I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A story about a time you were very afraid.

I had been here two weeks when the sickness began.  It washed over me and then wrung me out to dry.  Diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness.

With the illness came my anxiety.  They held hands, making it impossible for me to tell what was what.  Looking back, of course, it makes sense that the anxiety would arrive.  Weeks of going nonstop-- wisdom teeth extraction to camping to road tripping to flying out here with three little ones five and under...  It had to hit me eventually. At some point I would have to deal with what was the insanity of our last month of summer.

In the dark of night one Sunday, alone with no one to call, I felt entirely certain that I was going to die.  I laid on the couch sobbing, until finally I decided in my neurotic state that if I was going to die, I could at least get things in order for Josh. So I organized the bills, balanced the checkbook and recorded myself singing the boys' favorite bedtime lullabies in the bathroom mirror.

When I retreated again to the couch,
thoughts circled like hawks over the interstate:

You have c diff.
(A complication that's possible from taking antibiotics like I did back in July)
Not only do you have c diff, but you have passed it on to your children.
And your husband.
You are going to have to travel to Anchorage.
While you're sick.
And then you are going to die.
Your children are going to grow up without you.
You have finally  made it this far, only to lose out on living the best part of your life.
You will never get better.
You are going crazy.

With each day that passed after that initial night of panic, the anxiety's grip tightened.  At times, I couldn't take a full breath.  I was outside my mind with fear. Josh would get home and I would beg him repeatedly to tell him that I was going to be fine. If I heard it enough times, I was sure I would start to believe it. I spent hours on the phone with my mom each day, running my symptoms by her, sobbing and soaking up her comfort.

She recommended that I take my medication, Ativan, every six hours as directed on the bottle, until I started feeling more like myself.  I knew she knew what she was talking about, so even though I didn't want to, I swallowed the pills, one by one, for days.  They made me feel warm, sleepy and a bit foggy.  I hated taking them, but any time I missed a dose, I would spiral downward rapidly.

The lucky thing about the medication is that it made sleep possible.  And sleep was exactly what my body needed after everything I had put it through.  

I also got outside each day. Meandering while the boys played and even walking with Leah one evening.  

At the end of my physical illness, I adopted a "Fake it till you make it" attitude. I showered, got dressed and ready for the day, even though it was the last thing I felt like doing.  I managed the house, did chores and blogged, all against my own will, convinced that if I acted like I felt fine, soon I would actually start to feel fine.

It worked and ten days after this whole nightmare started I woke up with no body aches, no headache, no stomach cramps and no anxiety.

I found that once I felt better all the tasks that had felt monumental were suddenly less daunting.  Laundry? Dobable.  Dishes? Done.  Phone calls & paying the bills? Easy as pie.

The blessing of this intense period of acute anxiety is that I am now euphoric in the absence of it.  Everyday feels like a gift instead of a nightmare.


{I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder which is defined as "persistent, excessive, unrealistic worry about everyday things." 3% of the population is affected, and women are twice as likely as men to have it.  In my case, the anxiety generally peaks one or two days a month.  I rarely need to take a pill for it.  Breathing, making lists, exercising or talking it out can bring me down.  In the past, it has never been debilitating.  It has been manageable.  The last two weeks have shown me how lucky I have been.  Not everyone's anxiety is livable.}


Tabitha Studer said...

Very brave post, Shelly! Thank you for sharing.
Sending love from way down southeast
(well,PA is South to you guys anyway!)

Marilynn Raatz said...

Very afraid - yes that describes anxiety. Feeling blessed when it's gone - yes. Being open about it - well you are and that is a relief. We treat all kinds of ailments, and don't blame ourselves for having them. But anxiety or depression? We try on our own to make it better. And we feel bad about it. It's a new time thank goodness. We can talk about it. And because of that, there are more treatments than ever before. New and better treatments. So if you are suffering, talk about it, and treat it! You aren't alone. I love you Shelly!