Please note, this post is from my own personal experience, people experience generalized anxiety disorder in different ways. This is how it affected me. This story is set in my teens and summarises how I felt everyday for years. I can list off what it feels like to have generalized anxiety disorder but why don’t I just tell you the truth?
If you don’t know about generalized anxiety disorder, you may not think that it sounds like a big deal. Everyone gets anxious right? sure, but those with GAD feel worry on a higher, more extreme level about everyday things that might seem small to others. Here’s what it feels like to have generalized anxiety disorder, in my personal experience.
I wake up each morning and dread the day ahead. I dread the needless worry that I know I’m going to feel all day long. Again and again and again. My mind feels frazzled as if it’s semi-concussed, it makes my vision slightly blurring as if I’m looking through a motion delayed filter. The blurry vision I used to experience only in the evenings now greets me when I wake.
As I look around my bedroom ceiling and wipe my tired eyes, the worries that were racing in my head the night before come rushing back like a crashing wave. It seems like sleep is the only time I get a break from the endless concerns and anxiety. I wonder when the next time I’ll wake up calm will be. Will this be how I start my day each morning for the rest of my life?
I sit up on my bed and stare at the wall. The quiet room is still, but my mind is just starting to race. As I sit there quietly for a moment, I look around my room in an attempt to see clearly. However, it doesn’t seem to stop. The mist still clouds my eyes.
Making my way to the bathroom, my head feels heavy and full to the brim like it could erupt at any moment. Looking into the bathroom mirror, the worries I lived the night before once again flood back into my head. Doing so, butterflies explode in my stomach as I remember what I need to worry about.
‘Did I not put that thought to bed last night?’ I wonder.
No, you still need to mull it over a few times before you find new things to worry about in the day ahead.
I look at the reflection of myself and can’t help but question how I ended up this way. I make my way back into my bedroom and look around for my clothes. Finding them, I hesitate to start getting dressed. By getting dressed I know I’ll have to face another day ahead.
I plonk myself on the couch and flip open my phone wanting to find escape, even though I’ve only been out of bed for half an hour. Any kind of relief will do. So I open up Facebook. There are pictures of happy faces, funny pictures and quotes like;
‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’
‘Don’t bother with anyone else before you love yourself’
I see these ‘motivational’ quotes that get shared by everyone and their dog, but somehow they don’t apply to me. I can’t seem to connect with them like other people do. Do people really share stuff like this because they believe it and think it applies to them? or do they just want to be part of the conversation?
Soon enough, it’s all too much for me. I click the button on the side of my phone and the screen goes dark. Seeing the people on my newsfeed live their lives ‘so happy’ makes me feel more anxious. ‘Am I doing something wrong? Why aren’t I where they are, and living what appears to be a carefree life too?’
I can’t eat breakfast because my stomach feels sick with worry. I can’t even manage to eat a piece of toast. The time on the morning TV gets ever so close to 7am. The time when I know I’ll have to start facing the day ahead. What awaits for me today? Will it be another day of not feeling good enough? Like I don’t really belong? Will I have to out on a brave face again?
I don’t even know what I’m worrying about by this point and what I even need to worry about.
My stomach sinks as the time gets to 6.45am.
I splash cold water in my face in a last ditch attempt to clear my eyes from the mist. Here we go.
My heart beats out of my chest as I make my way out of the front door. The sun is blinding and offers no relief from my haze. I have a long walk ahead of me until I reach the train station. I feel exposed as I walk down the long winding road and feel as if I am being watched by every passer by.
‘I bet they think I’m acting weird.’ I think to myself.
If I’m not sure of myself, can others see it too?
I’m floating, drifting like it could all be a dream and I’m not really there. I know I exist in this moment, but I do not feel like I am really alive. What is it that makes me feel this way? My focus however is quickly redirected to what I need to be worried about. Did I leave anything at home? Did I even close and lock the front door?
I have no idea.
I have to turn back, I can’t remember the exact moment I closed the door. Did it happen? Why can’t I seem to exist in the present moment?
I wrestle with the idea of turning back. I might miss my train by doing so but I can’t go to college knowing that I could have left the door open. I tell myself I must have left the door open and I make the decision to turn back. Upon reaching the front door, I realise that I have indeed closed and locked it.
I kick myself.
Of course it was locked, why do I keep doing this? Blanking out everyday occurrences from my memory. Now I can get back to the real issues of the day. What went wrong yesterday? I hadn’t even thought about that yet. My mind puts forward a thought of when I made a fool of myself in class in front of me.
It’s a crippling thought. Will they all still be thinking about it today? Chances are they will, and they’ll be talking about me amongst themselves without me realising. I still don’t feel like I fit in there. I’m sure today will be the day that they figure out I’m different. I’ll slip up and they’ll realise I’m an imposter.
More to the point, was the work I handed in last Friday good enough? Did I understand what I was supposed to do? I’ll find out today, and that only makes me feel more sick. I’ll be sure to know if the teacher thinks I’m stupid by the way she first looks at me this morning. I’m not holding my breath for a good reaction.
Finally I’m at the station, my train is parked and I make it just in time. The doors close and I find a place to site. However, the tables are full and I’m forced to sit opposite others. This is not my ideal situation. I need my own space to try and calm my head and tick off the worries that I still haven’t put to bed. I’ve still got time to think before we arrive.
Merely being in the company of strangers makes me uneasy. Being forced in close quarters to strangers is weird. I don’t want to be judged by people I don’t know. I can feel my heart starts to race as I realise that I can’t move anywhere for the next twenty minutes, only hoping they’ll all get off on the next few stops.
