Meet Jenn. Today I have the privilege of sharing her personal experience with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) produces chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This worrying can consume hours each day, making it hard to concentrate or finish daily tasks. A person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may become exhausted by worry and experience headaches, tension or nausea.”
This is not the run-of-the-mill anxiety that many people experience in their day-to-day life. This is a debilitating mood disorder that makes it hard to function.
So, without further ado, let’s pull back the curtain and get a glimpse of Jenn’s struggles and successes as she navigates life with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Hi, I’m Jenn. I am a reader, amateur cook, theater lover, Hufflepuff and digital marketer. I am recent transplant to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and my blog, Jenn & Tonic, highlights my take on life through lifestyle topics, book reviews, and more.
I live with my boyfriend, Dave, who I’ve been dating for almost three years, and our two cats, Daisy and Duke. I am fueled by chardonnay, cast recordings, and chocolate.
Growing up, I was abnormally anxious. I was easily irritated by my classmates, which at the time I thought was because I wanted to move away from my hometown, but now I think it may have been related to my anxiety.
There were a few times that I had what felt like sensory overload moments that could’ve been considered panic attacks. I was also comparing my success in school, extracurricular activities, etc., to my older brother’s, which did not help my anxiety.
I’ve always had issues with falling asleep at night. Usually, it takes an hour or two for me to fall asleep. Even if I keep a consistent sleep schedule and eliminate screen time, it still takes forever for me to fall asleep. My boyfriend can fall asleep in minutes, and I’m so jealous of it.
In addition, I have a ridiculous amount of tension that I hold in my shoulders and neck, which can trigger headaches and even migraines. It feels like I need to crack my neck and shoulders to relieve the tension.
Seeking Professional Help
I sought professional help in two specific instances. I was first prescribed medication during my sophomore year of college after being triggered by a tough semester schedule and terrible living situation. My mental health improved immensely the following semester after I had a new class schedule and moved out of my college apartment, so we decided I didn’t need to take my medication anymore since it was a temporary anxious time in my life.
As I got older, that’s when my anxiety became bad enough to receive a formal diagnosis. In 2017, I moved to the Chicagoland area for a new job and didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t very social and focused on a stressful job in a not-so-great work environment.
When our office went out for lunch one day, I had a severe panic attack. I had to consciously tell myself to breathe, even though it hurt. At first I thought it was an allergic reaction, but after visiting an urgent care, I realized it was a panic attack.
My therapist formally diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I felt relieved to finally have some help and realize it wasn’t just me going crazy.
Jenn’s Treatment Protocol
I take an anti-anxiety pill to manage my anxiety on a daily basis. I also have stronger anti-anxiety medication if I need help with a panic attack.
Adding the anti-anxiety medication to my daily routine was a miserable experience. It felt like I was going through withdrawal: sweating, shaking, couldn’t focus, and I just felt overall awful.
I ended up taking time off work because I was in no condition to sit at a desk, which my employer at the time was not too happy about. I wish people knew that the side effects associated with starting a new medication can be as challenging as the diagnosis that is being treated.
Based on my health insurance, I’ve been to two different therapists. (The most recent was during quarantine.) Since I moved to Wisconsin, and my therapist is not licensed to work with patients in here, I’m on the hunt for a new therapist.
I go to the chiropractor to help relieve tension in my body. (I mainly go to help with my posture and allergies, but tension relief is an added benefit.) If I need extra self-care, I love getting massages.
Yoga has also been super helpful for relieving tension and teaching me better breathing techniques.
Jenn’s Life Today
Because of COVID-19, my boyfriend lost his job, and I ended up furloughed. Fortunately, he found a new job, but it is located about three hours from where we lived, so we are we are living in an apartment until we can sell our house and buy a new one.
I returned to my full-time job in August, but I’m working remotely in Wisconsin. For my 9 to 5 job, I work as a digital marketer, specializing in social media and email marketing, but I dabble in other forms of marketing like website management and Google Analytics.
In terms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), having anxiety during an obviously anxious-inducing pandemic has been hard. I’ve had several what I call “bad mental health days” where I feel lousy, and it feels like my anxiety is more prevalent.
My boyfriend and I like using the term “bad mental health day” when one of us isn’t feeling great mentally because we can tell each other this and don’t have to go into more detail unless we want to. Plus, we take it as a sign to be more accommodating and empathetic to the other person.
I hope that Jenn’s story helps demystify generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than the situational anxiety most of us deal with at some point in our lives.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by crippling fear and worry that often make life unmanageable. The good news is that it is a highly treatable mood disorder, so if you see yourself in Jenn’s story, please seek professional help.
For more information on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), check out the National Institute of Mental Health’s informative fact sheet.
Jenn recommends the Facebook group, Mental Healtherinos as a great place to find support and encouragement as you manage mental illness.