Posted by: counselorcarmella | August 16, 2011

My Personal Experience With Anxiety, Part Three

Once again,  things eventually settled down somewhat for me emotionally for a while. I continued to deal with   worrying a lot and just being kind of a fretful person throughout the rest of college. I made friends with a girl who had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and we talked a lot about it. She was the only other person I knew who was like me in those ways. She was taking medications for it and I also saw her go through a couple of really bad anxiety attacks where she would actually throw up, which was a symptom I didn’t have.  In a lot of ways, we had similar experiences with it, though, so I started realizing that maybe I really did need to get more help as my friend was doing.


I took an Abnormal Psychology class at the end of my senior year as part of my undergrad psychology degree and read about anxiety disorders. Does anyone know what they always tell you when you take those kinds of classes? They say, “You’ll think you have some of these disorders. You probably don’t.”  Well,   as soon as I read about Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I wondered about it. It sort of sounded like me. Actually, it sounded a whole lot like me.


Symptoms of GAD include  excessive worrying about lots of different things, feeling unable to control the worry,  fatigue, restlessness or feeling edgy, increased muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and insomnia.  I had all of these problems. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. People with the disorder, which is also referred to as GAD, experience exaggerated worry and tension, often expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and be gainfully employed. Some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe.


After college, I immediately began preparing for graduate school. I knew I wanted to be a counselor and was excited about   grad work. I was really worried about handling all the pressures of  earning an advanced degree, though,  so I sought out another counselor. I told her how  much of a worrier I was and how  I could get very anxious sometimes. She gave me some  anxiety  checklist and I  answered “yes” to  almost everything on it. She said, “Well, you might have more of a problem with anxiety than most people.” I told her that I wasn’t looking for a label but that, if I really did have some kind of anxiety problem, I felt it was important to know what it was and what to do about it before I  began dealing with the stress of graduate school. We talked a little about a few coping strategies. Again, I didn’t feel that she took me seriously when I said, “This can get really bad.” She didn’t seem to agree with me when I said I thought I might need medication to help with it.


Each time this happened, I felt more and more hopeless and wondered if I was just a weak person without much resilience or   ability to bounce back.  I  didn’t want to deal with   periods of such severe   negative emotions for the rest of my life, but no one was offering me any alternatives.  I just wasn’t sure I could do that. I wondered when the day would come when it  finally got the best of me and I lost my mind or just gave up trying. I knew I wasn’t a strong person, that I often felt completely overwhelmed with life and as if I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to handle it.  I knew that, so often, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide somewhere. I didn’t want to give up on life.  I simply didn’t want to live it that way.  Coping  was so much effort.


About six months later, a romantic relationship ended and I was still getting used to living in a new area and attending graduate school and the anxiety got overwhelming again. I was really scared that I might start crying and just never be able to stop. I wanted to run from it but I couldn’t. I would feel   that “something’s about to grab me” feeling and life would seem completely overwhelming and I would feel so small. I couldn’t really focus on my schoolwork or be productive, which gave me more to worry about. I paced around my apartment while my heart pounded and  while I  stifled the urge to scream. I would cry so hard I could hardly breathe sometimes. 


The anxiety was always combined with a feeling of being very alone, as if I were stranded on an island somewhere.  I didn’t want to be around many people, but I hated being alone when I felt that way, too. Even small decisions seemed so hard to make when I  felt that way.  My brain just wouldn’t work right. It would lock up  and I would feel  frozen like a deer in the headlights, even when thinking about  fairly minor choices.



  1. […] My Personal Experience With Anxiety, Part Three ( […]

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