My road to recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety. It’s something that we all experience from time to time. Usually it’s a healthy response, a normal bodily reaction to stress. But for some of us anxiety becomes a way of life, a never-ending cycle of fear. One fear begets another fear begets another fear and it continues in a vicious circle, wearing us down, making us feel unable to cope or exist in a “normal” way.

Photo courtesy of BLW Photography

Photo courtesy of BLW Photography

Anxiety did that to me. I can say “did that” now because I am (finally) in recovery from generalized anxiety disorder. Notice I did not say I am recovered from it, but I am actively working on my recovery.

The thing about anxiety that I’ve come to accept is that it really is all about fear. People with an anxiety disorder often fear a lot of things, including that they are going to die. After all, this seems like a perfectly natural response when you are dealing with very real, often very frightening physical symptoms on a regular basis. There were a handful of occasions where my symptoms – heart racing, dizziness, tightness in my throat, tingling/numbness in my hands, feeling like I was going crazy or about to die (just to name a few) – were so severe that I seriously considered going to the nearest emergency room (and I know many people with anxiety disorder who do), but instead settled for calling the doctor on-call (after office hours).

I am very tuned into my body and any little (or big) thing I’ve felt over the past several months that was not “right” would lead me to believe there was something very, very wrong and if I didn’t find out what it was, I could die. This is why I’ve been on a quest having literally thousands of dollars of medical tests done (thank God for insurance) to prove to myself that I’m healthy. Because without that proof, I would always have some doubt in the back of my mind and play that most detrimental game of “what if” (a favorite of those of us with anxiety disorder) and the cycle of fear continue.

Does this make me a hypochondriac? I don’t know. It kind of feels to me like anxiety begets hypochondria or at least it has in my case.

Does the threat of being labeled a hypochondriac make people less likely to talk about their anxiety disorder? I would guess yes. Although I’ve had people comment on my anxiety-related blog posts stating they’ve dealt with anxiety too, it doesn’t seem like that many people are “out there” blogging about it. At least I had a hard time finding people writing about it. I think that’s due largely to the stigma attached to it and the worry of, “What will people think of me if they find out?”

The road to “wellville” for me (which has been a very slow process over many months) has been a mix of many things. I initially swore off medication, thinking “it’s great for other people, but not something *I* need.” I had planned to get better “naturally.” Medication didn’t fall into the “natural” category in my book. I worried about what kind of example I would be setting for my kids if I took the “easy” way out. Yes, that is kind of how I viewed it. However, after a couple of months of crippling anxiety and being at the point where I could barely function, let alone take care of my kids, I accepted that at THIS time in MY life, medication was/IS what I NEED. It took me a while to come to grips with that- that I needed a chemical substance to allow me to heal, but I’ve made my peace with it. I’d much rather be taking a medication and able to take care of my kids, than be stuck in bed or afraid to leave my house literally frozen with fear, wondering and waiting for the next panic attack to hit.

In addition to medication (Zoloft and very occasionally 1/2 of a Xanax), the laundry list of things that are helping me recover (in no particular order) includes: sleep, finding more time for myself, yoga, exercise, abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, educating myself by reading books and web sites about anxiety disorder – what causes it, who it often affects, how to deal with it, etc., seeing a therapist on a regular basis, reiki, taking vitamins and supplements, and reducing my commitments. It is my hope that by doing all of these things as needed on a regular, continued basis, I will eventually be able to go off the medication and live an anxiety-free life once again. The medication is just one of many tools in my recovery toolbox.

Recovering from anxiety has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced – far harder than going away to college or giving birth unmedicated to a 9 1/2 lb baby at home. And I don’t know that I will ever be fully recovered. I think it will be an on-going process for the rest of my life. If I slip back into old habits, I feel quite sure the anxiety would return.

Will this experience make me a stronger person? I don’t know about a stronger person, but I think it will make me a wiser person. When I am able to better realize my limitations and better care for myself, I am a happier person which can only make those around me happier too. And by knowing my limitations, I can better realize my potentials. The cycle of fear can be broken. Not effortlessly, not overnight, but it can be broken and there is hope.

I initially worried that by taking medication I would be setting a bad example for my children, but I now know that by taking care of myself (including taking medication), I am setting a good example for them. I am showing them that I believe I am important, that I value myself and my health. Nowadays I can have fun with them and laugh again and I think they find that matters far more than anything else.

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74 thoughts on “My road to recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  1. Hi there,

    Glad to see people with similar problems. When did you know that you were ready to come off (or reduce) your meds? Could you share some thoughts/ advice.
    Thanks.

