll have to do when I wake up again is facing my anxiety. In nights like that, I wish time would stand still.
That’s how my typical day looked like when my anxiety was at its worst point. I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been seeing a therapist because of my anxiety and other mental health issues since I was 12 (I’m 21 now) but for about two years, I have lived with generalized anxiety disorder, this took my anxiety to a whole new level.
Living with generalized anxiety disorder means that everything around you seems like a constant threat. Basically, everything can make you anxious without a real reason. It makes everything so much more difficult and exhausting. I have to fight to be able to do the most trivial things, like going grocery shopping or meeting friends. I even have to fight for things that I’d really much want to do, things I like suddenly become very stressful.
Everything Becomes Stressful
That means that I often can’t enjoy things because of my anxiety. For example I loved seeing theater plays, I still like it but I haven’t been seen one in over a year and I ask everyone to please not give me theater tickets or anything as a present, because I know all I’d be able to think about from the moment on I hold the tickets in my hands will be anxiety and if I’d be able to control it, it will mean so much stress for me that I will barely be able to enjoy it.
My life is dominated by exaggerated worry and tension. Most times I can not just do things, my brain immediately starts worrying, planning, thinking about everything that can possibly happen. Often creating worst-case scenarios. I can’t control it. Often, I don’t even notice it, because that’s just how my brain always worked.
I overthink every little thing in my life and still, I feel unprepared. The worst thing is that I know most of my fears are irrational. I know that there is no real reason to be so anxious and that everything is just in my head and that it doesn’t make sense. Not even to myself. Most of the time I don’t even know why I am anxious or what exactly I’m scared of.
Controlled by My Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Sometimes I just want to scream at my brain and ask what it finds so dangerous about leaving my apartment or going to school. Often I’m not even scared of a certain situation. I might just lie in my bed, not having anything to worry about and suddenly I feel that huge anxiety and tension in my body and mind and I don’t understand why. Sometimes that makes me feel like my body and mind work against me.
My mind is also able to make the weirdest associations, like: ‘Last time I was on a train I didn’t feel well, so of course this time it will be the same, omg I can never be on a train again without being anxious!‘ Yes, I’m aware that these thoughts are wrong the second I’m thinking them. But still, I can’t stop them from being on my mind. That also leads to being afraid of or even avoiding situations I was once anxious in. Even though the situation itself had nothing to do with the anxiety.
I’m Afraid of my Anxiety
I’m afraid of my anxiety and I’m afraid of being or getting anxious almost every minute of my day.
It feels like anxiety controls my life. And it makes me struggle with the easiest things in life. For example, I often feel like I don’t have the strength to put up with more than one thing that makes me anxious since on my worst days basically everything makes me anxious that can be very difficult. For instance, I can only go to one class per day, I can either go to school or to another appointment.
My generalized anxiety disorder influences everything, even my sleep. It causes insomnia and I have had trouble falling asleep since I was a child. I am often not able to have a restful sleep, which leaves me even more tired and exhausted. Anxiety causes me to feel absolutely stressed most of the time. My brain is stressing over a hundred things all the time, I’m almost constantly under a lot of pressure. Almost everything I have to do makes me anxious because I have to fight my anxiety to do the most trivial things because I pressure myself to function and get on with life.
It’s a constant battle in my head that is so exhausting. My anxiety often makes me feel sick too. Anxiety can cause almost every physical symptom, from nausea over dizziness to headaches and a lot more. Often feeling sick makes me even more anxious. Even though I know the symptoms might be caused by my anxiety. But I guess no one likes having to do things while feeling sick.
The Panic Attacks
And then when my anxiety reaches a certain level there is this annoying issue of having anxiety or even panic attacks that feel like I’m completely losing control. Suddenly everything is just too much and I feel a hundred things at once, but the only thought I have is: “I have to get away!”. It feels like everything is happening at once and at the same time, time stands still. Everything is crashing down on me. 1 Million thoughts and emotions rushing through my mind, completely overwhelming me.
There are no reasons, no explanations, just fear, and anxiety. Sometimes it feels like I am dying of anxiety. I feel like I can’t breathe, my heart is racing, I am shaking and feel dizzy and sick. I can’t move, I can’t think straight, but I can’t stop thinking either, I can’t do anything. It feels like I don’t have control of my brain anymore like I am loosing power over my body. Like Panic is slowly overtaking my mind and there is nothing I can do but watch how I am falling apart.
Everything around me suddenly feels surreal, like I am disconnecting from the world like everything is far away because the only thing that exists is me and my anxiety. And I desperately try not to lose myself in that anxiety. I try to hold on to reality because it seems like everything is fading away. So I try to ignore it, to distract myself, to hold on, to breathe, to not drown in my own thoughts, to focus on something else. Trying desperately not to let anyone see. Trying everything to fight knowing the only thing that is left to do is waiting until it’s over because the only thing I know for sure is that it will be over at some point. But the minutes until that point seem endless.
That’s how an anxiety or panic attack feels to me. Panic attacks are exhausting and frightening and I am afraid of them. I am afraid of my anxiety once more.
Therapy and Learning to Live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
My ‘best friend‘ though is avoidance. I often try to avoid things that make me anxious so in my worst times, I even avoided leaving my apartment. But the thing with avoidance is that it makes the anxiety getting even worse, meaning as long I avoided going outside as more difficult it got for me.
In therapy, I learned that I have to do things despite being anxious, that I need to accept that I am anxious instead of fighting it and trying to push it away – basically forbidding myself to feel anxious – because that’s a battle you can never win.
Anxiety is a reasonable and important feeling. The problem is that my brain sees a threat in everything and can’t judge anymore in which situation it is appropriate to feel anxious and which situations are harmless. So I need to learn to accept that my generalized anxiety disorder is there without letting myself be controlled by it. I learned some skills that help me when I am anxious like breathing exercises, drawing, grounding techniques etc. Sometimes they help but I am still learning. I need to fight back my way into life.
The Road to Recovery
Recovery isn’t an easy journey, it’s hard and it needs a lot of time, work, and patience. It can be exhausting and sometimes you might even make a step back before it gets better again.
That’s how it works.
I am very glad that I have my therapist I can turn to for help because getting help makes things easier. I plan to get as much help that I can get because I realized I can’t do this on my own. Recently I also started to take medication, what was a great step for me because taking medication also makes me anxious. Currently, I am in a psychiatric day clinic I go to every day to get more intense therapy and have a structured day again. I am planning to do some changes in my life and even if I am aware that my anxiety disorder will probably never go away completely. I really hope that I will be able to say it doesn’t control my life anymore soon.
Thank you, Ally, once again for sharing your story on what it is really like living with generalized anxiety disorder. You are a strong and brave lady. If you want to know more about anxiety, check out the low down.
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