I got so many thoughtful responses to the piece I wrote that I wanted to share them in one place as a resource for others with GAD. They are filled with great advice and support for us all. They shouldn’t just be lost in scraps on my FB wall, in a Slack channel, and on discussion boards.
I’m using no names, just quotes. I think it’s interesting there are so many thoughts on this topic, but so little of it happened here on Medium. I think it speaks to the profoundly intimate nature of this topic. We still have far to come as a community and society with being comfortable sharing our experiences with anxiety publicly. I am very grateful to every single person who reached out to me about this piece. Thank you all so much. I know you are going to help everyone who reads this list.
- “Hugs to you, Meredith. I deal with this, too. In case it’s of any help to you: thought-stopping is an incredibly useful tool my shrink gave me. If I start to think about, e.g., the 200 ants in your article, I kindly tell myself, “Nope. Not going there,” and redirect my thoughts (much like distracting a toddler who’s on the brink of meltdown). Gets easier with practice, stops the downward spiral into panic, and has helped me so much. So many of my writer/illustrator friends have anxiety issues — it feels like it may just be part of the creative package.”
- “I’ve been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since I was 17, it is completely possible to live a really kick ass life with this diagnosis. The key is learning about and coming to understanding terms with what GAD means for you and learning how to cope with/disrupt those unhealthy thought patterns. My big suggestion is this, though: If you start to have weird physical symptoms (like the dizziness you describe in your article, I had a flare up of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in my 20s when my first marriage was on the rocks, insomnia or trouble falling asleep is another really common GAD physical symptom) DO NOT WAIT TO GO TO THE DOCTOR. It is likely that what is happening is that you are having general symptoms of GAD that you are either disrupting or ignoring and that because this is a serious anxiety episode, when you ignore/disrupt the mental thinky triggers, your brain says “Okay, mother fucker, you’re not going to pay attention to what I am trying to tell you? Let’s hit your body in other areas, then maybe you’ll stop and take notice. Go to the doctor, get the medication, feel better. THEN deal with the GAD. Sleep and digestion and balance are three areas where those who are diagnosed with GAD often experience physical symptoms, because those are three functions which are critical to operating as a healthy human in the world. Also: Do not let GAD make you feel diminished.Don’t eschew the medication because you think you should be able to control your own worry. You can’t. You shouldn’t try. Those with GAD tend to be high functioning, highly intelligent, successful people — I carry my GAD as a badge of pride of how much I care and how much I think. I think TOO MUCH, so I need a pretty blue pill to make my brain take a nap every now and again. By putting positive terms to it, it makes it much less scary and overwhelming to deal with. I recently had to help a friend (who has a host of other mental illness issues) come to terms with a new GAD diagnosis, I told her It does not make you less than, you are not broken and this is not all in your head. It’s a real problem, with chemical origins and you’re amongst the company of some of the world’s most incredible thinkers and do-ers with a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. /GAD rant.”
- “Great article, thanks! As a fellow GAD-er, I can relate to all this, but I put off getting a formal diagnosis for a long time, assuming that my ‘crazy mom worries’ (i have 2 little ones) were just ‘normal mom worries’. With all the stuff we’re supposed to worry about as moms, it can rapidly start to feel ‘normal’ to lie awake half the night solving hypothetical future problems about the kids’ wellbeing, or lying in the dark worrying about all the bad things that can happen to kids. When i finally started CBT, I told my therapist that i thought my worries were ‘probably pretty normal for a mom’ and she couldn’t stop herself from laughing… because (a) I was wayyyy high on the anxiety spectrum and clearly NOT worrying at normal levels, and (b) the fact that i was working so hard to explain away my worries was contributing massively to my anxiety! About 10 sessions later i’m doing great and have learned lots of different ways to cope. I’d just add that while CBT is awesome and a great therapy for GAD, my psychoanalyst mother would chastise me if I didn’t also note that lots of people have success treating GAD with more traditional ‘talk therapy’ and therapies based in analysis or psychoanalysis. Thanks again for posting about this!”
- “I’ve been dealing with this since I was about 12. It took me until 35 to really get some useful help. Some of what you wrote describes me to a T as a still struggle! Thanks for sharing and here’s hoping we both continue our progress! (My shrink also just recommended The Worry Cure, I guess I ought to actually read it!)”
- “ I’ve struggled with it for about 10 years and there are periods of time it takes over my life and other times it’s much much more managable. This is what helps me, because I don’t have insurance so I can’t work with a therapist on the regular:
Nutrition (eating a whole foods, plant based diet), meditation (every day, usually for 10–20 minutes, with crystals for a grounding energy), talking about it with trusted friends (naming your demons seem to suddenly make them smaller), laughing about it after (humor is my saving grace), yoga/sun salutations (this helps when the shakiness of an oncoming panic attack looms), drinking tea (not that lipton shit- buy some quality tea), listening to podcasts (duncan trussell, joe rogan, & ram dass for some philosophical/spiritual guidance), abstaining from drinking too much (I work in music so this is a challenge), taking a walk through nature (thank my lucky stars I live next to golden gate park), periodic psychedelic journeys with plant medicines like mushrooms (this one is controversial, but the research that’s being done on psychedelic therapy is fascinating to me — all I can say is do it with someone you trust in a place you feel comfortable & visit www.reset.mefor more info), smoking or eating CBD — This one is important. CBD is a cannabinoid found in cannabis that is NON-psychoactive- meaning, it doesn’t get you “high.” It acts as an anti-psychotic and studies have shown that it even reduces malignant tumors and treats serious pain. The research around CBD is incredible. I work in the medical cannabis industry and have had discussions with people who know their shit and all I can say is that CBD has saved me in so many situations. It’s essentially my xanax nowadays. I don’t trust pharmaceuticals for mental issues anymore because of all the bad experiences I’ve had with them, but CBD is completely safe, natural & your brain even has receptors for this chemical. But, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy smoking a heavy indica which usually puts me right to sleep so I don’t have to deal with racing thoughts before bed. Working with an energy/reiki healer, reading Chani Nicholas astrological insights, spending time with animals, cleaning/cooking (puts me into a meditative zone and a great time to put on a podcast), and staying away from technology are also other great tools too.
