Surprise! I used to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD. It might be the first time you hear about this ‘disorder.’ I knew about anxiety and panic disorders because I studied social work, but I’d never thought I would be diagnosed with GAD. I honestly didn’t know Generalized Anxiety Disorder was an actual thing, until a family member pointed it out to me. Keep reading if you want to know more in-depth information about GAD and also watch the video, because both will give you more context about this subject. Now are you ready? Let’s jump into my story!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’ve had a long period where I was constantly expressing how stressed I was. I really, really though it was ‘just’ stress and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get rid of it. The ‘stress’ kept me awake at night and made it really hard for me to focus during the day. I would constantly worry about things that could go wrong or might happen. Some things were very realistic, others not so much. Regardless of the subject of my worries, worry about I did.
In august 2018, a week before I turned thirty, I was fed up! After feeling stressed for two years and feeling worse every day, I decided to go to the doctor. Mainly because a family member who got diagnosed with a form of anxiety a few months before me. This person started talking to me about it and explaining some of the symptoms. That’s when it occurred to me that I might suffer from a similar condition. After doing some research, I thought it would be best to let a professional take a look at my brain.
So, I went to the doctor and asked for a phycologist I’ve been to before. I personally believe that mental health is just as important as your physical health. I have no problem going to a psychologist, if it helps me create a better life and makes me a better person. Within a couple of weeks, I ended up at the phycologist’s office, where she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with the help of the DSM. The DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Anyone in the mental health or social work field is familiar with this handbook. It helps mental health professionals with diagnosing patients with mental health disorders. This goes for things like autism, anxiety, depression or multiple personality disorder. When you hit a certain number of criteria written in the DSM, a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose you. When it comes to Generalized Anxiety Disorder you’ve most likely experienced anxiety for at least six months. You find it hard to control your worrying and it physically affects you.
Now, I strongly recommend you don’t diagnose yourself according to my article and/or video. Be responsible and go to the doctor to ask for help. This is not something you can diagnose yourself, let alone fix yourself if you don’t know anything about it. But if the short description above sounds a bit too familiar for you, start calling the doctor right now! Better be safe than sorry, that’s my motto. That’s exactly why I called my doctor and when to a psychologist to sort it all out.
Like I mentioned before, I never really thought I would have GAD. I thought I was experiencing a heavy amount of stress. Therefor I was quite shocked to hear I had the Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But I was also very relieved because I knew what I was up against and that I could learn how to deal with it. I’m a very practical person and my psychologist recommend cognitive therapy, which is very practical too. I knew this was what I wanted to do immediately, and I went for it!
During the cognitive therapy sessions, I learned that my anxiety was triggered by a guy that was harassing me. This happened about two years ago, but I never realized it still had an effect on me. I also discovered I used to have GAD as a child and a teenager too. The anxiety got triggered by three major events in my life, which were all quite scary. No wonder why it triggered the anxiety, I just didn’t know they did. I put it all under the umbrella of being stressed, or me not being strong enough to deal with certain things.
Within seven months I learned that GAD is very manageable. I learned how my brain works and what I can do to stop the excessive and unnecessary worrying. Mostly by being very proactive with writing down what I was experiencing. I was sent home with several exercises like writing down what I was worrying about per day. Why and how I got to that point, which gave me a lot of insight in my own brain. I also learned how to solve ‘problems’ my anxiety threw at my, like thinking of three worst case scenarios at once.
You see, our brains are very powerful. Your brain does a lot of things without you even realizing it like breathing, blinking your eyes or dreaming at night. I like to compare GAD with nightmares. You know you’re having a nightmare, but you can’t wake up because your brain has taken over. That’s exactly how anxiety works for me. I know I feel anxious and I know I worry about things I can’t control. But my brain took over and I couldn’t control my brain. So, I just had to sit through it and feel even worse because of that.
The cognitive therapy taught me how my brain works and how I can control the GAD. It took me ten sessions and about seven months to get it. I also did three tests that determined my progress, which showed I was doing better and better. About two weeks ago my phycologist told me I no longer fit the criteria for GAD. Therefor I can happily tell you I USED to have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, yay! God, I was so happy! I didn’t think I would be able to get rid of it or learn how to deal with it. I was afraid I’d be stuck with this forever.
Now I know what can trigger my anxiety and panic attacks. I also know how to deal with it and that I can always revisit my psychologist if I need a little pick me up. I rarely say it, but I’m extremely proud of myself for taking this head on. It made me a very relaxed and happy person, which is all I wanted to be for the longest time. Now that I’m back at worrying about things on a normal level, I can actually enjoy live. I really hope that if you’re in the same boat as I was, that this article and the video gave you some hope.
I was in pretty bad shape, not wanting to leave my house and being scared by the smallest sounds. If I can do it, you can also do it! I’m very happy to now know anxiety is manageable as longs as I know how my brain works. I strongly recommend cognitive therapy if you experience the same symptoms and certainly when you’re a practical person like me. And lastly, this isn’t something you should feel ashamed or bad about. Anxiety and panic attacks are simply a natural, yet increased reaction of your body and brain. And you can learn why, how and what to do to help yourself.
Stay strong, get that help and talk to me if you like!