What am I talking about?
I was chatting with my best friend, Em Snapp, the other day and realized that while I am reaping the benefits of this experience, I hadn't even really been that open with some of those closest to me about it!* Like, did you know that there is something called Generalized Anxiety Disorder? While some of the symptoms simply sound like life probz, it's a legit thing. Just ask The Mayo Clinic.Things like (1) constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns, (2) restlessness and feeling keyed up or on edge, (3) fatigue, (4) difficulty concentrating or your mind "going blank," (5) irritability, (6) muscle tension or muscle aches.... Those are all symptoms of GAD.
Growing up in a family who didn't recognize mental health as actual health, I have a tendency to disregard things like "depression" or "phobias" or "ADHD" and other stuff that goes on in people's heads as legit health issues. I grew up in the "suck it up!" household, and those foundations from childhood are tough to shake. So when I look over that list of symptoms, I think, "Riiiiiiight, Sarah," and then dismiss this legitimate disorder as just me being crazy and not being able to handle life like any intelligent, capable adult and, well... the inner dialogue just gets hairier from there.
Thank goodness for an amazing roommate from undergrad who was much more informed about these things than I, and she helped to educate me about mental health and how legit it actually is. She challenged my assumptions with something along the lines of:
You know, the chemical makeup of a person's brain is very much a physical thing. And if something is unhealthy in the brain, and you tell someone to just "get over it," they physically can't. It's like telling someone who was born without legs to just "get over it" and walk already. It's the same thing. You have to have tools and assistance to make it work.Mind = blown.
When I decided to start seeing a therapist last fall, my life changed. For real. I won't go into all the details, and I won't try to blow this up into something bigger than it is, but if it helps someone else seek out resources and feel less alone, let's do it. Maybe she feels like a failure because she can't handle sudden changes in plans with finesse, or she's wallowing in anxiety and doubt. She's feeling guilty for being stressed (yeah, this happens. it sucks.), or gets stuck in these cyclical bouts of thought: guilt → fear → anxiety → worst possible outcome → failure → guilt → fear → anxiety, etc, and fantasizes about getting in an accident and needing hospitalized so (1) she wouldn't be held accountable for anything for a few days and (2) people would be super expressive about much she means to them. #MessedUp
I think the scariest part of all this are the risks involved with NOT admitting these struggles are actually health issues, and then learning to work with them. The Mayo Clinic explains that
- substance abuse
- trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- substance use disorders
One of the GREAT things about all this is that therapy is, like, the best medicine. Retraining your thoughts, learning to spot triggers and how to consider anxieties in a frame of reference has been HUGE, people. HUGE. Several things I've read say medication is an option, but maybe mine's a rather mild case, because the gab seshs with my shrink are working wonders.
*Not that you have to be open about things. I just generally am, and I like to be.