The Art of Letting Go: My Battle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
By Deanna Orlando, NYAC member
Letting go is a process. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.
My descent into Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) began during my first year in university. As a freshman, I was constantly reminded that this is supposed to be the ‘time of my life.’ In reality, it wasn’t. My first two years as an undergrad,were unbearable. It was the definitive moment when I allowed my mind to bully my body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.
I unknowingly began poisoning myself with stress, anxiety and fear. I say ‘unknowingly’ because I thought that I was acting in good faith. I would busy away with assignments that were not due within the next few months. I would stay up for the entire night, scared to fall asleep in fear of dying. I would pick at my body for abnormalities “like bumps or bruises”, drawing to the worst conclusion: cancer. I would cry hysterically, sometimes punch myself because of a small situation that I perceived as catastrophic. I would scream and offend loved ones because I could not handle my anxiety. I was a ticking time bomb.
That wasn’t the worst of it. With all that stress, anxiety, and fear consuming me, I stopped eating. I was too nervous to fit a delicious chocolate-chip muffin in my mouth, let alone a cracker. I found myself obsessing over my weight. I could not stop it. Every waking hour, even in my dreams, the intrusive thought to be thin would haunt the very dark corners of my mind. I wanted to be perfect, in every aspect of my being.
However, my daily struggles with GAD are not the reason I decided to write this article. I want to share with you what I have achieved with it.
First, I have accepted the fact that I needed help. I was prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) – a class of compounds used in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. I can confidently say that the medication was effective and helped me make improvements in various aspects of my life.
I have also become very conscientious, not only in my studies but also toward others. I have received awards for outstanding academic achievement, and I am actively involved in educating others about mental illness-health awareness in the hopes of eradicating the stigma.
Sure, if I did not have severe anxiety, I could still accomplish all of these things- but the fact of the matter is that I do. Not only am I a success, but GAD is my muse.
I have now come to terms with my mental illness. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I began appreciating all that I have to offer. I saw life in a completely different way. It was abundant and filled with opportunity. I told myself that I would not allow anxiety to control my destiny. I will thrive in the life I have built for myself and share it with those who have helped my along the way. I will accept who I am, with all my faults, every aspect of my being.
You can join the national discussion and creation of a film on #thebrighterside of mental illness.