As many of you know, I’ve struggled with anxiety for my entire life, and I am very open and vocal about my struggle with it on this platform. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are so many misconceptions people have about anxiety, and I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on what it’s really like to live with generalized anxiety disorder. That being said, everybody who struggles with anxiety will have a different approach and journey, so please know that anxiety can be vastly different on a case-to-case basis. What I personally feel about this issue could be completely different than the thoughts and feelings of another person with anxiety.

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Misconception 1: “If you have anxiety, you must have depression, too.”

While it is true that anxiety and depression can go hand in hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean it always does. Even though I struggle with anxiety and it plays a large role in my life, I have actually never really struggled with severe depression or been diagnosed with it. Of course I have gone through rough periods in my life, in general, I am able to naturally uphold a positive, cheerful, self-loving attitude. I genuinely love life and view it through an optimistic lens- I just also happen to deal with anxiety along the way. 


Misconception 2: “If you eat healthy foods and meditate, your anxiety will go away.”

Improving your diet and your routines can help with anxiety, but if you have a real anxiety disorder, it’s not very likely that you can cure it just by eating more vegetables and practicing yoga. I’m not saying it’s a worthless practice, but if you suffer from severe anxiety such as myself, it takes years of therapy and even medication to maintain my health and help my anxiety become less severe. When people tell me to try exercising or drinking more water to “cure” my anxiety, I recognize the positive intent, but it is still frustrating to hear these things.


Misconception 3: “Oh, I have anxiety, too!” or something along those lines

Everybody struggles with anxiety from time to time, and it’s completely normal to do so. However, not everybody has an anxiety disorder. What differentiates normal anxiety from a serious medical condition depends on how severely it impacts the quality of your life. For example, it’s normal and expected to have anxiety before a big test or a presentation. But if your anxiety prevents you from enjoying your everyday life or if it interferes with your daily tasks and productivity, then it could qualify for an anxiety disorder. It’s important to understand that difference, because as with any mental disorder or condition, it’s common for those who really suffer to feel invalidated or one-upped. 


Misconception 4: “Taking medication for anxiety can make you become addicted to it.”

There is no evidence to support the claim that SSRIs or other antidepressants can cause dependent tendencies in those who use them, so the idea that anxiety medication can become “addicting” is a huge misconception. With that being said, it is possible to become dependent on benzodiazepines- or tranquilizers, such as Ativan or Xanax. However, just because you have a prescription for either of these medications does NOT automatically mean you will become addicted to benzos. I have a prescription for Ativan which I use very responsibly, and I only take my benzos if I am having an absolute anxiety emergency and I am afraid of passing out or having a panic attack (which only happens a handful of times per year.)


And finally, Misconception 5: “Anxiety is not a real medical condition.”

Even though anxiety is an invisible illness, that does not make it any less valid or severe than any other condition. 

Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions- and should be treated just as seriously as any other condition, physical or not. Additionally, anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive of disorders in the United States. If you also struggle with having an anxiety disorder, your feelings are valid, and most importantly, you are NOT alone!

I hope you found this article helpful and informative. In the midst of the political climate and the pandemic surrounding us right now, it is totally normal and valid to be feeling anxiety. Remember that it is good to feel your feelings, even if they are not always sunshiney, and there are always people out there who want to listen to you and support you.

I’ve had an anxiety disorder for my entire life. I believe my anxiety is partially genetic, but additionally, environmental factors have definitely played a role in my mental health. Surprisingly, most people don’t seem to realize that there is a profound overlap between mental and physical health. I could go into a lot more detail on all of these specific correlations, but for this particular topic, I’m just going to touch on the relationship between anxiety and fatigue. 

Interestingly, fatigue is listed as one of the top three symptoms of an anxiety disorder. For some people, this may be because people with anxiety tend to lose more sleep because of their condition. When insomnia and anxiety link up, the results can be devastating for your sleep schedule. For me personally, I sleep just fine at night, but panic attacks and anxiety attacks completely deplete me of my energy. There is a phenomenon known as the “anxiety attack hangover,” which more or less describes the feeling of being drained or “jet lagged” after having the attack. This is something I’m all too familiar with, and I have some thoughts on why this probably happens to me.

Going into fight-or-flight mode uses a ton of energy. Anxiety itself uses up a lot of energy! Feeling my adrenaline spike, my blood pressure heighten, and my breathing accelerated always leaves me feeling absolutely destroyed after I recover. The production of adrenaline itself uses up a ton of glucose and energy, which is probably why folks with anxiety disorders (including myself) are always so dang tired afterwards. 

However, anxiety itself is not the only thing that can cause me to feel fatigued. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have a prescription for Ativan, which belongs to the benzo drug class (Xanax is a more common benzo you may have heard of). Ativan is used as a short-term treatment for people with anxiety and panic disorders, and is also used as a sedative before medical procedures.

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In a nutshell, it’s a pretty strong drug. I don’t take Ativan often, probably only about ten times a year, because it’s designed for short-term use only and can become highly addictive if taken too often. When I do take an Ativan, I’ll usually feel extremely calm and a bit out of it, because the drug causes my heart rate to significantly slow down. The last time I took an Ativan, in preparation for a speech in class, I decided to forgo my usual coffee in fear that an “upper” would interfere with a “downer.” This may have been a mistake, because I became SO exhausted and chilled out after my speech that day, I was essentially incoherent. I went to lie down in my room around 3pm, and didn’t wake up until 6:30pm. I was completely disoriented for the rest of the night, because frankly, that’s just what Ativan does to you. I guess the only silver lining is that I did get through my speech without having a complete breakdown.

