If you're suffering from a mental illness and feel like this is the end, IT'S NOT! You are not alone!
Oh, it's you. I was just thinking about you. I can't say I missed you, but I knew you'd be back any day now. Hey, Mr. Anxiety, how have you been? Did you come alone this time or did you bring a friend? Who is it this time? Is it Mr. Racing Heart? Ms. Lump In The Throat? Mrs. Loss of Breath? Or is it our favorite friend, Mr. Brain Fog? I'm sure you're not going to tell me, but, as always, you're more than welcome to join me, I can't say I wasn't expecting you.
That was a little dialogue between me and my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Or how it goes on in my head anyway. See, this isn't going to be one of those feel-good articles, I have no intention of making anyone smile with this one, my only goal is to let you know that you're not alone in the fight. The fight I'm referring to here is the fight 80% of the world's population faces every single day. The fight against their own minds. But before I begin, a little background is in order.
The difference between Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
When I was diagnosed with G.A.D. eight months ago, a lot of people took it for normal Anxiety. That's why most of the support I got in the beginning was so lacking and non-existent. My own friends used to look at me when I used to have my insane panic attacks and go like, "It's all in your head, man" or the more infamous, "Aw dude, just stop thinking about it." I cannot begin to explain how it used to boil my blood when people who were the closest to me took my mental illness as a regular everyday problem. Yes, Anxiety is a very normal part of the human mind, because it should be. Because if we weren't anxious during our times of worry, our minds wouldn't figure out a way to fix the situation. That's normal anxiety, it's actually for our own benefit and well-being. But there's a major difference between normal Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the latter happens for no reason at all and the former is our body's natural way of making us alert.
Now, Imagine you're scared of public speaking. You'd have a general sense of anxiety and anxiousness before speaking in public, but it's that same anxiousness that makes you able enough to properly perform that speech, it actually raises your adrenaline levels to the point where you stop being scared and you just go with it. Now, Imagine if you have the same anxious feeling of speaking in public, but you're not speaking in public. You just have that feeling without any apparent triggers, it's just there! Your life is going well, you have a good job, a good family, caring friends, but you also have this looming sense of disaster over your head all the time; THAT is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It's all in the name, really. The "Generalized" explains it all.
So now that I've cleared the air between these two major differences, I'll continue with my own story.
My Experience with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
I used to be a "normal" person once. I used to be the life of the party. I used to LOVE driving, there was this subtle beauty about driving around at night and looking at the silent bliss of the peaceful and lonely roads. I was the "leading force" in my social circle, making everyone meet and arranging plans for everyone. Eight months ago, I woke up with a different feeling. I couldn't put a finger on it but something felt off, something wasn't right. I hadn't felt like this before. It was in my head, it wasn't "painful", it was just disorienting. Since I've had a history of migraines, I thought it was just a small migraine and I let it be. I started worrying about it when it stayed the same even after a week. I told all of my friends and I still remember my exact words:
I feel like I'm not in my head. Like I'm looking at myself from a TV screen. I don't feel like myself. I feel scared.
To my dismay, I was instantly shunned with the usual, "You're fine, you're just thinking too much." So I tried to lead my usual life and not let it bother me, this went on for a month, a very long and bothersome month. Then things started to get really scary for me.
My First Panic Attack
This happened seven months ago but I remember this day (and the feeling) like it was yesterday. It was 11:00 in the morning and I was Skyping with my best friend, it was a pretty usual conversation, nothing negative about it. As soon as the session ended and I looked at my room, I suddenly couldn't focus on anything in the room. My TV was right there in front of me and I started hearing automated questions in my mind:
"Are you looking at your TV right now? Are you in your room? Are you in your body? Are you going to faint? Have you fainted?"
My heartbeat suddenly started increasing and my mind went COMPLETELY NUMB. At this point, I had lost the ability to justify the situation with my mind and I also had trouble breathing. I started panicking, I started screaming for help. My mother gave me a benzodiazepine (bromazepam) and told me to lie down and relax. I still remember how horrible it was to just lie down with that horrible feeling in my entire body. I thought I was going to die and this was it. Almost 45 minutes later, I could rationally think again, my heartbeat went back to normal and I wasn't having any difficulty breathing anymore. At that point, I knew I needed professional help.