This was a novel, but I’m not sorry. All of these things keep me sane when it seems like all my mind wants to do is go there. Hope this helps!!You’re not alone.”
- “Words that I live by courtesy of my therapist: there is no shame in getting the help you need to learn to cope and live a balanced and full life. It’s much like entering AA: the first step to feeling better is admitting you need help doing it. I used to be ashamed of my GAD because I thought it made me weak. Now I’m open and honest about it. If you’re not willing to deal with my idiosyncrasies, you can get out of my life…”
- “Thanks for writing! I was diagnosed with GAD back in 2010 and it took me a few years to even believe it was a “real” thing because it sounded so… general. I’ve never talked about it publicly because of the stigma and I’m not really sure what to say about it. CBT helped a lot, but it’s hard to explain to people that some of the reasons I’m successful are also reasons I have a hard time with certain interactions…What I’ve gotten from talking to professionals is that anxiety doesn’t really “help” [us] and that the fear is unfounded. You can have your benefits without having the stressful feeling of the anxiety. I’ve definitely gotten better over time, but it ebbs/flows. I’ve also realized there’s some underlying stuff for me (For example — I’ll have nightmares and that will make me anxious, but I’ll assume it must be attributed to real life and spend a lot of time overanalyzing what it is). I often just need a way to ask people if I’m being reasonable or am totally off base — I’ve sort of outsourced it to a lot of diff people for diff issues, and that works well enough. A support group would be an easier way to do it all the time and give someone a more consistent view.”
- “Great piece Meredith! It is helpful to understand and to help others to do so. The feelings of not being enough are so woven into the fabric of everyday that it is hard to see how corrosive this can be. That’s the whole reason I had to learn how to stop and give praise and gratitude for every little action. Staying rooted in the present, taking small steps, seeing these feelings as feelings, surrounding oneself with kind loving people, doing something each day that brings pleasure helps so much. It is a process and a daily practice.”
- “Wow, I have no doubt it took so much courage to write that. I’m a fan of cognitive behavioral therapy. A friend of mine gave me a copy (almost 15 years ago!) of David Burns’ “Feeling Good Handbook” and it was quite eye-opening. If you find the book itself helpful, you may want to try the Handbook because it’s a workbook that you fill in as you read. That helped me a lot personally because I had trouble translating the theory to action without something concrete to work on. Have you seen Allison Vesterfelt’s blog? This post of hers may be of interest to you: http://allisonvesterfelt.com/mind-body-connection/ I don’t know if what she’s wrestling with is GAD, but I have been following her blog the past couple of months.“
- “wow, such a brave, honest, and insightful piece. I especially love the use of q&a. You come across as an authority on the subject of GAD, but you also maintain the vulnerability of someone who’s still learning about it. I like that. It’s making me want to put fingers to keyboard on things I’ve wanted to write about that others could benefit from. Your thoughtfully written personal experience will do more for people than any impersonal “info” site. Thanks for sharing!”
- “As someone who suffers from chronic anxiety and panic attacks, I relate to the GAD struggles. My challenge continues to be my inability to identify (every time) my triggers. For example last night I was driving home from the movies and had a panic attack for seemingly no reason- I had seen The Intern w a bestie and was in a great place. Blurred vision and sweats to the point I had to pull over on the 10. I’ve been in therapy since I was 6 and tried traditional and alternative medications to no avail, so have been working on meditation, diet, regular workouts and being kind & patient to myself and grateful for all that I have! Thank you everyone for sharing, it does help knowing you’re not in this alone.For me, I constantly remind myself to be forgiving, understanding, patient and push myself to live comfortably in the discomfort. It goes in waves, but I’m healthy and will either live through it or overcome!! If anyone has any recommendations (meds, diet, books or alternative solutions) love your thoughts! Thanks!”
- “I think that so many of us PMs (Product Managers) have persistent anxiety due to the nature of the job. With our minds and work in many places, with many different people, and often in a time crunch, I see a lot of anxiety in PMs that goes well beyond the workday into our personal lives and evenings with family. I’ve seen anxious PMs day in and day out. I agree it’s almost like an anxiety junkie situation, and a desire to make order out of chaos, and perhaps it is a perfect role for us anxious types because our minds go a mile a minute, but I think that you have emphasized a serious issue and that anxiety in PM careers needs to be addressed and dealt with. And, perhaps, it could mean a responsibility shift in some arenas to remedy the situation. It’s profound that you shared your experience, and can encourage women (especially me!) to address issues before they get out of hand.”
- “I was just recently diagnosed, and it’s been an uphill battle. I don’t think I would have sought an answer had I not broken up with my long term boyfriend for fear that eventually he would leave me. Then I had to stop and say “what the hell is wrong?” I’ve been seeing a therapist and working with my doctor, and I’ve noticed such a difference since I’ve been able to identify what it is exactly I’m going through. I don’t remember the last time I really felt at ease. And my goal is to get back to a point where I can, and enjoy my life more. Thank you thank you thank you for what you wrote!!!”
I will edit and add to this list as I get more responses in!
You are not alone, out there.