So, yeah. Fatigue and anxiety is a lose-lose situation, in my case. If I don’t take medication and subsequently have a panic attack, I get fatigued. If I take my medication and avoid an attack, I still get fatigued. As I previously said, I very rarely take Ativan, so most cases end with me having a full-fledged panic and consequently feeling tired for the rest of the day. I really can’t win with my anxiety.

Now that I’ve gotten the depressing things out of the way, let’s talk about what you (and I) can do if you get hit with those post-anxiety sleepies. One thing that makes me feel better is to take a little nap, or even just lay down and do nothing for an hour or two. This is the time your body NEEDS to recharge and re-center, so there’s no reason to have guilt. If you have the resources, practice some form of self-care to get you through the rest of your day. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, or treat yourself to a bubble bath. Put on a video or a funny movie that makes you laugh. 

Having an anxiety disorder is not your fault, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re comfortable with it, make sure your professors and family members are in the loop about how anxiety can affect your mental health. In my personal experience, most people are more than happy to listen and help you in any way they can. I promise you don’t have to go through anxiety alone!

Further reading: https://www.getthegloss.com/article/how-to-deal-with-the-anxiety-attack-hangover

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Anxiety disorders are the onions of mental health. They pertain to a variety of different levels and layers, each one more intense and eye-watering than the last. When undiagnosed, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can make people feel hopeless, lost, and sometimes, even invalidated. In high school, I had a very difficult time staying calm and focused in classrooms due to excessive worry and unavoidable wandering thoughts. I consider myself to be somewhat of an “intuitive learner”- I don’t necessarily need to understand what the teacher is saying to do well in the class, I pick up cues from other students and mimic their actions. This method successfully got me through high school, but my decent grades were not an accurate reflection of my internal emotions. On several occasions, I suffered unexplainable breakdowns and found being in the public school environment to be extremely painful. Being an underfunded public high school who feared that my unusual attitude was actually suicidal behavior (and obviously trying to avoid a lawsuit if that was the case,) I was often called down to the nurse’s office, and once sent to a hospital for an evaluation. The reality is, however, I was not suicidal, and I never had been. I actually has undiagnosed GAD, and the school was putting in no effort to properly help me explore my resources. It’s extremely difficult to talk about your anxiety with a figure of authority if you’re consistently afraid of being wheeled off to a psychiatric hospital.

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After being diagnosed with GAD, I began taking a “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor”- or SSRI. The medication I have been prescribed since and take daily is Lexapro- a powerful medication for reducing depression and anxiety. I have been taking Lexapro daily for about a year and a half, and have already noticed a remarkable positive change. Yes, I still experience some depression and anxiety, but my symptoms are nowhere near as extreme as they once were.

One of the biggest challenges I faced with starting college was adjusting to a new, strange lifestyle. I, like many other people, was uncomfortable with the idea of having to make brand-new friends and learn to live in a dormitory with a roommate. In my particular situation, living with a roommate for my first semester of college was an extremely traumatic experience. I felt targeted and ostracized by my former roommate and her friends- eventually reaching the point where I considered sleeping on benches to avoid going back to my room. For my spring semester, I was offered a single dorm room in the same building where I already lived, and I took that opportunity immediately.

This segways nicely into my first recommendation for anyone struggling with GAD: if you are uncomfortable with your rooming situation, do not hesitate to ask for a medical accommodation. With a medical note from your doctor disclosing your anxiety, it is possible your school will be able to offer you a single room. Unfortunately, my school has informed me that there are not enough available singles to acquire my medical accommodation for the next fall semester. Because of this, I’m going through the long and somewhat irritating process of transferring to a school that will accomodate. It may sound like a drastic move, but after my diagnosis with GAD and rather horrifying experience with my roommate, the situation is very black or white. If I have the accommodation, I will stay. If the school will not offer it, I’m going to take my twenty grand somewhere else.

Don’t forget, you’re paying for this. This is your education, your future, and your initiative. If there is something you really, truly need to make your educational experience the best it can be, never hesitate to reach out and make a request. Your mental illness is valid.

While having GAD can make it difficult to socialize and join organizations on campus, I highly recommend getting involved in something. It doesn’t even have to be a club! Consider picking up a new hobby to keep you occupied, like blogging or knitting, or getting a small pet to improve your personal accountability. And yes, while making friends can be a difficult and tedious game of chance, it’s inevitably something you will have to go out of your way to do. As of right now, I only have one relatively close friend on campus. Despite the fact that we (basically) only have each other, having a shoulder to cry on and a dinner companion has reduced my general anxiety considerably. Exploring campus, registering for classes, and even studying can become loads easier when you have a close companion to ramble with.

Obviously, it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate GAD, especially if it’s causing a toil on your daily life. There are, however, a few little helpful pointers I’ve picked up along the way. I cannot speak for everyone dealing with anxiety, nor would I ever want to. GAD is a very individualized disorder. That being said, if any of my suggestions can make even a smidge of a positive impact, I’ve completed my job here!

Ultimately, the best advice I can leave you with is to understand that you don’t need to be okay every second of every day. College is about finding yourself, making mistakes, screwing up, and then laughing about it later. If you use your resources wisely and take care of yourself to the best of your ability, I promise that you will make it out fine. My journey so far has been quite a rollercoaster, but I’m learning to appreciate it and make the best of what this experience has taught me.