Tuesday, 19 June 2018

General Anxiety

I've written a little bit about being a very sensitive person and about being an introvert but I've not fully addressed the topic of generalised anxiety.  The fact is that I struggle with it though I don't have an official diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder, likely because I've never needed to seek one.  To be honest I am not really sure how much of my personal details I am prepared to divulge, though I also tend to make it my mission to help others by discussing health concerns that are less talked about, less understood and with which I have experience.  Usually that is CFS/ME or chronic illness in general.  Because illness is stressful and can itself cause anxiety, I don't really know if I have a separate condition or if it's just part of the package.  I have no way of knowing and can only make guesses which don't contribute anything helpful to the situation.  It works for me to be medicated though periodically I have gone off medication, believing all to be well.

This is a common problem for people who need to be on long term medication.  When the medication is working you feel good, you begin to believe you are cured and you don't need the medication any more.  You stop taking the medication. You may be okay for awhile.  I have done that at least twice in my life and I hope twice is enough to teach me.  I hope I remember how bad it feels to be constantly anxious and on edge: to live with your fight or flight response so readily triggered.  

There is a chance, that by writing this publicly I am holding myself accountable.  I say 'a chance' because I often don't immediately know my motive for doing things.  Feelings are something I have to work out logically.  I think that I am feeling a need to be in control, and that I am choosing to do something, write about this, so that I make myself accountable to taking care of the issue.  Of course, there is never only one reason and a secondary reason is the hope that it may help someone else who lives with anxiety or loves someone who does.

Recently I spent some time in Vancouver. It was a wonderful weekend trip though also exhausting and it must be said that as a tourist I cannot do most of the things even elderly tourists tend to do.  I don't have the stamina for more than an hour or two of mild activity.  So, it's only because I was on a mission for some particular items that I went shopping.  I don't enjoy shopping and shopping in the city is exhausting.  There are people. Lots of them.  And noise.  I'm not used to moving through a crowd and I tend to pause and give way  if my path collides with that of another person.  This meant I was pushed around, although not with any or much physical contact, but sort of bounced pong-like via aura. Crossing the street, or getting across the corridor of a mall was particularly challenging.   By the second day I was getting better at just picking my path and continuing on it, but although I got better at coping with people I didn't get any better at coping with the noise.  Loud music is everywhere, caf├ęs, pubs, restaurants, shops.  I suspect studies have shown it makes people buy more, whether that is food, drink or consumer goods. 

I achieved my shopping mission with much exhaustion ensuing and bed rest required but I came away with a renewed appreciation for small town shopping.  I am just as likely to not find what I am looking for at home, but at least I don't have to deal with the crowds.

Despite my dislike of having to function in a crowd, I don't particularly have social anxiety, which seems to be one of the more common manifestations of generalised anxiety.  Often I feel physical symptoms with no really solid reason for them so my brain hunts for reasons.  I feel jittery and tense and over-stimulated.  I worry about everything and try to control or manage my environment as much as possible because that seems like it would be calming.  Sometimes it does help, but not always.  I wake up in the morning feeling anxious and worrying about all of the things I want to do, need to do, believe I should do, can imagine other people think I should do or want/need me to do, and feeling too physically exhausted and overwhelmed to manage it all.  This feeling stays with me as long as I am awake and it is difficult to divert myself enough to be free of it.  If anything happens that is a bit stressful or difficult I might have what I call a melt down.  This will be either a fight or flight style melt down and I cannot predict which it will be.  

I don't like being that person.  It feels like having your brain and body hijacked by another being.  I am someone who doesn't like to be out of control.  I drink very little alcohol because I loathe being intoxicated. 

I am not going into all of the details about how anxiety affects my mind and body but I suspect you can imagine it or you know someone who experiences it.  It's not something you can just talk or think yourself out of.  If it were that easy everyone with anxiety would do it.  You don't talk yourself out of a broken leg. If your leg is broken and you have to get somewhere you might drag yourself or hop on one leg.  You find a strategy to cope in the short term; you don't cure yourself.  Fortunately for me, though not for many others, my anxiety has never gotten so bad that I cannot function or care for myself, but it has gotten bad enough that I can foresee that happening.  There are indeed strategies, cognitive behavioural therapy deals with these, that someone with anxiety can learn to employ to help with coping, to make certain portions of life manageable.  The brain can be re-trained to different thought patterns.  But make no mistake, this is hard work and a small repair.  It is worth doing but anyone doing it is making much greater effort than someone who does not struggle with anxiety can ever understand.  I suspect someone living with chronic physical pain might understand.  

This is not to say there aren't people who do not suffer with anxiety yet still feel great empathy and understand it through the eyes of someone who cares.  There absolutely are and someone living with anxiety is fortunate if family members and close friends are supportive.  I am certainly lucky that way, although none of my friends know about the anxiety.  You would have to live with me to know about it unless I tell you.  It's stressful being so exhausted that you cannot do what you expect of yourself, what you want to do, what you believe others want or expect of you.  It is possible that this is the main source of my anxiety, along with my personality tending towards being a worrying perfectionist.  I don't ask people for sympathy.  I generally don't mention it.  But this blog is a little bit different.  Here I am trying to reach out to anyone else who might have a similar experience and needs to know they are not alone.

I've had five days back on my medication and it hasn't kicked in yet.  It won't for about another week.  I'm taking deep breaths and one day at a time.  I will manage.  I always do.


  1. Oh sweet heart, we are more similar than you know!
    I was diagnosed with GAD after many years of medication and psychiatry and physical symptoms which meant I couldn't easily leave the house for six years.
    currently I am barely managing on herbal medication.
    However I will say my autism diagnosis has explained my overloads and meltdowns and other symptoms such as brain overload. Your description of being ping ponged on the crowd's aura is so apt!
    Many hugs my dear and here's hoping the meds kick in soon.
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Thanks, I am sure it will. I am sorry you are 'barely managing'. I am the person I am, and even on medication I am sensitive but I don't have this constant feeling of being almost in fight or flight mode which I just cant' stand! I don't think I am on the spectrum. I'd be surprised and it's never been something anyone has ever suggested but probably some things that are attributed to being INTJ could also be slightly autism spectrum. It's hard to know what is learned and what is innate and what is considered 'normal' and what isn't. However, if I am anything I am very determined. Thanks for the hugs and support. It's much appreciated and I know that it truly comes from a place of experience and understanding. xo


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