  2. Hey, I really relate to this article and appreciate you sharing your struggle. You have a kindred spirit. I am going to follow you on Twitter… look for me @SupportWall.
    Peace :)

  3. I can definitely relate to your story. My life has been at an almost “stand still” for the better part of a decade. I am also recovering, but it takes time and work. You have to be proactive. I am also cautious of meds. They have their place, but I think that exercise and cognitive therapy have helped me the most. -Victor

  4. I am in the same boat. I call my doctor about once a week with a symptom, which helps temorarily. I am also going through therapy, which helps temporarily. I have had all sorts of feeling around my body like tingling in my hands and fingers. Left side sensations from face to my leg. tightness in my throat. all the good stuff. I have been through an onslaught of fears of conditions over the past 3 months. Cancer, ALS, MS, Heart attacks, Leukimia, and bunch of others that I cant spell. Its not an easy way to live. I have been to the ER like 4 times on my own because I thought I had ‘something’. In the end, there was nothing wrong. I have seen my doctor about 5 times in three months and checked me up and down. In the end, it was a lack of education on my part that didnt realize how GAD can simulate a bunch of life threatening illnesses. Numbness, all that stuff. I just didnt realize that GAD can cause ‘this’, I told my doctor. My doctor said ‘if there WAS something wrong, we would tell you and do a bunch of tests’. OF course IGNORING such symptoms is not the way either, I would RECOMMEND seeing your doctor or calling your doctor if you feel uncomfortable. Keeping the line of communication open is key. I am on Paxil and loranzepan (cant spell) which helps, but in the end it is myself that has to REPROGRAM my brain. Oh yeah, and I was afraid of skin cancer so I had a dermatologist do about 4 biopsies…..

  5. Hey, was a nice blog to read. I have just experienced anxiety for the past two weeks. been the darkest hours of my life so far. I realised all through adolescence I have had this problem. Definitely a hypochondriac too. It feels that my life will end suddenly. It feels like I am calculating each minute such as checking my pupils in the mirror and counting my heart beat. Also like i am losing my mind, nothing makes sense and everything is not real. It kind of self destructive, when i feel totally fine, i want to shoot straight back into not feeling good or a crisis. anyways its nice to know i am not the only one. i am on a slow path to recovery and im 22 year old male. i should be out and enjoying life like you should. I dont know why it happens to us! but definitely worry healthy does come to mind. stay in there folks!

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  7. I appreciate this blog. I’m a recent graduate nurse….in my older years….raised 3 boys…and could not believe the anxiousness I have felt going through school…never felt this way and it really pissed me off…the waves of adrenalin came…and came…and came…I was a first class student and did well in my clinical assignments…but I dreaded everything….no one but my closest friends knew….but now I have to interview and actually get a job and take care of real people…on my own watch…the adrenalin just covered me….so today I went to my doctor and spilled the beans of what I have been going through….I asked for Buspar and ativan for emergencies…and my blood pressure reduced….I’m hoping it all helps!! and good luck to everyone

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing :) this made me very emotional reading this… i felt alone but After reading your blog made me feel like i was reading over my own life.. That is exaftly what i am going through i havent got help about it yet as far as seeing a doctor but i am going to look into medication as much as id hate too but i wouldnt be able to afford doctor expenses as of right now but later on in life id like to heal “naturally” also just like your plan is…but for my kids sake if medication can help me become better for my kids then i will have to go down that road also. Thank you so much again this blog had made my day and made me feel like there is HOPE after all and i am truly inspired

  11. Thank u for sharing such honest advice, especially about the medication. I think you have encouraged many women struggling today to be responsible and see taking the meds as a positive decision and not a weakness! When u have no options left why not after all u have nothing to lose if it doesn’t work out u can just stop surely! Obviously not over night but gradually! X

  12. My son is 22 and he has struggled with GAD and SAD for more than 3 years. He is taking 20mg Lexapro once a day? What can we expect from the medication short term and long term? Has anyone else taken Lexapro for GAD and SAD ?

  13. Maria, I was probably your sons age when I started taking Lexapro. I was on it for over a year–if I missed a day of taking it I felt worse than I did before I started taking it. I read more about it and there haven’t been any significant trials done on its effectiveness past 8 weeks. I’m not against medicine entirely, but it would be best to get to the root of the problem. I wish I had sooner. It makes you stronger for having dealt with the anxiety and problems at hand. I would recommend finding a counselor/therapist that is skilled in cognitive behavioral therapy. The best thing he could possibly do is see and talk to someone. Journaling helps me as well.

  14. I am so greatfull for this blog. There needs to be more people talking about this, and quite honestly the majority of stuff on the www is terrible and only causes more fear. I am a father and a husband and was recently diagnosed with GAD. I have always steered clear of doctors and wished away medical problems, but my spouse saw the severity of the panic and insisted I go to a doctor. I’ve been on Setraline 50mg for three months and I seem to have really good weeks/ days but I can’t shake the bad ones they are like a plague and I’m drifting back into the constant fear of being afraid. I really don’t want to take benzos to be free from anxiety. This is hell. I am so sorry for any one of you dealing with this.

