It seems unbelievable that it’s been a month to the date that I was finally free of my anxiety medication. Is it surprising that I’m still here? Depends on your mindset, I suppose.
Let’s time travel. Go on, humour me. 18 months ago is when it all started. Most of you know the story so I won’t bore you, but for those that don’t, despite what I thought was a pretty great life, the world got on top of me, things went a bit wrong, and the upshot was a bout of very mild depression, but primarily a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Now, let’s put things into perspective here. There are many different types of anxiety. Panic disorder, Phobias, ASD, PTSD, OCD, and Depression are probably the most ‘well known’. This is ultimately only a small amount of the diagnosable mental health conditions that exist. I suppose the reason they’re known more is because they’re quite specific.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, affects a huge amount of people, but because it’s ‘general’ in symptoms it has this feeling that it’s given the title because it couldn’t be pinned down. I think that’s the problem though. GAD is so general and difficult to understand and deal with that it can be horrendous to live with. Feel free to look back at my posts from a year or so ago for more info.
I’ll admit, I’m pretty pleased with myself. Life is good and as far as I can tell, apart from the odd moment of concern, I’ve done well since ‘going clean’ and being med-free. Life is how it was before, although somewhat calmer and more organised, BUT, it isn’t all plain sailing. Things can, and do, still worry me on occasions. Thankfully, some of the (what I viewed as silly) things from the early days of diagnosis have disappeared and I let them slide, but other things can bother me still, and if GAD wants it to bother me, it most certainly will.
Take the recent example, that still plagues me as a write. Yesterday, I received a cat scratch. It’s more like three. Each about half an inch to an inch long. The cat’s not ours (another long story) but I feel I know it well. It camped outside the house long enough with soppy eyes and a mild twitch of the pitying head for good measure, which meant an instant attraction for mum to decide it was lonely, should be allowed the five-star treatment, be bought its own bed (which it doesn’t use), and ultimately become king.
Anyway, this feline, who I’m not averted too – we had cats for years before they followed the catnip trail to the sky – it decided to scratch me. ‘It was only playing’ I’m told, but who knows what’s really going on behind those eyes.
Previously, I’d have cleaned this superficial wound and that would have been it. Now, it’s the biggest thing and plagues my world and will on and off for the next week. That’s the thing about GAD. What seems like a minor thing to others, to someone with anxiety, it manifests beyond belief. So what am I worried about? I Googled it, of course. I could get cat scratch disease and die within six days. Go on, laugh at me. I dare you, but just remember that whilst it sounds silly, and I understand why because even thinking and typing it it does, in my head, it also is the most real thing ever.
And the worst part of all of this? That cat is still in the house, looking at me with those eyes as if to say, go on then, stroke me again. Sorry matey, you’ve lost a friend, at least until the confidence returns. GAD does that. It makes you anxious and most of the time, you don’t really know why, and you don’t know why it decided to choose you either, or why at a particular time of the day or night, but one thing I do know…you just want it to go away.
I look and act normal at the moment, I’ve been talking to friends and family normally, but all the time that cat and the scratch still flit through my mind and take my thoughts elsewhere, if only for a brief period, because GAD likes that. It likes to take control of your mind and make you over-analyse everything beyond recognition, and into oblivion. It’s quite draining, and most of the time, you won’t even know my brain’s in overdrive.
I’m not alone, but when you are diagnosed with a mental health condition, because they are all so different and there’s no standard fix as there might be for other medical matters, it can feel lonely. When I was first diagnosed, I felt like the only person with GAD. I now know I’m not, and I’m so glad for the family and friends that stuck by me. I’ve come out the other side (mostly), and now work with and for people that truly accept that sometimes my mind might be elsewhere and I’m not having the best of times, but I’ll be right back once GAD has cleared off and I’ll continue to still be Roy.
For those with GAD, we’re who we always were. GAD may change the way we approach things or act from time to time, but remember, we didn’t choose GAD to be in our lives, it chose us, and we deal with it and continue our lives. I think that makes us pretty fantastic people.
If you take anything away from this blog, whether you know me or not, know that what I end on applies to every person I know living with GAD.
Sometimes I need you there, ready to catch me. Sometimes I don’t – I need to be alone. At all times, though, I need to know you are there, that you care, and will at least make some attempt to understand me and treat me as the person I always was.