What better time to write a piece about Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) than when I am feeling really anxious. I have been feeling anxious all day and I decided to write down what it feels like while I’m in that state of mind. It’s really difficult because this is the last thing I want to do but I think it will be helpful and insightful to read at a later date when I am feeling better.
What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?
This is how the NHS website describes Anxiety in adults:-
“Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives. “
This is how they describe Generalised Anxiety Disorder:-
“GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.”
This is exactly how it effects me. It’s not just feeling a little worried, it’s feeling so worried that I struggle to function or cope with every day life. I often don’t know what I am worried about but it feels like my intuition is trying to tell me something bad is going to happen. For a long time I struggled to allow myself to be happy as I felt that I did not deserve to be happy and that the moment I let my guard down is when something truly awful would happen. The feelings of anxiety can sometimes last for days on end and can get too much for me. I’ve struggled for the past two years with many periods off work because of it but luckily I have supportive managers. A lot of people who suffer anxiety struggle with the “what if’s”. For example, I often think things like “what if this happens?, what if I did this? or what if I’m a bad person?” I hope this makes sense.
What triggered my Anxiety?
I am really not sure why I am feeling anxious today. It started yesterday evening and got a little worse as the night went on. I had been watching a Channel 4 series called “Pure”. It’s about a young woman who suffers from unwanted intrusive thoughts and how she comes to understand that she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It is really good so check it out if you get the chance but it may trigger people who suffer unwanted intrusive thoughts especially those of a sexual nature.
I think I recognised some characteristics which I share with the main character and that stuck in my mind a little. I suffer intrusive thoughts too which is either a symptom of my anxiety or a trigger of it. I can’t work out whether the thoughts cause anxiety or my anxiety causes the thoughts. I also don’t know if this could be OCD or a trait of OCD. These are discussions I need to have with my psychiatrist. I will write a blog about intrusive thoughts another time as there is a lot to say about it and it’s kind of personal.
There are lots of thoughts about the reason why people suffer from GAD. The NHS website suggests that it can be due to the following:-
- “overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
- an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
- the genes you inherit from your parents – you’re estimated to be 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
- having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
- having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
- having a history of drug or alcohol misuse
- many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.”
I am still unsure about why I have GAD. I definitely think it’s partly genetic as I’ve been a worrier and over anxious my whole life. I also think it could be due to a lack of Serotonin which helps regulate moods. I guess it could be due to a number of different things that I might never fully understand.
What does Anxiety feel like?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently but for me the main physical symptom is a pressure on my chest. It almost feels like a weight is on my chest and I can’t get it off. I sometimes have butterflies or a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach too.
Depending on the severity of my anxiety, I sometimes feel like I have a rapid heartbeat and my heart feels like it is thumping out of my chest. When this happens I can get a bit breathless which can escalate into a full blown panic attack. I haven’t had one for a long time because I recognise the symptoms now and can usually slow my breathing down and stop myself from panicking. I recall having a panic attack at a concert a few years ago. It came out of nowhere and I fainted. I didn’t realise that’s what it was at the time and the paramedics thought I had maybe been drinking or taking drugs but I hadn’t. I had only been in the venue for a short period of time when it happened.
Anxiety also causes me to be restless, tired and fatigued. It’s not a normal tiredness. My mind works over time and I constantly overthink and the constant internal battle is very tiresome. It affects my memory and sometimes I have no energy to do anything. I struggle to sleep when I am having a really bad time of it and find myself sitting up to all hours at night and then struggling to get up for work in the morning. This is something I am working on.
How do I manage my Anxiety?
I have been taking medication for both Anxiety and Depression for about two years. It takes a while to find the right combination and dose but it seems to be working for me just now. I have also had a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This was really beneficial for me and I learned coping mechanisms which help me to rationalise my thoughts as when the intrusive thoughts take over I cannot think straight.
Self care is very important. It’s important for me to keep my mind occupied and I think that’s one of the reasons I started getting into blogging, freebie hunting and product testing etc. It provides a welcome distraction plus I get paid and get to test lots of amazing products! I wrote this blog post tonight so I could get it out of my mind.
One of the hardest things to do is exercise when you have anxiety but it really is important to try and get out of the house and into the fresh air. I guarantee that you will feel a bit better just by going out a brisk walk. It usually works for me even though it’s the last thing I feel like doing. The hardest part is getting out the door but once I am out I just keep walking until I get tired. I have adog and I know she needs out so it probably makes it a bit easier. The routine of walking the dog after dinner helps me. I will also go for bath, pamper myself and binge watch Netflix! I try to get at least 8 hours sleep, drink a lot of water and make the best choices I can with food but it’s very difficult. I crave chocolate and can sometime binge eat in the evening which isn’t great.
Another important thing which helps is to talk about it. When I have anxiety I talk to my husband about it. Getting it off my chest and sometimes having a good cry usually makes me feel better. Plus copious cups of tea! I spoke about how I was feeling last night and this evening and I am feeling better than I did. It’s true what they say though, “a problem shared is a problem halved.”
I might have GAD my whole life, who knows, but it’s how I manage it that will make the most difference to my life. I have slowly gotten better but it’s took two years to reach a point where I can have a bit of a life (to a point) but I know it can change quickly if I don’t look after myself. I guess accepting that it is a disorder was half the battle as for a long time I thought it was normal to feel the way I did.
Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say for now. This is just a snapshot of how I am feeing at this moment in time and there is so much more I could say. If you are reading this and you have been feeling the same way then I hope it provides you with some comfort knowing that you are not alone. Go and speak to your GP about it or to someone you trust. It will get better but it’s also ok to not be ok.