My Experience with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This is the introduction to my new book Rewire Your Anxiety, which will be released 6/29/19 and is available for pre-order now by clicking here.
At the time of writing this book, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that anxiety disorders are some of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States, and it affects 40 million adults, which is 18.1% of the population. Only 36.9% of people are getting help even though anxiety is a highly treatable mental illness. Something that’s not included in these numbers is the amount of people who experience anxiety, but they don’t have a diagnosable disorder, so this number is actually much higher.
When I see the numbers, I ask myself, “Why don’t more people get treatment for their anxiety?”, but the answer is pretty simple. Getting your anxiety treated might give you even more anxiety. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to and suggested they get help, but the idea of even making a doctor or therapy appointment begins to make them feel anxious. There are also many others who don’t have health insurance, or even with health insurance, they can’t afford treatment.
The goal of this book is to help anyone who is struggling with anxiety. Whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD etc) or just struggle with anxiety from time to time, this book will be able to help.
Before I go any further, I should probably discuss what makes me qualified to discuss this subject. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not a therapist, doctor or psychiatrist. I am someone who was diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder at age 27, and although this disorder will always be here, my life is a thousand times better than it was prior to putting in the effort to manage my anxiety. This book is not a replacement for therapy or medications (which we’ll talk about in later chapters), but it’s to give you practical solutions for managing your anxiety on a day-to-day basis.
I know how difficult it can be living with an anxiety disorder because for many years, I had no idea what was going on with me. When I was growing up, mental health wasn’t something we talked about in my family, and it’s not something we learned about in school either. My dad raised me, and he wasn’t the type to talk about feelings or emotions, and his solution to all of my problems was to simply “walk it off”. From a young age, I knew something was wrong though.
Later in this book, we’ll be discussing childhood anxiety and how it plays a role in our lives later on, and this is extremely important because I remember losing my mind as a child. If my dad was even five or 10 minutes late coming to pick me up from school, I remember being a small child and panicking thinking my dad must have gotten in a fiery car wreck, I’d never see him again, I’d be an orphan and would have to pray that a good family took me in.
If you’re like me, you can relate to where the anxious mind goes when we begin to worry.
As I got older and started high school, I remember constantly being in a state of panic. I would regularly analyze other people and just sit and ask myself, “How does handling life come so easy to everyone else?” Everyone seemed so cool and calm, but my head was like a constant war zone, and my thoughts were always going a million miles a minute. While some people would get stressed about an upcoming project or test, I felt like it was the end of the world.
Looking back, I don’t even know how I managed to play sports in high school because I was so anxious. I remember having such an immense fear of screwing up and letting my team down or being labeled as a loser. I was constantly worrying about what other people were thinking of me at all times, and this created massive amounts of social anxiety as well. I felt like everyone was always looking at me and judging me, and I could barely have conversations with people. My dad always said, “Chris is just shy,” but it was far worse than that.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about helping people with their anxiety is because it almost took my life. What I mean is that towards the end of high school, I drank for the first time, and it made my anxiety go away. The scariest part was that it worked. Why was it scary? Because I come from a family of addicts and alcoholics, so from the first time I got drunk, I was hooked because this was now my “medicine” that I could take to relieve my anxiety.
The problem with self-medicating is that it only makes our problems worse. What started out as the solution to my problem started to become the primary source of my problems. Becoming an alcoholic and drug addict made me more anxious than I ever had been. I was constantly worried about being caught by my girlfriend, friends, family or worse, my employer.
The issue was is that I didn’t know any other way to deal with what was going on. If I’m being honest, at that time, I didn’t even know what anxiety was. I never talked to anyone about what was going on with me because I thought they’d think I was crazy. That’s why anxiety can be such a bitch, too. It makes you scared of everything and blows things way out of proportion. I literally thought that if I told anyone about the craziness going on in my head that I’d be locked up in some type of psyche ward.
After almost a decade of self-medicating, on June 23rd, 2012, I quit alcohol and drugs once and for all. It didn’t take long for my anxiety to come back, but I had no clue what was going on. Thankfully, my mom is a psychologist, and when I told her how my head wouldn’t stop racing and the other symptoms I was experiencing, she said that she thought I may have an anxiety disorder.
Although it’s pretty nifty to have a mother who is a mental health professional, a family member can’t diagnose you, so she told me to go get checked out. Within a few months of getting sober, I ended up getting diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it was such a sense of relief. One of the scariest parts about living with anxiety is not knowing what’s wrong, but as soon as I received a diagnosis, I knew what I was dealing with so I could work on it.
Today, my life is immensely better than it’s ever been before. While my anxiety still flares up from time to time, it’s not something that debilitates me anymore, but it’s taken a lot of work. One of the issues I found along my journey was that my anti-anxiety medications didn’t fix me, so I had to discover a variety of different ways to manage my anxiety, and that’s what this book is about. We’re going to talk about medications, therapy and more in this book, but a good portion of it is going to be coping skills that I’ve learned along the way.
Before we get started on this journey together, I want to make two things very clear.
The first one is that if you’re reading the words on this page, you’ve made a great first step in the right direction. On my YouTube channel The Rewired Soul, I start out every video by saying, “We talk about the problem but focus on the solution”. I can’t tell you how many people talk to me about having anxiety problems but refuse to do anything about it. So, be proud of yourself for participating in your mental health by picking up a copy of this book.
The second thing is that the work has only begun. I was told a long time ago that if nothing changes, nothing changes. We don’t get better by not doing anything. Mental health is about taking action. If you want to feel better, you need to do something about it. This book is going to be filled with suggestions that you can begin putting into practical use.
I hope to structure this book in a way where you can open it whenever you’re struggling and find something that may help in that moment. Something I try to teach people is that you don’t have to do everything, but you have to do something. All I ask of you is to test some of these strategies out, and if some of them don’t work, don’t use them. The goal should be to find the ones that do work and implement those on a regular basis. If you can find three to five skills to put in your metaphorical toolbox to use when you’re feeling anxious, you’ll begin to see how much better your life can be.
The first step in managing anxiety is figuring out what the hell is going on, so let’s discuss the biology of anxiety in Chapter 1.
Thanks for taking the time to check out the introduction to Rewire Your Anxiety, and don’t forget to pre-order the eBook so you get it as soon as it launches on 6/29 by clicking here.