It's been a long time since I wrote about being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the fall, and while I was overwhelmed by the positive response I haven't written about it a lot since. It was a lot to wrap my head around in a short amount of time, and then shortly after I became a full-time designer and then I became Leigh-Ann's business partner… there have been lots of balls to keep up in the air at the same time!
The funny thing about my diagnosis is that it came when I was at my lowest, so I already knew how to live with anxiety and everything since has been learning to live normally. GAD is like depression, only instead of feeling depressed, you feel a high level of anxiety all the time. What I thought was normal stress were actually just little peaks and valleys on my baseline that was already ramped up to a 9 or 10- but we can each only know our own experiences, so I had no way of knowing that everyone else didn't feel just like I did! I only went to the doctor when my symptoms became physical- I had chest pains, I was exhausted all the time, I couldn't concentrate on anything and started to experience depression for the first time.
Let me tell you, I'm used to being anxious, but depression? That scared me right into my doctor's office!
Since I was diagnosed in October I started therapy and medication, and almost everything about my day to day experience has changed. I've now realized that most of the stress and anxiety I used to experience was because of my disorder, but because I didn't know what was happening I would think it was caused by things in my life. It took finding the right therapist and medication – along with a lot of waiting – but now I'm sincerely happy and I almost never feel my old anxiety, stress or dread in my day to day life. It makes me want to dance or cry happy tears or hug somebody because I didn't know that I wasn't my full self before this, and I didn't know living like this was possible!
Getting used to life on the other side of this has been exciting and a huge relief. I look forward to things in a different way now, and I'm more able to look for the solution in stressful situations that I do encounter. I'm more forgiving of myself and others because I don't feel the pressure of anxiety on my shoulders. My marriage is so much more fun because I have the energy to do things and Jesse doesn't have to be worried about me. I can comfortably do things that I would have never been able to do before- I spoke at my mom's wedding, off the cuff, in front of my whole new extended family! It's been like getting to know a new version of myself who has the confidence and positivity I used to only experience in bursts, and it takes a lot less effort to be myself.
For now, I'll feel my old symptoms creep in about one day every two months, and I'm thankful for those days because they give me perspective on how far I've come. I'm also thankful that I've realized that my brain chemistry isn't a personal failing or a character flaw- it's just a fact and it gives me the opportunity to choose the kind of life I want to live.
I said it before, but I'll say it again: if anxiety is interfering with your day to day life that isn't normal. There is so much great help out there, and so many cool, simple things that can vastly improve your quality of life. It's truly worth exploring- not just for you, but also for the people around you who are being affected too. And thank you so much for all of the kind words that I've received through sharing this- it makes me brave enough to share the little things along with the Capital-L-Life things, and makes me proud to be part of such an incredibly supportive community