My headphones give me short escape. I plug myself in and try not to make eye contact with anyone. Awkward.
Leaving the train at my spot instantly makes me feel more at ease. The fresh air seems to calm my head but the mist is still blinding. The final stretch to the school starts to super-charge my emotions. I naturally feel like I want to turn around and run back to my bed. It takes every inch of me to keep walking forward.
The front doors hold inside a breeding ground for anxious thoughts.
Mentally resisting, I make my way to class, passing by laughing, joking students. Like the smiling faces I saw on Facebook, they seem like they don’t care. They don’t seem like they hold back at all. This makes me feel even more uneasy and like I don’t belong in this place.
I wonder, does nobody know what it feels like to have generalized anxiety disorder? There’s probably other quiet people in this place, but I never seem to see them. If there are people here that experience the same feeling as me, they do a great job of hiding it.
My chair does not look inviting. As soon as I see it I know that I am tied to this room for the next hour, forcing myself to smile and blend in. My greatest fear is that I stick out and it becomes obvious that I don’t see things the same way as the others. Surrounded by others who look like me and are my age, I still feel like I’m totally alone.
Today is a good day though. I have no free periods so I can go from class to class without having to find things to do in between. I won’t have to expose myself in the common room. The free time is a time where I can be pointed out. It’s easier not to get involved and just do my own thing.
I’m feeling exhausted by 3pm which is fine with me. It means I get to go home now and close myself off. I’m tired not physically, but because my head won’t shut up. I feel like I’ve resolved a thought but then I have to start worrying about something else. The moment I leave college to make my way back to the station, I’m concerned that although I got through today, I’ll have to do it all over again.
I find myself in a cycle of chasing the weekend, as if it will bring me some sort of comfort. I know by now that this isn’t the case. If anything, the weekend brings me more opportunity to live inside my head. At least I won’t have to act in front of anyone though.
By the time I arrive home, all I want to do is close my bedroom door and lie on my bed. So that’s exactly what I do until I wait for everyone else arrive home. I thought that the sick feeling in my stomach would by now be gone but it remains, just as strong as when I first woke up.
I’m fretting again, thinking about if I said anything wrong to anyone. I’m analysing the day (the bits I can remember at least) because I know I won’t be able to relax at all unless I find something that went wrong so I can mull it over.
“I feel like I’m trapped in an endless cycle, like the film 50 first dates.”
I feel like I’m trapped in an endless cycle, like the film ’50 first dates’ where I wake up and experience the same thing over and over. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight though. The irony is, I can’t even watch films like this because they make me feel intensely anxious.
As the night comes, my tiredness starts to make me lethargic. I find it hard to lift my limbs. I’m worn out from all of the thinking that has been running around in my head all day. By this point, I’m looking forward to sleeping where I know I’ll get my peace and quiet even if I’m not conscious to enjoy it.
There’s just enough time to open my phone once more to try and distract my thoughts. I should know by now that this makes me worse. Still the same things I always see. Nothing that will really completely take my mind off things.
So here I am again, lying on my bed. It’s quiet but not so inside my head. The night time brings its own challenges. With no stimulation except what I’m manifesting in my head, I’m forced to face my thoughts. This causes me to toss and turn as I try and remember what I read online about getting to sleep fast. I know it’s bullshit.
All I can think about is how I’m going to hold it together tomorrow, until I finally wear myself out enough to drift to sleep.
What It Feels Like To Have Generalized Anxiety
So, there’s my short story of a ‘day in the life’ of the generally anxious. As I wrote this post it brought back intense feelings from the time period I was referring to. I don’t write this to make you feel saddened, I write it to try and explain how GAD feels if you’ve never really heard of it, or know someone who experiences it.
The worst thing about generalized anxiety disorder for me was not knowing what I was worrying about. Everything just seemed to blur into one big anxious thought. These thoughts had no start and no end.
The Best Way I Can Explain What Generalized Anxiety Feels Like;
Generalized anxiety feels like you’re about to go into an exam that’s result will determine the rest of your life. Over and over and over again. For most of us, we’ll finish a test like this and whether we felt we did well or not, we have relief it’s over. For the GAD sufferer, this feeling of relief never comes.
Intense anxiety does not remain throughout the day, but anxious thoughts of some level attach themselves to everyday and almost all situations when there is no logical explanation for them to do so. This over time can make you become reclusive as you want to avoid any situation that’s outside of your comfort zone – your home.
The anxiety is a numbing at the back of your head that you can’t shake. Before long it affects every aspect of your life as time goes on. The worry makes you feel physically sick, your heart beats fast and your palms are sweaty like you’re about to give an important speech.
With no end in sight, the anxiety is demotivating. You can become a shell of your former self. The de-personalisation creates an image of yourself that is not real. As if you’re simply just an object that is lost in time. Everything is confusing.
The ‘fear center’ in your brain is so sensitive that your emotional response in everyday occurances is x10 what it should be. Something I never linked to my GAD before was my memory. I could be taking clear instructions, but find myself forgetting instantly what I’ve been told. The thoughts in the back of my mind take centre stage and deflect any new information trying to make it’s way in. I’m too preoccupied mentally to appreciate the present moment.
If you’re going through this yourself, always speak to your doctor. I made projectenergise to show you that you can however get back to yourself. I’m living proof that you can go from daily anxiety to living a calmer life mentally. The whole aim of this website is to give you the inside knowledge on how to get there.
I hope to see you in side the blog.
Here’s to your success – Sean
Previously published on projectenergise
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