Of GAD and Fear

How does it feel like to be living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder? Google says it is the most common form of mental illness; even more than depression. Women are more prone to having GAD than men and most of these people spend their entire life being undiagnosed and untreated. But these are just dry facts. How does it exactly feel like to have this disease?

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Some research says GAD has some genetic legacy. Like many pathological psychotic disorders it might too run in the family. I haven’t studied psychology so I cannot give any expert comment on that. But I can share an interesting fact here. Both my parents suffer from anxiety. My mother’s reactions usually go outward. She screams and jumps about the house. And she admits to be staying awake whole night worrying about things that may or may not befall us. My father’s case is a more disturbing one. He doesn’t speak much. But I have seen him sitting in the corner of the sofa dead silent with a look on his face that is all too familiar to me. I get the same look when I sit in silence worrying about my impending doom. My face gets contorted unconsciously. Breaths become shorter. A crazy painful sensation begins to spread through every single muscle in my body. And I slowly succumb into the dark of that bottomless pit which has been my residence my whole life. And if anybody notices me that time they ask, “Hey man, you okay? You look pale.” So I guess anxiety has more of a psychological influence than a pathologically genetic one. You see it. You live with it. Before you know it, you have it.

I guess I have taken up on both my parents. Mostly I am quiet and inwardly thinking. My whole inner being will keep on festering to a point where I secretly beg for death. But sometimes I am like my mother. That happens rarely but it happens. When my anxiety has made me stand on the edge of the cliff and the jackass, insensitive bunch of fucking people (see the hatred?) keep on pushing me further because they have no idea what I am or what I have. Then I snap. And it’s fucking ugly. I turn into a vicious dragon spitting fire of hatred and anger. Anger because they have failed to being understanding. Hatred because they have become my enemy in my mind. And the misery doesn’t end there.

Later when I calm down I go into my quiet, contemplative state. My personal misery begins there. A sense of insufferable guilt drives me crazy. Why did I shout? No, I don’t care much about the other person’s feelings here, unless it is my parents. It’s just that I fear exposure. Since my childhood I have mastered the art of hiding myself somewhere ‘safe’ where nobody can touch or harm me. Speaking up or shouting leads to exposure and vulnerability. I am dead scared of being vulnerable. I was taught while growing up that the world was a dangerous place swarming with people who would try to screw you inside out if you trusted them. A belief only grew stronger when life experiences didn't teach you much otherwise, and parents grew more and more anxious with age. You come home and you hear them sighing and regretting and muttering resentment. You turn your headphone’s volume a little higher up, you shut your door a little tighter, and you immerse yourself with a little more conviction in the imaginary world of superheroes and orphan wizard boy living under the stairs. You are alone, very alone. And the saddest part is, alone has now become your safe haven.

Before my tenth standard board exam I had confined myself in my house for three months. Because a few local chaps were stalking me whenever I would step out of the house. And this reached a climax when one fine morning my whole family woke up and saw someone left degrading remarks about me and things they would like to do to me on the wall of an unfinished apartment building just opposite to our house. No, nobody spoke up. And the shameful silence in the whole house was enough for a fifteen years old girl who was not sure whether to be mortified or ashamed. Now she couldn’t step out of the room. All she could hear was whispers and silent judging looks on everyone’s face. Parents were furious and accusing. Rest of the members couldn’t hide their sadistic pleasure. Ah she is fucked. I felt naked, very naked. Traditional family values you say? No, I have none I am afraid. Not to mention my only best friend in school (whom I would later lose to an untimely and sudden death) chose to invoke our friendship at that very moment. And I did not want to lose my first board exam. That was all that I had at that time. So I chose to shut myself in a voluntary house arrest and immersed myself in the world of history, geography, math and physical science for 90 days. I was a mere kid, and there was no google, no inspirational quote, no youtube videos of patronizing gurus. It was raw struggle for survival. And I had my back touching the wall. You fight back or you lose forever. It makes me laugh when someone won’t stop giving me examples of a few privileged, snooty-ass people and their stories of 'struggle'. I want to say fuck you to them with utmost politeness.

When I was younger I would lie in my bed thinking about my maternal grandparents. Both of whom had perished long long before I breathed my first. To me they have always been a source of unrequited and unknown love and protection. I would lay in the dark and think how they might have loved me. How they might have protected me when even parents were not there. I would start living in imaginary situations in my head until I would realise I had started crying violently. The deadly quiet sob was making up for the sound leaving me in a state of convulsion. And I would suddenly start believing in superstition. That I would open my eyes and I would see my dead grandparents standing in front of me. They had come from the Other Side to give me hugs made of vacuum and cold of death.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you fucks you up as well. I have survived but not without consequences. Life has given me a condition that has made me a weird mixture of helpless and evil. Treat me with compassion and leniency; I will do my best to protect your faith in me. Say harsh words, judge me, criticize me mercilessly, and above all try to control my life. I will fear you. I will hate you. I will never be real to you again. Recently, a person’s shit words and disgusting uncompassionate attitude rattled my cage so much that I have grown a phobia of that person. So bad that phobia and disgust is that I overate myself into a bad stomachache next morning. So bad the fear of being criticized with no compassion that I overcame my phobia of escalator and followed that person without a single word stepping into moving set of electronic stairs that usually freak the fuck out of me. And now I don’t ever wish to see that person again in my life. (PTSD anyone?) Even if it means losing something very important. This fear has driven me nuts to a point that I have forgotten to celebrate a very good news lately.

Constant criticism (and sometimes, unfair and unjust ones) doesn't go down well with people suffering from anxiety. What?! You made a mistake! What?! You can't even do this properly?! Wtf is wrong with you?! Oh this is UNACCEPTABLE. Well you fucked me there. Now my nervousness starts. I start to panic quietly. My hands and legs begin to tremble. I begin to sweat. Part fear. Part guilt. Part resentment. I fuck it all up. AGAIN. And the vicious cycle continues. It continues until I start to fear and hate my critic. It continues until it shatters my self-confidence. Now I hate you AND I believe I am a loser. Thanks for your zealous contribution.

When anxiety hits you it leaves you isolated. It’s just you and your fear sitting face to face. Who is going to win this round? You? Or your fear?  It’s a tough battle. And occasionally, the gods have mercy on your soul and send you people out of the blue with similar bruises on their skin. They can’t cure you. But when the battle turns bloody they stand by you and cheer you from the sideline. Because they understand you. Because they know you don’t need to be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’. All you need to hear from them is that, “I know exactly how it feels like and I accept you. Unconditionally.” And you feel reassured. You feel reassured when a best friend tells you their painful battle with post-divorce depression. You feel reassured when your favourite blogger dedicates her post to her mother in law and captions it 'My other mother'. You feel reassured when your other favourite blogger says it's OK to be a single, bohemian girl if you are chasing your dreams. You feel reassured when your best friend's parents tell people that you are their another daughter and they missed you when you did not visit them for many months. And you know that today is not the day you give up.

p.s. From today onward I shall be posting stories of my battle with GAD, BPD and Depression. Somebody even advised me to write anonymous confessional guest posts for niche blogs. But I don't want to be a nameless entity. It will not have the same impact. It will still imply that I should be ashamed of what I have faced. Here you can read my story and be aware of who I am, or how I look. No I am not ashamed anymore. And who knows, talking about them so openly might help someone out there who might be fighting the same battle. There is still a shitload of stigma in our society. I have even heard from the most so called 'righteous', 'morally robust', 'good hearted' person that ''No no no, we don't want someone with this disease around us. No no no, get lost.'' So here I begin my new journey (and a new section for my blog) by showing middle finger to those 'morally robust' people.