I have a condition known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder. And it actually isn’t ‘general’ at all – it means that I worry about everything, all of the time. It can be absolutely crippling and it is very hard to live with.
The problem with GAD is that people simply don’t understand it. Everyone worries, right? Well yes, but most people don’t catastrophise at every opportunity.
Dog just threw up on the carpet? He’s eaten something poisonous and is about to die.
Child 10 minutes late home from school? Clearly they have been mugged and pushed into the river.
These are real worries that I have when even the most minor thing happens in my life. And even when things are going well, I still worry because something awful’s bound to happen sooner or later, and won’t I look an idiot then, huh?
I do know that GAD can sometimes sound ridiculous to those who don’t have any experience of anxiety, but please – stop with the ‘helpful hints’.
These are just a few of the suggestions I would happily never hear again.
1. Why don’t you get a hobby to keep your mind off things?
Hear my hollow laughter. So much of my time is taken up with worrying that I do not have any spare for luxuries such as ‘hobbies’. Pretty much all my waking hours are spent either fretting about what I need to do or frantically trying to get the things I didn’t do while I was fretting done. The only way to stop someone with GAD thinking about worrisome things is to dart them with elephant tranquiliser.
I ride, I walk and I swim – I get plenty of exercise. Yes, it helps to clear the mind but that’s a different ball game to clearing out anxiety. Mostly, it just gives me more time to think about everything that could go wrong.
3. Learn to relax. Have a nice bath
Regardless of how weary I am, how many bubbles I pour into a hot bath to try to drown the negative thoughts, they’ll be there floating on the surface. Thoughts like – ‘remember that time in 1987 when you asked for the wrong newspaper in the corner shop and the bloke laughed? Why don’t we talk about that, hey? Everyone thinks you’re an idiot.’
4. Have you tried mindfulness?
Mindfulness works for plenty of people with anxiety disorders, but not all of us. It especially doesn’t work for me because I’m autistic and my brain doesn’t process things in the necessary way. Mindfulness relies on being able to settle the mind – to have the ability to just sit still and calm those silly excitable neurons that are bouncing around inside your head shrieking ‘wake up, things to do, stuff to worry about, wake up!’
Not all of us can do that. The only way that mindfulness might work for me would be if they allowed you to drink half a bottle of gin as a warm up exercise.
5. Just stop. You are in control of your own mind
I’m in about as much control of the anxious part of my mind as the next person is of the space shuttle. However much you think about stopping those anxiety engines, they plough on to the nearest planetary disaster without so much as a goodbye.
6. Your anxiety can’t be that bad – I see photos of you having a blast on social media
The fact that we often feel sick at the thought of going out of the house doesn’t mean that we don’t want to. We prepare, we fret, and we hopefully have a good time. But we then spend days agonising over every last snippet of conversation and wondering if it would be easier to just never go out of the house again.
7. Count your blessings
I have many blessings – healthy kids, a supportive partner, and gorgeous, cuddly pets. All they do is actually increase my stress levels because I feel guilty for being anxious when so many other people have it worse. Anxiety disorders don’t care if you’ve won the lottery of life in comparison to other people, they exist purely to make you feel terrible for not being happier about it.
8. It could be worse
It could. But it might not be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have worrying to do.
Originally published on Metro.co.uk