I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is usually shortened to GAD, which is hilarious to me. Someday I will write my memoirs and they will be called "EGADS!" No one will read that book, except for maybe my mom and some people who buy it in a clearance bin at Barnes & Noble accidentally, thinking it is a book about Egon from Ghostbusters. To those fine folks, I would like to apologize now, well in advance of this event occurring and well in advance of me, you know, writing the book to begin with.
If you don't know what GAD is, let me put on my finest teaching robes and share some of the basics: Feeling nervous of shy or worried about things from time to time is a totally normal part of the human experience. But, feeling nervous, worried, shy, and anxious all the time, to the extent that it prevents you from doing things, from living your life – that's GAD. People with GAD battle it everyday. Sometimes, we win. Sometimes, like the time I literally locked my doors and hid under my bed rather than go on a first date, we don't. The point is, it can be complicated. And more than that, generalized anxiety disorder is often wildly misunderstood. Here are 8 things people with GAD want you to know:
I Know It Can Be Annoying
My anxiety can be annoying. Super annoying. It's annoying for me, and it's annoying for other people. Please know that anxiety sufferers are very aware that the consequences of our anxiety are annoying. For example: I do this ridiculous thing where (in addition to drugging myself and drinking a mountain of scotch) in order to fly on an airplane, I tap a very specific part of the outside of the plane three times. You know, to make sure it stays up in the air. If you're behind me, don't sigh with irritation that I'm taking three extra seconds out of your day to do that. I know it's annoying, and now in addition to thinking of my impending death by plane, I'll be thinking about how much you, a total stranger hates me, and I won't be able to stop.
Relationships Are Harder For Us
Oh my god, this is a big one. Relationship of all kinds – romantic, professional, familial, neighborly – are affected in almost every conceivably way by the presence of anxiety in our lives. People with GAD often feel the need to check in constantly, or to do the opposite, and disappear completely and without warning or explanation. We have a tendency to try to control situations so that we aren't presented with any outcomes that might find us surprised and unprepared. This is tough on the people we date. Really, it's tough on anyone in our lives, but it can be especially challenging for romantic partners since they are so intimately involved and emotionally connected to our behavior. Our fights are bigger and longer, and it takes us a very long time to fully trust anyone and feel like we can be ourselves. Our break-ups are epically awful; All we do is think about what we did wrong – for years. It's awesome.
Being Anxious Is Different Than Being Shy
I get so wigged about meeting new people that I will sometimes throw up. Actual throw-up, not hyperbolic throw-up. Sure, we've all been shy or nervous, but for GAD sufferers, this is our default state. Please don't brush us off, or act like it's an adorable personality trait.
It's a Real Thing – A Very Real Thing
You would not believe the number of people I've met who don't think GAD is real. I'm not immature, or dramatic, or crying out for attention: I literally begin to sweat and freak out sometimes for no actual reason. Come here and let me wipe it on you if you don't believe me.
Everything Is Hard
Getting out of bed, picking clothes to wear, figuring out what to eat, standing in line at the post office, smiling at a co-worker – these are things you do almost every day. If you've got GAD, just listing them is exhausting because you see not just the list, but the hours of circling thoughts that go into each task. Please understand that for every little facet of normal, daily functioning that you do mindlessly, for someone with chronic anxiety, making those things happen takes a monumental feat of strength and bravery.
We See The World Differently
On a good day, you might see the world as rife with potential and possibility, whereas, even on a good day, we will see it as being dauntingly riddled with challenges. We see the world differently, which is not always a bad thing. We also think more about what's going with other people, and can be totally insightful. It can also result in getting lost in a mental tailspin of what-ifs and worst case scenarios.
We Would Give Anything to Change
It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: We don't love any part of living with anxiety. We go to therapy, we take meds, we take risks...we do what we can to mitigate the damage anxiety does to our lives and relationship, and we try to manage it, but it's a process. We're not this way because we want to be. Living with GAD means being permanently engrossed in an ongoing effort to feel healthy and strong, and that effort has its ups and downs.
It's The Best Thing Ever When You're There For Us
If you're our friend, we will love and appreciate you to the end. A good friend to a GAD-haver isn't overly sensitive, but they're aware. They dig the person, illness or no, and while we may not always express it: we appreciate you, and the way you understand and support us, more than we could ever say.