I struggled with the title of this post…because honestly if you have a generalized anxiety disorder “living with” can be a hard statement. I say that because sometimes you feel like you’re “just surviving” having an anxiety disorder. Some days, we’re proud just to get through a day or hour or minute in one piece.
Mental health is a subject that is horribly under-discussed in churches and most Christian communities. Because of that, being a Christian with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be a tricky subject to talk about. So I’m praying about what I say and hoping I let God do the writing.
Two of the reasons I wanted to share on this Topic is because of 1. I think people need to get a glimpse of what it’s really like and 2. Also, I want people with GAD to know they’re not alone. I also believe that there is a difference between being anxious and living with GAD. Honestly, I think there are few posts about living with GAD because it’s both hard to explain sometimes and something that is easy for people to judge you on. Here is how Generalized Anxiety Disorder is defined:
a disorder characterized by excessive or unrealistic anxiety about two or more aspects of life (work, social relationships, financial matters, etc.), often accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or dizziness.
While most of the problems that people with GAD face is in the head, it can manifest in physical symptoms too like mentioned above. I thought one way to show what it’s like living with GAD is to share some of my thoughts and fears I deal with- so I’ve compiled a list of some to use.
*please keep in mind that everyone’s GAD can be different and manifest in different fears. Overall, it’s anxiety about everything- hints the generalized part. Each person will have overall criteria but the triggers and physical symptoms can be different from person to person. What I am sharing on is my own experience*
No, you’re not having a heart attack- your heading toward a panic attack.
No, the doctor’s pause doesn’t mean bad news is coming.
You’re capable of doing what God has called you to do.
Not every pain means cancer.
You’re friends aren’t ignoring you- they can be busy.
No, you aren’t a burden.
Fear isn’t from God so don’t let it rule you.
Stop replaying your conversation with ___ in your mind.
No, not all fights are your fault.
Stop apologizing for something you didn’t do
I can go on and on- that’s only scratching the surface. And they can get more complicated. GAD can be debilitating if you allow it to be. But most of us, fight so that we aren’t defined by that diagnosis. For those of you who have no idea what it’s like living with GAD, this post is for you to better understand. For me, living with GAD is like this:
1. We constantly overthink
We can replay and rethink over a small conversation for days. Typically trying to think what we could or should have said better. A short vacation becomes a huge worry because we think of every little thing that could go wrong. An interaction you might forget about we will overthink. It’s not something we can turn off easily, it’s just how our mind works.
2. A small issue can feel like a mountain
Something so small can become a mountain of an issue for someone with GAD. For instance, a night out with friends can feel like meeting the queen. There are pressure and fear over even the smallest actions or decisions. I personally find deciding where to go to dinner sometimes a huge ordeal (just ask my family, haha!). A tiny fight or not answered text can feel like a lost friendship.
3. We know that our fear is irrational but that doesn’t stop it
I know that for most of you, the idea of thinking a pulled muscle in your chest could be a heart attack or a missed text means your friend is mad seems stupid and ridiculous. Guess what, I agree. We know that our fear is largely irrational. We understand it doesn’t make sense and has no rationality behind it – but that doesn’t mean we can turn off that fear. Trust me, if we could we would. I know it is silly to worry about going to do a phone call being bad news doesn’t mean I can eliminate that worry instantly. We understand that our fear is unrealistic and irrational- that’s part of the definition of what makes you have GAD rather than just feeling anxious. But in the moments when our anxiety is at its highest, we don’t see that. We typically will see that it’s unrealistic later looking back.
The irony of writing this article is the fact that I have really high anxiety about posting this article. How funny…the idea of writing a post about anxiety gives me more anxiety. Talking about GAD and living with it can be a hard thing. It’s something that most people can’t even understand. I’m planning to do a post about how to help your friends with GAD but today was just about maybe helping people understand what it’s like.
May is mental health awareness month so I thought it was a fitting time to share this post. If you are struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, depression, or any other mental illness, please know it’s good to get help. Seek our a pastor, a counselor, or contact a helpline. You are not alone. Getting counseling or seeking help is not a weakness- there is nothing wrong with it… it’s a good step. If you are having a hard time or feeling suicidal please don’t waste a minute and contact someone.
The national suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Another good website – https://www.samhsa.gov/
Please contact your local pastor for help or find a Christian counselor in your area
5 ways I combat anxiety- read here