Mental illnesses are common enough that we can diagnose them by terms but are individualized enough to make generalization frustrating. I was told by a professional that I have General Anxiety Disorder with Panic, so that’s what I’m going with. However, I’m aware that experiences are different. Hence the title.
My GAD can be summed up by an intense, obsessive, often completely irrational worry about anything and everything. Everything is overthought. I’m suddenly fully convinced something terrible will happen, and it will probably be all my fault. My normal logic fails me, and all of my reasoning exclusively points towards the anxiety-inspired conclusion.
I once had a panic attack that I was going to fail college because one paper was late. Another string of days, I was convinced my parents would die in a car accident and I would need to raise my youngest brother. One day without exercise can convince me that I’m doomed to never be healthy, and that I’ll soon be hundreds upon hundreds of pounds. Sometimes I wake up and feel like God is specifically ashamed of me. As I write this on a healthy day, these assumptions seem ridiculous. But the anxious days make it completely true.
Weeks can go by where I consistently feel like I can conquer the world. I can often handle great difficulties and hard decisions with ease, even enjoying the pressure it brings. I thrive in some leadership and projects, and I start to wonder if I no longer have anxiety.
Then I’m blindsided by difficult breathing, overwhelming darkness, panic attacks, and the crippling conviction of impending doom. Getting out of bed sounds like running a marathon. Studying or writing makes my chest tighten. Well-meaning questions of how I am or how I’m doing on a project send me into a mental tailspin. These seasons can last for weeks, too, though my typical maximum is one week.
These pictures were taken on the same day within a few hours of each other; both accurately described how I was feeling at the time. Sent these to my boyfriend to show how I was doing. Mom, I promise I comb my hair!
Again, anxiety takes on different forms for different people. I know some individuals whose anxiety is primarily physiological while others’ is mostly mental racing. Some people have panic attacks several times a day while others have them maybe twice a year. Something that reduces me to a puddle of tears and short breaths doesn’t faze someone else, and vice versa. It varies as much as the people who have anxiety.
It’s scary to write this on the internet, but I do it to show the reality of anxiety. Mental illness is no respecter of persons. I am a strong, dedicated Christian young person with healthy relationships, a well-fed and exercised body, and a firm reliance on God. Though these attributes help mitigate worse symptoms, anxiety is still a regular part of my life. I am neither a terrible person nor a terrible Christian because of my anxiety (though my anxiety tells me otherwise). I’m just a Christian with sinful genes in a sinful world. And that’s okay.
What are some ways you perceive anxiety–whether right or wrong? If you have anxiety, what is your experience like? How do you think anxiety is perceived?