Fast-forward seven months and here I am. I've been to seven different psychiatrists. Have had every possible blood test done. About seven ECGs done. And one MRI done. I was officially diagnosed with G.A.D. and my first psychiatrist put me on an anti-depressant which was just made matters worse for me. Now, I've done my fair share of research on this and I know every anti-depressant works differently on every individual. But seven doctors later, I'm yet to find the one that works for me. I keep a Xanax in my pocket as a safety measure for the worst of times and I'm still trying to find the one anti-depressant that'll work for me, I've tried three till now.
How My Friends Took It
I'm honestly saying this, if you have a mental illness (any mental illness) and you've noticed a sudden drop in your social circle, I completely feel your pain. As I said earlier, I used to be the leader of my social circle, I used to be surrounded by at least twenty "friends" all day long. I have like five friends left now, people who actually worry about me and are always there to support me and pick me up whenever I go through a speed bump along the way. But I guess it's not all bad, at least this mental illness showed me who my real friends actually were and how many of them were just there through my good times, it really helped me put things into perspective which I'm actually thankful for. A guy being thankful for his mental illness, I know how it sounds. But for those who can relate to me, they'd know the feeling.
I used to love driving; the sight of the road scares me now. I haven't driven my own car in about two months. I'm slowly trying to deal with this fear, one step at a time, but it's pretty time consuming and it'll probably take everything I have to get rid of this fear, but I know I'll eventually get there. This is how Anxiety Disorder feeds on you, it attacks the things you love, the things you enjoy the most, and it turns them into your biggest fears, it makes them triggers for panic attacks. Pretty evil, I know. But sadly, that's how most mental illnesses are.
What Has Helped Me?
In my experience thus far, meditation has been THE best thing for me that personally worked for me. I was never into meditation and yoga, but once I started doing it I was hooked! I meditate for at least 40 minutes everyday now, it really helps ease my mind even if it's for a few hours before the "brain fog" and derealization comes back. But I've learned to be thankful for every peaceful moment I get, for every little moment I spend without my anxiety.
Another thing that helped me was the relationship I had with my anxiety. I was running away from it, I was scared of it, I thought I need to fight it. The thing with Anxiety Disorder is- the more you try to fight it, the stronger it gets and the more control it gets over you. So the way to go about it is to name your Anxiety something, imagine it's an evil or a funny figure (I imagine mine in all-black garb) and just learn to let it be, don't pay attention to it, don't fight it, just let it be. I know it's a lot harder than it sounds, I still struggle with it sometimes, but it's the only way to keep the Anxiety at bay.
Lastly, my friends. The friends who UNDERSTOOD what I was going through and stayed with me to tough it out with me. For those of you who are going through this horrendous ordeal alone, I can't even begin to imagine how lonely and traumatized you feel. I'm very thankful for the handful of friends I have in my life who are always there, just a call away.
My Message To Everyone Who's Going Through This
I'm not going to give you the same song and dance most people give you. I'm going to tell you something very real and something I firmly believe in. You're not suffering alone. Yes, others may not have your Anxiety but they have something else that's killing them inside. You need to stop comparing your condition to others, you don't know what they're hiding behind their smile, you don't know what they've been through or are going through, you only know as much as they choose to show you. One thing about mental disorders that bugs me is that they're a stigma, they're a very sensitive subject, most people don't like talking about it as openly as others do, so you probably don't know what you're talking about when you think someone is better than you, STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS!
- Start paying attention to yourself. Your diet, your routine, your family and friends.
- Seek professional help, I still haven't given up after seven doctors failed me so why should you?
- Have a support system, don't isolate yourself because you'll only be making matters worse.
- Meditate- Meditate as much as you can. There are apps that I use (Calm and Headspace) that actually teach meditation to pretty novice users.
- Exercise- This is something I'm having a hard time with but I'm starting to take out at least ten minutes a day to go for a walk.
- Keep a journal. Writing is the best form of therapy in my opinion.
- Be truthful to yourself and to your friends.
- Lastly, DO NOT LOSE HOPE!
Talk to me
This article was one of the hardest pieces of writing I've done in a long time, it wasn't for me, it was for you guys, the tears I've shed while writing this will not go in vain. My only goal here was to find people who are going through the same situation and give them a little peace of mind and make them go, "Oh my God! I'm in the same boat." My only goal is to make people understand that they're not alone in this fight and they can and WILL eventually win the battle.
Did this resonate with you? I'm going to reply to as many people as I can, talk to me in the comments below!