by Charlotte Underwood
Generalized anxiety disorder
For the most part of my life, I was called a hypochondriac. It was a normal part of my day to be told that I was overreacting that I should calm down.
It was strange to me because the worry that I felt was very real and I could not understand why others did not share the same concerns. So, when people told me to calm down, I found I couldn’t, I was unable to control the churning that was inside my stomach.
When I finally spoke to a therapist, it became apparent that I was suffering from Anxiety. I had never heard that word before, but as it was explained to me, it all made sense. It seems that my mind takes a typical situation and ‘catastrophizes,’ making me turn a simple trip to the corner shop into the next SAW movie. In fact, I relate my anxiety to the movie ‘Finial Destination’, that’s what it’s like for me.
My father decided to research what anxiety was after the diagnosis. He was extremely supportive and found a new passion and understanding for mental health; he became my biggest support. He explained that anxiety is more than just worry, that it falls into many categories, what I had was general anxiety.
Having general anxiety means, essentially, that I worry about everything. It is incredibly hard to live with as I have a very rational part of me. I am constantly fighting myself and telling myself off. I can understand when I am being irrational but I cannot turn those thoughts off, and they become overwhelming. It’s like having a stroppy child trapped inside your adult mind.
Daily life with generalized anxiety
The way my anxiety works is rather limiting to living a functional life. If someone close to me gets ill, or I develop a fear, like something such as cancer, I will get so scared that I will develop real symptoms of said illness. Due to this, I have spent a good two years in and out of the hospital for chronic pains that did not technically have a cause. It’s embarrassing and awkward to get so anxious that you cannot tell what is real and what is in your head.
I am not able to work, as I find it hard to be around other people, to have the pressure. It can get me so worked up that all I can think and dream about is work. I become unable to separate work from life, and so the balance is removed, and I become suicidal. Learning and working feels like a prison to me because my anxiety won’t let me focus and it tells me I am not good enough.
When it comes to friendships, I find them very hard to manage. I cannot start a conversation, that means I cannot make a call, send a text or even read messages sometimes, just communicating on a simple basis’s is an impossible task. I cannot even call the GP to make an appointment or call in sick to college; I have to rely on emails and online systems, it’s like I am hiding, but I cannot help it.
Even walking down the street is hard for me, it feels like I am walking in a minefield. If I see a tree, I assume it will fall on me. If there is a person close by, I assume I will be mugged or murdered. If I walk past a car or motorbike, I assume that I will have acid thrown at me. I cannot go in a city without expecting to be in a terror attack.
It’s the same with transport; I can’t get in a car without expecting it to crash. If I go on a train, I expect it to fall on its side. I have still not been able to go on a plane because I believe it will burst into flames if I put one step inside. I know how irrational it all is, I know these things are very unlikely, and there is a 99% chance I will be fine, but my mind prays on the 1%, it’s like I want it to happen.
Anxiety, as you can see, swallows my ability to have friendships, to hold down a job, to learn, to travel or to do anything that I actually want to. When I get scared, like I often do, I will find myself frozen, unable to talk or move, I can hear what I want to say in my head, I can feel myself wanting to move but I cannot.
It always bothers me when people tell me not to worry because I do not choose to be like this, I don’t enjoy it. If there were a button for Anxiety, I would keep it off, but it is not that simple, it’s not a simple mind over matter, it’s deep-rooted in me to the core.
We need to stop judging people for having concerns and worry, instead if we just listened, it would make the world of difference to a person with anxiety.
Charlotte Underwood is an author and mental health advocate.