GAD or why I worry about every little thing

GAD or why I worry about every little thing

Flashback: I am a little girl of about 6-7 years old. We live on a corner where there is a sidewalk that runs for several miles. Every afternoon a man walks down that sidewalk. He is an older man (at that age anyone over 30 looks ancient) that always has his hands behind his back. In those hands he holds a large pair of gardening shears. He may be a local gardener walking to and from work each day. My thoughts: "He is plotting my kidnap and certain death. He will take me and chop my head off with those things. I will never be found". 

Flashback number 2: My parents go out every Saturday night. I am now about 8-10 years old, still living on the same corner. As evening falls on a typical evening when they are out, I don't like the dark. Bad things happen in the dark. I have watched enough Friday Night "Creature Features" to know this to be true. Even though I have an older sister, she will not fend off an intruder. I hear a noise. Not sure what it is I immediately reach for the phone to dial (yes, dial as in rotary phone) our wonderful neighbor Mr. Wood. He will come and check the house to make sure there are no intruders. My thoughts: "Whoever has broken in will kill Mr. Wood, steal everything in our house and then kill us". And I had better call the police too. Those popping noises outside are either gunshots or the neighborhood is under attack." (Those noises were fireworks)

I have been a sufferer of fear and anxiety as long as I can remember. In any given situation that is as normal as day, I have found ways to create a horrific scenario of what is happening. It was bad enough before I had children, after they were born it became unbearable.

I talked to a doctor. He said I had GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is defined as a pattern of frequent, constant worry and anxiety over many different activities and events. Well folks, that about sums me up in a nutshell. And let me tell you, it is about the most difficult thing I have to do every day to manage it.

I work very hard to reason with myself in different situations. This is a highly necessary function when you suffer from GAD.

Living with it can be as hard for the person who has it as the people that live with you. Your fears and anxiety can rub off on your children, leaving them to worry about things as you do. My girls have tolerated it for their whole lives and it has not been easy for them. There has never been a single day I have not spoken with them as I have to know they are ok. I cannot function if I don't know they are home for the evening, including the one that doesn't even live here.

My husband has dealt with it as well. In the early days of our marriage before cell phones were a way of life, I was terrible. I had no threshold; if he was 1/2 hour late from work he was most certainly dead. He was in a horrible accident. It wasn't possible that he was just stuck at the office or in traffic. Those ideas were too logical.

As my girls have grown up and cell phones have evolved, it has become a double edged sword. If they don't answer the immediate panic sets in. My mind goes directly to places it should not go. I wonder sometimes if I could have handled having children in the 50's or 60's when communication options were so limited.

Unfortunately, there is no real cause known for GAD however, with the proper use of medication it can be controlled significantly. Many people don't want to take medication for anything. Yet, if a condition is affecting your ability to function normally, it should be considered. Therapy or self help is vital as well.

I choose to do my best to help myself. I do take medication which has been life changing and has made the difference between living in constant fear and being able to function normally. When my kids remind me that I need to "lighten up" when I call them too often I have to explain things to them. I need them to know that I do everything in my power to control myself but there are times I just cannot. Since they have been conditioned to answer their phones when I call, I am going to panic if they don't. Particularly if its for a long period of time.

I have called their friends on many occasions. That makes them crazy yet they know I need the comfort of knowing they are ok to function. It is our way of life.

If I could be any other way I would. There are no words to describe how much I detest being this way but my chemical make-up just doesn't allow it. So, I embrace my disorder and try to deal with it head on. We all have control of our lives and our futures and I don't choose to allow this to run my life.

That man that used to stroll by me as a child was just an innocent gardener. When my girls don't answer their phones, they are either in the shower or a noisy bar. When my husband gets home late, he is not in a ditch. These are all the things I need to remind myself of when I am feeling anxious. And anyone else that suffers from GAD needs to know that they are not alone; it can be controlled.





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  • This post is going to help a lot of people, Teppi. Sufferers of GAD, for sure. But also friends of yours like me who didn't realize what you go through on a daily basis. I've also thought, "Relax" when you get anxious without realizing how difficult it is. No more judgments on my part. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself in this post. Much love to you.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Thanks my dear friend. This was a difficult one to share but I struggle so much with it I wanted to share - so perhaps others will not feel alone. I appreciate the support and that you now understand my "issues". Love you back!

  • Teppi--you are not alone! I think my GAD is more related to PTSD and depression than something on its own, because Lexapro has been helping tamp it down. But dang, did I ever worry about the littlest things while growing up. Just hearing a story about someone whose toes got stuck in a pool drain made me perpetually afraid of pool drains or else I will drown. I would even go through scenarios compulsively, as if a car wreck or going off a bridge was a foregone conclusion, so therefore I had to prepare the diaper bag such that I could carry it, my purse, and get all four of the little ones out of their complicated carseats and out of the car ASAP before it sank or exploded. I was also afraid that some people were stalking me, like the government or something.

    In retrospect, I can see how silly it was, but the fear and worry felt so real, as if it was going to happen imminently.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story--it's somehow helpful to know that I'm not the only one, just as Jimmy said.

  • In reply to Holly:

    I too have had the foregone conclusions you speak of. I believe it's a natural part of the disorder. Thanks for writing - it helps to know I'm not alone.

  • Teppi, you have my admiration for talking about this. I agree with Jimmy that you are probably helping a lot of people. Thank you.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Thanks Dennis, I am ok talking about it as it actually helps me. I often have felt like a complete kook and it feels good to know I'm not the only one who suffers from this. Thank goodness for medication, that's all I can say. I could not function without it. Thanks much.