  15. hey this is martin i posted from 8 months ago now. things have really gone an upbeat. i have found so much stuff about my self. basically i think it is always thinking of the worst thing to happen. i have broken out of my comfort zone alot. if you stay scared un the covers your life is going to be like that for the rest of the time. you got to face those demons. i think we live in a magic pill society. thinking if you do one thing it all goes away. with time you can start to understand yourself and percive this storm as a gift. biggest secret i found was to do nothing. our bodys want to fight or run. you get these screwed up thoughts of thinking your going to hurt someone close to you. its really scary, the heart beat aswell thats awful. you just have to get in a normal sleep pattern and do some exercise and break those comfort zones. start becoming more socialable.anyways that was a big rant but to be honest earth needs more people like every on this blog. everyone here is a person with depth and knows real adversity. if you can go through this you can doing anything in life. martin
    peace x

  16. I just wanted to say hi and thank you to all of you who have shared your stories here. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I wrote this post and I’m glad it has helped at least a few people.
    These days I’m still taking medication, although I did decrease my dose a couple months ago. For the most part, I have been doing really well, but I still have some moments where the anxiety creeps back in and scares the sh*t out of me. Thankfully it is the exception now, not the rule. And I have tools to help me manage those moments.
    I wish you all healing and peace. GAD is a hard road to travel and I wish you all the very best.
    xo,
    Amy
    (Crunchy Domestic Goddess)

  17. 15 years ago I had my first attack. I’ve also found yoga to be very helpful. Prior to having anxiety I was very busy and had everything including a job 401k boat so on. I was a whole diferent person than I am today. I no longer work and am on Ssi disability and lost everything in the material world. My whole outlook on life changed after my attack. It took away my interest in the material. I no longer go in crowds . I think much deeper and my emotions are very dull. Except fear and love. I wonder why god allowed this to happen. I lost many friends and a life of oppertunity. Maybe one day..

  18. 15 years ago I had my first attack. I’ve also found yoga to be very helpful. Prior to having anxiety I was very busy and had everything including a job 401k boat so on. I was a whole diferent person than I am today. I no longer work and am on Ssi disability and lost everything in the material world. My whole outlook on life changed after my attack. It took away my interest in the material. I no longer go in crowds . I think much deeper and my emotions are very dull. Except fear and love. I wonder why god allowed this to happen. I lost many friends and a life of oppertunity. Maybe one day..

  19. It really can be hard to live with. Thank you for posting this. I suffered for many years with anxiety and got through it with natural treatments. My life is so much happier now. I am glad that you have recovered too :)

  20. firstly thanx ammy for sharing ur feelings and make us strong who are suffering with GDA and depression and very very happy to hear that u r feeling good now. u r such a good mom…and good example of winner over lyf…thanx and i wish for ur good tme ahead in ur lyf

  21. This writer isn’t recovered. What a tremendous disservice to do to people. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and dangerous drugs and SSRIs are riddled with side effects and long term issues.

    This is like saying I “recovered” from my sadness by becoming an alcoholic.

    You recover when the disorder is gone and you are not in an altered state using pharmaceuticals. People DO recover. This is not it. In fact, most find their conditions worsen after discontinuing medications.

    At best, this is a tale of masking symptoms. Which is fine. We all need help at some point. But this is not recovery.

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  23. I wanted to let you know that I read your post and really commend you for including healthy lifestyle as part of managing your condition. I think it’s so important to find more time for yourself, practice yoga, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet.

    My husband has suffered from GAD for most of his life. At the beginning of the year, he followed through with his resolution to eliminate his prescription medication with the help of his acupuncturist because he did not want to continue to experience the negative side effects from a pharmaceutical.

    He successfully rid himself of the medication, but still felt emotional sensitive. After about 1-2 months of feeling emotionally raw, a friend of ours recommended a new supplement that just hit the market in January. This all-natural micronutrient has transformed not only our lives but the lives of many suffering from anxiety/depression, ADD/ADHD, and bipolar disorder – just to name a few.

    I’m not recommending that you abandon your medication. However, I wanted to share with you something that has worked for both of us in the hopes that it may help you and/or your readers.

    If you’re interested in learning more, please drop me an email and/or visit my website. There’s a good video under Products/Q96 on my site that does a good job explaining the benefits of the supplement.

  24. I truly understand your condition, cause i also suffering from general anxiety disorder, found it out after 5 months of continous debilitating worries. Yes you are rught, the background “what if” always seized my conciousness, i forced myself to function normally everyday though the fear always found its way to contaminate me, especially in the morning, and after work. I truly understand what you are feeling, if i were a women i’d cry alot….but unfortunately i am not. Be strong.

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