Posted by: L. E. Barnes | March 18, 2010

Life with GAD

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve struggled with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) since my college undergraduate days. Hindsight being 20/20, I can see now that even during my childhood and adolescence, there were warning signs of problems to come, such as getting stressed out easily, having difficulty concentrating, and having strange and/or obsessive thoughts. The pressures of college seem to have produced the final spark needed to ignite the disorder. At first, the intense anxiety came and went, but by my junior year, it was nonstop. I was a nervous wreck 24/7/365.

Unless you’ve experienced GAD or some other emotional disorder, you can never know what it’s like suffering from this problem. The best way I can describe it is to tell you to recall the times when felt extremely uptight and stressed. Now imagine feeling that way all the time. With GAD, some level of tension and anxiousness is always churning away beneath the surface, even when there’s absolutely nothing to be stressed about. Then when a serious stressor comes along, something that would make even an emotionally stable person upset, my anxiety levels shoot through the clouds. There have been times when I felt as if my heart was going to blow out of my chest and every blood vessel burst. And I’ve lived with this constant tension for so long that I can scarcely recall what it’s like to feel normal, to have a calm mind and be able to fully enjoy the people and things around me. It’s like I’ve been bottled up in my head for about the last 15 years.

In my mid 20’s, I finally did some searching online to see if I could discover what was wrong with me. Lo and behold, I found there was a name for this thing: generalized anxiety disorder. So I wasn’t crazy, and I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I purchased some self-help materials from the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. Though rather pricey, they provided plenty of accurate and useful information and advice. I finally understood the nature of my problem and how to deal with it.

The downside was that dealing with it proved quite demanding in terms of time and effort, and with my other obligations and pursuits, I let my endeavors to treat my GAD fall by the wayside. Bad idea. GAD, because it robs me of both my emotional stability and mental clarity, has interfered with just about everything I’ve tried to achieve in life. It has cost me jobs, isolated me from others, and well, just made me downright miserable. I’ve had to admit that until I successfully treat this problem, I will not only continue being miserable but will have trouble succeeding at any of my other life goals. And as was emphasized in the materials and testimonials I’ve consulted, I must take responsibility for my recovery.

So here I am, once again taking up the gauntlet against this foe. Yet I also must take to heart Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all yet that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Commenting on this verse his booklet Though Conditioners, Norman Vincent Peale advises, “Perhaps the strain and burden of life have made you tired. If so, maybe you are carrying life too heavily. Primarily we do not get tired in our muscles but in our mind… ‘Learn of Me,’ He says… Don’t strain, don’t tug, relax.” And indeed, I’ve learned that trying to fight the problem off just exacerbates the tension and stress. I need to follow our Lord’s way.

Blogger Therese Borchard, who has suffered from depression for years, shares this reminder: “I know that God is with me. I do get pissed at him on weekends like last, when I am in a considerable amount of pain, and I just don’t understand why he’d create broken limbic systems (the brain’s emotional center). Alas, all questioning aside, I know that he is with me when I cry uncle.” Amen, Therese!

If you are struggling with GAD or some other emotional disorder, know that you are not alone and that help is available. And I’d love to hear from you!

Here is a short video that gives a short description of GAD.

For more information, check out the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

And don’t forget: “Come unto me…”

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Responses

  1. Great post! I forget to come by here sometimes but have now subscribed. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and pannic disorder this past September after going through every neurological test known to man. It cost me a very rewarding and profitable career, friends and has place incredible strain on our family.

    HOWEVER, this also triggered my coming back to the church, allows me to be home when my children are home, allows me to teach my son how to make homemade butter, go to track meets etc. All of these things are priceless and though I struggle to get a grip on these problems most days I dare say it is worth it.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I never received a diagnosis from a mental health professional, but I fit all the symptoms for an anxiety disorder. I’m learning to put the past behind me and, hopefully, make something good come out of having this condition. As I noted in my post, GAD has cost me jobs and kept me from getting very far in life. But you’re right in pointing out that perhaps there is a silver lining to this cloud. God bless you as you work through these difficulties.


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