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.