  • Teppi, I think we were separated at birth.
    Thank you for writing this! It always helps to know I'm not alone.

  • In reply to FernRonay:

    Perhaps we are sisters from another mother :) I imagine we have a lot to talk about! You are NOT alone and that is the purpose of this blog. I have felt very alone at times because of it, because people just don't understand my fears and how irrational they can be. Knowing other people who have those fears is somewhat of a comfort. Who wants to be alone in this world?? Thanks for letting me know we have this in common.

  • In reply to Teppi Jacobsen:

    My catastrophic thinking as a kid growing up was tornadoes and UFO's. My sisters made fun of me all the time. Oh and war. There was a special on Vietnam, post Vietnam war on TV and, reading at a very early age I thought we were going to war.

    There's so much more to tell.

    Often the anxiety we felt (I'm in the same boat + panic) is, as I found out via graduate studies, a sign of high intelligence. When I worked at a school for the gifted for a couple of years I saw a ton of mini-me's running around. Being afraid of tornadoes and catastrophic thinking was not an exception there. I learned a lot from those kids as well as learned a TON about myself.

    There are a lot of resources out there for those who are highly intelligent (probably most of the bloggers here) and identify with these fears.

    I would recommend interviewing Edith Johnston or Douglas Eby. Here's an article from Eby:

    Often it's not just about anxiety. It's about the fact that you may be highly intelligent and may not be validated.

  • In reply to EveryCrayon:

    Thanks so much for the information. Very, very interesting! I love the Steven Spielberg quote most of all.

  • I too suffer from GAD, and, though I control it for the most part, I agree that it is hard to deal with it. It is not as easy to get rid of as just relaxing - as people like to tell me.

    I was on medication for about 8 years, and now I finally control it on my own.

  • In reply to David W. Quinn:

    The "just relax" thing gets me everytime as the person telling me that has no earthly idea how much I wish I could. This is a curse of a disorder and I am envious you can control it without meds. I just can't. I've tried a few times and it's the worst. Thanks so much for writing and be well!

  • Saying "just relax" for GAD is the same as saying "snap out of it" for depression.

    One very constructive book that I have read on anxiety is "Hope and Help for Your Nerves," by Claire Weekes MD. Unlike so many CBT-oriented books, which require journal keeping and work-sheets (enough to give you anxiety if you don't have it), Weekes, an anxiety sufferer herself, tells you how it effects you physically and emotionally and how to get control of the fear. Her CD, "Passing through Panic" is good too. Both were produced over 30 years ago, and offer a common sense approach to dealing with anxiety and panic.

    GAD and the physical and mental results of the same fill up ERs every day and are responsible for a great number of doctor visits. This, however, is nothing new, but since medicine began to treat the body as separate from the mind, some 80 years ago, there are many people wandering around not knowing why they feel the way they do.

    Another oldie but goodie from a Chicago doctor, Abraham Low: "Mental Health through Will Training". He started Recovery Inc. in the 1950's, when twenty years of practice then had shown him that most hospital beds were filled with people with "nervous" illnesses.

    Good post.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Thank you so much for your insight and info. I will definitely check out the resources, I appreciate it!!

  • Dear Teppi,

    I cried when I read this e-mail. This is exactly how my mom was/is, and I am sure at least some of it has carried over to me. I remember when I was young, whenever my Dad went traveling on business, my mom would be glued to the radio to hear if there were any plane crashes. I too would get a knot in my stomach and listen to the radio with her, sick and anxious. If it were left up to my mom, she would be calling me every 15 minutes to find out if I am safe. I have slowly trained her to wait for my once a day call. If I miss a day, I will get a slew of e-mails and voice messages, saying she is sick with worry and to please call back.

    Now I do the same to my husband (my son is 4 and with me most of the time, so I haven't had to worry about him yet). When my husband is out, I ask him to call me if he is going to return more than a half hour later than he had anticipated. There have been a few times that he has been late and I haven't been able to reach him, and of course I always thought the worst and felt physically ill. Once I forgot that he had told me he was attending a dinner seminar, would be turning his phone off during the seminar, and would be late. Come 9 p.m., I was so frantic I decided to drive the streets looking for him - in an anxious state, I pulled out of the garage and slammed my brand new car into the side wall. I am amazed my husband didn't lose it with me - just said it is strange how you get this way sometimes. Another time he was in a dead zone and I could not reach him by phone. I immediately thought the worst - he has been kidnapped and the kidnapper has turned off his cell phone. I put my son in the car seat (he was only 2 then) and took off on the highways, frantically searching, tears streaming down my face. When my husband came home, my son told him, "Mommy thought you were dead." Not good and not safe, the way I lose it sometimes.

    Lately I have been better (mostly through will power), but I know exactly what you go through. Thanks for helping me attach a name to this disability

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I absolutely feel your pain!! I have done similar things and when my girls were little they thought "daddy was dead" on more than one occasion, all because Mommy was losing it.

    Although it's nice to know I'm not alone, it is a burden for those of us who suffer from this. It truly does prevent normal, rational thought process in so many instances.

    Will power is only as strong as the person possessing it. Mine is weaker when it comes to my immediate family and their whereabouts/safety. It has taken all these years to build it up and reach a point where I can at least stop myself and not immediately go to a "bad place".

    We should exchange numbers and when we are having "moments", talk each other through them!!

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