I think that if I was granted a wish, it would be that, for just one day, I could feel normal. To wake up gradually, easing myself into consciousness. Once I was wide awake, I’d be able to roll out of bed, maybe have a cup of tea, and relax. I’d think about what faced me in the day ahead, but that’s all they would be – simple thoughts. They wouldn’t bombard me from the second I wake up. My chest wouldn’t burn. My heart wouldn’t pound. I wouldn’t gasp for air, the bile at the back of my throat scalding me. My mind wouldn’t race with uncontrolled worries about what I was facing that day with work, with my family, or any other minor aspect of my life.
I have a mental illness. It’s not something I talk about very often, but it’s with me every second of the day. Some days are better than others, and every once in a while, I can go maybe even three or four days before the huge monster that is my anxiety takes over, socks me in the stomach like an iron fist, and brings me to my knees, leaving me shaking and in tears.
I’ve lived with anxiety since I was a very small child. I still remember, very vividly, sitting on the babysitter’s couch, crying my eyes out because my parents had gone somewhere and I was afraid that they were going to be in a fiery car crash and never come home again. I wasn’t more than seven or eight, but that worry was more real than anything else around me at the time. Fast forward three decades and not much has changed. I was finally diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was in my early 20s, and went on a string of medications to try to find something that worked. I had some sort of allergic reaction to each and every one and, for my own health, eventually stopped trying medication as a way to control my GAD. For a few years, self-managing was fine. Life was relatively stress-free and I seemed to cope without too much of a problem, but that’s not the case anymore because life has grown messy and I have a demanding career. These things leave me exhausted and my brain now runs free with anxiety. I’m obsessive with my worry. It consumes nearly every thought, kills my appetite, leaves me going through the motions but not really living. It’s like being caught in a half-life. I know that normalcy is out there, but the uncontrolled, debilitating worry hounds me until all I want to do is hide, or cry, and on those really bad days, I wonder why I keep living at all.
The problem is that, when you live with GAD, you know that your worries and fears are irrational. You know that that one small thing you’re freaking out about is really minor, and it’s not worth getting worked up about it, and you tell yourself that over and over again, but the worry is still there, nagging you. Worst case scenarios swirl around in your brain, and you think of all the ways that this could go wrong. Or you dredge up past mistakes and those linger with your current worries to remind you what a horrible person you are because you messed something up or said something wrong or didn’t make someone happy. Whenever something bad does happen, it sends me into a tailspin and I’m almost unable to function until it passes and I’m faced with the realization that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be and, once again, I overreacted. And then I’m just embarrassed and mad at myself for being such a wimp.
I hate living like this. I hate the way it makes me feel and that I can’t control my reactions sometimes. I hate myself for being so weak. I’m still not medicating via a doctor, but I’ve started to pursue things naturally, and my anxiety and the need to control it through natural means is the main reason I’m now studying herbalism. I’ve just started taking a St. John’s Wort tincture, and I can tell that it does help when I take it regularly, but when I don’t, I’m back to being a mess again. Part of me wants to go to a doctor and try some more medicine, but the rest of me remembers the side effects from the last ones (hallucinations, full-body rocking, swollen tongue, terrible hives) and doesn’t even want to attempt to endure that again. I know that I can never be cured, but I hope that I can learn to cope, or at least find a way to suppress these worries the majority of the time.
I have no idea why I’m even posting this. Maybe so that someone else reads it and realizes that they’re not alone? Besides, writing is cathartic for me and talking about my anxiety, which is a part of myself that I work to hide so much, may help. I feel like I used to be a strong person, but I’m not anymore. I’m letting anxiety win and I need to fight harder. There has to be a way to win. I can’t and won’t give up, because I’m self-aware of my worries and their irrationality. I just wish things were different.